Nabil Triki

Nabil Triki is a managing director and head of private equity at Swicorp. He joined the firm in 2003 after spending several years as a project leader with the Boston Consulting Group in Paris. He has also worked as a project manager for Honeywell in Los Angeles and in corporate development for Unilever in New York. Swicorp was founded in 1987 as a boutique investment bank. The firm now operates three principal businesses: financial advisory services, principal investment, and private equity. It launched the private equity business in 2004 and currently manages three funds with $1.5 billion in total assets, with a fourth fund being marketed right now.

One of your funds, Swicorp Joussour, has an unusual structure for a private equity fund. Why did you decide to depart from the traditional model?
We manage three vehicles: two of them are structured as standard Cayman-based private equity funds, and one of them is managed as a private equity fund but is structured as a joint stock company. It's just a legal structure; we did it that way because it's a fund which is investing in energy and petrochemicals in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and we felt that structuring it as a joint stock company gave us more options. We have the option in the future to list the entire vehicle on a regional stock market. Energy and petrochemicals is a very capital intensive industry, so in addition to the equity we've raised from investors, this gives us the option to raise additional equity if we want to from capital markets.

Do you have any plans to do so in the near future?
None whatsoever. At this stage the priority is to invest our capital and to exit within a few years by either listing or selling the various portfolio companies that we invest in.

You operate in the “pan-MENA” region, encompassing the Middle East,North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan. What macro trends are you seeing in the region?
The region is growing very well. The fundamentals are very good in the sense that the economies are growing, the governments are reforming the economies, privatizing the economies, the private sector is increasingly open to private equity, and a lot of the liquidity in the region is being reinvested there. That gives us a lot of leeway in terms of what we do. And as the sector develops we're also seeing increasing demand from companies for us to get involved with them and help them get to the next level.

“We invest capital in growing companies, and therefore the value-creation is not based on the leverage that we're able to raise.”

How do your investments capture the value in those trends, for example your contracting to build a polysilicon plant in Saudi Arabia?
We have a team behind that particular investment strategy, and it's focused on the fact that when you look at the world today you look at the energy prices today. The Middle East has a competitive advantage in the availability and cost of energy. We look at sectors where there's an advantage to building out that sector from the region. Silicon refining is one of them. It's a product which is extremely energy intensive to produce; it takes a lot of gas and electricity as part of the process. It's a high-tech product, so it's not one of the easier things that you can do. We partnered with NorSun, a Norwegian-based company, and SunPower in the US, who have the technology and the distribution capabilities in Europe and the US to build out what will be one of the largest solar energy plants out of Saudi Arabia.

Have you seen the effects of the credit crunch on your home turf yet?
We don't know yet what's going to happen in the US and Europe, but any significant downturn will naturally affect the Middle East and South Asia and North Africa as well. So far, we haven't seen any negative impact on our business in the region, because the transactions that we do have a very small debt component; they generally are not buyouts. We invest capital in growing companies, and therefore the value-creation is not based on the leverage that we're able to raise; it's based on the value that we're able to bring, and that's not changing. So we're not seeing and we don't expect to see any sort of significant negative impact from what's going on in Europe and the US. We think the region will continue to develop, we think that we will continue to have opportunities to invest our capital, and we think also that the portfolio companies in which we've invested already will continue to do well.