Egyptian tycoon Mohamed Abul-Enein intends to liquidate his business interests in the country, citing the 'stress' brought on by repeated labour disputes with his employees, Ahram's Arabic-language news site reported on Wednesday.
Abul-Enein is the owner of Cleopatra Ceramics, a major player in the Middle East ceramics industry which has been hit by a wave of labour unrest following Mubarak's ouster in February 2011.
Such protests, staged to win improvements in wages and conditions, are now causing Abul-Enein to close his factories and liquidate his investments, letting him concentrate on his personal life, according to a statement from the Cleopatra Group's media department.
Company employees, however, accused the Cleopatra founder of spreading the news of imminent closures to make them fear for their jobs and rethink their ongoing protests.
For his part, Ahmed Salah, the deputy head of the workers syndicate at the company's Suez factory, said employees would "welcome" Abul-Enein's decision if could lead to the nationalisation of the firm's factories, located in Suez and 10th Ramadan City.
Khaled Ali, former presidential contender and head of the Centre for Economic and Social Rights, also weighed in on the decision, saying Abul-Enein had "no right" to close his factories, which are making considerable profits. Ali suggested that shutting successful production could be tantamount to unfair dismissal for the company's thousands of employees, and that the move would need the approval of Egypt's Ministry of Manpower.
Hundreds of disgruntled Cleopatra workers blocked the streets in front of Egypt's High Court in downtown Cairo last Thursday in order to reiterate longstanding labour grievances.
Egyptian prosecutor-general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud issued a travel ban on Abul-Enein, Egypt's state news agency MENA reported the same day.
Abul-Enein faces charges of unjustly sacking factory workers and failing to pay them their rightful salaries.
In March, around 4,000 of the 6,000 workers employed at the Cleopatra factory in Ain Sokhna, Suez launched a strike to demand salary increases, bonus payments and a share of company profits.
In May, factory operations were suspended for 12 days after company management stopped providing free transportation for workers. In response, around 4,000 employees staged a sit-in before the Suez governor's office.
Abul-Enein dubbed the labour protests as "artificial", saying they were against all laws and rules.
Established in 1983, Cleopatra Ceramics claims to export more than 100 countries and employ around 20,000 people. Its Ain Sokhna factory is one of the largest ceramics plants in the Middle East.