Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Media Empires of Egypt : The Egyptian Falcon

From two weeks ago, Tawasul group announced that it acquired Cairo-based Hayat TV Network from Sigma Media Company in what was described as the biggest media deal in the past couple of years in Egypt.

Tawasul, a subsidiary of Falcon International group declared that it acquired the TV Network founded in February 2008 for LE 1.4 billion “ USD 79million“.

Some say that it is the media deal of the decade but the majority of that money is used to pay the channel’s debts according to its former owner and founder El-Sayed Badawy.
Badawy, the current leader of New Wafd Party aka Wafd Party revealed in the media that the debts of the TV network reached USD 57 million “More than one billion Egyptian pounds”.

It was not a big secret in the Egyptian media realm in that the TV network that once had the highest ratings in the country struggled financially in the past two years.
For more than 8 months the employees in the channel did not get their salaries regularly and they had strikes from time to time.

The Egyptian Media Production City “EMPC” took the channels off the air July on Nile Sat for 24 hours for not paying their studio rents for an over a year and filed a lawsuit against Sigma Media for issuing dud checks in the same month.

For months we have heard and read that that businessman or this media company was negotiating with El-Sayed Badawy and in the end, he reached to a good deal with Tawassol group or rather Falcon International group.

The announcement was not just a declaration that Badawy, the famous politician and pharmaceutical tycoon was leaving the media but it was an announcement that there was a new player in the Egyptian media scene.

That player is Tawassol or rather its mother company “Falcon group” and those behind it.

Who owns the Egyptian Falcon officially?

Falcon International was founded officially in 2006 by the Commercial International Bank “CIB” as a private security company providing private security, cash in transit, general services, and properties management.
It started as the security department originally in the bank before it was turned into a company with 400 employees that grew into a huge Corporation and a group with not less than 6 subsidiaries in 11 years.
Its customers are multi-national companies in Egypt from big names like Orange to Allianz to the United Nations.

Falcon security personnel
Falcon security personnel "Falcon Group official website"
Officially and on papers, Falcon is a joint venture between CIB (40% of the shares), CIB Employees Fund (19.59% of the shares), Al-Ahly for Marketing (5.46%) and undisclosed private entities (35%).
Its current CEO is Sherif Khaled Ibrahim Attaya or Sherif Khaled. In a report about the company in 2014 in Al-Ahram Daily, it is revealed that Khaled was a retired army general who served as the undersecretary of Egypt’s military intelligence.
After leaving the army, Khaled was appointed as the head of the security sector in Egypt’s Radio and Television union “ERTU”.

Usually, the head of the security sector in ERTU comes from the army or the state security aka National security.
It is unclear for me at least when he left the army to work in the state TV or when he was appointed as Falcon’s CEO.

Currently, Falcon International is not only operating in the 28 governorates through 13 branches in Egypt but it also operates in Saudi Arabia and UAE with more than 12,000 employees.
Again according to Ahram Daily News’s report about the company in 2014, most of the company’s employees are former and retired officers whether in the army or the police.

Since the inauguration of Egypt’s first private security company “Care Services” in 1979 by former army general Adel Emara to secure the American embassy and that field became a mecca for former military and police personnel.
In 2012, Falcon was also assigned to secure presidential candidate Ahmed Shafik.
Still, it has not been famous publicly in Egypt except in 2014, it was its big year for real. Earlier that year, Falcon was granted the right to hold shotguns officially in the country.

In April, Falcon was assigned to secure Presidential candidate Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his campaign headquarters across the country.
Not less than 150 of its security personnel allegedly protected his house in New Cairo according to news reports.
Falcon and El-Sisi
Sherif Khaled and Abdel Fattah El-Sisi at army-owned
Massa Hotel where El-Sisi presidential campaign stationed 
Then in September 2014, Falcon Group signed a-LE-84-Million Contract with the ministry of higher education to provide security service in 12 Egyptian Universities in academic year 2014/2015 as protests rocked campuses the year before.

The controversy surrounding that agreement and the clashes that took place afterward.The Ministry of higher education renewed its contract with Falcon for three academic years now.

Following that group became Egypt’s no.1 private contractor securing big evens and VIP personalities as well achieving huge revenues. In 2014, the company increased its capital to LE 100 Million and was ready to list its shares in the Stock market within two years.

In June 2016, Falcon's subsidiary for airports security signed an agreement with British company Restrata to provide training for its personnel after being assigned to secure Sharm El-Sheikh airport. 

Now in August 2017, Falcon Group was back to the mainstream media when it was assigned by the ministry of electricity to collect Data from electricity meters.
Ironically the electricity ministry had signed first a contract with a company with unnamed “security apparatus” but had to terminate the contract and sign a new contract with Falcon group as people began to criticize the decision and mock that “security apparatus”.
Falcon security at Universities
Falcon security at Al-Azhar University "Reuters" 
What I heard unofficially is that the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate is behind Faclon and its new media acquisition but as usual there is nothing official to confirm that.
The undisclosed private entities and personnel that got 35% are unknown publicly for real.
Anyhow some are insisting that the General intelligence is behind Falcon and they have very interesting proof.

Their proof is what former Pro-regime self-claimed sarcastic writer Ghada El-Sherif revealed that she was approached by Falcon Group and its CEO Sherif Khaled personally in order to present a TV show on the group’s latest acquisition “Al-Hayat TV Network”.

The oncologist /writer who has turned from a-head-over-heels for El-Sisi to one of his famous critics now said on her Facebook account last week that she was asked to have an interview for that position at the General Intelligence H.Q in Cairo !!!

A daughter of a Mubarak-era minister, El-Sherif even shared the WhatsApp’s message between her and Sherif Khaled in order to prove that she was respected by the regime to those Pro-regime
So far, nobody commented on her Facebook post denying or confirming what said that TV hosts had exams at the General Intelligence HQ.

In July 2015, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ratified a law that allows the ministries of Defense and Interior as well official intelligence agencies in Egypt to found security companies. 

Falcon International and its wings in the Egyptian media realm

Tawasul group or Company is the latest known subsidiary of Falcon International Group.
In July, the Group declared the launch of both “Tawasul PR company” and DRN FM Radio channel, as well Radio One For Media production.
DRN FM Radio channel is currently managed by Home Media Company which also is owned by Falcon Group.
I have not listened to DRN whose frequency on the FM wave in Egypt is 93.7 but I know it is not an easy thing to get a permit to open an FM radio channel as the State controls the radio wave for real.
It is easier to open TV channel in Egypt than to open a radio channel in general.

I do not know why Falcon international has got three media companies if I understand correctly.
It has got Tawasul, Radio One for media production and Home Media.

In August, Pro-regime MP and convicted alternative medicine guru/TV host Saeed Hassanein declared that Home Media acquired his TV network Al-Assema “The Capital”.

Interestingly in late December 2016, the Mubarak era’s TV Producer Ehab Talaat announced that his company “Sherry Media” signed a partnership deal with Hassanein.
The two men agreed that from Mid January 2017 the management of that TV network would transfer to Talaat, the veteran TV producer.
On 1 January 2017, the Egyptian army announced that Samir retired and was replaced by Colonel Tamer El-Rafaei.

In Mid January, “Sherry Media” announced that it started managing the TV network and its current manager was its Vice Chairman former Egyptian armed forces spokesperson ex-Brigadier General Mohamed Samir.
Ahmed Samir
Samir, the second man from the left wearing a suit checking
the channel's studio in January "Facebook" 
Samir’s fast return to the scene through media made many believe that it was a plan to control media. Though he did not stay too long in “Al-Assema” as the partnership ended in Mach. Hassanein went back to manage the channel.

Why do I mention all this and what is its relation to Falcon?
Well in late August, Hassanein announced that he sold his TV network to Home Media, Falcon’s subsidiary.

This was the second time Falcon International was mentioned in the media world but no one paid attention as Al-Assema TV network is not A-list TV networks for real.

The price paid to Hassanein is unknown so far but Home Media declared its plans for the Network,  turning one of its two TV channels into Sports TV channel.

New media map in Egypt

I have been doing my own research on the new media empires in Egypt especially with the launch of DMC Network and the rocket rise of steel tycoon Ahmed Abu Hashima in media.
I wrote a long investigative post about what I found out but it was lost unfortunately following the technical problem I had with PC and forced me to have a clean Windows install.

It is frustrating but I think it is never too late to start from the beginning, the media map is already changing and we are having new players.

Falcon and its companies or rather those behind them are a good example.

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