Suez Canal Company

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Compagnie de Suez
Fate Merger with Lyonnaise des Eaux to form Suez S.A. (1997)
Successor GDF Suez (2008)
Founded 1859
Defunct 1997
Headquarters Ismaïlia
Key people
Ferdinand de Lesseps - founder
Participating certificate of the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez, issued 1. January 1889
Postcard depicting the Suez Canal Company headquarters

The Universal Maritime Suez Canal Company (French: Compagnie universelle du canal maritime de Suez, or simply Compagnie de Suez for short) was the corporation that constructed the Suez Canal between 1859 and 1869 and operated it until 1956. It was formed by Ferdinand de Lesseps in 1858, and it owned and operated the canal for many years thereafter. Initially, French private investors were the majority of the shareholders, with Egypt also having a significant stake.

The company exists today, after a series of mergers, as GDF Suez which became known as Engie in April, 2015. However, today the canal is owned and operated by the Suez Canal Authority.

General aspects[edit]

When Isma'il Pasha became Wāli of Egypt and Sudan in 1863, he refused to adhere to the concessions to the Canal company made by his predecessor Said. The problem was referred during 1864 to the arbitration of Napoleon III, who awarded £3,800,000 to the company as compensation for the losses they would incur by the changes to the original grant which Ismail demanded. During 1875, a financial crisis forced Isma'il to sell his shares to the British Government for only £3,976,582.[1]

The company operated the canal until its nationalization by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956, which led to the Suez Crisis. In 1962, Egypt made its final payments for the canal to the Universal Suez Ship Canal Company and took full control of the Suez Canal.[2]

In 1997, the company merged with Lyonnaise des Eaux to form Suez S.A., which was later merged with Gaz de France on 22 July 2008 to form GDF Suez.[3]


In 1938, Benito Mussolini demanded that Italy have a sphere of influence in the Suez Canal, specifically demanding that an Italian representative be placed on the company's board of directors.[4] Italy opposed the French monopoly over the Suez Canal because under French domination of the company all Italian merchant traffic to its colony of Italian East Africa was forced to pay tolls upon entering the canal.[4]

On 26 July 1956, the Egyptian government announced it intended to nationalize the Suez Company, owned by the French and the British, and also closed the canal to all Israeli shipping. This resulted in the Suez Crisis.

Presidents of the Suez Canal Company (1855-1956)[edit]

Before nationalisation:

Administrator of the Suez Canal Company[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Archived 2009-05-28 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Suez Canal Connects the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea
  3. ^ Patel, Tara (22 July 2008). "GDF Suez Shares Fall in Debut Following Merger". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
  4. ^ a b "French Army breaks a one-day strike and stands on guard against a land-hungry Italy", LIFE, 19 Dec 1938. Pp. 23.
  5. ^ Revue d'Auvergne, Volume 5, pg152

External links[edit]