France: Banking on North Africa

As recently reported in the Wall Street Journal, France has followed China’s lead as a nation looking at banking opportunities in Africa. As the article notes:

“…The top three French banks by market value- BNP Paribas SA, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole SA-are already active in most of the region. Additional acquisitions in countries such as Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt will give them access to a pool of potential clients that is bigger than that of their overcrowded domestic market….

…The Algerian government is hoping to complete the sale of a 51% stake in Crédit Populaire d’Algérie, or CPA within the next few weeks. Five candidates, including BNP Paribas, SocGen, Crédit Agricole and French mutual group Banque Populaire — an unlisted bank owned by its customers — and Citigroup Inc., are expected to submit their offers in the next couple of weeks.

…BNP Paribas, meanwhile, gained operational control of Libya’s Sahara Bank in July by paying the government €145 million ($215 million) for a 19% stake in the bank and an option to buy an additional 32%. Sahara is Libya’s second-largest bank by assets.

Sahara, which also drew the interest of SocGen, BNP’s closest competitor, has about a fifth of Libya’s retail- and corporate-banking business. Even though it has a population of less than 6 million, Libya’s large, and still partly untapped, oil and natural-gas sector is attracting global investors. Financial institutions are more than happy to fund large projects in the industry.

…BNP Paribas’ competitors will soon have a second opportunity to enter Libya, where the government has appointed Rothschild to seek a strategic partner for Al-Wahda, the country’s fifth-largest bank by assets. As in the case of BNP Paribas’ stake in Sahara Bank, takeover candidates would first buy a 19% holding with the option of expanding it to 51%.

…In Egypt, where Intesa Sanpaolo last year paid $1.6 billion for an 80% stake in Bank of Alexandria, another state-owned bank is expected to attract strong foreign interest. J. P. Morgan has been given the task of selling an 80% stake in Banque du Caire.

Banque du Caire has more than 230 branches in Egypt. Buying it would allow the three French banks to augment the much smaller networks they already have in a country of about 80 million people. The auction is expected to be completed within nine months….”

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2007 at 1:35 pm and is filed under Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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Wildcats & Black Sheep is a personal interest blog dedicated to the identification and evaluation of maverick investment opportunities arising in frontier - and, what some may consider to be, “rogue” or “black sheep” - markets around the world.

Focusing primarily on The New Seven Sisters - the largely state owned petroleum companies from the emerging world that have become key players in the oil & gas industry as identified by Carola Hoyos, Chief Energy Correspondent for The Financial Times - but spanning other nascent opportunities around the globe that may hold potential in the years ahead, Wildcats & Black Sheep is a place for the adventurous to contemplate & evaluate the emerging markets of tomorrow.