KARACHI: Hyperstar — a joint venture between French multinational retailer Carrefour and Majid Al Futtaim Group of the United Arab Emirates — is going to open three more shopping malls in Pakistan.

The hypermarkets will be opened in Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad, said Pakistan-France Business Alliance (PFBA) CEO Jamil Hamdani during his address at the second Annual Trade Awards ceremony held on Friday night, without mentioning a specific date.

“Immense success of its two existing hypermarkets in Lahore and Karachi symbolises the vast potential that exists in this country for audacious and far-sighted foreign investment initiatives.” He also described the entry of the French carmaker Renault in Pakistan as a major breakthrough.

‘French Development Agency intends to increase financing up to 200m euros a year’

However, he admitted that the overall trade performance of the country for the last two fiscal years “is not a source of joy for us”. Pakistan’s exports fell by 8.6pc year-on-year in 2015-16, the weakest performance in the last eight years, said the CEO of PFBA, which aims to promote business and mutual understanding between the business communities of Pakistan and France.

He said French exports to Pakistan dropped 10.7pc last year while Pakistan exports to that country came down by 14.7pc. “The bilateral trade fell below the psychological threshold of $1 billion for the first time in four years to $810m (in 2015-16),” he said.

However, Ambassador of France to Pakistan Martine Dorance, who was chief guest on the occasion, said in her address that the first figures available for 2016 show a growing trend in trade with a 23pc growth in French exports to Pakistan and a 5pc increase in Pakistani exports to France. “Pakistan has now regained its place as France’s second (largest) partner in South Asia,” she said.

Ms Dorance said she was confident about the future of trade relationship between the two countries as some major contracts have been awarded to French companies, mainly in the sectors of power generation. “French equipment will be supplied next year to major power plants — in Mangla, Haveli and Balloki — as well as to Engro Powergen coal plant.

She also informed the participants that French Development Agency (AFD) intends to significantly increase the amount of its commitments to Pakistan from a yearly average of 50m euros to 150m-200m euros by diversifying the sectors that it is financing, including power generation and transmission, water and sanitation and budget assistance.

Moreover, after Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s recent visit to France, it has been decided that the Pakistan-France Administrative, Economic and Trade Committee would be upgraded to a Joint Ministerial Commission, “a clear sign of our mutual interest in developing economic relations”, Ms Dorance said. After this decision, the beginning of the next year should see the visit to Pakistan of French Minister of Economy and Finance Michel Sapin, she said.

France’s presence as an investor has also recently grown in Pakistan. Total and its local partner Parco have finalised the acquisition of the Chevron’s service station network in a $160m transaction conducted in July last year, Ms Dorance said. Some of the largest French companies are now established in Pakistan, with their combined assets valued at more than $1bn. These companies collectively employ around 5,000 people.During the ceremony, awards were given in 18 product categories, including home textiles, pharmaceuticals, information technology, surgical goods and telecom. Head of the French Economic Department Philippe Fouet also spoke on the occasion.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2016



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