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Tunisia's Banque du Sud up for sale – again; BNP probable buyer

BNP Paribas seen as probable buyer

Pébereau: brokers coming soon

The Tunisian authorities have renewed their efforts to sell the country's sixth-largest commercial bank, Banque du Sud. On May 16, a data room at the bank's head office was reopened. A month later, Tunisia's largest private-sector bank, Banque Internationale Arabe de Tunisie (BIAT), expressed interest in the bank on behalf of one of its foreign shareholders. Other interested parties include France's BNP Paribas and a consortium involving Banque Commerciale du Maroc and Spain's Santander. The Tunisian government's 33.5% holding in Banque du Sud was originally put up for sale in 2004. According to one local financial consultant, there was a lot of interest, particularly from Italian bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which in 1997 bought a 13% stake in the bank, and BNP Paribas. After due diligence, however, only the latter was interested: "BNP Paribas concluded that the bank was interesting only if bought for free or close to free", given its poor loan portfolio and true level of non-performing loans.

However, the authorities were hostile to such a bid and consequently no formal offers were tendered.

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