* SODIC's land bank to last only two to three years
* Says switched focus to smaller residential projects
* Seeking to raise 550 million pounds in new debt
By Asma Alsharif
CAIRO, Aug 1One of Egypt's biggest property
developers, SODIC, warned that it was running out of
land for new development and said it hoped an interim government
would approve new tracts.
Reflecting the wider problems for Egyptian businesses faced
by political turmoil since the ousting of President Hosni
Mubarak in 2011, real estate development has ground to a near
Dependent on the government to assign tracts of land,
developers were thrown into new uncertainty by the army's
overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi a month ago.
"We desperately need to replenish the land bank," SODIC's
Managing Director Ahmed Badrawi told Reuters in an interview.
He explained that SODIC has enough land to plan
developments only for the next two to three years because the
government had not handed out any significant new tracts in the
past two to three years.
The ousted government had scheduled a land auction for
September and drawn up plans for other land allocations through
joint ventures with the state, according to local media.
But media now say the auction has been delayed until
December and the joint venture idea scrapped by the interim
government set up after the army ousted Mursi.
Badrawi was nonethless hopeful that the interim housing
minister, Ibrahim Mahlab, would go ahead with the auctions.
"Like with everything in Egypt nowadays you can't get too
carried away, because you don't know what potential surprises
are around the corner," he said.
A series of anti-corruption probes after Mubarak's overthrow
targeted many of Egypt's big property developers and some were
SODIC was not affected by those investigations, but the
turmoil since the 2011 uprising scared off the foreign investors
who funded Egypt's biggest real estate projects.
SODIC's own plans included two projects on the eastern and
western outskirts of Cairo for centres with offices, shops and
hotels that would each have needed 10 billion Egyptian
pounds($1.4 billion) in investment.
But because of the turmoil, it has focused on smaller
residential projects - partly because Egyptians sought to invest
against housing as a hedge against inflation. SODIC expected to
keep its current emphasis until the situation improved.
"We are just looking for a clear run of a little bit of
political stability that will help us again to court investors,"
The government last year sought to revoke SODIC's rights
over in its east Cairo tract because of delays in development,
but SODIC won a court case on April 6 and kept the land.
SODIC's shares have risen over 13 percent in the past year,
outperforming a near 9 percent rise in the broader market
SODIC, with a market capitalisation of nearly $250 million,
has asked banks to arrange a new syndicated loan that would
allow it to free up existing cash for new opportunities.
"We are in negotiations now to increase our facility from
350 million to 900 million pounds. We are hoping to close in the
next couple of months," Badrawi said.
Egypt's largest listed property developer by market
capitalisation is Talaat Mostafa Group Holding Co SAE,
but a bigger competitor to SODIC in the high end market is Palm
Hills Development Co.
($1 = 6.9999 Egyptian pounds)
(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; editing by Patrick Werr and