* Expanding malls in Cairo, building new ones
* Positive for Egypt's drive to repair economy
* UAE government offers support
* Gulf sovereign wealth funds looking at Egyptian assets
By Mirna Sleiman
DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 22 Dubai retailer Majid
Al Futtaim, which holds the Carrefour franchise in
the Middle East, plans to invest about $2.3 billion in Egypt in
the next few years, its chief executive said on Wednesday, a
sign of Gulf investors' growing interest in the Egyptian
"Total investments on the plan, including Carrefour, should
be around 16 billion Egyptian pounds over the next four to five
years," Iyad Malas told Reuters on the sidelines of the World
Economic Forum in Davos.
The investment plan is positive for Egypt's army-backed
government, which is trying to attract foreign money back to the
country and create jobs to ease social discontent as it manages
a difficult transition to elections this year.
MAF, the sole franchisee of French retailer Carrefour
in the region, will expand one of its shopping malls
in Cairo's Maadi district at a cost of 3.2 billion pounds, and
begin construction next week of another mall next to Cairo's
main airport that will cost a similar amount, Malas said.
In addition, the company expects to complete construction of
its 'Mall of Egypt' project near Cairo by the end of 2015 at a
cost of 4.9 billion pounds, while the Carrefour operation plans
further investments, he said.
New foreign investment in Egypt almost dried up after the
revolution which overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011 - though Malas
said Carrefour had continued to open new stores over the past
The economy has begun to stabilise, helped by billions of
dollars of aid which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and
Kuwait provided after the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed
Mursi last July.
While Western investors remain cautious, some Gulf Arab
companies are returning to the country, encouraged by their
governments, which see political advantage in supporting the
army-backed authorities who replaced Mursi.
"We definitely receive support from the UAE government to
invest in Egypt. We've been asked if we need help," Malas said.
"We also have a very good relationship with the government in
Egypt. We've managed to work with different governments and
clearly this government is going the extra mile. That's what we
While Majid Al Futtaim is a private group, much of the
Gulf's investment in Egypt this year looks likely to come from
Ahmed Heikal, chairman and founder of Citadel Capital
, a big Egyptian investment firm, told Reuters in Davos
that sovereign wealth funds from countries such as the UAE,
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were expressing interest in Egypt.
"Sovereign wealth funds from this region are starting to
look at opportunities. Energy is a sector they're certainly
looking at, as well as real estate and food."
He added, "These SWFs before the revolution were investing
as normal sovereign funds, looking at opportunities at arm's
length. Now investing in Egypt has proven necessary to safeguard
their geopolitical interests."
Qatar had good relations with Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood and
as a result its ties with the current Egyptian government have
been cooler. Heikal said he did not expect Qatar to invest
additional amounts in Egypt for now.
Visiting the UAE this week, Egyptian Investment Minister
Osama Saleh said he expected net foreign direct investment in
his country to rise by a third to about $4 billion in the
current fiscal year, which ends in June, versus the previous
"It is a mix of investments, but a large portion of it is
Gulf investments," said Saleh, adding that he was talking to UAE
companies in sectors ranging from real estate to shipping.
Before Egypt's 2011 revolution, it was attracting net
foreign direct investment of around $8 billion annually, so even
with aid from the Gulf, the economy is not yet back to normal.
"The operational environment remains challenging," Heikal
said. "The best advice I would give investors is to stay out of