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Kingdom says still owns Egypt land

Presents suggestions for a settlement

Gulf News

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Holding said yesterday it had not given up contested land in southern Egypt and had spoken to Egypt's public prosecutor about a settlement.

"Kingdom Holding did not give up the land in the Toshka project and still owns it... and it has not been confiscated by any party," the firm, majority owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, said in a bourse statement.

The statement comes four days after the Egyptian state news agency said that Al Waleed had given up a claim to the land in Egypt.

Egypt's public prosecutor has been investigating business transactions and the finances of officials under former president Hosni Mubarak since mass protests forced him out of office on February 11.

The land is part of a project to pump water from Egypt's Aswan High Dam reservoir and deliver it via a 50km canal to reclaimed farmland 60km from the border with Sudan.

Al Waleed's Kingdom Agricultural Development Co (Kadco) bought 420 million square metres at Toshka in 1998, soon after the project was begun.

The deal was signed by agricultural minister at the time, Yousuf Wali.

A spokesman for the public prosecutor said the deal violated Egyptian law because the area bought by Kadco was twice the legal limit and the transaction improperly exempted the firm from all taxes.

Options

Kingdom Holding suggested three options which it presented to the public prosecutor to reach a settlement.

The first option was giving up the land on condition of receiving compensation for all expenses spent on the project over past years.

The second option was to give up 50,000 feddans (1 feddan is equivalent to 4,200 square metres) which it will return to the government at the price it bought it for, 50 Egyptian pounds (Dh30.75) per feddan, while keeping the other 50,000 feddans for the company.

The third option is to offer the company in an initial public offering (IPO) in order to allow the Egyptian people to invest in the project.

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