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From London to Cairo, the entourage of Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris

By Christophe Le Bec
Posted on Tuesday, 24 August 2021 08:29

Naguib Sawiris, Egypt's 67-year-old business tycoon, is a key backer of Endeavour Mining, which has become West Africa’s leading gold group. Here is a look at the key persons within his network who helped him succeed in the mining sector.

The Coptic tycoon, who made his fortune in telecoms, was right to bet on gold. The past 12 months have been fruitful for Naguib Sawiris and his team at La Mancha – the mining holding company, which he has just transformed into an investment fund – and Endeavour Mining, of which he is the largest shareholder.

The Canadian group Endeavour Mining, which is managed from London and Abidjan, has become West Africa’s leading gold company. It is neck and neck with South Africa’s Harmony Gold, ranking as the world’s 10th largest gold company. By the end of 2021, it will have an estimated annual production rate of 1.5 million ounces.

In April 2020, Endeavour successfully merged and acquired Semafo – which is well established in Burkina Faso – at a cost of €640m. Then in late January 2021, the Canadian group acquired Teranga Gold – Senegal’s leading gold company – at a cost of  €1.57bn.

To top it all off, Endeavour has been enjoying great success ever since it appeared on the London Stock Exchange on 14 June. The group hopes to attract large generalist investment funds and be included in the FTSE index by the third quarter of 2021.

Sébastien de Montessus

Endeavour Mining’s CEO came into mining sector through a previous position with Anne Lauvergeon, head of French uranium miner Areva, who had entrusted him with the uranium extraction sector. The ESCP graduate can boast of having successfully achieved the objectives assigned by Sawiris, his leading shareholder, with whom he has worked since 2012 and who propelled him to be the head of Endeavour in 2016.

Both financially savvy and operationally aware, the London-based Frenchman – who is constantly on planes – is the architect of the 2020 and 2021 mergers as well as the IPO.

Karim-Michel Nasr

Sawiris’ compatriot was a graduate of Paris-Dauphine University. He was La Mancha’s CFO until May 2019 when he became the CEO of the entity, which is the Sawiris family’s holding company. Since July, he has been a partner at the Luxembourg-based investment fund – La Mancha Advisory Services – where La Mancha’s gold mining assets have been transferred.

He had already worked with Sawiris from 2000 to 2005 at Orascom Telecom, before joining Weather Investments, another one of the Egyptian billionaire’s investment vehicles.

Vincent Benoit

Vincent Benoit is the other key Frenchman within the Egyptian tycoon’s entourage. In 2016, he was appointed executive vice-president and CFO of Endeavour Mining. Benoit was then promoted to the position of Sawiris’ special advisor in charge of development.

This past July, he made partner at the Luxembourg investment fund – La Mancha Advisory Services – just like Nasr. He holds an MBA from ESC Bordeaux and was previously in charge of financial communications at Areva before taking up the same position at Orange, as head of mergers and acquisitions.

Gérard de Hert

This Belgian geologist, who trained at the Catholic University of Louvain and then at the University of Leicester in the UK, has had a long mining career – one that focused mostly on gold in West Africa. After working for Randgold (now Barrick) and AngloGold Ashanti, he served as IamGold’s regional exploration manager for West Africa and head of Vale’s DRC division.

He joined Endeavour as head of exploration in 2012 and became La Mancha’s technical advisor in October 2020. He also made partner at La Mancha Advisory services and is responsible for assessing the mining and operational quality of the fund’s potential acquisitions.

This Briton is based near the Oxford co-founded Altus Strategies, an exploration company that is focused on Africa and whose revenues are assured by royalties from deposits discovered by its geologists, including Mathew Grainger. La Mancha, which did not want to miss out on Africa’s increasingly rare mining opportunities, acquired a 40% stake in Altus Strategies in December 2019. At the same time, Sawiris and his teams often communicate with this British company’s executives.

Nassef, Samih and Naguib Sawiris

The Sawiris brothers – sons of the patriarch Onsi Sawiris, Orascom’s founder (who died on 29 June 2021), have each chosen their own sector. Nassef, the youngest, took over the original family group and went into construction. Samih, the middle child, is working in tourism and the hotel industry.

Naguib, the eldest, embarked on the telecoms and mining sectors. They regularly discuss their businesses and the economic situation in Egypt, where their father was – for a time – involved in politics, within the Free Egyptians Party, a liberal formation that strongly opposed the Islamists from 2011 to 2014.

Onsi Sawiris

Onsi, who is named after his grandfather, is now in his thirties and more actively involved in his father’s work. Due to his profile, which is more financial than operational, he is regularly present in La Mancha’s offices in London.

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