SG is understood to have offered around TD 100 million ($72 million) for the stake, beating off a rival bid from Caisse d’Epargne. The French banks were ultimately the only two companies to bid for the stake, although as many as 10 foreign banks had initially expressed an interest in the privatisation. France’s Rothschild Conseil Internationalwas advising the government on the sale of the majority stake in UIB, which was one of 26 institutions identified for privatisation this year (MEED 8:3:02).

UIB, which has 93 branches and offices and an 8 per cent share of the local market, was founded in 1963 and has had a turbulent history. It was restructured with help from Banque Centrale de Tunisie (central bank) after suffering severe problems in the early 1990s. In late 2000, plans for a merger of UIB with the UAE/local development bank, Banque de Tunisie & des Emirats d’Investissement (BTEI), were abandoned (MEED 19:1:01).

The state’s majority stake in the bank is split between a number of companies and institutions. National flag carrier Tunisairholds a 25 per cent stake, the state’s social security fund, Caisse Nationale de Securite Sociale, owns 13.75 per cent, while state energy company Entreprise Tunisienne d’Activities Petrolieres and the state olive oil company, Office de l’Huile, each have a 13 per cent holding.

At the end of last year, UIB reported net profits of TD 18.2 million ($12 million), up 21 per cent on earnings for 2000. Total assets rose 13 per cent over the same period to TD 1,700 million ($1,160 million).