Egypt’s EFG-Hermes To Launch Syrian PE Fund

CAIRO (Reuters) – Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes (HRHO.CA)(HRHOq.L) is opening a Damascus office and will launch a $250-$300 million private equity fund in the “untapped” Syrian market, the firm said on Wednesday.

“The recent reforms undertaken by the Syrian government to liberalise 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.

Shares in EFG-Hermes, Egypt’s largest listed investment bank, were trading 4.6 percent higher by 1145 GMT, while the main index .EGX30 was 1.4 percent higher.

Another Egyptian investment bank, HC Securities and Investment, received a licence to operate in Syria in February, while Pioneers Holding (PIOH.CA) set up a Syrian affiliate in 2007.

Seven years ago, Syria relinquished its monopoly of the banking sector which was nationalised along with much of the economy after the ruling Baath Party took power in 1963. (Writing by Alastair Sharp; editing by Elaine Hardcastle)