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IIB acquires strategic stake in Tunisian automobile distributor valued at more than $200m

ARTES is the exclusive distributor for RENAULT, NISSAN and DACIA automobiles in Tunisia.

Established in 1947 under the name ‘RENAULT TUNISIE’ and renamed ARTES after being acquired by a private group in 1997, ARTES is a vibrant group of 4 companies (including its subsidiaries and affiliates) with an experienced management team and the largest distribution network in Tunisia.

Leveraging on its huge brand appeal and customer attractiveness in Tunisia, RENAULT, which has a global tie-up with NISSAN, plans to expand its presence in the market through ARTES by launching newer and safer cars across all market segments (low-cost, mass market and luxury) in the years to come.

Commenting on the announcement, Mr. Aabed Al-Zeera, Chief Executive Officer of IIB, said, ‘RENAULT has a long history in Tunisia and has been the undisputed market leader in the passenger car segment for a long time (including the last 5 consecutive years). Given the growth prospects of the Tunisian economy in general and the automobile sector in particular, and the valuation levels of comparable companies in the Tunis Stock Market, we believe that we have acquired the stake in ARTES at the right valuation in the right market and at the right time. This acquisition will add to the sectoral and geographic diversification of IIB’s product offering to investors’.

The Republic of Tunisia, strategically located between Algeria and Libya, is fast emerging as an economic power in Africa and the Arab world. Ranked the ‘most competitive economy’ in Africa by the World Economic Forum for 2007, IMF predicts real GDP to grow in excess of 6% per annum for the next 5 years in Tunisia.

The country has also recently been attracting a lot of foreign investments from Europe and the Middle East. For instance, in 2007 alone more than USD 40 billion worth of real estate projects were announced involving large conglomerates from the UAE.

‘Tunisia is an attractive market. Geographically, Tunisia has a highly strategic position: at the crossroads between Southern Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East. The country has high quality human resources with nearly 75% of the population being literate. The Government is highly supportive of foreign investments and privatization of Government owned companies has been a very successful initiative kicked off by the Government more than two decades ago. It makes perfect sense for investors seeking diversification and low risk investment opportunities to look at Tunisia as a serious investment destination’ opined Mr. Al Zeera.

‘IIB’s strategic acquisition in ARTES comes at a time when Tunisia has been attracting a lot of investment interest, especially from the GCC region in the real estate, telecom and petro-chemical industries. Given the stable political and business environment in Tunisia, we believe that this investment will offer our investors superior returns on a risk adjusted basis. This is our first investment in Tunisia and we intend to do more in private equity and real estate if our experience is satisfactory. We currently have a few deals in the pipeline and are considering the acquisition of land for a mega real estate concept that we have developed with credible partners, which will benefit the country, the Bank and its investors.’ concluded Mohammed Hadi Mejai, Executive Director, Direct Investment and Business Development.

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