‘We are on the verge of receiving final approval from the regulatory authorities for the launch of the public subscription,’ says an official at Orascom Construction Industries (OCI), the majority shareholder in ECC. ‘We had a very good response to the private placement, mainly from local institutions.’

The issue has been split into two tranches, each with a maturity of seven years, callable after 18 months. The first is worth £E 600 million ($129 million) and carries a fixed rate of 13 per cent. The second tranche, for £E 400 million ($86 million), is priced at the Central Bank of Egypt discount rate plus 2 per cent.

The issue is being underwritten by Citibank, Commercial International Bank (Egypt)and Banque Misr.

ECC operates four production lines at its Suez complex, with total capacity of 7 million tonnes a year. It recorded revenues of £E 459 million ($99 million) in the first half of 2002, with a net profit margin of more than 25 per cent. Switzerland’s Holcimis also a major shareholder.

The company has been accorded a national senior unsecured debt rating of A- by Nile Rating, the local arm of London-based agency FitchRating.