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Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Could we be getting more clarity on the fate of Egypt’s state privatization program this month?

PRIVATIZATION WATCH- Could we be getting more clarity on the fate of the state privatization program this month? Finance industry lobby group ECMA is planning to discuss the state privatization program with Public Enterprises Minister Hisham Tawfik before the end of the month, ECMA Chairman Mohamed Maher told Al Mal. The ECMA sees clearing the way for the program to get off the ground as a priority in the coming period, as it would help spur new EGX listings and general activity on the capital market.

And that’s cool, but remember: Policymakers are looking for positive signals from the market that it’s time to go ahead with stake sales and new listings. Those conditions aren’t something Tawfik can conjure up, and his ministry is not the only one with assets moving through a privatization process.

Refresher on the program: The state privatization program, which was first unveiled in 2018, has seen transactions postponed multiple times due to global market turmoil. It was due to include both stake sales by already-listed companies — including Eastern Tobacco, Alexandria Oil and Minerals Company, Alexandria Container and Cargo Handling, Abou Kir Fertilizers, and Heliopolis Housing and Development (HHD) — as well as fresh IPOs.

What’s happened so far? Out of the two dozen companies initially covered in the program, Eastern Tobacco’s 4.5% secondary offering in March last year has been the sole transaction to materialize. HHD, meanwhile, scrapped its plans to offer a stake of up to 25%, which was set to include the sale of a 10% stake + management rights to a strategic investor, alongside another 15% on the bourse. The IPO of Banque du Caire — which was expected to be the country’s biggest sale of assets since 2006 — has also been postponed several times and is not expected to materialize before 2021.

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