Algerian conglomerate comes under attack in France
The ambitious foray of Algeria’s meteorically successful conglomerate, the Khalifa Group, into European markets has met with surprisingly vigorous opposition in France, where the political Left has questioned the legitimacy of the company's business practices and the origin of its fortune, suggesting a link to corrupt Algerian generals.
French intelligence offices have reportedly been conducting investigations of their own into the group's capital. Over the past three months, the French press has published several front-page speculations over the origin Khalifa’s swelling funds, tarnishing the group’s corporate image.
The French attack is based on conjectures about Khalifa’s links with Algeria's political and military establishment. The Boston-based North Africa Journal suggested that the attack was initiated by Leftist MPs, following signs of rapprochement between the French Rightist government and Algeria’s president Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
The Khalifa Group is a sprawling conglomerate founded by Rafik Abdelmoumen Khalifa, a 36-year old businessman with a PhD in pharmaceutical sciences whose pharmaceutical business boomed in the 1990s, taking advantage of market liberalization policies in Algeria. His fortune is currently estimated at some $26 million.
Over the last 12 years, the entrepreneurial Khalifa has expanded his business to include two airlines, a bank, an auto rental business, and construction and communications firms. Employing some 35,000 employees, Khalifa is now the third-largest group of companies in Algeria and the country’s biggest privately owned firm.
As it backs away from its business in Paris, the corporation is not altogether forfeiting plans to continue into the European market. Khalifa is seeking to reestablish his European office in the friendlier Madrid and is currently looking into different business ventures in Spain and the UK.
The company made high profile investments in Europe since the late 1990s. It set up a TV station in France, took over the international operations of German construction and civil engineering group Philip Holzmann and purchased German bank Erste Rosenheimer Privatbank. Khalifa’s diverse business also include sponsorship of French sports clubs, such as high-profile football team Olympique de Marseille.
In December 2002, the French National Assembly's Finance Commission rejected an appeal to launch an investigation into the origin of Khalifa's fortune. The commission asserted that the appeal was seeking to resolve in parliament what is rather “a local and personal” dispute relating to Khalifa’s sponsorship of the Begles rugby club.
At the same time, the French High Audiovisual Council (CSA) also granted the Khalifa TV (KTV) News channel permission to broadcast, after it had been closed and moved to the British capital London. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)