UPDATE 1-Egypt's Carbon Holdings to sign $10.9 bln petrochemicals contract -statement

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CAIRO, June 29 (Reuters) - Egypt is to sign a contract on Saturday with local firm Carbon Holdings to build the massive Tahrir petrochemical project, the government said.

The $10.9 billion complex would be the largest in the Middle East, a cabinet statement said, and is expected to create 48,000 jobs.

Carbon Holdings CEO Basil El-Baz said it would take more than three years to build, according to the statement.

Economic growth for import-dependent Egypt has slowed since a 2011 uprising drove tourists and foreign investors away, but recent reforms tied to a $12 billion International Monetary Fund loan are aimed at putting the country back on the right track.

El-Baz told Reuters last year he saw the project helping to double Egypt’s exports within one year of coming online.

Tahrir will have to export all its production in the first year but as output increases, domestic manufacturers will be encouraged to expand and foreign ones will consider setting up next to the Suez Canal, he said.

Carbon Holdings already has a polypropylene plant and a mining grade ammonium nitrate plant.

The government says the 460-square-km economic zone around the canal will be used to develop an international industrial and logistics hub to attract foreign investment.

Tahrir Petrochemicals, which is being funded by credit agencies in the United States, Britain and Germany, is Egypt’s first naphtha cracker and will produce different types of petrochemicals used to make various consumer and industrial goods.

Egypt aims to step up exports and reduce imports to revive the economy, which was hit by unrest that followed the 2011 popular uprising. (Reporting by Momen Saeed Atallah; editing by Jason Neely)