The News
Tuesday December 30, 2003

Ziqa'ad 06, 1424 A.H.
ISSN 1563-9479
By Asim Yasin

Aga Khan Fund outbids Qatar Council

HBL attracts Rs 22.4bn for 51pc shares

ISLAMABAD: The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) on Monday gave the highest bid of Rs 22.409 billion ($389 million) for acquiring 51 per cent strategic stake in Habib Bank Limited (HBL). It was the biggest transaction in the history of Pakistan.

The privatisation ceremony was held under the supervision of Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, federal minister for Privatisation and Investment, who is also chairman of the Privatisation Commission, here, and was also witnessed by a large number of representatives of the print and electronic media.

The State of Qatar Supreme Council for Economic Affairs Investment remained runner up with an offer of Rs 21.99 billion ($382 million) while the Central Insurance Company Limited did not turn up for the bidding.

The bidding results will now be placed before the Privatisation Commission Board meeting on Tuesday and the Boardís recommendations will be submitted to the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCOP), which would meet shortly.

Pakistan last year sold 51 per cent stake in the United Bank Limited for $208 million to the Abu Dhabi Group and Bestway Holdings. Aga Khan Fund already operates a micro-finance bank and a chain of luxury hotels, as well as welfare projects in health, education and rural infrastructure in Pakistan.

Addressing on the occasion, Dr Shaikh termed the highest offer within the acceptable range. He said it would highlight and strengthen Pakistanís privatisation programme and help attract investors for the other entities in a big way. The privatisation programme was aimed to get better results for the economy of Pakistan and there was a need for building confidence among the people regarding the privatisation process, which was designed to be transparent and bring in quality investors while providing level playing field to domestic and foreign investors, he added.

Shaikh acknowledged the strong commitment and support for the privatisation programme, for the HBL in particular, extended by President General Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali, Chairman CCOP Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, the Privatisation Commission team, Governor State Bank of Pakistan Dr Ishrat Hussain and HBL President Syed Zakir Hussain, which brought this transaction to the bidding stage.

Earlier, Secretary Privatisation Commission Ahmad Waqar gave details about the bidding process. Both the bidders dropped their sealed bids in a bid box, which were opened and read out by the representatives of the media. The HBL is Pakistanís second largest commercial bank, having a countrywide and international branch network.