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Egypt to sell state stakes in 32 firms over next year

A view of the city skyline and River Nile from Cairo tower building in the capital of Cairo, Egypt December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo

Egypt plans to sell stakes in at least 32 companies by the end of March 2024, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly said on Wednesday, dusting off plans that have largely lain dormant for years as the country’s financial woes mounted.

Among the planned sales are stakes in three prominent banks, Banque du Caire, United Bank of Egypt and Arab African International Bank. Insurance, electricity and energy companies will also be on the block as well as hotels and industrial and agricultural concerns.

The first stakes will be offered by the end of March and a quarter by end-June, Madbouly said after a cabinet meeting. More companies may be added to the list over the next year.

“The offerings include a number of companies either to widen the participation of Egyptian citizens in public ownership or to bring in strategic investors,” he said.

The sale of many of the stakes, including in the three banks, had been announced as long ago as 2016, but economic downturns, the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine delayed the programme.

Economists say sluggish bureaucracy and opposition from powerful interests within the government had also hindered the privatisation plans.

The sale of state assets gained new urgency after the war in Ukraine triggered heavy foreign investment outflows from Egyptian financial markets, throwing the economy into crisis.

Egypt agreed to the sales when it finalised a $3 billion rescue plan with the International Monetary Fund in December and is counting on proceeds from the privatisation drive to help fill financial shortfalls during the four-year IMF programme.

Madbouly made no mention of the size of the stakes that will be on offer, but the government has shied away from giving up controlling shares in the last few years.

Stakes in several companies that already trade on the stock exchange will be sold, including Paints and Chemical Industries (PACH.CA) Co (Pachin), Port Said Containers And Cargo Handling Co. (POCO.CA) and Damietta Container and Cargo Handling Company (DCCC.CA).

There are also stakes in at least two companies owned by the military’s National Service Projects Organisation: Watanya Petrol, which runs a chain of petrol stations, and bottled mineral water maker National Co. for Natural Water in Siwa (SAFI).

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