Interview with: Mohamed Nasser, Managing Partner, Mohamed Nasser Law Firm

Mohamed Nasser Law Firm | View firm profile

Egypt has been the top destination for Foreign Direct Investments in the Middle East during the last 5 years, harvesting an impressive $124.5 billion worth of projects between January 2015 and December 2019.  The country accounted for 35.2% of the $340 Billion invested in the region throughout this period. In total, 476 new projects, or 10.9 percent of total foreign projects, in the Arab world, were launched in Egypt during this period of time. Mr. Mohamed Nasser, founder of Mohamed Nasser & Partners Law Firm in Egypt, shed light on the legal aspects which are encouraging foreign investors to direct their investments to his home country.

What has changed in the laws in Egypt to encourage foreign investments?

2017 witnessed massive changes in investments laws in Egypt which made investment in Egypt more lucrative and profitable for businesses, multinationals, and investors from all over the world. According to the new regulations, a foreign investor can now, under the name of his company, own real estate such as lands, factories, and buildings. Additional incentives and tax exemptions are now granted for most investment sectors. In addition, the management now can be comprised of 100% foreign professionals without the requirement of having an Egyptian partner or manager on board. As an example, one of my clients is a Dutch agricultural company called Rjik Zwaan, they are the third largest producer of agricultural seeds in the world. Upon the change of the law, and their enablement to buy land, I recommended they buy a big plot of land to use as their experimental greenhouse, where they test new seeds. It has become their hub that serves the GCC and the Middle East.

Which sectors are offered better incentives and tax exemptions?

 All sectors are benefiting from the new law, each with its unique set of terms and conditions, yet there is no industry that has not witnessed a positive change in its laws. As an example, there are tax exemptions for food related industries such as poultry, livestock, and fish up till 10 years. The establishments of malls, residential projects, education such as the establishment of schools and universities, tourism related industries such as hotels and restaurants, power and energy and technology and communications each has its own set of incentives and exemptions, which are a positive step to facilitate investments in these sectors.

Has the Egyptian market witnessed a rise in mergers and acquisitions?

There has been a rise in the number of successful Egyptian startups in addition to the already established businesses, this created a larger number of mergers and acquisitions in the market which also led to further regulations that protect the benefits, stocks, and transition of power between companies. Egypt’s merger and acquisition transaction value have witnessed an outstanding increase of %400 in the first half of 2021, despite the pandemic. This number was from 111 deals totaling more than 4 billion dollars in value, putting Egypt right on top as the most popular country in the Middle East for inbound M&A from foreign investors.

 How can a company benefit from investing in Egypt?

The manpower in Egypt is affordable in comparison with its counterparts in other countries. The new laws facilitated the establishment of companies and even if foreign personnel are needed, their residency and work permits have become a very simple task. There are two free zones as well, that can be of great value to specific industries. As a very small example, one of my clients, a Saudi oil and gas corporation; were seeking to cut labor costs. I recommended they simply relocate only two of their departments, the IT and finance, to be based in Egypt, which eventually saved them millions of dollars.

What are the advantages of the free zones?

Egypt has two special economic zones, the Suez Canal Economic Zone and the Golden Triangle Economic Zone.

Their system includes incentives and guarantees, including a standard personal income tax tariff of 5%.  Characterized by integrated customs management, tax administration, investor dispute resolution unit, project licensing center, in addition to public services for investors, projects established within the economic zones benefit from Egyptian certificates of origin for exporters, allowing them to take advantage of international trade agreements signed with Egypt and access to several foreign markets. Additional privileges, subject to terms and conditions, can be obtained such as the country bearing part of the cost of technical training for employees, a refund of half of the value of land allocated to industrial projects if production begins within two years of the date of delivery of the land, and allocation of free land for some strategic industries.

What is the correct procedure for investors to start a business in Egypt?

Of course after they have decided on the industry they want to venture in, they should get a law firm that would handle their procedures and give them the correct and sound advice on the best way to benefit from exemptions and incentives the laws offer to their industry. The law firm will handle the process starting from the establishment procedures of their company, choosing the appropriate type of company that best suits their needs, due diligence when required for mergers and acquisitions, work permits and residencies for foreign employees, registration of land and other forms of real estate, employee contracts and benefiting from labor law.