Royal Bank of Scotland hopes to close four acquisiton deals in the Middle East and North Africa next year worth more than $2 billion (1 billion pounds) despite a tough funding environment and a widenening gap in price expectations between buyers and sellers.
"We're advising on a total of four deals that will hopefully happen next year," Tom Emmet, RBS' managing director and head of corporate finance and equity capital markets for the Middle East and Africa, told Reuters in an interview.
"The deals in total are between $3.5 billion and $4 billion of enterprise value. The total deal value would be probably about $2 billion," he added.
Royal Bank of Scotland, which is currently advising Saudi Arabia-based Aujan Industries on the sale of a 50-percent stake to The Coca-Cola Company for $980 million, is mandated on two deals involving utilities in Bahrain and Jordan, Emmet said.
"We're also working on one acquisition into Europe and we're working on a deal that involves Asia, Europe and the Middle East," he said.
But getting merger and acquisition deals done in tough markets remains the biggest challenge despite a healthy growth in the total value of deals closed so far this year.
Total M&A deal value in the Middle East and North Africa region grew by 8 percent in the first half of this year to $20 billion, according to consultancy Ernst & Young.
"Deals that get done are deals that have such compelling industrial logic...for both parties to get the deal done regardless of market environment," Emmet said.
"It usually hinges on a very important variable which is: do you have a serious seller and do you have a buyer who has the financial flexibility to access financial markets to get the deal done."
Valuation gaps between buyers and sellers have resulted in deals not happening, and funding remains tough as European banks retrench.
Kingdom Holding <4280.SE> and Bahrain Batelco's $950 million offer for a 25-percent stake in Zain Saudi <7030.SE> failed in September due to disagreements between the parties in the transaction and the indebted Saudi telco's banks.
In 2009, Dubai Holding, owned by the ruler of the Gulf emirate, and Emaar , the Arab world's largest listed developer, ended talks to merge four local real-estate companies.
"If you're not a large group with deep pockets, either cash on your balance sheets right now or a clear ability to utilise bank lines that are in place...I think it's a tough environment. The banking side of the funding remains tight and banks are still deleveraging," RBS's Emmet said.
According to Emmet, the willingness of buyers and sellers to adjust asset valuations tends to be slower in downward markets, which will continue to be one of the challenges to overcome in the Middle East.
(Reporting By Mirna Sleiman; Editing by Sitaraman Shankar)
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