Sawiris-led Weather launches $5 bln claim against Algeria

CAIRO Mon Nov 19, 2012 8:43am EST

CAIRO Nov 19 (Reuters) - Weather Investments, chaired by Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris, has launched a $5 billion claim against Algeria for damage to its interest in local unit Djezzy.

Sawiris said on Monday that Algeria had "since 2008 pursued a campaign of interference and harassment which has cost Weather Investments over $5 billion in damages". He cited the attempted forced sale of all or part of Djezzy to the government.

Weather said its claim was registered with the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) - a member of the World Bank group.

Algeria imposed unjustified tax penalties for the years 2004-09, and failed to protect Djezzy premises from raids during football riots in November 2009, Weather said.

Russian telecoms firm Vimpelcom acquired Djezzy last year as part of a $6 billion deal to buy the assets of Sawiris's Egyptian group Orascom Telecom. Weather said it was an indirect shareholder in Djezzy.

Under pressure from Algeria, Vimpelcom agreed to talks on selling a controlling stake in Djezzy..

Algeria then imposed a $1.3 billion fine on Djezzy for violating foreign currency regulations, souring the talks. Vimpelcom appealed against the ruling prompting analysts and media to speculate the talks would be called off.

"Weather Investments claims that Algeria has repeatedly breached its international legal obligations to Weather Investments under an investment treaty between Algeria and the Belgo-Luxembourg Economic Union (the Treaty)," it said.