Thursday, September 21

Egypt plans privatizations every month or two – planning minister

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CAIRO — Egypt aims to press ahead with stake sales in state-owned companies every month or two and will soon classify the openness of different sectors of the economy to private investment, Planning Minister Hala al-Said said.

The recent initial public offering (IPO ) of payments firm e-Finance had shown strong appetite from institutional investors returning to the market after a long absence, Said said in an interview.

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“We’re trying to select the right companies that can attract good institutional and good private sector (investors), and at the same time help in deepening the capital market in Egypt,” she said, declining to name any firms.

“We’re almost targeting a company every month, or every two months.”

In 2018, Egypt named 23 state companies slated for privatization but almost all the sales have been delayed, partly due to market turbulence linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The restructuring of the state-owned National Investment Bank (NIB) had been 45-50% settled and would be finished by 2026, Said said.

Said, who chairs NIB, helped guide the sale of NIB’s controlling stake of the Arab Investment Bank to EFG Hermes last year, Egypt’s first bank privatization in more than a decade.

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As part of a three-year structural reform program Egypt would begin classifying of different sectors of the economy and their potential for private investment, Said said.

They will produce a document that “will say this is a green light where this is totally private sector, this is a red zone where this is totally for the government to invest, and this is a yellow zone where we can work together with guidelines and a level playing field.”

Asked about the military’s participation in the economy, Said called it “minimal” and said she expected two delayed sales of military companies, Wataniya Petroleum and bottled water maker Safi, to happen this year.

Egypt’s military owns dozens of companies in a variety of consumer, industrial and services sectors.

Efforts to boost the labor market include working with the private sector and Egypt’s Sovereign Fund to launch technical schools, and a three-year, $45-50 billion Haya Karima rural development scheme, Said said.

The government should be operating from a new capital city being built in the desert outside Cairo by the second half of the year, with plans for civil servants to start moving there gradually from March, according to Said. (Editing by Ed Osmond)