Lafarge SA, the world’s largest cement maker, said last Monday it was buying Egypt’s Orascom Construction Industries Cement Group for about $12.9 billion, gaining access to a region that is undergoing a construction boom fed by oil profits. Orascom Cement is a leading player in the cement and building materials industry in the Middle East and Mediterranean basin. To finance the acquisition, Lafarge will sell Orascom shareholder Nassef Sawiris an 11.4 per cent stake in Lafarge for about $4.1 billion. The deal should be completed by the end of March, pending approval of competition authorities, the company said.
A memorandum of understanding has been signed between Italy and Egypt to establish a plant to generate electricity from wind in Gabal al-Zait on the Red Sea coast. The new plant should generate some 400 megawatts of electricity, and is part of the Egyptian government’s plan to attract foreign investment in renewable energy. By 2020 at least 20 per cent of the power in Egypt should be produced from renewable energy.
Religion and nationalism Last Sunday a two-day seminar on Religion and nationalism was held in Alexandria, jointly organised by the Swedish Institute in Alexandria and the Arab union research centre of Beirut. Participants included 16 Arab and European countries. The seminar discussed nine papers which covered four topics: “The formation of the political group and the concept of citizenship”, “Around the outside world” which dealt with globalisation, “Basis for community management” which tackled democracy and social issues such as those of women. The fourth topic concerned “Applying Islamic shari’a” and “Jihad and resistance”.
An Egyptian move to buy Russian wheat earlier this month rather than US grain took American markets by surprise, sending futures down. Egypt said it had bought 60,000 tons of Russian wheat. Some analysts had expected Egypt to purchase US grain, and futures in Chicago were up 77 percent this year, propelled by buyers snapping up supplies after adverse weather hurt crops around the world.
Egypt and France have signed four agreements on the sidelines of the second round of the French-Egyptian Presidential Business Council (SPAFE) which wrapped its activities in Paris on Friday. The agreements included the opening of an Orange Lab in the Smart Village next month, cooperation in the domain of the postal and financial services offered by Egypt Post, marketing Microsoft products in Egypt via the “Go-Global” programme, and boosting cooperation in dubbing software. Furthermore, Egypt has joined the smart villages network affiliated to the French Information Technology Valley known as Sophia Antipolis Club.
Egypt has signed a cooperation agreement with Germany’s SAP to provide the Egyptian government with up-to-date IT applications. The four-year agreement will come into force as of 2008. Egypt already has similar agreements with IBM and Microsoft.
40 years in Karnak
To mark 40 years since the foundation of the French Egyptian centre for studies on Karnak temple, France has granted the centre 80,000 Euros to support its work. The centre itself celebrated by holding workshops on typography and mapping, and by arranging for new signposts to be installed around Karnak to guide visitors. The centre was established in 1967 following French participation in the UNESCO-led project to rescue the Abu-Simbel temples south of Aswan from drowning under the waters behind the High Dam.