DUBAI (Reuters) - Barclays has begun a formal process to sell its Egyptian unit, with at least two banks from the Middle East and North Africa region expressing interest in the business, sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
The UK-based lender is offloading its Africa unit as part of a plan by Chief Executive Jes Staley to simplify its structure and seek higher shareholder returns, although attempts to sell all the assets together have come up against difficulties including the disparate nature of the business.
Banks have now been invited to submit bids for the Egypt business, which are due at the end of August, according to two of the sources. Sources have previously said Barclays Egypt's equity value was around $400 million.
Dubai-based Emirates NBD, which bought BNP Paribas' Egyptian unit in 2013, is one of the interested parties and has mandated Perella Weinberg Partners to advise it, according to three sources aware of the matter.
The New York-based investment firm also worked on the BNP Paribas Egypt deal with Emirates NBD, which on Monday reported a 16 percent jump in second-quarter net profit.
The United Arab Emirates' largest bank by assets was also advised by local brokerage HC Securities and Investment on the BNP deal, and the Egyptian firm was believed to be once again helping Emirates NBD, according to one of the sources.
Attijariwafa Bank, Morocco's largest bank by assets, is planning to bid too, and has chosen UBS as its adviser, two of the sources said.
The Moroccan lender's general manager, Ismail Douiri, told Reuters in March it was interested in Barclays Egypt, having been keen to expand into the North African country for several years. It bid for BNP Paribas' Egyptian business before losing out to Emirates NBD.
Barclays and Emirates NBD declined to comment. Attijariwafa didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity as the information isn't public.
Other bidders could emerge before the end-August deadline. For example, Atlas Mara, the investment firm run by former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond, has said it would be interested in buying all the bank's African assets.
However, the sources indicated Attijariwafa and Emirates NBD were believed to be the only ones to have got as far as appointing investment banks to advise them.
Barclays has 56 branches and serves around 127,000 customers in Egypt, where it first established a foothold in 1864, according to the bank's website.
(Editing by Mark Potter)