This case study investigates the potential impact of privatisation on the financial performance of infrastructure State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It considers initiatives taken in Tunisia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan between 1988 and 2003. The financial performance is assessed in terms of profitability, operating efficiency, capital expenditures, leverage and financial risk levels, cost of labour and share prices. The results show that post privatisation financial results depend on the pre privatisation status of the SOEs, as well as on various reforms considered in its economic environment. Sales, labour efficiency, and labour costs improved post-privatisation. Moreover, profitability levels increased in only 40% of the considered sample. Percentage changes in the share price surpassed the percentage changes in the market indices in some countries, but not in every country. Capital expenditure levels were stable compared to pre privatisation levels. Additionally, debt and credit risk levels decreased post-privatisation. Finally, the study reports that managerial restructuring has the potential to generate the same (and even better in some areas) results as privatisation, but this do not mean that state ownership is optimal in the long run. The overall conclusion is that privatising infrastructure SOEs is optimal in the MENA region but should be preceded by managerial and financial reforms in order for it to lead to optimal economic results and to allow for financial performance improvements to appear.
Keywords: Middle East and North Africa, MENA, infrastructure privatisation, development, financial performance, state owned enterprises, SOEs, investment, restructuring, Tunisia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan