Project sources say the lowest price came from Germany’s Uhde. The only other bidder was Snamprogetti of Italy. Details of the prices have not been disclosed.

The project was approved at an extraordinary meeting of shareholders in August 2001 on the basis of total estimated costs of £E 1,200 million. At the time that sum was equivalent to about $290 million; with the subsequent devaluation of the Egyptian pound against the dollar, it is now equivalent to $258 million. Over the same period, the euro – in which a significant part of the bids have been denominated – has also appreciated against the dollar.

The project is to be entirely self-financed, including the allocation of a portion of the company’s annual dividend for four years.

The new unit will produce ammonia, saltpetre, calcinated ammonium nitrate and ammonium nitrate, with a total final product capacity of 800,000 tonnes a year.