By Megha Merani
April 18 (TRPN) - United World Infrastructure (UWI), a Dubai and Washington D.C.-based infrastructure investment and development company, is in talks to develop a new economic cluster in Egypt with an approximate total investment of more than $500 million, a company executive said.
The Arab state has been seeking to attract investment to boost its struggling economy after years of political and economic turmoil since the 2011 uprising, which overthrew Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak after nearly three decades of rule.
Late last year, Egypt floated its currency - a move that halved the value of the Egyptian pound overnight - just so it could qualify for a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to attract investors.
The Egyptian government is looking to private firms like UWI help fill its funding gaps and work in partnership to acquire, invest in, design, build, and operate new clusters and other real estate and infrastructure projects.
UWI's managing director Aaditya Sarna told Thomson Reuters Projects the firm is in the process of negotiating to work on projects in Egypt.
"We are in discussions with being part of the new economic initiatives around Cairo," he said in a recent interview.
He said the project would be an "economic cluster", and includes urban renewal, extending Cairo, building an annexure to Cairo, and a new township.
"We are in discussion stage with the size of the land," he said. "Our minimum size would be 2,000 acres. The size of the investment would be definitely in excess of $500 million."
Once the deal is clinched, UWI will start designing the cluster's master plan, Sarna said.
"At the onset of a project, we (typically) invest our own capital in projects through public-private partnerships with governments worldwide," he explained.
"Our technical and financial teams work together to develop a yield-driven master plan that maximises the benefit to the public and optimises returns to investors."
Last week, Mohmmed Khodeir, CEO of the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones, told Zawya, a Thomson Reuters-owned website, that the state's new investment law, which is due to be approved by the Egyptian parliament in a few weeks, would include a new rule that could allow some businesses to redeem up to 40 percent of their costs in the form of tax reductions.
"We are targeting needy areas and sectors that we need to lower their importation and increase their exportation," Khodeir said, speaking on the sidelines of the Annual Investment Meeting in Dubai.
He told Reuters last year that Egypt hoped to attract $10 billion in foreign direct investment in 2017, underlining the nation's efforts to revive its economy.
Egypt's level of foreign direct investment (FDI) rose to $6.8 billion during the fiscal year 2015/ 2016, up from $6.4 billion in the previous year, he said.
UWI previously developed infrastructure at a project in Iskander, Medini, in Malaysia, in partnership with Khazanah Nasional Berhad, the sovereign wealth fund of the Government of Malaysia, and global Japanese firm Mitsui & Co. Medini spans across 2,230 acres of land in Johor, Malaysia and around $600 million was invested by UWI and its partners to develop the site.
(Reporting by Megha Merani) ((firstname.lastname@example.org;))