INTERVIEW: Orascom Development says to build in Iraq

Sherine El Madany
3 Min Read

SHARM EL SHEIKH: Swiss-based Orascom Development Holding plans to start a budget housing project in Iraq after elections, part of its wider push into low-income homes, its CEO said on Tuesday.

The developer, known for building high-end resorts, also aims to start selling homes in a budget project in Romania by the end of the year and is in negotiations for a similar project in Africa, Samih Sawiris told Reuters in an interview.

Orascom has already agreed with Iraqi officials to construct a budget housing project in Iraq similar to Haram City, a low-income residential project it is building near Cairo, he said.

We are very happy to go there, but we are waiting for the elections to be over because there is a certain amount of stability needed to make this possible, Sawiris said, adding potential for growth in the oil-rich nation is mind-blowing .

There s so much access to oil money and demand on such towns will be quite huge, Sawiris added. And obviously we like to be pioneers, and being the first town developers to enter Iraq is always a plus.

Sawiris did not specify where in Iraq the project would be, but Egyptian media in February reported the firm was looking at two plots, one in Taji in central Iraq and another in Basra in the south. Each would cover some 9 million square meters.

Iraq is looking for bidders to build 1 million new units, valued at an average $50,000 each, within the next three year.

Orascom hopes to see the first sales from its Romania project before the end of this year, said Sawiris, who is also Orascom s chairman.

The project, in which Orascom holds a 70 percent stake, is expected to offer a total of 33,000 units developed over three equal phases, with the first scheduled to be operational within five years.

Orascom posted a net profit of 138.6 million Swiss francs ($131 million) in 2009, up from 115.6 million in 2008, and said it expected new projects in the United Kingdom, Montenegro, Romania, Switzerland and Morocco to drive future profits.

Things look good and I don t see a reason why we cannot have a better year in 2010 than in 2009, Sawiris said, declining to give specific forecasts.

Sawiris added he was happy with the resilience of Egypt s tourism industry, which fuels Orascom s hotels and resorts business.

I am quite impressed by how the tourism sector went through the crisis and out of it with very little damage, he said.

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