JEDDAH: ARAB NEWS
Published — Friday 14 September 2012
Last update 5 October 2012 4:41 pm
Saudi investors breathed a sigh of relief when Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi instructed his officials to unfreeze Saudi real estate investment in the country.
The announcement was made during a meeting of the Saudi-Egyptian Business Council in Cairo, which was attended by a high-level Saudi business delegation led by Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah.
Speaking to Al-Eqtisadiah after the meeting, Abdullah Dahlan, president of the council and board member of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the Egyptian government promised to solve the problems facing Saudi investors within two months.
“Owners of Saudi companies in Egypt have expressed their happiness over the flexibility shown by the Egyptian government. It was a big surprise for them,” Dahlan said, adding that the council discussed solutions for the problems facing Saudi investors.
Dahlan disclosed plans by Saudis to establish joint petrochemical industries in Egypt with the support of other investors. “We can provide our expertise in petrochemicals by setting up alliances with giant companies like SABIC and Aramco in order to establish Saudi industries in Egypt,” Dahlan said.
The Egyptian Investment Authority said it would open an office next month for solving the problems facing Saudi investors. “The office will be manned by qualified consultants and administrators and will offer single-window service for new investors,” it added.
Earlier addressing the business council, Al-Rabiah called for strengthening Saudi-Egyptian partnership and building new bridges of cooperation between the two countries. “The improvement in Saudi-Egyptian relations would have a positive impact on the people of the two countries,” he pointed out.
The Saudi minister called for speedy action to solve the problems facing Saudi investors. “Saudi Arabia and Egypt have had strong commercial and investment relations for a long period. It is quite natural to have problems, but quick measures should be taken to solve these while satisfying the interests of both sides,” he pointed out.
Al-Rabiah expressed his hope that the ministries and departments concerned in Egypt would do everything possible to remove the obstacles facing Saudi investments and to protect the interests of Saudi investors. “Such a move will encourage other investors to enter into new joint ventures in Egypt.”
He reiterated Saudi businessmen’s desire to invest in Egypt, adding that they consider Egypt as a second economy. He also invited Egyptian investment in Saudi Arabia, saying the Kingdom offers a suitable investment climate.
He commended Mursi for picking Saudi Arabia for his first foreign visit after becoming president, saying it had a big impact on strengthening Saudi-Egyptian ties. “We hope the coming phase will open a new era in Saudi-Egyptian strategic relations.”
He called for increasing trade exchange and joint investment projects. “The present figure does not reflect the huge potentials the two countries enjoy,” he said, and called for joint efforts to boost economic ties. Al-Rabiah arrived in Cairo on Tuesday accompanied by 63 Saudi businessmen.
He urged Saudi and Egyptian businessmen to open new investment partnership supported by the transfer of technology and adopt innovative ideas to diversify investment, making use of the available opportunities in the two countries.
He pointed out that Saudi-Egyptian trade exchange rose by 50 percent compared to last year.
Bilateral trade amounted to 29 billion Egyptian pounds (about $ 6.09 billion) in 2011 with an increase of 12 percent compared to the figure of 2010, while the number of Saudi investment projects in Egypt rose to 2,743. Saudi investments are mainly in industry, finance, tourism, construction, agriculture, services and telecommunications.
Egyptian Industry and Foreign Trade Minister Hatem Saleh said his country was seeking more Saudi investment in trade and industry. “The meeting discussed new mechanisms to strengthen cooperation at the highest level,” Saleh said about the council meeting. He said Egyptian exports to the Kingdom rose 19 percent in 2011 to reach $ 1.9 billion against $ 1.6 billion in 2010, while Egyptian imports from Saudi Arabia rose 10 percent to reach $ 2.9 billion in 2011 against $ 2.6 billion in 2010.
Saudi-Egyptian economic cooperation is a good model for Arab ties, Saleh said, adding that it would realize the hopes and aspirations of new generations. “We consider Saudi Arabia as the first country that stood with us to confront crises. It has been providing all forms of moral and material support. This reflects our strong bilateral relations,” Saleh said.
The Egyptian minister said his country would follow an open and market economy policy to woo foreign investment. “We will give all support to the private sector to participate in the development process. We’ll also abide by the trade agreements signed in the past.”
He estimated the total Saudi investment in Egypt at $ 5.5 billion. “Saudi Arabia is the third largest investor in Egypt investing in 2,727 projects,” he said. Saudi businessmen have invested $ 2.5 billion in 1,300 projects.
President Mursi met with Al-Rabiah on Tuesday and instructed his officials to remove all obstacles facing Saudi investment in the country. Mursi’s spokesman Yasser Ali said: “The president has also instructed to speed up procedures for Saudi investments.”
Mursi called for greater Saudi investment in Egypt and emphasized the need to expand trade exchange between the two countries, the spokesman said.