Egyptian billionaire offers to build 100,000 housing units in Pakistan

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The $2 billion Eighteen project launched in 2017 will be ready by year 2021. (Photo illustration by Eighteen)
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Pakistan’s housing sector offers great opportunities for investment due to rising demand. (AN photo)
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A view of under construction housing project in port city of Karachi. The demand for new housing unit is increasing with the growing population. (AN photo)
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Tarek Hamdy, CEO of Elite Estates, says the Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris is ready to build affordable housing units in Pakistan. (AN photo)
Updated 18 January 2019

Egyptian billionaire offers to build 100,000 housing units in Pakistan

  • Plan to construct 5mn housing units requires Rs17tr, State Bank says
  • Group is already investing in a housing project in Islamabad

KARACHI: Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has offered to build 100,000 housing units in Pakistan to help realize Prime Minister Imran Khan’s dream of an ‘ambitious’ housing project, officials said on Friday.
“Naguib Sawiris has expressed his will to invest in 100,000 units of affordable housing to help prime minister (Imran Khan) in his vision toward Pakistan,” Tarek Hamdy, Chief Executive officer of Elite Estates — a partnership between Ora Developer and Saif Holding — told Arab News in an exclusive interview. 
Owned by Sawiris, Ora Developers is already engaged in the construction of a multibillion-dollar housing scheme named ‘Eighteen’ which was launched in 2017 in Islamabad with local partners, Saif Group and Kohistan Builders.
Sawiris’ first investment in Pakistan was in Mobilink, a cellular operator.
PM Khan in October 2018 had launched ‘Naya’ (New) Pakistan Housing Project in line with his party’s election manifesto, which promised fivr million houses for the poor.
Hamdy says they have “set rules or guidelines of the way of doing things” that apply to every real estate projects — whether they are affordable or high value units.
“We will use our experience and knowhow to deliver this properly to the people of Pakistan,” he added.
Since the announcement of the low-cost housing project for the poor, the scheme has been at the heart of all political and economic discourses with several calling it too ambitious.
“This scheme is very ambitious yet very promising for the people of Pakistan. I think all the developers should help in this scheme. You cannot solely rely on the government to build five million houses,” Hamdy said. 
Recently, the governor of Pakistan’s central bank had said that the massive housing project would require financing of upto Rs 17 trillion.
Hamdy believes that the promise of building five million affordable housing units cannot be realized in a short span of time. “I think the plan is right but it has to be in stages, has to be in steps. It could be achievable obviously that is not the project (to be achieved) in one or two years... may take few good years, may be couple of decades to be achieved,” he said.
In the Islamabad project the Ora Developers own a 60 percent stake in the project comprising a five-star hotel, 1,068 housing units, 921 residential apartments, business parks, hospitals, schools and other educational facilities and 13 office buildings, and a golf course. The networth of the project is $2 billion.
The next cities on the radar for real estate projects are Lahore, Karachi, and Faisalabad. “We intend to do more, we intend to invest more. I think that our portfolio of real estate could come to $10 billion worth of investments in the next five to 10 years including all the projects that we intent to do,” Hamdy said.
Pakistan’s housing sector is marred by frauds, scams and unfinished schemes which has been discouraging many potential investors from venturing into the sector. However, Hamdy says he is confident of delivering the promise by 2021.
Analysts say that Pakistan’s housing sector offers great opportunities for investment due to increasing demand. “According to estimates, the current real estate market value is around Rs900 billion which is three times that of the GDP,” Saad Hashmey, an analyst at Topline Securities, told Arab News, adding that the PM’s housing project is the need of the hour.
Pakistan faces a shortage of nearly 12 million housing units that may require a massive investment of around $180 billion, according to the former Chairman of the Association of Builders and Developers, Arif Yousuf Jeewa.
Pakistan expects to attract more than $40 billion foreign direct investment in the next five years in oil refining, petrochemical, mining, renewable energy, and real estate sectors. “We estimate that roughly around $40 billion investment will be made by three countries (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and China) during the next three to five years,” Pakistan Board of Investment BoI chief, Haroon Sharif had told Arab News earlier, adding that “the investment would start materializing within the next two years”.


Soybean dust 'likely cause' of Karachi toxic gas deaths — officials

Updated 18 February 2020

Soybean dust 'likely cause' of Karachi toxic gas deaths — officials

  • 14 people have died since Sunday night, 350 have been hospitalized
  • Pakistan State Oil temporarily closes its storage terminals in Kiamari

KARACHI: Authorities on Tuesday said that soybean dust was the likely cause of toxic gas that killed 14 and left over 300 others sick in Pakistan’s portside city of Karachi since Sunday night.
“Preliminary report has been submitted by experts at Khi (Karachi) Uni (university) which suggests that Kiamari incident happened due to over exposure of soybean dust which is known to have also caused similar incidents in other parts of the world,” Murtaza Wahab, spokesperson of the Sindh government tweeted late Tuesday.
“This soybean is in a shipment docked at Khi Port,” he added.
The report by the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), which was sent to Karachi’s commissioner and is available to Arab News, read that the deaths were caused soybean dust exposure.
“The symptoms due to exposure to soybean dust (aeroallergens) may be considered as the possible cause,” the report stated, urging bronchodilator and anti-histamine treatment for the patients and extreme care while uploading soybean containers.
The report said that soybean dust exposure-related epidemics have been reported in other parts of the world with associated morbidity and mortality.

Earlier, a government source told Arab News that the incident occurred during unloading of soybeans on Saturday evening at berth 12 of Karachi Port Trust (KPT) after MV Hercules arrived from the US. The unloading created dust which made its way toward Jackson area of Karachi’s Kiamari municipality.
According to sources, MV Hercules was fumigated on Jan. 8 at Cargill grain reserve Los Angeles, US after loading onboard with 56 degree aluminum phosphide “using one of approved methods.”
The breathing of aluminum phosphide can irritate the nose, throat and lungs causing coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath whereas repeated exposure may damage the lungs, kidneys and liver. Aluminum phosphide reacts with water or moisture to release highly toxic and flammable phosphine gas, the sources said, adding that “It is likely that exposure to particles of aluminum phosphide may have created problems for individuals passing by at that time and such unfortunate incident.”
Meanwhile, health officials said the death toll from the poisonous gas leak has reached 14.
“At least 14 people have died in four different hospitals of the city,” Dr. Zafar Mehdi, spokesperson of the health department said, adding that over 350 others have been impacted and needed treatment.
Officials at Ziauddin Hospital, where most of the affected persons were brought, said they received over a hundred patients on Sunday night, of whom four died.
“There was lull during the day and then again over a hundred visited the hospital, indicating that the gas impacts go high during humidity at night,” Amir Shehzad, spokesperson of the health facility, told Arab News.
Meanwhile, spokesperson of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) said his company had closed operations at Kiamari storage terminals.
“PSO has temporarily closed its storage terminals in the Kiamari, Karachi due to health and safety reasons. The operations on this location will resume as soon as the area is deemed safe for the company’s staff and contractors to operate.”
“There will be as such no impact of this temporary closure on supply of POL products within Karachi, and in upcountry locations. PSO has sufficient stock available, with backup supply arrangements already in place to ensure an uninterrupted supply of the POL products,” spokesperson told Arab News.