Hariri family considers Oger Telecom stake sale

30 October 2016

The family is in talks with buyers to partially sell its holding as it seeks to avoid default on $4.75bn loan

Lebanon’s Hariri family, whose business interest spans construction and telecommunications, is in talks to sell a stake in its Dubai-based telecoms unit as it seeks to avoid default on a $4.75bn loan.

The Hariris have engaged potential buyers to sell Oger Telecom after a company they own in Turkey failed to pay an installment of $290m due in September and was given an extension until the end of October to resolve the matter, news agency Bloomberg said citing unnamed people. The loan is linked to the family’s purchase in 2005 of a majority stake in Turk Telekomunikasyon AS, Turkey’s biggest phone company.

The family has requested an additional extension to the end of November to make a payment as they seek to raise funds via a stake sale. Three bidders from are in talks to buy part of Oger Telecom stake, which the Hariris own along with Saudi Telecom Company, according to the news report.

The troubled loan was the biggest syndication in Turkish history when it was issued in 2013, with 29 participants that included all of the country’s largest lenders, as well as international banks. Turkey’s Akbank has about $1.5bn exposure to the loan, while Turkiye Garanti Bankasi lent about $1bn.both were among the six book-runners and mandated lead arrangers on the loan.

Hariri family also owns, Saudi Oger, which is speaking with potential buyers to sell its stake in Jordan’s Arab Bank, a deal that can raise about $1bn for the contracting giant struggling with the financial difficulties.

A small number of prospective buyers from Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East have started negotiations for its 20.93 per cent stake in the bank.

Among the interested parties are Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hokair family which also runs a fashion retail business and has the Middle Eastern franchisee for brands including Zara and Banana Republic. Another possible buyer has contacted banks about raising between $700m to $1bn to finance a bid.

Saudi Oger owes about SR15bn ($4bn) to banks, plus billions more to contractors, suppliers and employees. The company along with Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) were at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s drive to build the country’s infrastructure. The contractors, which mainly relied on multi-billion-dollar state contracting, ran into financial difficulties when Riyadh capped award of new projects and stopped payments for the work already finished as it grappled with the dwindling oil revenues and widening budget deficit on the back of the lower crude prices.

Both contractors had to lay off thousands of employees, many of which were stranded at the labour camps in the kingdom for months without money for food or access to medical help, which attracted criticism from several foreign government.

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