Dubai's Abraaj says Egypt investments on track

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CAIRO: Dubai-based Abraaj Capital is pressing ahead with healthcare, education and agribusiness investments in Egypt, unaffected by the restructuring at Dubai World, its Egypt country manager said.

The private equity firm, which has about $6.5 billion in funds under management, aims to become a key player in private education in Egypt and to set up a chain of hospitals.

Investors in the Gulf region and elsewhere in the world have become more wary of putting money into Middle East markets since the Dubai government asked its creditors last week to accept a delay in repayments from Dubai World.

Some analysts have said Egypt, which has emerged from the world financial crisis relatively unscathed, could be a haven.

Our strategy is unchanged – to grow our portfolio companies in Egypt and seek new acquisitions, Executive Director Yaser Gamali told Reuters in an interview.

Abraaj, which bought 77 percent of Egypt s medical services company Al Borg Laboratory in May 2008, is in talks to buy a second medical laboratory in Egypt to be owned through Borg.

The acquisition we re looking at is small, but it s more of a capability acquisition to get that knowledge base, Gamali said. We are looking to grow it regionally, exporting and in-sourcing work from elsewhere in the region.

Abraaj, with offices in Turkey, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, is in talks to buy hospitals or build new ones in large Egyptian cities to be run by its partly owned Turkish chain Acibadem.

Our goal is to have more than one hospital in Egypt, Gamali said, adding he wanted to have a chain in the long term.

He said Abraaj also wanted to set up pharmacies in Egypt under its Saudi Arabia-based chain Tadawi.

In education, Araaj has been looking at acquisitions or greenfield sites for schools under its Dubai-based private school chain GEMS and is negotiating with a number of owners.

We hope to be a key player in (private) education in three to five years, Gamali said, adding he hoped to announce the first school in the early part of 2010.

We feel that demand is available for very well-run private schools and it s not necessarily at the high price point.

Gamali said Abraaj was also in talks to buy an agribusiness, adding the firm wanted to take advantage of Egypt s climate, inexpensive labor, good land and location to supply fresh and processed food to Egyptian, European and Gulf markets.

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By Reuters
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