Morocco's Attijariwafa Sees Egypt Unit as Major Driver of Growth

Attijariwafa Bank, Morocco’s biggest lender, expects its recently acquired Egyptian unit to be the company’s major driver of growth in coming years and is planning to expand its operations by adding new branches and hiring staff.

The bank anticipates that the Egyptian operation will contribute 12 percent to 14 percent of its net income in 2018, with revenue expected to grow by 20 percent to 25 percent a year, the most among its foreign units, General Manager Ismail Douiri said in an interview. Attijariwafa plans “significant” branch expansion and hiring in the country, he said.

“In Egypt, everything we saw as a potential is materializing and can grow even faster than we initially thought,” Douiri said in Cairo. The new unit “is not only an important contributor today, but it will also be a major growth driver tomorrow.”

The lender took over Barclays Plc’s Egyptian business earlier this year as part of a wave of African acquisitions that began in 2005 and is intended to offset the limited growth opportunities in Morocco. Attijariwafa now operates in more than 20 countries including Tunisia, Niger, Gabon and Cameroon, as well as France, Germany and Italy.

Even though he’s looking overseas for Attijariwafa’s growth, Douiri said he’s bullish about Morocco’s prospects and that the government’s plan to allow its currency to trade freely “is the right choice.” A free-floating dirham will help integrate the nation’s economy with the rest of the world and attract foreign capital, he said.

The currency plans have been postponed at least twice. Yet Morocco’s economy is in good enough shape for the move, Douiri said.

“The timing is good because we’re at record-high levels of foreign reserves,” he said. “Market participants are all ready but some people, mostly the general public and some small business owners, may have wrong interpretations of what is a very cautious and progressive plan.”

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