(Reuters) – The battle for control of Egyptian cake and biscuit maker Bisco Misr intensified on Wednesday as Abraaj Investment Management raised its initial bid to trump a rival offer from Kellogg Co.
UAE-based Abraaj, the Middle East’s largest private equity firm, raised its offer to 80.58 Egyptian pounds ($11.27) per share, exactly two percent above a bid of 79 pounds on Tuesday from Kellogg, the world’s biggest breakfast cereal maker.
The bidding war is part of flurry of mergers and rights issues boosting activity on the Cairo bourse, an exchange which has struggled to revive investor confidence during the political and economic turmoil that followed the Arab Spring uprisings.
Egypt’s government this year launched a raft of long-delayed reforms aimed at luring back foreign investors and shoring up growth while cutting a ballooning deficit.
The competing bids from Kellogg and Abraaj are the latest sign foreign investors could be returning to the market.
Food is seen as a fast-growing sector in the most populous Arab nation of 86 million people and Bisco Misr is a well-known brand with three baking facilities in Cairo and Alexandria.
Abraaj, which has about $7.5 billion of assets under management, typically invests in high-growth sectors in emerging markets. It first approached Bisco Misr in July and made a formal offer of 73.91 pounds in November.
While shareholders with 56 percent of Bisco Misr agreed to sell to Abraaj, Kellogg’s bid forced the private equity firm to return with a higher offer.
Egypt’s regulator had instructed Abraaj to offer a new price at least two percent above Kellogg’s if it wished to make a counter bid. Abraaj’s latest offer of $129.6 million represents an increase of exactly two percent on Kellogg’s bid.
The offers from Kellogg and Abraaj are for 100 percent of Bisco Misr, and both have said they would accept no less than a 51 percent controlling stake. Abraaj started buying shares on November 21 and Kellogg said it would begin on Thursday.
($1 = 7.1500 Egyptian pounds)
By Ehab Farouk (Writing by Stephen Kalin; editing by David Clarke)