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Orascom's Sawiris: A very modern tale of corporate finance

North Korea. Zimbabwe. Tunisia. Algeria. Iraq. Pakistan. Egypt. It’s a list of the world’s flashpoints. And they’re all part of Egyptian entrepreneur Naguib Sawiris’s unique telecoms empire. So when his Orascom group needed financing, and then sought a buyer, it presented Sawiris’s advisers with a unique set of challenges. Eric Ellis tells the fascinating story of corporate finance in the new world order.

Naguib Sawiris’s empire extends to North Korea and Zimbabwe. Now he’s enlisted the help of Russia

Naguib Sawiris’s empire extends to North Korea and Zimbabwe. Now he’s enlisted the help of Russia

LAST SEPTEMBER, AS the euro was tottering in Greece, threatening to spread its cancer to who-knew-where, US banker Marisa Drew was presented with a fascinating and challenging proposition – to restructure the €12 billion finances of one of the world’s most complex corporate empires for one of the world’s most intriguing businessmen, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris.

And she had to do this while Sawiris prepared to sell out to a Russian oligarch in an uneasy joint venture with a company from Norway, one of the world’s most transparent corporate jurisdictions. Welcome to business in the new world order.

As Credit Suisse’s European global markets head in London, Drew had first hooked up with Sawiris in early 2007 when Credit Suisse raised $750 million for his Cairo-based mobile telephone company, Orascom Telecom, the money helping to spread Sawiris’s network of 120 million subscribers across the globe.

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