The construction of three hypermarkets in Egypt is expected to begin soon by the Middle East franchise holder of French giant Carrefour, Majid Al Futtaim (MAF). Plans are in place to develop 13 to 15 more stores within the next decade, according to senior executives at MAF.

"Our objective is to have 13 to 15 Carrefours LE including the first three LE in Egypt, based in economically viable regions of Cairo and Alexandria," explained MAF business development and commercial operations general manager, Mohammed Galal.

The earliest opening will be that of Alexandria Carrefour, penned for October next year. The other sites, at Cairo's Ring Road and Heliopolis will be operational by 2002 and 2003 respectively.

Some have questioned the ambitious plans in light of the insurmountable difficulties faced by the Sainsbury supermarket operator, which eventually sent the company home to the UK. Galal revealed however: "Sainsbury had UK problems and decided to cut off its global investments. It has nothing to do with the Egyptian market."

MAF is hoping that its strategy to focus on the middle classes (which make up 60% of the Egyptian population) and strong brand will ensure the venture's success.