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Monday, 23 May 2022

PIF eyes United Bank amid state privatization push

The Saudi sovereign wealth fund is considering making a bid to acquire United Bank, Hapi Journal reported yesterday, citing sources it claims have knowledge of the transaction. The Public Investment Fund’s play for UB comes amid a backdrop of an influx of investment from our friends in the Gulf, part of a raft of support measures to help shore up Egypt’s fiscal position amid global volatility triggered by the war in Ukraine. Execs at United Bank declined to comment yesterday when we reached out.

SOUND SMART- The Central Bank of Egypt holds 99.9% of United Bank, which it created in 2006 through the merger of smaller entities near the end of its well-regarded cleanup of the banking sector nearly two decades ago.

Is the transaction part of the promised USD 10 bn from the KSA? Saudi and Egypt inked an agreement in March that would see the sovereign fund invest up to USD 10 bn in our healthcare, education, agriculture and financial services sectors. No further details have yet been released on which assets PIF is targeting.

Five years in the making: In 2017, the CBE said it intended to sell the bank to a strategic investor and appointed EFG Hermes and New York’s Evercore to advise on the transaction, before the covid-19 pandemic put the sale on ice.

PIF likes our banking sector: The Saudi fund has strong interest in the Egyptian financial sector due to its resilience in the face of back-to-back crises, Hapi quotes its sources as suggesting.

They’re not the only ones: Financial services firms have also been a key target for Abu Dhabi wealth fund ADQ, which bought a 17.15% stake in leading private sector bank CIB, and an 11.8% stake in fintech player Fawry as part of a USD 2 bn investment agreed in March.

And the gov’t is in selling mode: The government’s recently unveiled privatization strategy aims to raise USD 10 bn annually over the next four years by selling stakes in state-owned assets to local and international investors. The state hopes to double the private sector’s role in the economy over the next three years in a bid to attract bns of USD of fresh foreign investment into the country.

UB isn’t the only state-owned bank earmarked for (at least partial) privatization: The government has also had plans to sell a stake in Banque du Caire for years, and could go ahead with its long-awaited IPO later this year.

ADVISORS: CI Capital is reportedly acting as UB's advisor, according to Hapi’s sources.

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