London/Dubai: Abraaj Group, a buyout firm focused on emerging markets, hired Citigroup Inc. and EFG-Hermes Holding SAE to manage an initial public offering or sale of its North African hospitals business, according to people familiar with the matter.

The private equity firm plans to list the business or find a buyer during the first half of the year, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. The business, which includes about a dozen hospitals and clinics in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, is worth as much as $500 million (Dh1.83 billion), the people said. No final decisions have been taken and Abraaj may opt to retain the business, they said.

Abraaj, Citigroup and EFG declined to comment.

Private equity investors are taking advantage of a surge in demand for health-care products and services in Africa and the Middle East, where government funding for the sector has been inadequate. Investcorp Bank BSC, the Bahrain-based buyout firm, plans to start a $750 million Middle East health-care fund that will focus on investments in Saudi Arabia, Co-Chief Executive Officer Rishi Kapoor said in October.

Abraaj sold a stake in Cleopatra Hospital Co. in 2016 through a listing on the Egyptian stock exchange. That company has a market value of about $390 million.