Pre-marketing has begun for a new fund to invest in listed companies and venture capital projects in the Middle East and North Africa. GP Banque, the Paris-based merchant banking arm of Societe Marseillaise de Credit, plans to launch the fund in October or November and hopes to raise about $20 million (MEED 2:6:95).

Marketing will concentrate on Anglo-Saxon investors, particularly individuals and institutions in the UK, where the appetite

for emerging markets is strongest, says Jean-Marc Dubois of GP Banque. ‘It is less easy raising funds than it was one year or six months ago,’ he says. ‘The difficulty is attracting a new type of investor to the region.’ However, he says the region is attracting more attention as investors seek to diversify their emerging market portfolios following the Mexico crisis.

Capital raised for the Dublin-listed Medfund will be placed by two investment vehicles. The first off is a Societe d’Investissement a Capital Variable (Sicav). This is an open-ended mutual fund listed in Paris that will target listed companies in the region. The second fund will also be listed in France, but will be structured as a closed-end venture capital vehicle. Investors will have the opportunity to invest in the Dublin-listed feeder fund, or in either of the two French funds.

The main countries being targeted are Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan. Listed Lebanese securities will also be included once the Beirut bourse opens. The fund will cover a range of investments, particulary cement, agribusiness and financial sectors.

GP Banque focuses its activity on the Mediterranean region, operating in the Maghreb through a network of local banking and financial institutions. The bank already manages several funds in the region including Mediterranee Marches Emergent, which focuses on Arab stock markets, and Sud Mediterranee Capital, a venture capital fund focusing on North Africa.