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EFG-Hermes to open Syria office, launch fund Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes is opening a Damascus office and will launch a $250-$300 million private equity fund in the "untapped" Syrian market, the firm said. "The recent reforms undertaken by the Syrian government to liberalize the economy and facilitate the business environment have made Syria a compelling investment opportunity," the firm's Chief Executive Officer Hassan Heikal said in a statement. "Having a direct presence in Syria was the next logical step for the firm as we continue to implement our regional expansion strategy," he added. EFG sold its 28 percent stake in Lebanon's Bank Audi for $913.4 million earlier this year, after it failed to reach agreement on increasing its holding. The firm said it is awaiting final approval from Syrian regulators to launch the operation, a partnership with Syrian businessman Firas Tlass, who will own 30 percent. Tlass will be the chairman of the Syrian unit, while EFG appointed Hazem Badran as CEO. Another Egyptian investment bank, HC Securities and Investment, received a license to operate in Syria in February, while Pioneers Holding set up a Syrian affiliate in 2007. Seven years ago, Syria relinquished its monopoly of the banking sector which was nationalized along with much of the economy after the ruling Baath Party took power in 1963. --Reuters

PHD land revaluation up 15 pct Egyptian real estate developer Palm Hills Developments (PHD) said that an independent revaluation of its land bank by CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) placed the market value of its properties as of Oct. 31, 2009 at LE 38.1 billion ($6.9 billion). In a press statement, the firm said this revaluation shows an increase of 15 percent over the previous year's LE 33.1 billion ($6 billion), prior to adjustments for tax, minority interests, net difference between actual construction cost spent and revenue collected. PHD's land bank stands at 48.4 million square meters, up from last year's 48.3 million.

Algeria treats telecom firms equally: finance minister Algeria makes no distinction between telecom firms operating in the north African country, official news agency APS cited its finance minister as saying in reference to a tax claim against Egypt's Orascom Telecom. A senior Algerian government official told Reuters last month that Algiers wanted Orascom to relinquish ownership of Algeria's top mobile phone operator. Orascom is appealing against a $597 million tax bill which Algeria says is owed by its Djezzy mobile subsidiary. In answer to a question about Orascom's tax bill, Finance Minister Karim Djoudi said: "As a finance ministry we have a mission to control all moral and physical entities involved in the economic market." He said his department makes no distinction between operators. "We respect the rights and obligations of all operators and among these obligations is that which consists of paying taxes," APS cited Djoudi as telling reporters in Algiers. "We are acting to ensure that these obligations are paid." Orascom Telecom has a stake of more than 90 percent in Djezzy, which started operating after Orascom bought a 15-year Algerian mobile license in 2001 for $737 million. Analysts have said Algeria is unlikely to force Orascom out directly but could use indirect pressure to persuade it to sell. Algerian media have named state telecoms firm Algerie Telecom and France's Vivendi as possible buyers. --Reuters

River port company makes wheat deal The National River Port Management Company (NRPMC) announced recently the start of a five-year contract to transport up to 2 million tons of wheat annually along the Nile for Egypt's General Company for Silos and Storage (GCSS), a state-owned importer and distributor of wheat. The announcement was made at NRPMC's first operating river port in the district of Tanash, Imbaba (20 km north of Cairo). The 27,500-square-meter port, which has been operational since late 2009, is capable of handling 2 million tons of grain and other bulk material and 110,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) per annum. NRPMC won a public tender to rent the Tanash Port from Nasr Co. for Casting in March 2008 for a period of 15 years. Since then, the company has invested over $3 million to upgrade facilities and purchase new handling equipment, according to a statement. The wheat contract will see 30 barges operated by NRMPC sister company Nile Cargo move 750,000 tons of wheat in 2010. The door-to-door service will deliver wheat to silos and mills nation-wide, with a particular emphasis on reaching the governorates of Upper Egypt, namely Beni Suef and Minya, where NRPMC is developing new river ports to serve its clients. "Transporting wheat via river barges will save the state up to 20 percent of what it would have paid to transport by truck," said NRPMC Chairman Maged Farag. "The result is simple: More funds will be freed to directly support the state's subsidy program rather than covering overheads such as transport." NRPMC and Nile Cargo are Portfolio Companies of Nile Logistics, Citadel Capital's Platform Company in the logistics, river transport and port management sector. Private equity firm Citadel Capital has $8.3 billion in investments under control in 15 industries spanning 14 countries. National Ports has already committed $27 million to the roll-out of a river-transport network that will create 500 new direct jobs and 1,500 indirect jobs in 2010 alone. The company is developing four additional river ports: Tebbin (15 km south of Cairo), Alexandria (2 km south of the Port of Alexandria on the Nubaria Canal), Beni Suef and Minya. Plans are also underway to roll out ports in Assuit and Aswan to complete a network of ports to connect the north and south of Egypt. Nile Cargo is building 62 new river barges, the first of which will be operational by mid-2010.

Daily NewsEgypt 2009

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Publication:Daily News Egypt (Egypt)
Date:Mar 3, 2010
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