Alwaleed looks to build up Egyptian portfolio

25 February 2003
In keeping with his traditional approach of acquiring assets at the bottom of their profit cycle, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is understood to be negotiating with the government over the acquisition of two state-owned five-star hotels, the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan and the Old Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor. The government has decided to privatise the loss-making properties after a five-year downturn in the local tourist sector.

'No firm decision has been made yet, but we are definitely eyeing these two properties as potential hotels,' says Sarmad Zok, chief executive of Prince Alwaleed's Kingdom Hotel Investment Group (KHI). If a deal is concluded, the hotels will be managed by Toronto-based Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, in which KHI has a 25 per cent stake. Four Seasons operates two existing hotels in Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh (MEED 6:9:02; 24:5:02).

KHI has expanded its portfolio of Egyptian investments over the last year, acquiring a 26.5 per cent stake in the El-Gouna Moevenpick and buying stakes in the Nile Plaza in Cairo and the San Stefano in Alexandria. Swiss-based Moevenpick, in which KHI has a controlling stake, signed in mid-January an extension to its management contract for the Cairo-Heliopolis Moevenpick Hotel, securing its local portfolio of seven hotels.

Prince Alwaleed is one of the principal foreign private investors in Egypt, recently donating $10 million to help finance the construction of new facilities for the American University in Cairo (AUC), which is planning to move its main campus to the outskirts of Heliopolis. His largest single investment is a $500 million agricultural project in Toshka, which is being developed by the Kingdom Agricultural Development Company (Kadco - MEED 18:1:02; 28:10:01). The 100,000-acre site will be irrigated with water from the $450 million water lifting station on Lake Nasser, which was inaugurated by President Mubarak and Prince Alwaleed in late January.

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