In a meeting held on Sunday morning, the Egyptian parliament’s industry committee urged the cabinet of Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly not to sell the Eastern Tobacco Company.
The committee, led by MP Farag Amer, said the state-owned Eastern Tobacco Company serves the strategic interests of the Egyptian economy.
“The privatisation of this company in terms of selling its shares in the stock market is a very dangerous step,” the committee said in a statement, adding that “the sale of the company could reinforce the hold of monopolisers” on the national economy.
The government recently implemented a programme to sell stakes in publically owned Egyptian companies. The programme started by offering 4.5 percent of Eastern Tobacco company's shares on the stock market.
The statement came after three MPs submitted three briefing requests amid reports that the government intends to sell more shares in the Eastern Tobacco Company in the upcoming days.
The head of the Holding Company for Chemical Industries, the parent company of the Eastern Tobacco Company, attended the briefing discussions.
Abdel-Hamid Kamal, a leftist MP, said the 100-year-old Eastern Tobacco Company is a giant company.
“It is the exclusive producer of tobacco products in Egypt,” said Kamal, adding that it is also a major exporter, generating EGP 70 billion in national revenues, in addition to EGP 4 billion in annual net profits.
MPs Inas Abdel-Halim and Tarek Metwalli also said the government should do more to streamline operations in the company rather than put it up for sale on the stock market.
“The tobacco market in Egypt is a very big and profitable one, and the sale of the company could make it fall at the hands of a handful of monopolisers,” said Metwalli.