Private equity firms look to Ivory Coast for deals

Abidjan, Ivory Coast

Some of the largest private equity investors in sub-Saharan Africa are considering expanding into Ivory Coast, a country that is currently experiencing an economic renaissance after years of conflict.

Helios Investment Partners, the private equity firm founded by two former deal makers from U.S. buyout giant TPG Capital, is one of the firms that is currently considering opening an office in the West African country, according to Helios Partner and Chief Operating Officer Henry Obi.

“We’re evaluating the opportunity to open an office there to capture deals in francophone Africa,” Mr. Obi said. “The political situation in Ivory Coast has changed and it’s become more stable, and I think the return of Africa Development Bank to Abidjan is going to spur all sorts of investments.”

AfDB, which lends to governments and businesses across the continent, last year began its return to its Abidjan headquarters after 11 years in exile in Tunis following the outbreak of civil war. The decision was viewed by many investors as a sign that the country was open again for business.

Dubai-based emerging markets investor Abraaj Group is also considering opening an office in Ivory Coast in the next three years, according to partner Sev Vettivetpillai. The firm, which has offices in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana and is also considering openings in Ethiopia and Angola, struck its first deal in Ivory Coast last year, investing in African Industrial Services, which provides engineering services to sectors including mining.

While the presence of larger private equity firms is rare in Ivory Coast, Emerging Capital Partners, a firm that has raised more than $2 billion for investment in Africa, is understood to be the biggest in the country. “There’s since been lots of investment by the government, the economy is booming again and agriculture is up. The country is on the right way to be back again at the top of its game for the region,” said Brice Lodugnon, a director in ECP’s Abidjan office.

Source: Private Equity Beat – WSJ.