Govt, CBE debate timing of state-banks IPO

The Egyptian government and the Central Bank of Egypt are involved in ongoing discussions over the timing of the initial public offering (IPO) for two state-owned banks, Banque du Caire and the Arab African International Bank, a senior government source told al-Masry al-Youm on Sunday.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said a difference of opinion has emerged between officials concerning the optimal timing of the IPO, driven by a lack of clarity and stability in the market, both local and international.

"What is happening is just a study, with no details yet on the offerings or timetables," he added.

Egypt's Deputy Finance Minister Ahmed Kouchouk told Reuters on Sunday that EFG-Hermes and HSBC have been selected as consultants for the IPO of Banque du Caire.

"There is no date selected yet for the offering," Kouchouk said.

Central Bank Governor Tarek Amer said in March that the government planned to offer 20 percent of Banque du Caire by increasing its capital through an IPO.

A market official with direct knowledge of the issue said the offering will take place during the first half of 2017.

However, an official with Banque du Caire told Al-Masry Al-Youm that so far the CBE has not gone beyond the stage of examining the IPO project.

A CBE source said the IPO would probably be concluded during the first half of 2017. He asserted the continued attractiveness of the Egyptian market, referring to Barclays' sale of its Egyptian unit to Morocco's Attijariwafa Bank.

The source, who asked to anonymous, said that the CBE is busy with negotiations with a number of international funding institutions over loans to strengthen foreign-exchange reserves. It is seeking to bridge the funding gap while dealing with developments in the foreign-exchange market, he said.

Another bank-related project subject to uncertainty is the planned sale of the United Bank to a "strategic investor".

Ashraf al-Qadi, chairman of the United Bank, said he has not yet received any offers from foreign banks, stating that it is too early yet to talk of negotiations for a sale.

"The CBE will work on selling the bank to a strategic investor by the end of this year or early next year," he told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

"The senior executive management of the bank continues its expansionist policy in the local market, financial and administrative structuring and development of the bank, to make a profit for the shareholders," Qadi said.

Egypt is struggling to revive its economy since a popular uprising in 2011 drove away tourists and foreign investors.

The initial public offering of Banque du Caire, along with other state companies and banks, is expected to bring in badly needed dollars to shore up the country's foreign reserves, which totalled $19.592 billion at the end of September, down from $36 billion five years ago.

Egypt is in the process of securing a $12 billion, three-year, International Monetary Fund programme but must first make some painful economic reforms including fuel subsidy cuts and a devaluation of the pound, which has been held artificially strong at 8.78 per dollar.

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