Carlyle Group eyeing Egypt, Morocco investments

Marrakech– US buyout fund Carlyle Group plans to invest about US$300 million in the Middle East and North Africa within the next two years and is looking at opportunities in Egypt and Morocco, a senior executive said.

"Our first fund for the region is US$500 million. We have already invested about 40 percent of it and plan to invest the rest in the next 18 to 24 months," Walid Musallam, head of Carlyle's Middle East and North Africa fund, told Reuters.

"Our focus in North Africa is on Egypt and Morocco mainly because of the good size of the population and the economy, which is doing well, as well as the regulatory environment for investment, which is good," he said.

"We are looking at several opportunities in the region, including in Morocco. We have in mind specific companies in Morocco," Musallam said in an interview on Thursday.

The executive, who was speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, would not disclose which companies the fund was targeting for investments.

He said he was bullish about prospects in the region. An International Monetary Fund official told Reuters he the Middle East and North Africa would see 4.8 percent growth in 2011, higher than in developed economies.

"It is not a situation of stagnation here," Musallam said at the conference venue, in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh.

"The potential is here. You have a sizeable population, with many young people. Growth is robust. If we continue at the same pace of growth, there should be more and more investment opportunities coming up."

A private equity fund, Carlyle Group says it has US$90.9 billion in assets under management. It told Reuters earlier this month it was considering joint deals with Abu Dhabi investment fund Mubadala, one of its shareholders.

Musallam said that in the last 12 months his fund had made two large investments in the Middle East and North Africa: one in a Turkish healthcare provider and another in Saudi Arabia's General Lighting Company.

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