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Wednesday, 23 February 2022

France’s Egis wants to do more in Egypt’s infrastructure + transport space

What France’s Egis has in store for Egypt: French consulting, construction engineering, and mobility service provider Egis Group has its eyes on the Egyptian market over the next several years. It already has a number of projects here under its belt, including transport and infrastructure projects under the government’s purview, as well as projects for private sector players, such as managing the construction or renovation of buildings. Still, Egis sees plenty of room for growth here and it is working to grow its operations in Egypt this year and in the medium term.

We sat down with Egis CEO Laurent Germain, Middle East CEO Alaa AbuSiam, and Egypt Managing Director Sameh Atalla to talk about the group’s goals for Egypt, including prospective projects and possible acquisitions, as well as its plans to cement its presence here.

Edited excerpts from our conversation:

Egypt is a key focus market for Egis in 2022, especially when it comes to infrastructure projects, including in transportation, construction, and desalination, Germain said. The company employs 1.2k people across the Middle East and boasts a portfolio of USD 140 mn in the region. Right now, the majority of Egis’ operations and turnover are concentrated in the GCC, particularly countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, “because we have been present there for a much longer time and worked on big projects, like the Doha and Riyadh metros,” Germain says.

There’s a lot of room for growth for the company here: As it currently stands, Egis’ activities in Egypt account for a rather small portion of the company’s overall revenues. In 2021, the company reported EUR 1.2 bn of revenues, 35% (EUR 420 mn) of which were from its operations in France. Its Egypt operations only accounted for EUR 2.21 mn of its total topline, according to Germain. Egis wants to double its revenue stream from Egypt by the end of 2022 and reach around EUR 8.8 by 2026, AbuSiam said.

The portfolio of upcoming infrastructure projects makes Egypt an attractive market for Egis to double down on in the near term. “Egypt is one of the most dynamic countries in the region in terms of the number and the volume of projects,” Germain explains. With strong government investment in infrastructure development and a growing population that will only increase the demand for buildings and transport infrastructure, now is the right time for the group to invest in the country, he says.

Sweetening the terms: France’s aid programs, which make it attractive for French companies to invest in Egypt. “Egypt is a country where the French government is investing the largest chunk of foreign aid worldwide,” Germain says. This benefits the French companies and is a signal for the French companies to continue to invest more than in the past in the country, he adds.

Specifically, Egis wants to do more in our transport sector. The company is already working on several transport projects, including the El Raml Tram in Alexandria, for which it is providing design and supervision services, as well as conducting feasibility studies on modernizing Cairo Metro Line 2. Egis was also tapped to provide coordination, management, and construction supervision services of Cairo Metro Line 3 Phase 3 in partnership with Systra, ACE, and EHAF. The company is now preparing its bids for work on the Abu Qir Metro and Cairo Metro Line 6, AbuSiam says.

The company also wants to get in on roads and airports — but that may require a change-up in how these projects are offered. About 25% of the group’s revenues are done through concessions, and operations and maintenance contracts for roads and airports. Egypt doesn’t currently allow private concessions for roads and airports, but Egis would be “keen to participate” should that change, Germain said. “If the Egyptian government would be open … we would compete with a bid and be ready to invest in concessions,” he said.

Desalination projects are next in line. “There is a lot of focus in Egypt on providing clean water, and there will be an installation of 47 desalination projects over the coming year. We intend definitely to be part of this,” Attalla says.

All of this is going to need financing, so Egis might soon have business for our commercial banks: Egis typically gets all its financing needs from its mother company in France or its Dubai branch, Attalla says. But given the group’s plan to grow five-fold until 2026, it will need to eventually knock on banks’ doors for funding. Of particular interest? “We'll probably be doing business with commercial banks, like CIB and the Arab African International Bank,” he said.

The company is looking to set up a more permanent foundation here: Egis is not only interested in managing projects in Egypt, but to hire local talent and train them to become the leaders of tomorrow’s infrastructure projects, Atalla says. “The idea is to produce more in the country,” Germain says, adding that by 2026, Egis wants to have a permanent workforce of Egyptian engineers who will remain on a long-term basis.

Part of that is growing the local talent: The group has its own Rail Academy, where engineers are trained by international experts in the sector, and Egyptian engineers are high on the priority list. “The ministers were very interested in that kind of investment, namely having foreign companies investing in the training of Egyptian engineers for them to stay in the country and to be a part of the country’s human capital for future infrastructure projects,” Germain tells us.

Acquisitions may also be in the cards to grow its footprint: “We are looking into acquisitions in the Egyptian market,” Germain tells us. The company is specifically looking at “engineering companies that could give us local production capacity more quickly.”

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