Egypt’s Sawiris is looking for battery metals and awaiting gold concessions

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The Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris speaks during an interview with Reuters in Sharm el-Sheikh in South Sinai Governorate south of Cairo, March 15, 2015. REUTERS / Amr Abdallah Dalsh

DUBAI, Nov. 10 (Reuters) – Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris said Wednesday he wants to diversify his interests into coveted battery metals and is confident that five new gold prospecting and mining concessions will soon be approved in Egypt.

Its gold fund has agreed to sell its controlling stake in Golden Star Resources Ltd, one of three gold companies under its control, to the Chinese Chifeng Jilong Gold Mining Co Ltd (600988.SS). The Chinese company said on Nov. 1 it had agreed to buy Golden Star for $ 291 million.

“The new money and the money from the sale will be reinvested,” Sawiris told Reuters in an interview at a real estate fair in Dubai. “We’re trying to diversify a little into other metals near gold. We’re looking at nickel and zinc and titanium and lithium battery materials.”

“So the Fund will look into these opportunities as well, and we will continue to do its traditional job of acquiring gold investments and building them into much larger companies.”

Sawiris, one of Egypt’s richest men, changed the structure of his La Mancha gold mining company this summer to bring other investors into the $ 1.4 billion fund.

In the hope of unleashing vast untapped natural resources, the Egyptian government revised its mining regulations last year to make prospecting more attractive to investors. Continue reading

This included removing a law requiring exploration and mining companies to form joint ventures with the government and capping state royalties at 20%.

Sawiris, one of the world’s leading gold investors, said he hoped the cost of renting land during exploration would also be addressed.

“Investors are willing to pay once they have a fund because they know they have income,” he said.

The London-listed company Altus Strategies (ALS.L) owned by Sawiris was in a first round of tenders by the government in one of eleven 82 exploration blocks awarded in Egypt. Read more In a second round this year, five more concession areas were offered.

“That means our appetites are very open. Our companies are very optimistic,” said Sawiris.

He was also optimistic about Sudan, one of Africa’s largest gold producers, which is trying to earn much-needed foreign exchange by cracking down on illegal mining and opening up trade in the precious metal.

“We are not afraid of the political risks or the turmoil there and are very interested in them,” said Sawiris.

“Of course the government has to be there and prepare all the necessary investment laws and all concessions. But that’s one of our main areas.”

Letter from Patrick Werr; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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