CAIRO: The government holding company that owns Egypt Aluminum Co. (Egyptalum) is looking for an investment agreement to be signed next spring in which U.S. producer Alcoa may buy a majority share in the company, says a government official. Alcoa and Egyptalum on Aug. 11 signed a preliminary agreement for Alcoa to form a strategic partnership with Egyptalum. "We are looking for an agreement that will be convenient to both parties," says Wadie Mishreky, an official with the Holding Company for Metallurgical Industries, which owns 93% of Egyptalum. The other 7% was sold on the Egyptian stock exchange in 1998. Egyptalum has been hurt by declining world aluminum prices over the last two years. In January 1998, when the holding company decided to offer shares of Egyptalum to the public on the stock exchange, a plan to sell 10% of the company's shares had to be revised downward to 7% due to a lack of interest. The 7% stake sold for about 223 million pounds (US$65.4 million). Mishreky says that Egyptalum has been regaining some of its lost ground in 1999, but he notes low aluminum prices continue to hurt profits, and recovery is not expected until 2000. The company operates an 180,000 tonne per year primary aluminum smelter, rolling mill, and soft-alloy extrusion facility.