UPDATE 2-U.S. firm Ripplewood buys into Egyptian economic revival

Thu May 8, 2014 10:12am EDT

* Private equity firm buys near 10 pct of developer SODIC

* Source says pays 217.17 million Egyptian pounds

* Earlier this firm acquired 2.3 percent of Palm Hills

* Ripplewood founder says has huge interest in Egypt (Rewrites first paragraph, adds Ripplewood founder, SODIC comments)

By Ehab Farouk

CAIRO, May 8 (Reuters) - U.S. private equity firm Ripplewood has acquired a near 10 percent stake in Egyptian property developer SODIC, making its second investment this week in Egypt in anticipation of an economic recovery following months of political upheaval.

A source informed about the deal told Reuters Ripplewood had bought the stake in Egypt's third-largest listed developer for 217.17 million Egyptian pounds ($30.9 million) from regional investment bank EFG Hermes.

SODIC Managing Director Ahmed Badrawi confirmed Ripplewood's purchase of a 9.4 percent stake but did not say how much it paid.

"Most likely Ripplewood will have a role in the board of directors ... We will benefit from their expertise when searching for new lands for our projects and in all our future investments," Badrawi said.

Earlier this week the New York-based firm acquired a 2.3 percent stake in Palm Hills, the country's second-largest listed property developer, and hoped to increase its stake over time.

EFG Hermes had said it sold a part of its shares in SODIC, amounting to 9.9 percent of the company, but did not disclose who it sold it to. The sale cut its stake in SODIC to 4.75 percent.

At Ripplewood, founder Tim Collins told Reuters by phone: "We have a huge interest in Egypt and we want to be a contributor to the economic recovery in the country."

OTHER INVESTMENTS

Collins said the firm was looking at other investments in Egypt but declined to give any details. "We are very interested in being a part of the recovery of the Egyptian economy," he added.

Last month SODIC ended a dispute with Egypt's government, agreeing to pay 900 million pounds over seven years after a revaluation of its Eastown development project in Cairo.

Eastown is twice the size of London's 97-acre Canary Wharf business district and includes offices, shops and homes. The government had sought to revoke SODIC's rights over the land because of delays in the development.

The Egyptian economy has been hit over the past three years as foreign investors fled the country following an uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

The economy grew a meagre 2.1 percent in the last fiscal year and the finance ministry has forecast growth of between 2 and 2.5 percent in the current year.

In the property sector, demand for new housing remains strong and officials have said Egypt needs around 500,000 new units a year to satisfy the demands of its population.

Builder MNHD told Reuters in an interview it plans to complete the sale of homes in its 300,000 square-meter Taj Sultan project by early 2015, then launch another development of similar size.

($1 = 7.0302 Egyptian Pounds) (Writing by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Jason Neely and David Holmes)

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