Samih Sawiris to acquire FTI Group, Europe’s third largest tour operator
The giant German tour operator FTI could soon have an Egyptian owner: Samih Sawiris. The billionaire is no stranger to the industry, building entire cities in addition to hotels and ports. However, the deal has a catch.
The travel industry is currently in intensive care. Because of the corona pandemic, tens of thousands of holiday makers have had their dreams of rest and travel bursting, while companies are lacking revenue – they are struggling to survive.
It is true that the state steps in to save the industry. But after the crisis, ownership of key companies could be different than before. According to WELT information, the Egyptian tourism entrepreneur and billionaire Samih Sawiris would like to take over the majority and sole control of the FTI financial holding company in the FTI travel group.
The project has already been registered with the Federal Cartel Office. With sales of 4.2 billion euros and 12,000 employees, the Munich-based FTI travel group is number three in Europe, after TUI and DER, and the only large owner-managed tourism group. So far, 60-year-old Dietmar Gunz, who grew up in Austria, has the majority and therefore the say at FTI.
Like many in the industry, the FTI Group was in an emergency due to travel restrictions and recently had to fly back 65,000 vacationers. All trips were temporarily stopped. Like its competitor TUI, which receives a state loan of 1.8 billion euros, FTI also asked the state for help. Now an unknown financial package has been put together. According to company information, the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the shareholders participate in it. In this way, financing was secured for twelve months, FTI said.
Accordingly, the Luxembourg investment company SOSTNT plans to take over the majority and sole control of the FTI parent company. Egyptian tourism and hotel entrepreneur Sawiris is behind SOSTNT. He joined FTI six years ago and now holds a good 33 percent. In 2014 Sawiris also participated in the travel agency chain Raiffeisen Touristik Group.
The 63-year-old billionaire is already a key figure in the German tourism market. Through his parent company Orascom Development Holding, which is based in Switzerland, he is involved in seven countries, builds hotels, holiday resorts and marinas, in Egypt, Montenegro and Oman even entire cities, as well as luxury hotels in Switzerland.
The group operates 33 hotels with more than 7200 rooms and claims to control 101 million square meters of land. Sawiris himself commutes between the worlds of the Middle East and Europe. He is a Coptic Christian, attended a German school in Cairo, studied in Berlin and has been fluent in German since then.
Little is to be heard from the Munich-based company itself about a possible change of power at FTI. As stated on request, “at the present time no takeover by the shareholder Sawiris has been completed”. If anything changes in the ownership structure, this will be communicated, explained FTI.
The answer suggests that a lot is moving and difficult to predict in the turbulent times in the industry. In addition, it is not known what requirements are currently in place for the public loan assistance currently granted to FTI. It is also unclear what economic consequences the Egyptians have to deal with in their tourist activities.
Foreign participations in major German tour operators are not unusual. The Russian billionaire family Mordaschow, through its company Unifirm, is the largest single shareholder of TUI with almost 25 percent and has been involved in the group for 13 years. The Mordaschow family is active in a wide range of business areas, from steel production to gold mining.
In 2019, Samih Sawiris acquired the German subsidiary of the global tour operator and travel company Thomas Cook through his Raiffeisen Touristik (RT) Group after Thomas Cook, one of the world’s oldest travel and tour companies, announced its collapse in September 2019.
Samih, who was ranked 26 in “Africa’s 50 richest list” released by Forbes in 2015, is head of Orascom Development based in Egypt, which owns hotels in the UAE, Switzerland, and Oman, with plans to expand to Montenegro and Morocco.
Samih also owns shares of about 10 percent in OCI N.V., a producer and distributor of nitrogen products and methanol headquartered in the Netherlands. OCI N.V. began as a construction company founded in the 1950s by Samih’s father, Onsi Sawiris, according to the company’s website.