Egypt sees oil company debt paid off in two years: minister

FILE PHOTO - Tarek El Molla, Egypt's Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, speaks on the telephone during an interview with Reuters at his office in Cairo, Egypt, October 29, 2015. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will fully pay off its debt to foreign oil companies within two years if it keeps making payments at the same rate, Oil Minister Tarek El Molla told a local newspaper on Tuesday.

“It is hard to determine a specific date but we imagine that if the current rate of payment continues we will be able to reach zero external debt within two years,” he told state-owned Al-Akhbar.

Once an energy exporter, Egypt has turned into a net importer in recent years, squeezed by declining production and increasing consumption.

Cairo has pledged to eliminate the arrears by the end of June 2019 and not accumulate more, part of efforts to draw new foreign investment to an energy sector that is attracting interest following several major gas discoveries.

Reporting by Ali Abdelaty; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; editing by John Stonestreet