Dubai’s DAMAC-Egypt row solved

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Damac properties, a Dubai-based real estate developer, filed an arbitration suit against the Egyptian government after a court convicted its chairman on land-related corruption charges. Photo –

An Egyptian minister said on Tuesday the government has settled a row with a Dubai-based developer over a land contract reached when Hosni Mubarak was in power. Investors welcomed the deal and hoped it would help remove uncertainties that have depressed interest in the once-booming property market.

Cairo promised last year to settle disputes with about 20 foreign and local investors over the price of land and other issues, as part of its bid to avoid costly arbitration and rebuild confidence in Egypt.

“We have at last reached an agreement with (Dubai-based) DAMAC, a final settlement (was) approved by the board of the new urban communities authority … two days ago,” Investment Minister Osama Saleh announced at a conference in Cairo.

DAMAC had said last year it had filed an international arbitration case against Egypt over a land row and the conviction of its chairman and owner, Hussain Sajwani.

Niall McLoughlin, DAMAC senior vice president, said the group had no intention to issue comments on the minister’s remarks. “Whilst the international arbitration case is ongoing, it would be inappropriate for us to comment,” he said.

The minister described the case as one of the most complicated problems in terms of investment deals for Egypt.

Several cases claiming land was sold to too cheaply by Mubarak’s government were raised in the courts before the former president was ousted in an uprising last year. Since his overthrow in February 2011, the rows have gathered momentum.

The land disputes further damaged investor confidence, which was already badly hit by the political turmoil. Real estate investment had been a major driver of the economy in the years before Mubarak’s overthrow, contributing to growth rates that hit 7 percent a year. Growth since the uprising has tumbled as investment in this and other sectors has dried up.

In November 2011, an Egyptian newspaper said the row with DAMAC was one of three disputes that had been resolved. But that was not confirmed at the time by officials.

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