An Egyptian court on Saturday annulled the sale of nearly 50 percent of the shares of Nile Cotton Ginning Company, which was part of the privatization plan adopted by the government in the 1990s.
The ruling, issued by the State Council's Administrative Court, returned the company's shares and assets to the state.
According to the verdict, more than 50 percent of the company's shares were sold over three phases. The first phase was implemented on 6 February 1997, involving 3,028,900 shares. The second was on 9 October 1997, when 2,270,000 shares were sold. On 5 February 1998, 299 shares were sold.
The website of Egypt's state-run TV said the verdict cited several violations in the appraisal of the company's assets, most notably underrating the prices quoted for the shares.
The court said its ruling represents a notification to all investigative bodies to further scrutinize the officials involved in the deal, including senior government officials.
The Dostor news website said the Nile Cotton Ginning Company owns several large ginning facilities across several governorates in the Delta and Upper Egypt worth LE17 billion. It said the company also has other factories and means of transport worth millions of pounds.
The website quoted the court verdict as saying that Atif Ebeid, while serving as the minister of public sector affairs under Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, offered a price of LE35,45 for one share, and the total value of the shares was set at only LE2194 million.
Hamdi al-Fakharany, a lawyer, and Khaled Ali, an activist heading the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, brought the lawsuit demanding that the sale be reversed, arguing that the sale squandered public funds.
Ali, speaking to reporters after the verdict was delivered, said the ruling represents a conviction that Hosni Mubarak's regime systematically squandered public funds through the terms of former prime ministers Atif Sidqi and Atif Ebeid, as well as current Prime Minister Ganzouri, who served in the same post in the 1990s.