Arabtec Holding PJSC: The bankrupt UAE company that deceived al-Sisi

In April 2014, Arabtec Holding (PJSC) CEO Hasan Abdullah Ismaik appeared in a famous photo with Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian Minister of Defence at that time, to announce the signing of an agreement providing for the establishment of the largest housing project in Egypt in cooperation with the Egyptian Armed Forces. At the time, the company said that the project cost EGP 280 billion, equivalent to $40 billion at that time, to be completed before 2020. To complete the deception, the Emirati company announced that it would immediately start building one million housing units in Egypt’s various governorates.

The Egyptian authorities claimed that these units would be allocated to low-income people, the poor, young newly-weds, small government employees, and other marginalised groups. The Egyptian and Emirati media promoted Arabtec, the largest construction company in the UAE and one of the largest real estate development companies in the Middle East, as one of them. The company, which was founded in 1975, employs more than 45,000 people. The company has contributed to building some of the most famous landmarks in the UAE, such as the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi, the Burj Khalifa (tower), the tallest in the world, and the UAE Pavilion at the site of the Expo 2020. That company practiced one of the biggest fraud operations that Egyptians faced about six years ago.

Moustafa Abdel Salam, writer, editor and economic journalist, said that the company had broken into the world of politics. Officers used it to mislead and deceive public opinion to win their electoral votes. He considered that financial stumbling, after which bankruptcy follows and then the exit from the market forever, was the natural end of that company, due to the pollution of its reputation and the reputation of those in charge of it, including shareholders and senior management, because the most important part of the balance of any company is its reputation and commitment to what it announces.

In an article published on The New Arab, he emphasised that Arabtec did not wait for legitimate questions from observers about how to manage the needs of this giant project and the huge costs amounting to $40 billion. Hasan Ismaik claimed at the time that all matters were arranged. The land of the project was provided free of charge by the Egyptian armed forces, and the UAE would provide the necessary funding for the project.

The Egyptian and Arab media outlets affiliated with the UAE were quick to promote the largest deception Arabtec practiced against Egyptians. Pro-regime media heralded, not only about resolving the stifling housing crisis that successive governments had failed to solve, but providing a housing unit for every citizen at a symbolic price that suits his income. Ahead of the Egyptian presidential elections in mid-2014, the media intensified news related to the One Million Apartments project. But after the presidential elections, the news about the largest housing project calmed down, until it disappeared completely.

The Egyptian media published news about the armed forces’ exit from the project and its assignment to the Egyptian Ministry of Housing to participate in its implementation in cooperation with the Emirati company. Observers considered that this step was a prelude to cancelling the issue and that the army was washing its hands of it. Years have passed since then, and Egyptians are waiting for the million-unit housing project to be launched. But everyone confirmed later that it was a mirage and just a deceitful operation to numb Egyptian people, and before that, the votes were harvested.

Arabtec Holding announced a few days ago that its shareholders voted at the general assembly meeting to submit a request to liquidate and dissolve the company, given the unstable financial conditions it witnessed following the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic. This decision came after the company achieved losses of 1.45 billion dirhams, accounting for 97.22 per cent of its capital of 1.5 billion dirhams.