ROME: Egyptian telecoms tycoon Naguib Sawiris and French-Tunisian financier Tarak Ben Ammar unveiled a 100-million euro ($129-million) partnership to produce and distribute films and television programmes in the Arab world and internationally.

Under the deal, Sawiris will buy a 30 per cent stake in Ben Ammar’s Italy’s based Quinta Communications Italia, which made the announcement in a press release timed to coincide with the start of the Cannes film festival in France.

Sawiris and Ben Ammar are also planning to buy out companies in the media sector, the statement said.

The move is the latest deal between the two telecoms and media magnates after Ben Ammar announced last year that he was buying the ONTV Egyptian television network from Sawiris. Ammar already controls Nessma TV in Tunisia.

The first joint project between Sawiris and Ben Ammar will be the Arab-language thriller “Beretta” which is based in Cairo and is being written and directed by Qatari filmmaker Sophia Al-Maria.

The statement said the movie was the first Arab action film in recent memory with a female lead and likened it to the heroines in “Nikita” by Luc Besson or “Kill Bill” by Quentin Tarantino.

Shooting begins in Cairo and Tunis in September.

“I have always loved cinema and television,” Sawiris, a billionaire, was quoted as saying. “With Tarak I have finally found a partner with whom to realise this dream,” he said.

Ben Ammar said “Beretta” would be “an iconic film”.

“The alliance between Tarak Ben Ammar and Naguib Sawiris heralds a union of two centres of power of the Arab world which is living through a period of profound political and cultural change,” the statement said.

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