DUBAI Dubai's Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) expects to bid for the supermarket arm of Egypt's Mansour Group in the first quarter, MAF's chief executive said, after it posted a 10 percent rise in annual revenue.
Mansour Group, also the largest distributor of General Motors (GM.N) cars in Egypt, aims to sell supermarket chain Metro and discount grocery store Kheir Zaman. Sources told Reuters in December that the deal was valued at $200 million to $300 million.
"We're still in the due diligence phase, which we expect to be for another month or so," Iyad Malas, chief executive of Majid Al Futtaim Holding, told Reuters. "At which time, we would hopefully make an offer that would be subject to negotiations and then would either conclude a transaction or not."
The discussions signal growing appetite by Gulf-based firms to expand their presence in the most populous Arab state at a time when valuations are low due to political strife in Egypt.
Metro is the country's largest supermarket chain with more than 40 outlets in 10 cities. Kheir Zaman has over 2,000 employees and 30 stores throughout the country.
Unlisted MAF, which reported a 10 percent rise in annual revenue to 21.6 billion dirhams ($5.9 billion) on Tuesday, entered Egypt in 2000 and it owns two shopping malls, plus 14 hypermarkets and supermarkets.
"We continue to believe that Egypt has a large consumer base that is attractive," said Malas, adding the country provided 5-9 percent of the company's revenue in 2012.
In Cairo, MAF will start building its Mall of Egypt project in the first quarter and also plans to expand its Maadi City Centre mall and develop land it owns near the city's airport.
The family-owned group is the sole franchisee of French hypermarket chain Carrefour (CARR.PA) in the Middle East and owns 11 shopping malls and 11 hotels in the Middle East and North Africa.
MAF separated its Iran operations from the group in late 2012, with ownership passing directly to MAF's family shareholders.
"We've been fully compliant in terms of sanctions. However, we felt there was always a risk, given our issuance and access to the bond market, there could be some investors who were nervous about having Iran in MAF Holding," said Malas.
MAF issued a $400 million sukuk, or Islamic bond, in February 2012, plus a $500 million conventional bond in July.
Iran provided about 4 percent of group revenue last year following the devaluation of the rial.
The United Arab Emirates accounted for about half of MAF's revenue in 2012 and the company is in talks to acquire a UAE fast food chain, Malas said, declining to give further details.
"We are speaking to someone already," he said.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain also each provided 5-9 percent of MAF's revenue last year, with the company's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) up 7 percent to 3 billion dirhams.
Revenue from its property division, which includes its malls and hotels, rose 15 percent of 3.2 billion dirhams in 2012, with EBITDA at 2 billion dirhams, the company said in a statement.
MAF's lower-margin retail arm had revenue of 17.8 billion dirhams in 2012, up 8 percent, and EBITDA of 937 million dirhams.
($1 = 3.6730 UAE dirhams)
(Reporting by Matt Smith; Editing by Mark Potter)