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CAIRO: Egypt’s state companies have been enjoying robust earnings, official data shows, acting as a growth driver and eclipsing the private sector despite IMF-inspired reforms to restructure the economy.

Data published for the first time by the finance ministry gives a glimpse of how numerous state companies have prospered over the last few years, while investment in the private sector has languished. Revenue at 17 non-oil, state-run holding companies more than doubled over three years to 60.64 billion Egyptian pounds ($3.88 billion) in 2018/19, according to Reuters calculations. The calculations were based on the companies’ latest available results, published on the finance ministry’s website late last year. Net profit after tax at the 17 holding companies - which together control about 180 smaller companies - more than quadrupled over the three-year period, the data shows.

Egypt’s economy was growing at nearly 6% before COVID-19 struck and economists say state-led activity has helped cushion the blow from the pandemic. By contrast, private-sector activity as a whole - excluding the oil sector - expanded in only five of the 36 months from July 2016 to June 2019, according to IHS Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI).

Foreign direct investment in Egypt rose to $8.24 billion in 2018/19 from $6.93 billion in 2015/16, according to central bank figures, but much of this was in the thriving oil and gas sector.

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