Egypt's Suez Canal welcomes foreign investment but foreigners would have no control over the waterway or over a proposed fund that would help to manage its resources, the head of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said on Thursday.
SCA Chairman Osama Rabie was speaking to reporters after legal amendments providing for the fund were discussed in parliament this week, triggering speculation they would open the door to selling stakes in the canal to foreigners.
The fund, under discussion for several years, was designed to guard the canal's resources for reinvestment, as well as to help it face unexpected challenges or crises, Rabie told a press conference.
"We cannot sell the canal or rent it. It is the property of Egypt and the Egyptians," Rabie said, referring to lives lost during the construction of the canal in the 1860s.
The fund would be separate from the SCA, which already works with foreign companies to develop projects, Rabie said. "The investor will come in connection with the project that is being done, they will not come to the fund."
The cabinet also denied this week that the fund was a "back door to selling the canal".
Egypt is trying to drum up foreign and private sector investment, especially from hydrocarbon-rich Gulf states, to help address a hard currency shortage that has hampered imports and slowed some economic activity.
The canal, the quickest sea route between Asia and Europe, is a major earner of foreign exchange for Egypt and is expecting revenues of $8 billion during the fiscal year that ends in June.
Former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal in 1956, which led to a failed British invasion, is seen as one of the modern Egyptian state's major achievements.
(Reutres - Reporting by Nadine Awadalla, Aidan Lewis and Amal AbbasEditing by Mark Potter and Barbara Lewis)