By Patrick Werr
CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt wants to create an investment arm to channel funds to projects along the Suez Canal to take advantage of proximity to one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the chairman of The Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) said.
The government has been directing billions of dollars of investment over recent years to upgrade infrastructure around the Suez Canal, seeking to attract the logistics, maritime services, manufacturing, information technology and power industries.
The zone, one of the country’s megaprojects, has been in the pipeline for at least two decades but has received fresh impetus since Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi became president in 2014, with the government hoping it will become a major engine of growth and jobs.
“We’d like to see a financial arm to this … It can go into partnership with developers. It will go to banks and lending banks and investment banks and so on to create a particular opportunity,” SCZone Chairman Yehia Zaki said on Sunday at a meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt.
“We are now preparing its scope and incorporation. The intention is to create an investment and commercial arm.”
The SCZone is made up of six ports and four industrial zones scattered along the waterway, through which passes almost 10% of world trade, or 18,000 ships a year.
Zaki, who took up his post five months ago, said the SCZone has been working with financial institutions and banks to monetize land, infrastructure and cash flow.
“We can go to special bonds, we can go to multilateral development banks, we’ll go to commercial banks,” he said.
The government has built tunnels under and bridges over the canal and laid out highways as well as desalination, electricity and water treatment plants. It is also expanding its natural gas network to boost supplies from new fields both on and offshore.
The zone has projects to build new cargo terminals at ports at East Port Said and Sokhna and is upgrading other ports at Adabiya, West Port Said, al-Tor and al-Arish.
The SCZone last month signed a contract with a consortium led by Toyota Tsusho Corp <8015.T>, owned by Japan’s Toyota Group, to set up a roll on, roll off terminal at East Port Said at an investment cost of almost $160 million.
It is also nearing agreement with Dubai World [DBWLD.UL] on a deal to develop the port areas with potential investment of $600 million, Zaki said.
(Reporting by Patrick Werr; Editing by Ulf Laessing and David Goodman)