Former Qatar PM ‘sought state assurance’ over Barclays shares, fraud trial hears

Sheikh Hamad had sought assurances that his investment would not be affected should a government bailout happen. (Reuters)
Updated 01 March 2019

Former Qatar PM ‘sought state assurance’ over Barclays shares, fraud trial hears

  • Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim reportedly requested that investment ‘would not be forcibly diluted’
  • Qatar investors must be as dishonest as bankers if prosecution’s argument is correct, judge said

LONDON: Qatar’s former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim sought assurances from the highest levels of UK government in an attempt to protect his and Doha’s shares in Barclays bank, a fraud trial heard this week.

The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) alleges that four bankers agreed to pay £322 million ($425 million) in secret fees to Qatar in exchange for billions of dollars of investment during the financial crisis.

The SFO alleges that this was done through “sham” advisory services agreements.

Barclays avoided a government bailout as a result of the emergency fundraising.

During the fraud trial, which began in January, defendant John Varley — the bank’s former chief — said that Sheikh Hamad had sought assurances that his investment would not be affected should a government bailout happen.

“I believe Sheikh Hamad sought assurances from the prime minister, Gordon Brown, that the Qatari investment in Barclays would not be forcibly diluted by a mandatory British government investment,” Varley told investigators, according to the Financial Times.

Varley added that Sheikh Hamad sought similar assurance from the Financial Services Authority regulator, the newspaper reported.

Sheikh Hamad and Qatar are not part of the trial. But Judge Robert Jay, who is presiding over the trial, earlier told jurors that Qatari investors must be just as dishonest as the bankers on trial if the prosecution’s argument is correct, according to The Telegraph.

The judge said a “contract needs two parts,” and that if the prosecution’s case is correct, it must mean that “one or more individuals comprising or connected with the Qatari entity was equally dishonest in the criminal sense. There is no getting around that,” he was reported as saying in January.

The four defendants in the case deny the charges, which carry a maximum 10-year sentence. The trial continues.


STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

Updated 13 July 2020

STC postpones its acquisition of Vodafone Egypt for second time

  • Kingdom’s largest telecom company says it will need an additional two months to complete the deal

CAIRO: The Saudi Telecom Company (STC), the Kingdom’s largest telecom company, said that it will need an additional two months to complete a deal to purchase a 55 percent stake in Vodafone Egypt.

In January, STC was in agreement to buy the stake for $2.4 billion. In April, it extended the process for 90 days due to logistical challenges stemming from the spread of COVD-19. The company said in a statement that it would extend the period again to September for the same reason.

The Public Investment Fund, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, owns a majority stake in STC. The ownership of Vodafone Egypt is divided between 55 percent for Vodafone International, which is the target percentage of the Saudi purchase offer, 44.8 percent for Telecom Egypt, and the remaining 0.2 percent for small shareholders.

Telecom Egypt is awaiting the results of Vodafone’s evaluation of the final share price to announce its position on the deal. A Telecom Egypt official stated that the company is still awaiting STC’s position regarding the purchase of the share. If the deal is not completed, it may be presented with its rights to acquire Vodafone’s share, which would allow it to take over 99.8 percent of the company’s shares, leaving 0.2 percent for small investors.

Ashraf El-Wardany, an Egyptian communications expert, pointed out the importance of waiting until the procedures between STC and the Vodafone Group are complete. The results will determine the next steps by Telecom Egypt.

El-Wardany said that the Saudi operator must, after completing the relevant studies, submit a final binding offer at the share price and any conditions for purchase. If approved by Vodafone, it must submit the offer with the same conditions and price to Telecom Egypt, provided that the latter responds within a maximum period of 45 days to determine its position regarding the use of the right of pre-emption and the purchase, or lack thereof, of Vodafone’s share.

According to El-Wardany, there are other possible scenarios. Vodafone International may not be convinced of the offer or the conditions presented by the Saudi side and the sale may be withdrawn, or the Vodafone group may be ready to sell and has prepared another buyer for its stake in Egypt in the event of rejecting the Saudi offer. It may also it back away from the deal and continue to operate in Egypt for a few more years.

El-Wardany said that if Telecom Egypt decides not to use the right of pre-emption to acquire the remaining Vodafone shares for any reason, it will continue with its 44.8 percent stake.
It may also resort to selling all of its shares or part of it to the Saudi side or to any company that wants to acquire its stake.

“This raises the question of whether STC can acquire all of Vodafone’s shares,” El-Wardany said, adding that the coming months “will make the answer clear.”