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Egypt Signs 9 Oil & Gas Exploration Deals with Chevron, Others

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Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Tarek El-Molla, says the North African country has signed nine new petroleum agreements to search for petroleum and natural gas in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

El-Molla said the deals were signed with six major international and Egyptian companies.

The signed agreements include one with Exxon Mobil to search in the North Marquia marine area in the Mediterranean, with a minimum investment of $112 million to drill three wells, and another with Chevron and its partner Tharwa Petroleum to search in the North Sidi Barrani area, with a minimum investment of $70 million, to drill one exploration well.

According to El-Molla, Egypt reached a total of 12 agreements during the period of the coronavirus pandemic, with a minimum investment of about $1.4 billion, to drill 23 wells in nine regions in the Mediterranean and three regions in the Red Sea, pointing out that the three further agreements are to be signed soon.

He pointed out that the ministry’s strategy to promote investment opportunities is the reason for its success in attracting new global investment to Egypt. In addition to its existing work with companies such as Shell, BP and Total, it is forging new partnerships with Exxon Mobil and Chevron, which are entering Egypt for the first time to invest in oil and gas exploration.

The Egyptian minister said that the Egyptian Tharwa Petroleum’s participation opens up the potential expansion of its activities and those of other Egyptian companies in this sphere.

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Bahrain’s Bank ABC Acquires 99.4% Stake in Blom Bank Egypt

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Bahrain-based Arab Banking Corporation (Bank ABC) has entered into an agreement with Blom Bank, Lebanon to acquire its 99.4% stake of Blom Bank Egypt for $427 million.

Bank ABC, a leading financial institution in the Middle East, is expected to to complete the acquisition in the second quarter (Q2) of 2021.

The acquisition is subject to regulations in Bahrain, Egypt and Lebanon.

A statement from Bank ABC said the acquisition is expected to “reposition Bank ABC’s Egyptian franchise amongst the top 20 banks in Egypt, delivering significantly greater scale and a more efficient platform; provide the Bank ABC Group with a highly profitable franchise with significant future growth potential in one of the most fundamentally attractive markets in Mena; build new capabilities, particularly in Retail, Corporate and SME lending leveraging Bank ABC’s strong digital and mobile banking capabilities and its Group centres of excellence; provide customers with an enhanced product offering, with a more capable and expansive branch network through the addition of 41 branches; and help facilitate greater international connectivity for the enhanced customer base and a stronger platform for access to Egypt for Bank ABC’s broader client base.”

HSBC Bank Middle East is acting as the sole financial advisor to Bank ABC, with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Zulficar & Partners acting as legal advisors. Blom Bank Lebanon was advised by CI Capital, while Baker McKenzie acted as legal counsel.

Dr Khaled Kawan, Group CEO of Bank ABC said “the acquisition of Blom Bank Egypt is a unique opportunity for Bank ABC to fulfil its longstanding strategic commitment to inorganically expand its core business, giving us a significantly enhanced platform for future growth, in one of the most attractive markets in the region.

“We have an active relationship with our regulators and will be working to secure their approvals to complete the deal as swiftly as possible. We will then look forward to working with our new Blom Bank Egypt team to combine Bank ABC Egypt and Blom Bank Egypt thereby creating a new powerhouse in the Egyptian banking sector. We also thank the management teams of Blom Bank Lebanon, Blom Bank Egypt and their advisors for the seamless execution process that has led to this agreement.”

Saad Azhari, Chairman and General Manager of Blom Bank Lebanon, commented: “This transaction demonstrates our continuous commitment to our stakeholders and dedication to our strategy. It will allow Blom Bank Lebanon to comply with the latest regulations issued by the Central Bank of Lebanon, which stipulate that all Lebanese banks must increase their equity by 20%.”

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank our team in Blom Bank Egypt for their dedication and perseverance that have made our operation in Egypt successful. I would also like to thank the management and transaction team at Bank ABC for their cooperation and professionalism during the entire transaction process as well as the CI Capital Investment Banking and Baker McKenzie teams for their commitment and dynamism,” he added.

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Egypt-China Maintain Stable Trade Growth in 2020

Meanwhile, the total trade volume between the two countries during the same period hit 12.895 billion dollars, with a 10 percent annual increase, according to Han Bing, minister counselor for commercial affairs of the Chinese embassy in Egypt.

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Amid the Covid-19 global pandemic, China’s total exports to Egypt reached 12.06 billion U.S. dollars during the first 11 months of 2020, registering an annual increase of 12.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the total trade volume between the two countries during the same period hit 12.895 billion dollars, with a 10 percent annual increase, according to Han Bing, minister counselor for commercial affairs of the Chinese embassy in Egypt.

The conference was held to review the economic and trade cooperation between China and Egypt in 2020.

Ham also emphasised that “In 2020, bilateral trade has weathered through COVID-19 and maintained stable momentum of growth. China remains the first trading partner of Egypt.”

According to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce of China, from January to September 2020, China’s new direct investment in Egypt totalled 89.33 million dollars, up by 19.3 year on year.

Citing statistics from the embassy’s Economic and Commercial Office, Ham noted that China’s total investment in Egypt has also exceeded 7.7 billion dollars by now.

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“We are also exploring new cooperation in the fields of medical supplies, steel, textiles, transportation, new energy, garbage recycling, and sewage treatment,” the Chinese diplomat pointed out.

Despite the COVID-19 global crisis, Chinese companies working in mega national projects in Egypt continued their progress non-stop, while maintaining precautionary measures.

Also, China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) is currently constructing a 20-tower business district in the country’s New Administrative Capital city, some 50 km east of Cairo.

The Central Business District (CBD) project includes building the 385-m high 80-floor Iconic Tower, which is expected to be the tallest skyscraper in Egypt and Africa upon completion.

Han added that the company finished topping the main structure of over 53 floors of the Iconic Tower and the main structures of eight other buildings.

He also noted that the ongoing joint project to establish a light rail to connect new cities on the outskirts of Cairo was also “progressing smoothly.”

Over the past decade, China’s industrial developer Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA) has been developing a total area of about 7.23 square km in Egypt’s Suez Canal Economic Zone in Ain Sokhna district of Suez province.

“After 12 years’ construction, China-Egypt TEDA Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone has become the best industrial park in aspects of comprehensive environment, investment density, and per unit output,” Han said.

“TEDA zone has altogether 96 enterprises and has attracted more than 1.25 billion dollars investment with total sales of more than 2.5 billion dollars,” said the Chinese senior diplomat, noting that the zone provides more than 4,000 direct job opportunities.

In recent years, the Chinese government and financial institutions have provided loans and credit of over 7.5 billion dollars to Egypt, which have greatly bolstered bilateral economic cooperation.

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EgyptAir to Operate Daily Flight to Qatar

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EgyptAir will operate a daily flight routine to Doha, the capital of Qatar, a statement by the airline reveals on Thursday.

The Egyptian national flagship carrier’s decision follows Egypt’s Ministry of Civil Aviation announcement, on Tuesday, that it was lifting a three-and-half-year airspace ban on the Gulf country.

“In light of the Egyptian government’s decision of reopening the air traffic for resuming flights from and to Qatar, EgyptAir has decided to operate flight MS935/MS936 between Cairo and Doha, starting from Jan. 18,’’ EgyptAir said in a statement posted on its official Facebook page.

The company has offered 20 per cent discount on the flights’ ticket from Doha to Cairo until the end of January.

The decision comes days after Egypt signed the Al-Ula declaration at the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council Summit, which ended a boycott by the Arab Quartet that included Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Qatar.

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