Breakfast Wrap: Dubai Ski Dreams In Egypt, Oil Troubles Persist

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Orascom Construction Industries, Egypt’s biggest publicly traded company, said this morning it’s joint venture with BESIX, the Belgian construction firm, has been awarded a $400 million contract to construct Majid Al Futtaim Properties’ Mall of Egypt.

The mall is scheduled to be completed in 34 months (perhaps because “almost 3 years” sounds like too long) and in true Dubai-style will include an indoor ski park, a 17-screen cinema complex, 380 retail outlets, a Carrefour hypermarket, an outdoor plaza, an amusement park and a car park, OCI said in an emailed statement.

Nassef Sawiris, OCI’s chairman and CEO, praised the new government:

This is the largest foreign investment in Egypt since the election of the new government.

We have been very impressed by the efficient manner in which the new leadership reviewed required regulatory approvals for this project and we look forward to continuing to work together.

If you thought the Middle East didn’t need more artificially cooled adult playpens, then you’d be wrong.  Apparently Cairo ranks as one of the lowest in the world for purpose-built retail space, Ismail Naguib told me on Twitter.

Also, fun fact:

The United Arab Emirates is the biggest Arab foreign direct investor in Egypt, with more than $500 million in FDI in the first nine months of the 2012/2011 fiscal year, according to Central Bank of Egypt.

Emad Mostaque, strategist at Religare Capital Markets, points out to me that this will be taken over by Qatar, which has now pledged about $2.7 billion per 9 months for the next 5 years ($18bn total).

Egypt is pumping an extra 10% of petroleum products into the domestic market every day, reports Al Ahram (Arabic) this morning.   It’s a sign of how the indebted oil ministry is struggling to cope with heightened demand, while its funding is tight.  The biggest problem readers should realise, beyond the sensationalist headlines is this fact about Egypt’s oil ministry.

Egypt buys fuel at international market prices but sells it cheaply in the domestic market as part of its ridiculously wasteful subsidy system.

DP world, the world’s third-largest port operator, has sold some non-core operations in Belgium as part of a series of disposals of assets in developed countries, Reuters reports.

DP World, which makes the bulk of its money from regional operations but is the more profitable part of debt-laden Dubai World, has been selling assets in developed markets, including the $1.5 billion sale of its Australian operations to private equity firm Citi Infrastructure Investors (CII) last year.  It is part of a comprehensive restructuring.

Cairo-based Ridge Islamic Capital said on Wednesday it has $100 million to raise its capital and invest in funds over the next two years to tap a growing market for Islamic finance.

The firm was launched on Wednesday after Dubai-based regional investment company Ridge Solutions International Holdings, which is providing the $100 million, acquired Egyptian investment banking and asset management firm El Rashad.

Intriguingly, the parent company for the Ridge group of companies, Ridge Solutions Group, is based in Angola.  

El Rashad still operates along conventional financial lines but Ridge said assets that it managed would now be converted to be sharia compliant, likely to be about two years. Future investments would all meet Islamic principles.

The Egyptian index broke the 6,000 barrier for the first time, (though it fell back down again), which traders get very excited about because it suggests a psychological barrier has also been passed with investors viewing the market more confidently.  The market rallied and breach the 6,000 level for the first time since January 25 revolution.

Generally, protests have had little impacted on the big Middle East markets, which have remained calm.  Camilla Hall, Gulf correspondent for the FT, explains why.

More generosity from the Gulf.  Saudi Arabia has so far disbursed about a fifth of the much-needed aid it promised to Arab countries since uprisings erupted in the region last year, according to the IMF, which cited data from Riyadh’s finance ministry.

Riyadh has disbursed $3.7 billion of aid to Arab countries, out of a total of $17.9 billion in loans it pledged.

Egypt has received $1.5 billion of the $4.0 billion it was promised by Saudi Arabia, while Jordan has received $1.4 billion of $2.7 billion, according to the IMF data.

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