April 13, 2011 / 12:42 PM / in 7 years

Morocco Royal holding's assets soar amid protests

RABAT (Reuters) - An investment holding company controlled by Morocco’s royal family has announced a sharp surge in net profit and assets in 2010 amid street demands for King Mohammed to reduce his business and political clout.

National Investment Co., or SNI, made a consolidated net profit of 8.28 billion dirhams in 2010, up from 2.38 billion in 2009, according to financial statements published over the weekend in Le Matin, one of Morocco’s most pro-establishment newspapers.

Siger, the firm that groups the main business interests of the Moroccan royal family, holds a stake of around 60 percent in SNI, market sources said. Officials at SNI could not immediately be reached to confirm the figure.

SNI’s assets and turnover rose more than fourfold to 102.6 billion dirhams and 14.08 billion respectively in 2010 compared with 22.53 billion dirhams and 3.43 billion in 2009.

Based on the latest growth forecasts, Morocco’s 2010 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) should stand at 761.6 billion dirhams.

SNI gave no explanation for its performance in 2010.

However, in August SNI and ONA Group, in which SNI already held a majority stake, both delisted from the Casablanca bourse to pave the way for a merger that would see ONA transfer all its assets to SNI.

“The rise in net profit appears to have been fuelled by capital gains on the transfer to SNI of assets ONA owned in listed firms,” a market source said.

Explaining what prompted SNI to publish its financial statements after being delisted, another source said: “It had to publish its financial statements because it has bonds traded in the stock market”. Both sources did not want to be named citing a “sensitive political context”.

Debt, which SNI itemised as non-recurring financial debt, stood at 30.91 billion dirhams by the end of 2010 against 7.57 billion at the end of 2009. Of those, bonds totalled 13.7 billion dirhams against 3.9 billion a year earlier.

A youth protest movement is spearheading calls for the king to transfer his executive powers to elected politicians and reduce his business clout.

They, and many business leaders, say firms controlled by the king and his close inner circle dominate key economic sectors. At times, demonstrators have carried placards reading ‘SNI degage’ -- or ‘SNI clear off’.

SNI has stakes in mines, steel, cement, supermarkets, sugar refining, banking, telecommunications, insurance and renewable energy. It is involved in partnerships with French firms including Lafarge, Danone and Renault.

SNI also holds a 48.3 percent stake in AttijariWafa, North Africa’s biggest bank by assets.

SNI is putting some of those stakes up for sale, including AttijariWafa, Cosumar and Lesieur, the latter two being the country’s sole sugar refiner and its biggest cooking oil producer.

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