Citigroup, Credit Suisse await Africa deals on state asset sales


Citigroup and Credit Suisse Group are expecting more African deals as governments sell assets and Ethiopia opens up.

"Privatisation is a theme we see as becoming increasingly important given the fiscal pressures faced by many African governments," Vikas Seth, the head of mergers and acquisitions for Europe, Middle East and Africa for Credit Suisse, said in an interview at the World Economic Forum on Africa. "Several governments recognise the need for reform."

"Sizable transactions" such as the Ethiopian telecoms auction and Angola’s planned privatisation of 175 companies are "keenly anticipated," he said. 

Foreign enthusiasm for Africa has long been fickle. But the continent has been piecing together the largest free-trade zone. Once in motion, the African Continental Free Trade Area will cover a market of 1.2 billion people, with a combined gross domestic product of about $2.5trn. Six of the world’s fastest-growing economies are in Africa.

East Africa is also drawing attention as regional firms seek to expand in Ethiopia, according to Miguel Azevedo, Citigroup’s head of investment banking for the Middle East and Africa.

The Horn of Africa nation has the continent’s second-largest population and an economy the International Monetary Fund predicts will expand more than 7% a year through 2024.

"Kenyan-based companies are looking into Ethiopia as a big opportunity," he said. "That area I would say, as an area, rather than a single country, is of particular interest."

Here are other highlights from the interviews:

Credit Suisse’s Vikas Seth

There are three bright spots for investments into Africa:

"First, consumer-facing sectors are expected to experience strong growth. Some observers believe that in terms of consumption patterns, Africa today is where Asia was 20 years ago with a bright future ahead.

"A second bright spot relates to infrastructure investments. As the continent industrialises and as the African Continental Free Trade Area becomes effective, the need for world class infrastructure to facilitate intra-Africa and global trade will only increase.

"Finally, natural resources will continue to be relevant given the abundance of minerals across the continent."

Citigroup’s Miguel Azevedo

"South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt are the three big economic engines of Africa where most opportunities will lie," in addition to East Africa.

"There are some very good companies in Kenya. Primarily in the service area, and banking. So Kenya is a very important one and we see a lot of interest. Then there’s a few new kids on the block - Ethiopia and Angola. They are opening and they are becoming more targeted by investors."

Telecoms, financial services and fintech, consumer goods and infrastructure are industries where there are "exciting opportunities."

On the US-China trade war:

"Hopefully that’s good for Africa. Why do I say this? More Chinese capital, but more importantly, I hope, more American capital will also flow to Africa."

On Africa’s free-trade pact:

"The free trade agreement can only have a good impact in terms of growth and I think it will accelerate companies going from national champions to regional champions, and even pan-African champions.

"So the good companies will be even better positioned to take advantage of new opportunities. As they grow, they will need more capital and that’s exactly what we do."

Standard Chartered’s Southern African Head Kweku Bedu-Addo

Kenya, with a rising youth population and a skilled workforce, has already managed to do a few things right itself, and is also primed to sustain its economic growth.

As a leader in financial-technology innovation on the continent and with one of Africa’s best tax-to-gross domestic product figures, "it’s one market I would watch out for in terms of opportunity."

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