Princes of Egypt




As fortunes disappear throughout emerging markets, new ones are being built. In Egypt, one name stands out: Sawiris.

Onsi Sawiris fled Egypt for Libya in 1961 and then vice versa in 1972, each time hounded by a hostile government. He lost his assets but remembered how to build: tiny stores, then small factories, then steel mills, chemical and cement plants and entertainment spots. Common theme: Egypt doesn’t have it, or foreign firms can’t provide it, or enfeebled government-appointed managers run it.

“You want to go out at night? The nicest places are mine. You want to buy a PC? It’s mine. You use a mobile phone, you look at a building, and it’s mine,” sums up Onsi’s eldest son, Naguib.

Naguib, 44, with his two brothers, Nassef, 38, and Samih, 42, runs an empire with annual revenues of $1 billion trading in pieces on the Cairo Stock Exchange.

Naguib runs MobiNil, a mobile phone operator half-owned by France Telecom and Motorola. Subscribers doubled, to 180,000, in the past six months and, given the lousiness of traditional land lines, could soon double again. Market cap: $1 billion.

Samih runs the $300- million-market-cap Orascom Projects & Touristic Development, a real estate developer that created El Gouna, a Red Sea village of 11,000 that draws European vacationers. Orascom built and operates six luxury hotels, owns the plants that desalinate the water, generate the electricity and make the mozzarella (there are many Italian tourists) and is building a brewery to make Löwenbräu. In 1998, earnings were up 30%, estimates Scudder’s Joyce Cornell, giving the company a trailing P/E of 12. It looks as if 1999 will be even better.

Juliette Rossant

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