From the press and the media

130 African exit: Engel sells Liberian franchise

10 August 2011
By: Shlomit Zur

Jacob Engel is on his way to a second exit: the international British mining giant, Vedanta, is buying 51% of the franchise the businessman received from Liberia in January 2010 in return for $90 million, as Assakim learned. The agreement between the parties has been signed and is pending Liberian parliament approval.

In January 2010, Engel won one of the world's largest metal mining tenders when the Liberian government headed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, declared that Elenilto, a subsidiary of the Engelinvest Group controlled by Engel, had won the 25 year franchise for one of the world's largest iron ore mining sites located in Liberia.
The win was accompanied by widespread publicity in Israeli and international financial press. The tender included a group of 3 mines containing 1.1 billion tons of iron ore reserves at a 67% concentration, from which 700 million tons of iron could be extracted – designated for the construction and industry businesses, mainly in India and China.
In return for the franchise, Elenilto undertook to pay the Liberian government $100 million, $25 million immediately and the remainder in annual payment throughout the franchise period. Furthermore, the company undertook to pay 21% of its profits after the investment had been returned.

The company claimed upon winning the tender that it expected the project to produce an NIS 100 billion profit from the project within 20-25 years. Elenilto has yet to remit the initial sum ($25 million) and in framework of the agreement signed with Vedanta the buyer will pay this cost as well.

According to reports in the Liberian press, as well as an investigation held by the British economic magazine, Financial Times, in recent months the corruption prevention authorities in Western Africa have been investigating the circumstances of Elenilto's win of the tender and the legality of the win. It is unknown whether results of the investigation will influence the fate of the transaction signed by Engel and Vedanta.

This transaction is Engel's second exit, after in March 2007 he sold control of the public Engel Group to Azorim Co. owned by Yeshayahu Boimelgreen in return for NIS 430 million. According to the agreement between Vedanta and Engel, Vedanta would pay $90 million in return for 51% of the franchise, a price that reflects a total value of $180 million for the entire franchise.

Engelinvestment Group entered the metal mining business in mid-2007. In December 2008 the group completed the purchase of approximately 75% of Tanzania's copper and gold mines – spanning 9,000 km2 and at an investment of tens of millions of dollars.
Engelinvest Co. did not provide a response.