An African business coming your way

Western capital is sniffing all over Africa to find companies likely to prosper as the region’s economy booms. But here’s something different – an African company sniffing all over Europe to find distressed corporate assets.

Its name is Cevital and it is Algeria’s biggest privately owned business, and is also family controlled.

This week it was revealed the Cevital is the preferred bidder to buy one of Europe’s biggest steel making plants, Piombino, owned by Italy’s second-largest steelmaker Lucchini, which was owned by the founding family until 2010.

Lucchini was bought by a Russian firm but was declared insolvent in 2012 and placed into administration. But Piombino on the Tuscan coast is the Italian steelmakers’ biggest plant, which employed around 2,000 people and can produce around 2.5 million tonnes of steel a year, according to a Reuters report.

If the deal goes through, it will be the second distressed asset Cevital has bought in Europe in a less than a year. In April, the Algiers-based group bought various European subsidiaries of Spanish firm Fagor, Europe's fifth biggest maker of appliances, which was part of the Mondragon group of cooperatives and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2013.

Cevital can trace its roots back to the early 1970s and was founded by Issad Rebrab, the country’s only billionaire. He started a food processing business, but has expanded into different sectors including industrial production.

Before starting the business, Rebrab fought for Algieria’s independence against French colonial rule. Rebrabis now in his 70s and his five children are involved in the business.

Cevital is certainly a family business to watch.