Billionaire Sawiris’s OCI Hires Zaoui for BESIX Stake Sale

Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris hired Zaoui & Co. to advise on the sale of OCI NV’s 50 percent stake in the BESIX engineering and construction group.

The boutique investment bank is sole adviser to Netherlands-based OCI and a sale may be completed this summer, Sawiris, the company’s chief executive officer, said yesterday in a phone interview from London. BESIX posted a 9 percent increase in 2013 revenue to 2.3 billion euros ($3.2 billion).

Zaoui & Co. was founded last year by brothers Michael and Yoel Zaoui, former merger and acquisition bankers at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. They have worked this month with GlaxoSmithKline Plc on a $23 billion asset swap deal with Novartis AG, and Lafarge SA on its $40 billion merger with Holcim Ltd. Sawiris is a Lafarge shareholder with a net worth of $8.3 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

OCI said yesterday it started talks with potential bidders for the BESIX stake, without identifying them. BESIX, which operates in the construction of buildings, infrastructure and roads, is a Belgian group active in 17 countries.

The planned sale comes as OCI seeks to focus on its wholly-owned construction units while its fertilizers and chemicals arms expand in the U.S. The company expects to be “comfortably positioned” among the world’s top three producers of nitrogen fertilizers once its plant in Iowa starts output in the fourth quarter of 2015, it said yesterday.

Iowa Plant

“We are building that plant with the construction company that we bought in Iowa,” Sawiris said, referring to the Weitz Co., which OCI acquired in 2012. “We have mobilized Egyptian engineers working alongside American engineers.”

Sawiris said he was also “excited” about the prospects for the construction industry in Egypt, the Middle East and the U.S.

“The Weitz Co. used to do $2 billion of turnover prior to the crisis and the CEO of Weitz has come with growth plans to restore that scale within the coming three to four years,” he said.

OCI yesterday posted profit of $295.2 million for 2013. The mean estimate of five analysts was for net income of $187.6 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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