The conversion brings clear advantages for the lenders by formalizing the terms of the loans under English law. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
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Egypt's billionaire brothers Naguib and Samih Sawiris and a small steel importer named Mohammad are unlikely allies in the mounting opposition to how policymakers are handling the nation's foreign-currency shortage. Efforts to crack down on the black market and conserve dwindling foreign currency reserves are forcing Mohammad to break the law to secure dollars to keep his business afloat. The two billionaires, with interests in industries from telecoms to tourism, say the government's failure to address concerns over the exchange rate and the dollar crunch have kept investors away from a country struggling to recover after four years of unrest.The clash over how to resolve the crisis is pitting some of Egypt's most influential businessmen against the central bank and government officials backed by President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who instructed authorities this month to cut imports of "unnecessary" goods.At $16.3 billion, reserves are enough to cover about three months of merchandise imports.The central bank has placed various curbs on the supply of dollars, including giving priority to importers of vital goods. Currency exchange offices with branches in Gulf countries are the current method of choice, he said. Egyptian expats there exchange dollars for pounds at preferential rates; currency traders then deposit those dollars on behalf of the importers they're dealing with in Egypt.
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