Bill Gates invests in Egypt’s biggest construction group

Orascom has high hopes for the share exchange and move to Amsterdam, including deeper access to capital and higher profile among investors.

Bill Gates and other US investors will put up US$1bn for a stake in construction and fertilizer giant OCI NV in one of Egypt’s largest foreign currency inflows since the 2011 uprising.

The deal sees OCI take in local stock and global depository receipts of Orascom Construction Industries under a share exchange offer that has netted commitments totalling more than US$2bn, according to the company.

Orascom’s Middle East and North Africa construction operations will remain headquartered in Cairo, while OCI NV plans to list and trade on the NYSE Euronext in Amsterdam.

The commitments from investors include $1bn from Cascade Investment, which is wholly owned by Bill Gates, Southeastern Asset Management, and Davis Selected Advisers.

"This transaction is proof of the existing international appetite to invest in Egypt and bodes well for the Egyptian economy," said Nassef Sawiris, CEO of OCI.

He added: "OCI’s existing Egyptian operational headquarters, assets, and 45,000 Egyptian employees comprising half of the group’s global employee base, stand to benefit from our expanded access to capital. We expect our new profile to positively impact the group’s ability to expand in Egypt and pursue its growth strategy."

Deeper access

OCI has high hopes for the transaction. It believes that a listing on NYSE Euronext Amsterdam will give it deeper access to capital markets, such as the Eurobond market.

The company also expects to attain higher ratings from global rating agencies, which will help its debt financing.

It hopes a listing on the Amsterdam Euronext will attract more investors, and raise its profile in the international investment and banking communities.

OCI added: "The international listing further underscores the company’s commitment to international governance and financial control standards according to which it operates its business."

OCI will have a one-tier board, consisting of two executive and three independent non-executive directors. Michael Bennett, former CEO of Terra Industries, will serve as chairman. Nassef Sawiris, OCI’s CEO, and Mr. Salman Butt, OCI’s chief financial officer, will be executive directors.

Jan Alberts Ter Wisch, former partner at Allen & Overy, and Arif Naqvi, founder and Group CEO of The Abraaj Group, will be non-executive independent directors.

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