Egypt hopes to attract $10-12 billion at investment summit in March

Egypt hopes to attract investment of $10-$12 billion in 20 projects, including in energy, transport and water, at a major conference in mid-March, the minister for international cooperation said on Saturday.

The conference is seen as a critical part of the government's economic reform plan that has resulted in slashed energy subsidies and raised taxes. The government has also resolved disputes with existing investors as it seeks to revive an economy battered by political turmoil since a 2011 uprising.

"For the time being we have around 20 projects and divided between three categories: PPP, private and public," Naglaa al-Ahwany said, referring to private-public partnerships.

"Most of them are in the areas of energy, transport, water, grain storage," she said in an interview with Reuters. "We plan to have projects worth from $10-12 billion."

Ahwany said the conference would also showcase master plans for the development of an industrial and logistics hub near the Suez Canal, which was announced this year, and for the development of a mining zone in southeastern Egypt.

However, investment opportunities in those mega-projects were not expected to be ready in time for the meeting, she said.

Ahwany brushed aside concerns about security, saying Egypt's military campaign against Islamist militants in restive northern Sinai was far from the conference site on the southern tip of the peninsula.

"We cannot say that unless you have 100 percent security you will not be able to organise a conference," she said.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told visiting U.S. businessmen last week that Egypt would hold parliamentary elections before the conference, trying to reassure them that a delayed poll would not be put off indefinitely amid a crackdown on political dissent.

The conference was originally slated for February, but Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb announced on Saturday that it would take place on March 13-15 in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh.

No date for elections has yet been set but Ahwany suggested investors were not concerned about the timing of the vote, which was originally expected before the year end.

"We cannot say that investors will not come unless the elections have been done. It's enough that we will announce that the process is ongoing," said Ahwany, leaving open the possibility that they might not happen until the end of March.

Global investment bank Lazard and WPP, a multinational public relations firm, have been hired to organise the event.

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