Saturday, March 14, 2015

Exclusive : Energy deals dominate second day of the Egyptian Economic Development Conference

Energy deal worth $12 billion signed with BP, with other contracts signed to build power stations,


Egypt's Finance Minister Hany Dimian (L-R), central bank governor Hisham Ramez, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb and Planning Minister Ashraf al-Arabi attend the Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) in Sharm el-Sheikh, in the South Sinai governorate, south of Cairo, March 14, 2015

17:15 Renowned Egyptian economist Mohamed El-Erian praised the economic conference via Twitter.
“A huge thank you to all who have worked so hard, and are working so hard to make #EEDC such a great success. Superb job,” he wrote.

17:00 Conference attendees have a taste of strawberries at a conference coffee break.

Coffee break

16:50 Minister of Trade and Industry Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour tells at the conference that Western countries felt threatened by the lack of stability in Egypt but have now been convinced to take part Egypt’s development.

“We are waiting to see the degree of their commitment,” he said.

Minster Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour

Minster Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour speaks

16:45 Egypt has signed four agreements with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) worth a total of $800 million to finance four priority development projects for Egypt, according to a government press statement. 

The projects include an Egyptian-Saudi Electricity Connection project with lease financing of $220 million, the Sharm El-Sheikh Airport Development project with a first tranche of lease financing of $226.8 million and a second tranche of $230.2 million, and lease financing for "Assiut Refinery" of $198 million.

A framework agreement worth around $3 billion was signed between the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (an affiliate of the IDB Group) and the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) to import petroleum products for the Egyptian market over the next three years.

15:50 British energy company BG will invest $4 billion in Egypt over the next two years, Reuters reports.

The company will sign an agreement with Egypt on the final day of the conference, said BG Chief Operating Officer Sami Iskander. 

15:45 The UAE’s Al Swidan Group signed two deals worth a total of $6 billion with Egypt to invest in the grain logistic hub in Damietta in Egypt’s Delta as well as in the Suez Canal Development Project.

Minister of Supply Khaled Hanafi said that the UAE’s Al Ghurair group has expressed its intention to acquire a third of the storage capacity in the grain hub, Reuters reports. Indian companies have also shown interest in the project intended to be a regional hub to store, trade and process grain.

15:35 Speaking in plenary, the CEO of Etisalat group, Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar, says that Egypt needs to develop its broadband capacity, to provide its citizens with faster broadband service.

Every Egyptian is entitled to broadband speeds of 21MB and over, he adds.

Etisalat’s Egypt arm is one of three existing mobile operators in the country.

15:30 five simultaneous panel sessions are taking place with Egyptian ministers and influential investors.

The topics of the sessions are:

1.Oil gas and mining
2.Housing, utilities and development
3.Information and communication technology
4.Industry and Manufacturing

the IT session

The IT session

15:20 The Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation signed an agreement worth around $3 billion with the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (an affiliate of the IDB Group) to import petroleum products for the Egyptian market over the next three years.

15:10 If you're looking for even closer coverage of the conference, you can check out the livestream here. 

15:00 Still to come after the lunch break are plenary sessions on the diversification of the Egyptian economy, the prospects for investment in Egypt, the role of international financial institutions in supporting Egypt's development, and then finally this evening the highly anticipated session giving details about the Suez Canal megaprojects. 

14:20 Egypt and Cyprus signed a memorandum of information exchange over the possible establishment of a natural gas pipeline extending from Cyprus’s Aphrodite field to Egypt, Egypt's Minister of Petroleum told Reuters. The study will be concluded by mid-2015.

Cyprus and Egypt agreed on November 2014 to accelerate talks on the potential export of Cypriot gas to Egypt.

14:10 Egypt will establish an independent regulator for the oil and gas sector “in six months or more” says the Minister of Petroleum Sherif Ismail.

14:00 The recently issued electricity law, which liberalises electricity production and transmission is a “huge milestone,” construction and fertilisers tycoon Nassef Sawiris tells one of the conference's side panels.

Sawiris’s Orascom Construction plans to build a $2.5 billion to $3 billion coal-fired power station on the Red Sea coast in partnership with Emirati-based International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC).

13:55 BP CEO Bob Dudley says his company was encouraged to make today’s $12 billion investment in Egypt after seeing what he described as the “cutting of red tape” over the past couple of months.

“We have gone through complex agreements, we believe we are secure… the flexibility, the attitude from many partners and government have been outstanding,” he said calling it a sign of change in business environment in Egypt.

Gas production from the $12 billion deal signed today will start in 2017, said Dudley.

13:50 Earlier today, there were a couple of big deals announced. Egypt signed an MOU with ACWA Power International of Saudi Arabia and Masdar of UAE to construct a number of power plants, including solar plants and a wind plant. The total investment will be $2.4 billion and the power plants will have a total production capacity of up to 4,400 megawatts.

In addition, Egypt signed a second MOU with ACWA Power International for the construction of a coal power plant. Investments total $7 billion and the production capacity will be 4,000 megawatts. The memorandums were signed in the presence of Ibrahim Al-Assaf, Saudi finance minister and Sultan Al-Jaber, UAE minister of state. 

Siemens International and Egypt's Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy also signed four MOUs worth $10 billion to construct several conventional power plants with a total production capacity of 6,600 megawatts, as well as a factory to produce equipment for wind energy farms and transformers, Reuters reports.

13:40 There is a lot happening, says . As well as speakers in the main hall, there are several other side events happening simultaneously, along with press conferences and closed meetings between key figures.

Outside the main chamber, CEOs rub shoulders with ministers. GE's vice president for healthcare in Africa, who said that he has been to lots of economic conferences but this is probably the highest attendance rate from multinationals and big businesses.

Another enthusiastic attendee is Britain's ambassador to Egypt, John Casson, who told that he was impressed by the positive atmosphere. He was also very pleased at BP's announcement of a new energy deal worth $12 billion, and he promises that there will be further announcements of British investments tomorrow.

13:30 President El-Sisi has just concluded a meeting with the French minister of finance, There'll be a press conference shortly.

13:20 the atmosphere is hectic and the mood upbeat. Around 1,500 people crammed into the main hall to watch Blair speak, while hundreds more mill around outside the chamber, networking, chatting, and swamping the booths set up by the sponsors of the event. The media have been allowed into the event and camera crews are everywhere.

Organisers told our reporter that they were originally expecting around 1,700 attendees, but the final number is around 3,500, and they had to stuff extra lines of chairs into the main hall to accomodate everyone. 

13:10  Former British prime minister Tony Blair has been speaking in the main room at the conference. He praised a number of recent decisions taken by the Egyptian government saying they have had a positive short term impact. He cited the new investment law, reforms on fuel subsidies, and the promotion of the private sector as examples of positive reforms.

But Egypt must also establish an open-minded and tolerant education system and empower women in the workforce, argues Blair.

Tony Blair

Tony Blair speaks at the conference

13:00 Egypt will take legal steps to liberalise both the healthcare sector and the mining sector, Investment Minister Ashraf Salman announces at the panel where he is speaking. “The government and the country is committed to liberalising different sectors.” Egypt has recently passed a law opening up the electricity sector to private investors.

12:50 A video introducing the Egyptian government’s Sustainable Development Strategy 2030 was screened on Saturday at the Sharm El-Sheikh conference.

12:40 We need to fight bureaucracy and we also need to amend laws regulating business, particularly in relation to SMEs, argues telecoms tycoon Naguib Sawiris. He's speaking at a conference panel.

Ashraf Salman, the investment minister, is speaking at the same panel. He says some of the main challenges facing SMEs in Egypt are governance, documentation, and ratification of financial figures. He says the government established the Bedaya Fund to support SMEs.

12:30 Egypt needs a new law to protect citizens from governmental mistakes, argues Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris. Sawiris, speaking during a panel at the conference, accuses some members of the current government of being “conservative” and “uncreative”.

12:20 Egypt has just signed an energy deal with British Petroleum worth $12 billion over four years, reportedly the biggest single foreign investment in Egypt's history. 

BP CEO with Egyptian petroleum minster

BP CEO Bob Dudley (2nd from R) signs with Egypt's Petroleum Minster Sherif Ismail (L) a $12 billion investment deal, the biggest in Egypt's history during Egypt's Economic Development Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Saturday, March 14, 2015

12:10 President El-Sisi and Dubai's leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al-Maktoum have just witnessed the contract signing for the project that will create Egypt's new capital city. You can watch a video giving details about the new administrative capital here.

12:00 The second day of Egypt's Economic Development Conference has begun with the government revealing details of its economic vision for Egypt to 2030.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab delivered an address followed by cabinet heads. 

The first day of the conference, Friday, saw Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman pledge $12.5 billion in aid to Cairo, in addition to a declaration of support by international leaders for Egypt in its war against terrorism.