ECONOMY

Sawiris in search of bank partnership

It was during an address at the Economist meeting in Athens earlier this month that Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris reiterated his aspirations to enter the banking sector in Greece. Two months ago, he had told Greek reporters during a press conference in Cairo that he was seeking to purchase a small Greek bank. It is believed that such a move would help Sawiris expand into business operations involving phone and mobile banking in Greece. According to reports, the Egyptian businessman’s efforts to take over a small bank proved fruitless, and he is now seeking to strike up a partnership with a domestic bank. The same reports say that buying a bank is now out of the question for Sawiris and he is only interested in a partnership. Reports from Cairo say the owner of the Wind mobile phone company has already tried to take over a credit institution in his own country, but his plans were obstructed by the Bank of Egypt. The central bank is unwilling to allow the sale of state-run banks to private interests. But for the central bank’s obstacles, there would be many »targets» ripe for takeover. The Egyptian government’s privatization program is quite extensive and includes enterprises of all kinds in all sectors. Separately, interest in Egypt’s privatization program has been shown by Greece’s National Bank. The domestic lender is currently taking part in the second phase of a bid for Egypt’s Banque du Caire. Another two major Arab-owned banks are involved in the sale procedure, the outcome of which will be known in early June.