Actis takes slice of Tunisian IPO

The emerging markets specialist has executed another African PIPE deal, this time taking part of Tunisia’s largest listed company.

Actis, the emerging markets private equity firm, has made an investment in the flotation of Tunisian conglomerate Poulina Group Holdings on the Tunis Stock Exchange. The flotation of Poulina values the company at $745 million (€504 million), making it the largest company by market capitalisation on the exchange.

Poulina floated 10 percent of its share capital on Tuesday, with just under half of this allocated to foreign institutional investors.  The size of Actis’ investment has not been disclosed, but it is smaller than the firm’s typical commitment of between $50 million and $200 million, according to a statement from the company.

PIPE deals – or private investments in public equities – have become increasingly popular among private equity firms since the credit market dried up last year.

According to Thomson Financial, private equity groups spent over $16 billion on minority stakes in the first half of 2008, an increase of 38 percent on the same period in 2007.

Actis has made other investments in publicly-traded companies, including the $134 million acquisition of 19 percent of Nigeria-based Diamond Bank in July 2007.

“Actis usually seeks to influence the management of the investee company in a PIPE deal. In this case we are building an ongoing relationship with the founding family members and will seek to grow the relationship in time,” Dave Cooke, investment principal at Actis, told PEO.

Established in 1967 by the Ben Ayed Family, Poulina is involved in a number of sectors but has a primary focus on agriculture and agri-business.

The investment in Poulina is made from the Canada Investment Fund for Africa, one of Actis’s pan-African private equity funds jointly managed by Cordiant.