Cairo will have a new financial center inspired by those in London and New York within the next five years, according to one of the founders of the project, businessman Mohamed Nosseir.
Nosseir is also a major shareholder in mobile phone provider Click GSM. He and fellow businessman Raouf Gabbour formed the Cairo Financial Center (CFC), as the project is known, in 1988. CFC will be built near the center of Cairo, in the shadow of Salah el-Din's twelfth century Citadel.
The complex, to be built on a 70,000 square meter plot in a disused quarry, will consist of a five-star hotel run by Marriott, 200,000 square meters of office space, shops, restaurants and a clinic. The centerpiece will be a new trading floor for the Cairo and Alexandria Stock Exchanges (CASE) under a glass dome - Nosseir himself will donate this.
CASE has already agreed to move their main trading floor and headquarters to the site.
The complex has been designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects of New York, whose previous work includes the Tokyo International Forum in Japan, and will cost EL 1,500 million (US$ 430 million).
According to the Middle East Economic Digest of August 18, three contractors are competing to build the center: Bovis International of Britain, a partnership between Costain of Britain and Salah Hamdy of Egypt, and a consortium comprising New York-based PMI, Laing International of Britain, and Morrison Knudsen Corp. of the United States.
Half the cost of the project will come from advance sales of office space; £E 450 million (US$ 130 million) will come from seven year loans from local banks; two of Cairo's leading finance houses, HC Securities and EFG-Hermes will raise the remaining £E 300 million (US$ 85 million).
Speaking about the Cairo Financial Center at a Euromoney forum in Cairo two weeks ago, Nosseir said that the project would offer "business, retail and leisure in one place". He said that he was also trying to attract foreigners to Egypt: "coming here will give them a decent, clean and safe, safe life. [The center will offer] the latest technology in a city environment." Technology will be an important part of the project: few offices in the city's financial district are able to offer IT infrastructure such as fiber-optic cables.
Does Cairo need a new financial center though? CASE has just completed the refurbishment of the existing Cairo bourse, and is busy installing back office systems in an effort to increase turnover.
Moreover, do Cairo's financial institutions need to be within spitting distance of the bourse itself? Wall Street and the City of London grew up in the way they did because communications were primitive.
With technology, brokers and investors can communicate with the market in real time, wherever they are.
Cairo's major brokerages are currently dotted all over the city.
The Cairo Financial Center may perhaps have a similar fate to that of London's Canary Wharf complex.
Built in the 1980s, Canary Wharf was nearly empty for several years after its completion, and was seen as a 'white elephant' by the public.
Now it is popular and profitable, and has become a base in London for some of the world's major banks.
Cairo's own World Trade Center, alongside the Nile, has had a similar turnaround in fortunes, and is now in dire need of extra space. – (Albawaba-MEBG)
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