* EFG had bought 19 percent stake in Damas for $85 mln in
* Says exit signals better exit options for private equity
* Private equity unit eyes opportunities in MENA and Africa
(Adds confirmation of deal)
By Mirna Sleiman
March 5 The private equity arm of Egyptian
investment bank EFG-Hermes has sold its 19 percent
stake in United Arab Emirates jeweller Damas International to
Qatar's Mannai Corp for $150 million, the company said
The deal, one of the few exits concluded in the Middle East
in recent months, signalled a possible revival of the region's
private equity industry, which has been grappling with regional
political turmoil and investor unease about the global economy.
The Qatari conglomerate will now hold 100 percent ownership
of the jeweller. Reuters reported the deal earlier on Wednesday.
"This is a tremendous success, given that we bought the
stake for $85 million in less that two years," said Karim
Moussa, the head of private equity at EFG Hermes.
"The market has been suffering from lack of exit routes, but
we will see more private equity sales going forward, either
through initial public offerings or strategic acquisitions."
Mannai and EFG-Hermes took control of the jeweller in 2012,
with Mannai holding 66 percent of Damas and the Egyptian company
EFG Hermes, one of the largest investment banks in the
Middle East, had in May 2012 teamed with Mannai, whose
operations span the oil and gas, automotive, travel and
logistics sectors, and de-listed the jeweler from Nasdaq Dubai
after acquiring it for $445 million.
"We will have a busy year ahead of us, especially with our
new investment strategy. We see opportunities across MENA and
we're increasingly looking at Egypt and Africa," Moussa said.
Consumer-oriented sectors, healthcare and infrastructure are the
most attractive for private equity investors, he said.
The region, home to such private equity players as the
United Arab Emirates' Abraaj Capital, the region's largest local
firm, Bahrain's Investcorp, and Egypt's Citadel Capital, has
been sitting on billions of dollars collected in previous years
by regional funds without being deployed.
EFG Hermes' Investment Banking division acted as financial
advisor and Freshfields was the legal advisor to the private
equity division on the Damas exit.
(Writing by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Larry King)