Sawiris’ Orascom Financial could look at majority stake in United Bank of Egypt

Orascom Financial Holding (OFH) could look at acquiring a controlling stake in the state-run United Bank of Egypt, business tycoon Naguib Sawiris told local newspaper Hapi on Sunday.

OFH was created through a demerger earlier this month to manage Orascom Investment Holding’s financial investments.

This could be OFH’s first acquisition and foray into Egypt’s banking system, Sawiris said.

On Monday, OFH confirmed these claims through a release sent to Egypt’s stock exchange, saying that investing in the United Bank of Egypt could be an investment alternative after the company’s horizontal demerger.

Sawiris further told Hapi that United Bank would within OFH’s price range more than the Lebanese banks currently up for sale — Blom Bank and Bank Audi — which will likely cost somewhere between $600 million and $900 million.

Sawiris’ son Onsi — who will play a leading role in OFH — had told Enterprise last week that the company has yet to make any decisions on its investment plans and is still working on a strategy that it will announce by the end of the year.

Sawiris has been looking for a way into investing in the Egyptian banking industry, but has been rebuffed by successive central bank governors.

In 2007, Sawiris confirmed that his quest for a banking licence had been denied, saying that “if the governor of the Central Bank of Egypt gives me a licence for a bank, I’ll open it tomorrow.” Since then, the Egyptian tycoon said he would seek a licence to open an SME-focused lender. He been investing since 2015 into local non-bank financial services through companies he controls been acquiring significant stakes in investment bank Beltone and consumer and structured finance player Sarwa.