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French Version

Local equity fund buys part of Jordanian meat maker

Lebanon's private-equity EuroMENA Fund concluded a $3.2-million investment in a Jordanian meat distributor on Monday, one day after the Algerian government awarded EuroMENA and its French partner exclusive negotiating rights in the privatization of the state-owned paint-making company.

EuroMENA's Jordanian partner, Jordinvest, will make an identical investment in the company, which is the market leader in cold cuts and sandwich meats in Jordan and Palestine, said EuroMENA managing director Romen Mathieu. Mathieu would not divulge the name of the company, which has annual sales of about $20 million.

In general, private-equity funds inject capital into promising firms in exchange for equity, almost always with a time limit to exit the ownership positions, typically either through sale to a strategic investor or an offering on a capital market.

EuroMENA's deals show private equity is gaining a toehold in the region - in Lebanon, the sector stands so untapped that managers of the country's four private-equity funds remain friendly enough to bring each other deals.

The capital infusion will fund expansion of the company's meat-processing plant, with an eye toward boosting market share in the Gulf.

"We don't believe in investing in a local company that remains local," Mathieu told The Daily Star on Monday.

The strategy of the $113.5-million fund, which launched operations in March 2006, is to invest in MENA companies with growth potential and turn them into regional powerhouses.

"I'm very happy for my friend," said Paul Chucrallah, a principal in Byblos Investment Bank's private-equity vehicle Byblos Ventures, about Mathieu and the new investments. "I'm still of the opinion that private equity will have a defining impact on the business landscape of the region.

In Algeria, EuroMENA should invest about $6-7 million for a stake in ENAP, the state-owned paint company with annual sales of about $135 million on production of 100,000 tons of paint. EuroMENA will acquire 10-15 percent of ENAP, while the majority will go to Materis, Europe's second-largest paint-maker.

m,02 27 2007
The Daily Star
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