A Billionaire Says He’s Ready to Invest in Venezuela. As Soon as Maduro’s Gone

(Bloomberg) -- Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris said he would invest in Venezuela “anytime” after embattled President Nicolas Maduro leaves office.

Maduro “starves his own people, he starves the whole country, he ruined the country,” Sawiris told Bloomberg Television in Abu Dhabi. “He should leave.”

The Venezuelan leader has held on for years in the face of protests, a collapsed economy and international sanctions through a tight grip on the military and by cracking down on the opposition.

The Egyptian billionaire, with a net worth of $5 billion according to Bloomberg’s Rich list, has invested across emerging markets and in some developed nations throughout his career, including setting up a mobile-phone operator in North Korea. He said on Tuesday that he sees opportunities in Africa and other Latin American countries, including Brazil and Argentina.

But even for someone with a proven appetite for risky assets, Sawiris said Brexit has put him off investing in the U.K. “Brexit is a disaster,” he said. "Europe is a big mess."

One exception is Italy, where Sawiris said he could deploy $300 million as the government mulls selling state-owned properties. “The government sits on one of the most lucrative real-estate assets in the world.”

Sawiris first ventured into Italy in 2005, when he bought mobile-phone provider Wind in what was Europe’s biggest leveraged buyout at the time.

“I had a very good experience,” he said. “I was treated fairly. All doors were open for a foreign investor from Egypt. I will never forget this.”

Sawiris owns stakes in gold mines through his closely held company, La Mancha Resources. He told Bloomberg last year that he had invested half of his net worth in gold. “I am continuing to invest in gold,” he said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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