DETROIT — A number of international companies have suspended operations in Egypt as days of violent street battles make the streets of Cairo unsafe.
General Motors, Electrolux, Royal Dutch Shell, Heineken, Toyota, Suzuki, BASF and others shut down facilities and told thousands of workers to stay home during unrest that had left more 700 people dead as of late Friday.
“This was a precautionary safety measure to ensure employees would not be exposed to risks traveling to and from work,” Daniel Frykholm, a spokesman for Swedish appliance-maker Electrolux, said in an email. The company, which has about 6,700 workers in Egypt, asked employees to stay home Wednesday and Thursday. Friday and Saturday are the Egyptian weekend, and the company will decide Saturday evening if it’s safe enough to resume normal operations, Frykholm said.
Royal Dutch Shell closed its offices Thursday. They will remain shuttered through Saturday. The company also restricted employee travel. It was unclear whether Shell’s main-production facility, a joint venture with Badr El-Din Petroleum, had been closed.
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General Motors’ Egyptian operations will remain shut indefinitely, including a plant in the Cairo suburb of 6th of October City, where it makes cars, light trucks and minibuses. The automaker has about 1,400 workers in Egypt.
In Cairo, German retail giant Metro closed its headquarters, and its only two grocery stores in the capital were shuttered Friday, a spokesman for the Düsseldorf company confirmed.
Amsterdam-based beer-maker Heineken scaled back its six Egyptian breweries to minimum staff Wednesday and increased security. It also sent office workers home near Cairo. The company, which has about 2,200 workers in Egypt, reported no incidents at any of its operations.
“Based on today’s security assessment our operations in Egypt will remain mostly closed (Saturday), with the exception of the distribution centers in the tourist areas at the Red Sea,” spokesman John-Paul Schuirink said in an email.
The chemical company BASF temporarily closed its manufacturing facilities and offices. BASF has been operating in Egypt for about 60 years and produces chemicals used in construction at a plant in the Cairo suburb of Sadat City.
IHS Automotive analyst Paul Newton in London said that Toyota and Suzuki also halted Egyptian production. Because of the unstable political situation, the forecasting company predicted that light-vehicle production in Egypt would fall almost 8 percent this year, with sales dropping nearly 4 percent.
Egypt is one of the largest vehicle-manufacturing centers in Africa, Newton said.