Egypt’s Carbon Holdings has agreed with one of the four export credit agencies (ECAs) expected to fund the $7.2bn Tahrir petrochemicals complex, according to the firm’s CEO Basil el-Baz.

The financing was expected to close by the end of 2015 and be provided by five agencies, but talks were put on hold because Export-Import Bank of the US (US Exim) could not lend new cash until its licence was renewed by Congress, El-Baz told UK news agency Reuters in Dubai. However, the US’ Overseas Private Investment Corporation (Opic) has now agreed to direct funding, he said, without stating how much the agreement was worth.

In March, MEED reported that Carbon Holdings could get $400m in financing from Opic and it aims to sign the $4.3bn financing in the second half of this year, following the reauthorisation of US Exim in late 2015. The financing deal is essentially the same as what was negotiated in 2014, with US Exim expected to extend about a third of the loan, or $1.4bn. There will also be equity investors.

Carbon Holdings expects three other ECAs to contribute to the 17.5-year debt facility, either through direct lending or guarantees for commercial bank loans. They are US Exim, Sace of Italy and UK Export Finance, according to the news agency.

MEED’s report had named the participating ECAs, including Export-Import Bank of Korea (Kexim) and Korea Trade Insurance Company (Ksure), along with US Exim and Sace.

The Tahrir scheme is Egypt’s biggest-ever petrochemicals project and includes the construction of a 1.5 million tonne-a-year (t/y) ethylene cracker and a polyethylene facility with capacity of about 1.4 million t/y. The complex at Ain Sokhna at the southern end of the Suez Canal is projected to increase by about 50 per cent the amount of such products made by the country in the first 10 years after becoming operational.

However, the start of the Tahrir complex’s construction has been delayed from the timetable given last year, according to El-Baz, who said the work is now expected to begin at “the back end of this year” and could last for about 48 months.

France’s Societe Generale is advising on the scheme, El-Baz said.

Despite a delay in the financing, other petrochemicals projects with links to the main scheme have progressed much further. A polypropylene plant has been online since September 2015 and a $570m ammonium nitrate facility is expected to be fully operational in July, according to reports.

Carbon Holdings has also pushed ahead on negotiations with contractors. US-based Emerson Process Management has already won a $150m deal for automation technology and services, and will make an equity investment in the project.

Italy’s Maire Tecnimont Group and Greece’s Archirodon Group have also signed a contract to carry out the $1.7bn-$1.95bn main engineering, procurement and construction work.

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