Egypt privatisations on hold for now: report


Egypt has put its privatisation programme on hold for now although it could still consider selling minority stakes to Egyptians, a state newspaper quoted the investment minister as saying.

Privatisation is part of a government drive to liberalise Egypt’s economy but is unpopular as many Egyptians see it as the state selling off the country’s assets to foreigners.
“The state has no intention to offer any public sector firms, including loss-making firms, to a primary investor at the present time,” the state daily al-Ahram quoted Investment Minister Mahmoud Mohieldin as saying, adding that smaller shares in some companies might be sold to Egyptians.

A ministry official confirmed the comments to Reuters. Neither the newspaper report nor the official said when the next asset sale would take place.

Last year the minister said the government was in no hurry to sell its portfolio of 150 firms, which he said were turning a profit, but said the privatisation programme had not stalled.

Offering stakes in state companies on Egypt’s stock exchange, where shares last month soared to levels not seen since September 2008, could increase liquidity and make the market more enticing for investors.

But privatisation has met fierce resistance from Egyptian workers, who fear losing their jobs or mistreatment from new management, and is often criticised in local media.

Analysts say no significant privatisation is likely before a parliamentary election this year or presidential polls next year.

Egypt has already sold a big bank as part of financial liberalisation. It tried to sell another, Banque du Caire, in 2008 but the offer price was rejected as too low and the global economy fell into crisis shortly after.