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IFC Executive Vice President Lars Thunell Visiting Nigeria, February 10-13, 2006


In Johannesburg, South Africa:
Elizabeth Pretorius
Phone: 27 11 731 3155
E-mail: epretorius@ifc.org

In Washington, D.C.:
Corrie Shanahan
Phone: +202 473 2258
E-mail: cshanahan@ifc.org


Johannesburg, February 6, 2006—Lars Thunell, Executive Vice President of the International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, will visit Nigeria, February 10-13, 2006.

The visit underscores the importance and continuing commitment that IFC attaches to its partnership with Nigeria. Mr. Thunell’s program will include meetings with President Olusegun Obasanjo and government officials, as well as consultations with local private sector representatives, IFC clients, donors, and representatives of civil society. Mr. Thunell will be accompanied by Mr. Richard Ranken, IFC Director for Africa.

These meetings will give Mr. Thunell an opportunity to discuss economic and social developmental priorities for the country and to explore ways to promote more private sector development.

"We congratulate Nigeria on its credit rating, which we believe reflects the vigor with which President Obasanjo and his team are pursuing their economic reform agenda," said Mr. Thunell.

IFC’s strategic priorities for Nigeria include assisting in the development of infrastructure; supporting the financial and industrial sectors; and empowering micro, small, and medium enterprises, principally by improving the business climate and increasing access to finance through local institutions.

Nigeria received its first sovereign credit rating on January 30, 2006. This rating, from Fitch, is BB- with a stable outlook. It was based on the country’s commitment to economic reforms, including measures to improve governance, tackle corruption, accelerate privatization, and rationalize the banking system. It also reflects an agreement in October 2005 with the 19-member Paris Club of creditor nations whereby $18 billion in debt is written off.  These are all developments that had previously been recognized by the World Bank Group, including IFC.  The rating puts Nigeria on a comparable standing with Brazil, the Philippines, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine.

During his trip, Mr. Thunell will visit a number of IFC’s clients in Nigeria, including Obajana Cement Plc, which is building a plant capable of producing 4.4 million tonnes a year; MTN Nigeria, the country’s leading mobile phone operator; and the Lagos Festac Novotel hotel, which is currently being built by UPDC Hotels Limited.  Mr. Thunell will also visit the Lagos Business School’s Enterprise Development Centre, which provides training and support to small and medium enterprises and has received support from IFC.

Mr. Thunell also intends to sign an agreement for a new IFC investment in SocketWorks Limited, an information technology company that provides software and IT services to Nigerian universities.  IFC is planning to invest $2.5 million in a $6 million project to roll out the company’s University Portal product to a number of local institutions.

About IFC:

The mission of IFC is to promote sustainable private sector investment in developing and transition countries, helping to reduce poverty and improve people’s lives. IFC finances private sector investments in the developing world, mobilizes capital in the international financial markets, helps clients improve social and environmental sustainability, and provides technical assistance and advice to governments and businesses.

From its founding in 1956 through FY05, IFC has committed more than $49 billion of its own funds and arranged $24 billion in syndications for 3,319 companies in 140 developing countries. IFC’s worldwide committed portfolio as of FY05 was $19.3 billion for its own account and $5.3 billion held for participants in loan syndications.

In FY05, IFC committed 32 projects in 13 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region for a total amount of $445 million. IFC’s total committed portfolio for the region as of June 30, 2005, was about $2 billion.

Since its first investment in Nigeria in 1964, IFC has committed financing in 72 projects amounting to $900 million. Investments include $787 million for IFC’s own account and $113 million for the account of banks participating in loan syndications. As of June 2005, Nigeria’s portfolio was $434 million. Having grown from $143 million in 2001, Nigeria is now the ninth-largest IFC country exposure.  

For more information, visit
www.ifc.org.