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Egyptian magnate promises major investment - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Egyptian Naguib Sawiris, chairman of the Orascom Telecom Holding, looks on during the St. Gallen Symposium at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, 02 May 2013. EPA/GIAN EHRENZELLER

Egyptian Naguib Sawiris, chairman of the Orascom Telecom Holding, looks on during the St. Gallen Symposium at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, 02 May 2013. EPA/GIAN EHRENZELLER

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris, whose family control the Orascom business empire, has said he and his brothers intend to inject investment into Egyptian economy “like never before,” following the ouster of Mohamed Mursi.

Sawiris, who criticized Mursi in an interview with Reuters, said: “The president’s [Mursi’s] government tried to either appeal to senior company officials or impose heavy taxes on them,” as they did with his family’s business, because he was on the side of the opposition.

The eldest of three wealthy brothers, Sawiris spent time outside Egypt in self-imposed exile, and returned in May after a compromise was reached with Orascom Construction Industries, which is managed by his brother Nasif Sawiris, in relation to tax evasion allegations.

The Orascom Group is one of the largest employers in Egypt. Sawiris said it provided employment to more than 100,000 Egyptians. Sawiris now runs a new investment company, Orascom Telecom, Media and Technology Holding.

Sawiris added: “My family and I, will inject investments in Egypt like never before, in any new projects we could invest in, any new factories which could open, and any initiatives which could provide employment for Egyptian youth.” He did not give any specific details.

The Egyptian business magnate, in a telephone call from his yacht where he is on holiday off the Greek Island of Mykonos, added: “I am certain that Egypt will recover strongly now.”

Egypt avoided bankruptcy thanks to pledges of aid by Gulf states after the army toppled Mursi on July 3, in response to protests by millions of Egyptians.

Investors have been nervous and tourists have been staying away since the toppling of Mubarak’s rule in February 2011, undermining two of Egypt’s main sources of hard currency.

Sawiris said: “There are two choices, one of them is for the people who went out on June 30 to the streets, to go back. In my opinion, we need to go back to work and start rebuilding our country.”

Following the fall of Mursi and the faltering of Egypt’s economy, Sawiris said he “put pressure on government officials in Kuwait and the UAE–who refused to help Egypt during the Mursi era–to send urgent aid over the next few months.”

He added that “I did not need to do too much to persuade them, as they were already convinced.” Following the army’s removal of Mursi, the UAE and Kuwait pledged aid to Egypt to the tune of USD 3 billion and USD 4 billion from the UAE and Kuwait, respectively, in order to bolster its reserves. Saudi Arabia also pledged USD 5 billion.

Sawiris added that “if Egypt fell victim to unrest, the whole Middle East would fall, so they are defending their countries by helping Egypt.”

Sawiris, who contributed in the establishment and funding of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, which was part of the anti-Mursi coalition, added that the government of the deposed president offered him the position of Cairo Governor in the early days of the presidency, but that he had turned the offer down.

Unlike his two brothers, who preferred to stay away from politics, Sawiris criticized the government and was a shareholder in a TV channel and a major independent newspaper, which also took an editorial line critical of Mursi’s rule.

He said: “My family have truly paid the price of my opposition, with the unjust taxes being an example,” referring to the family’s Orascom Construction Industries, which is about to move its listing from the Egyptian to the Dutch stock exchange.

He said: “They were bullying us, bullying me. They bullied my family, and any businessman who dared stand in their way.”

In addition to Orascom Construction Industries which owns two cement and fertilizer factories, and is internationally active in the construction field, his brother Samih runs Orascom Development Holdings, and runs tourist resorts and real estate projects in Egypt and around Europe.

Sawiris said international companies must invest now, although some are still nervous about the future. He said “I know things will settle down, and if you move first, you will make more profit.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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