Wednesday, April 16, 2008

India's corporate biggies make multibillion-dollar plans for Egypt

From Economic Times, India

NEW DELHI: Top Indian companies like Essar, Reliance and the Tata group are getting ready to roll out over $20 billion investments in sectors ranging from oil and gas to plastic and fertilisers in Egypt.

"India and Egypt should walk hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder in this globalised world. The Indian economy is growing and so is the Egyptian economy. This is the perfect time for scaling up business ties," said Egyptian Minister for International Cooperation Fayza Aboul Naga.

"The Essar, Reliance and the Tata Group are some of big Indian companies planning multibillion dollar investments in Egypt," Naga told IANS ahead of Trade and Industries Minister Rashid Mohamed Rashid's visit here Tuesday.

"Egypt has multiple advantages for Indian businesses. Indian companies are closer to the cultural mindset of businessmen in Egypt and, therefore, have an edge," Naga said.

Business is clearly now the mantra with the two countries, which were the founder members of the Non-Aligned Movement and pioneers of South-South cooperation.

Soon after the trade minister's visit, a big business delegation led by Aseem Ragab, head of Egyptian Investment Promotion Authority GAFI, will come here to network with Indian businessmen at an investment conclave April 18-20.

Egypt's strategic location that makes it a gateway to the 20-country Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the 27-nation European Union and the Arab Free Trade Area has been a major magnet for globally ambitious Indian companies.

Egypt is determined to cash in on a new strategic and economic synergy emerging with India that will be sharply in focus when President Hosni Mubarak comes here on his first visit in a quarter of a century.

"India is emerging as an economic power. It's a source of pride for us in Egypt. The Egyptian economy is also growing at over eight percent annually. There are a lot of complementarities," Naga stressed.

The Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries, India's largest private sector company, has decided to spend over $11 billion in oil refining, petrochemicals and plastics industries in Egypt.

The Reliance group is no stranger to the shores of the Nile. Reliance Petroleum Limited, a subsidiary of the Reliance group, has been importing and marketing Egyptian crude oil over the last seven years.

The Ruias-owned Essar Group is also brimming with ideas for investment in Egypt. A $9 billion refinery tops their list, which also includes a plan to set up a steel plant in the pharaoh's land.

Tata Chemicals is planning $1.2 billion investment in a fertiliser plant in Egypt. The Aditya Birla Group has already set up a joint venture plant in Alexandria to produce acrylic fibre and is playing with some more ambitious investment ideas.

The Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL), the Oberoi Group that runs a hotel near the pyramids in Cairo and the Kirloskar Group are already entrenched in the burgeoning Egyptian market.

Bilateral trade between India and Egypt touched $2.2 billion in 2006, compared to China's nearly $3 billion trade with Egypt. India and Egypt are eyeing an ambitious target of achieving $10 billion bilateral trade by 2010.

The two countries have identified IT, oil and gas, agriculture and food processing as some of key areas for closer collaboration.

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