Interview: Tunisian PM says GE CEO Immelt to visit Tunis in two weeks time

By bne IntelliNews April 2, 2014

WASHINGTON (CI MENA) - Tunisian Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa said that he is preparing to welcome GE chief executive Jeff Immelt to Tunis in two weeks time following his visit with President Barack Obama on Friday, April 4, 2014.

In an interview using Google Glass with Capitol Intelligence at CSIS on Wednesday, Jomaa said that GE CEO Immelt’s visit highlights the fact that Tunisia has become an important destination for investment.

At an event at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington, Jomaa said he sees Tunisia as a “start-up, a democracy start-up but I am sure of the dividends that it will pay-out.”

One of the topics discussed during the visit was a potential joint investment in Tunisie Telecom by Dubai-based Abraaj Capital and a US private equity player such as CarlyleBlackstoneDavis Advisors or KKR.

Tarak Ben Ammar, the owner of North Africa’s largest TV broadcast group and board member of Telecom Italia and Mediobanca, said the Tunisie Telecom privatization would offer opportunities to both Telecom Italia and private equity funds such as Abraaj and US and European funds.

Also attending the US Chamber of Commerce event, Abraaj Capital director for Tunisia Adel Goucha said that the sale of a 35% stake in Tunisie Telecom by Dubai Holding's Emirates International Telecommuncations (EIT) would be interesting for Abraaj if the government were to allow the buyer to exercise a previously stipulated option to acquire an additional 16% in the company and thus allow any new buyer to control a 51% majority stake in the operator. 

At a CEO dinner hosted for the Tunisian Prime Minister by the National US-Arab Chamber of Commerce (NUSACC), Tunisisie Valeurs CEO Fadhel Abdlelkefi said the government is currently seeking to list a 25% stake in the country's Tunisiana operator.

Abdelkefi said unions in Tunisie Telecom currently oppose the government giving up a controlling stake in the company.

Goucha said the private equity firm would be open to joining forces with LAP GreenN telecom group, owned by Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), and with western private equity groups.

Another US group rapidly expanding in Tunisia is Bethesda, Maryland-based Marriott, with three major property deals already underway such a Ritz Carlton in Carthage, a Marriott in Sousse and an airport hotel planned for Tunis, Marriott vice president for portfolio risk management Patrick R. Rodrigues said.

Marriott also anounced today the purchase of South Africa's Protea Hospitality Holdings that expands the company's rooms in Africa to about 23,000.   

On Tuesday, Jomaa met senior executives of Google and Microsoft in New York and will meet IMF managing director Christine Lagarde tomorrow morning.

by PK Semler in Washington, Dc.  For more information please call +1-202-549-3399 or email pks@capitolintelgroup.com

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