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A billionaire says he's ready to invest in Venezuela. As soon as Maduro's gone

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 6 days ago Manus Cranny and Mahmoud Habboush
a person sitting in front of a body of water: Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris poses for a photograph on a floating pontoon in front of the New Suez Canal, operated by the Suez Canal Authority, in Ismailia, Egypt.© Bloomberg Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris poses for a photograph on a floating pontoon in front of the New Suez Canal, operated by the Suez Canal Authority, in Ismailia, Egypt.

(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."

Read: This Billionaire Says He’s Put Half His Net Worth Into Gold

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.

(Updates with comments on gold in the last paragraph.)

--With assistance from Hussein Slim.

To contact the reporters on this story: Manus Cranny in Abu Dhabi at mcranny@bloomberg.net;Mahmoud Habboush in Abu Dhabi at mhabboush@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net, Shaji Mathew

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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