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Britain’s BG Group Plc has closed a US$949mn financing transaction for an Egyptian liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant and expects banks to issue the first funds by mid May.

“Achieving financial close and using the drawdown notice paves the way for the lending banks to release the first tranche of funds (about US$600mn) to the project and its shareholders,” BG says in a statement.

“The funds are expected to be released by mid-May,” it claims, adding production from the first LNG gas processing unit, or train, was expected in the third quarter of 2005.

The debt facilities comprise a US$154mn loan facility from Egyptian banks, a US$795mn international credit facility, consisting of a US$417mn international loan facility, a US$189mn European Investment Bank (EIB) Article 18 loan guarantee facility, and a US$189mn EIB Euromed loan guarantee facility.

The international mandated lead arrangers are ANZ Investment Bank (insurance bank), Arab Petroleum Investments Corp (regional bookrunner), Bayerische Landesbank, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi (global coordinating bank and global facility agent), Credit Lyonnais (modelling and technical bank), HSBC Bank (co-ordinating bookrunner), Banca Intesa, Royal Bank of Canada (documentation bank), Royal Bank of Scotland (bookrunner), Sanpaolo IMI, Societe Generale (bookrunner) and WestLB (sales escrow account bank).

The Egyptian mandated lead arrangers are Commercial International Bank (Egypt) (Egyptian coordinating bank), Misr International Bank and National Societe Generale Bank.

Executive vice-president of the Mediterranean Basin and Africa Stuart Fysh says: “The ELNG Train One project will help catapult Egypt into the top seven global LNG exporters by 2006.”

BG is a 35.5% shareholder in ELNG – Egyptian LNG Holding Co.

The other ELNG shareholders are Malaysia’s Petronas with 35.5%, state-owned firms Egyptian General Petroleum Corp and Egyptian National Gas Holding Company (EGAS) each with 12% and Gaz de France with 5%.

The first train and a second train also under construction will together be able to produce 3.6mn tonnes of LNG per year.

Egypt has proven gas reserves of 62tn cu feet.