Security concerns stall Sawiris investment plans

28 March 2016

Egyptian billionaire is bidding to acquire CI Capital for $104.06m through Orascom Telecom

Egyptian billionaire business mogul Naguib Sawiris has said his plans to acquire CI Capital, the investment arm of Egypt’s largest listed bank, have been hampered by national security concerns.

The deal is still awaiting security clearance and the hold-up was the latest move by Egyptian authorities to prevent him from owning a large financial institution in the country, which Sawiris stated in a column published by the state-owned Al-Akhbar newspaper. The column also criticised state meddling in business, which Sawiris said would put off investors.

Commercial International Bank (CIB) in February had signed a deal to sell CI Capital to a unit of Sawiris’ Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding (OTMT) for $104.1m. Sawiris was planning to merge CI Capital with Beltone Financial, which OTMT bought last year, to create one of Egypt’s largest investment firms.

Sawiris’s bid for CI Capital was challenged in February, when a subsidiary of state-owned National Bank of Egypt made a last-minute counter-offer. National Bank of Egypt later withdrew its offer after failing to agree with CIB on a timeframe for feasibility studies.

Sawiris said a state-owned bank had also withdrawn a loan offer meant to help finance the deal. He did not name the lender.

“This gives a negative and harmful message to the investment climate, saying to investors: ’Be warned if you wish to invest in Egypt because the state will enter and compete with you using public funds’,” he said.

The head of the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority ( EFSA ), which regulates non-banking financial services, declined to comment to UK news agency Reuters on whether the CI Capital acquisition was awaiting security clearance, or to discuss the approval process. CIB also declined to comment.

Banking sources say it is not unusual for regulatory approval to take months. EFSA had rejected a bid in 2013 by a Qatari investor to acquire EFG Hermes, Egypt’s largest investment bank. Sawiris had also tried unsuccessfully to buy EFG in 2014.

Egypt’s economy has been struggling since the 2011 uprising, which ushered in a period of political instability, driving away foreign investors and tourists – earners of foreign currency.

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