Tuesday, 25 January 2022

AM — Tourism is back

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, wonderful people, and happy hump day. What are you doing this morning to stay warm? Most of us here at Enterprise World Headquarters believe this is the coldest winter any of us have lived through in our fair country, and it seems we’re not alone: Many readers we’ve spoken with in the past few days share the sentiment.

PSA #1- If you think it’s cold this morning, wait for tomorrow. Our favorite weather app is telling us to expect a daytime high of just 11°C on Wednesday along with stiff winds and a chance of up to 5 mm of rain.

Complaining about the weather aside: It’s a busy news morning here and abroad, including word from loyalty services provider Dsquares that it is not planning to SPAC, contrary to a report by Al Shorouk that we noted yesterday. And yesterday was another wild day on Wall Street, as shares clawed their way back from a steep selloff earlier in the day. You can practically hear the bears salivating. We have chapter and verse on these stories and more below.

*** DID YOU MISS THE RESULTS OF OUR 2021 ENTERPRISE READER SURVEY? The emergence of the delta and omicron variants, supply chain issues, and surging commodity prices did little to put a damper on business, with the vast majority of you saying 2021 was a good year. Optimism is the prevailing sentiment as we push ahead with 2022, with most respondents signaling plans to increase investments this year and suggesting they see their companies faring better than the competition. Tap / click here to see the full results.

We’ll be announcing on Sunday the names of eight readers who we’re inviting to breakfast when this current wave of the pandemic eases. And speaking of the pandemic: There’s growing optimism among some global health officials that omicron could indeed mark “ plausible hope for stabilization and normalization.” In other words: It may signal that things are starting to wind down.

PSA #2- It’s a four-day workweek: The Manpower Ministry confirmed that the private sector will be taking this Thursday off in observance of the 25 January Revolution / Police Day. The central bank and Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly have in recent days announced that banks and the public sector will have the day off — and banks closing means the EGX will be following suit.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

It’s the second and final day of a virtual conference on this year’s COP27 climate summit in Sharm El Sheikh. Day 2 will see sessions on water security, renewable energy and green technology, attended by representatives of American multinationals, US policymakers and Egyptian cabinet ministers. The event is being hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce in association with AmCham. Check out the full agenda here.

The headlines coming out of Day 1:

  • US climate envoy John Kerry warned that the world is “in trouble” and urged governments to step up their efforts to reduce emissions. (Reuters)
  • Egypt will use this year’s summit to promote the role of public-private partnerships in the green transition, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly said. (MENA)
  • Egypt wants to take a lead role mobilizing finance and distributing clean tech to other developing countries, said foreign minister and COP27 president Sameh Shoukry. (Reuters | Ahram Online)

Nahr Elkhair Development and Investment’s shares are set to start trading on the EGX today after the bourse gave the green light yesterday. The company will directly list its shares on the bourse, without selling shares to investors, according to Al Shorouk.

The IMF’s World Economic Outlook Update will be published today. The report was scheduled to be released last week, but its publication was pushed to give it time to incorporate the latest omicron-related developments.

The report will come out a few hours before the US Federal Reserve sits down for its first Open Market Committee meeting of 2022. The two-day meeting is widely expected to see the Fed confirm that it will make the first in a series of 0.25-percentage-point interest rate hikes in March, as the US central bank looks to curb rising inflation. The Central Bank of Egypt will follow with its own Monetary Policy Committee meeting next Thursday, 3 February.

The presidents of Egypt and Algeria will meet today. Expect regional issues including Libya and Palestine to be high on the agenda, according to last night’s talk shows.


THE BIG STORIES ABROAD-

Geopolitical tensions are continuing to rise in eastern Europe as the US + Nato mobilize military forces to counter Russia. The US has put 8.5k troops on alert and Nato is sending ships and fighter jets to eastern Europe in response to Russia’s military build-up on the Ukrainian border. The story is everywhere this morning from Reuters and the AP to the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.

It’s still not clear where Europe stands: Though the US and Nato have been pressing for a united front among Western nations, it’s far from certain what actions Berlin and Paris are prepared to support, given the economic and security risks involved. Yesterday, Germany again refused to follow the US and UK in shipping arms into Ukraine, while EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell suggested that Washington and London were “dramatizing” the situation by evacuating the families of diplomats in Kiev. And while the EU threatened Moscow with “massive sanctions” yesterday, there were no details about what actions it could take.

How could conflict in the Donbas impact Egypt’s food security? We have answers in this morning’s news well, below.

Helping us remember the (much) bigger picture today: Nasa’s super-powerful new telescope has arrived in position, roughly 1 mn miles from Earth, a month after it was launched into space, the US space agency announced yesterday. The James Webb Space Telescope is around 100x more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble telescope, and is expected to provide us with a glimpse of some of the earliest moments of the universe — and maybe even help answer the question “Are we alone in this universe?” The story is getting coverage everywhere from Reuters and the AP to the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

(MUCH) CLOSER TO HOME- Hariri will sit out Lebanon’s upcoming elections: Saad Al Hariri, former Lebanese prime minister and current leader of the country’s largest Sunni political party, yesterday announced he was stepping away from politics and would not stand in the country’s May parliamentary elections, Reuters reports. Hariri also called on his Future Movement party to boycott the polls. Lebanon yesterday began virtual talks with the IMF on potential funding to help it claw its way out of a deep economic crisis.

MARKET WATCH- It was a wild day’s trading in the US yesterday as benchmark indexes made a stunning recovery from a heavy morning sell-off to close in the black. Reeling from anticipated interest rate hikes in the US and rising geopolitical tensions in Europe, the S&P 500 fell as much as 4% early in the session — putting it in correction territory — while the tech-heavy Nasdaq continued its downward spiral, at one point nearing -5%. Cue the dip-buyers, who stepped in early in the afternoon and led the market to an extraordinary reversal that saw the S&P close 0.3% in the black and the Nasdaq gain 0.6%. Bloomberg and the Financial Times have more.

Asian markets aren’t impressed with the US rally this morning: Shares across the continent are in the red in early trading this morning, as are European futures which suggest that yesterday’s hefty sell-off will continue into today. Meanwhile in the US, stocks are currently on course to reverse yesterday’s hard-fought gains in early trading, with futures pointing to the S&P 500, Dow Jones and Nasdaq all opening in the red.

Could earnings seasons halt the tech slide? Investors will be hoping that US tech giants avoid Netflix’s dismal earnings release and provide some market uplift when they publish their financials this week. Microsoft is up today, Meta / Facebook and Tesla publish tomorrow, and it’s Apple’s turn on Thursday. Google parent Alphabet (1 February) and Amazon (3 February) aren’t expected to report until next week.

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*** It’s Going Green day — your weekly briefing of all things green in Egypt: Enterprise’s green economy vertical focuses each Tuesday on the business of renewable energy and sustainable practices in Egypt, everything from solar and wind energy through to water, waste management, sustainable building practices and how you can make your business greener, whatever the sector.

In today’s issue: Egypt’s bike-sharing program Bicicletta will debut on Egypt’s streets in March, after years in the making. The project gives us an alternative, environmentally-friendly means of public transport in Cairo, starting first with Downtown and Zamalek, before eventually expanding throughout the country.

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TOURISM

Tourism revenues returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2021

It’s official: Tourism is back. Tourism revenues surpassed USD 13 bn in 2021, returning to pre-pandemic levels, Al Borsa reports Deputy Tourism Minister Ghada Shalaby as saying, citing a Reuters story. The sector has been recovering on the back of the lifting of travel restrictions worldwide and mass vaccination programs at home and abroad. Tourism revenues hit a record high of USD 13.03 bn in 2019 before dropping nearly 70% in 2020 on the back of the pandemic.

The recovery looks to have been faster than anyone expected: 2021 revenues eclipsed the USD 6-9 bn target set by the ministry last summer. And lest we forget, this time last year the ministry wasn’t hoping for a recovery in tourist numbers until the fall of 2022 — while others had said we might not see the sector bounce back until 2024.

Most of the revenues came in 2H2021: Tourism revenues reached around USD 3.1 bn in 1H2021, according to balance of payments data — meaning that revenues in the second half of 2021 recorded at least USD 9.9 bn (surpassing the range the ministry had hoped to see for the full year.)

What about arrivals? While we don’t have any data on arrivals for the second half of the year, around 3.5 mn tourists visited the country during 1H2021, which is around the same number who visited during all of 2020. Some 13 mn tourists visited Egypt in 2019.

Helping drive the rebound: Russia lifted its six-year ban on direct flights to Egypt’s Red Sea destinations last July and resumed charter flights in November, bringing plane-loads of Russian tourists to the country. In September, the United Kingdom took us off its travel “red list,” leading to a 400% surge in Brits booking trips to Egypt and Turkey by December. Hotels got a major boost back in October, when the government began allowing them to operate at full capacity for the first time in 18 months.

And Omicron doesn’t appear to have dented recovery: Despite Omicron’s emergence in the last couple of months of the year, travel to our tourist hotspots seemed to remain unaffected, with hotel occupancy rates estimated to have reached 70-75% across the Red Sea.

We’re poised to hit another record this year, according to remarks attributed to Shalaby suggesting that the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum, slated for 2H2022 and the completion of the EGP 275 bn Sinai Development plan. The inauguration of new tourist destinations such as El Galala and new hotels in El Alamein will also drive growth in the sector.

FOOD SECURITY

We’re spending a whole lot more on wheat — and events in Ukraine could bump up spending even more

Spiraling wheat prices land us with an EGP 12 bn check: The rise in global wheat prices will cost us an additional EGP 12 bn this fiscal year, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait yesterday told Bloomberg Asharq. State grain buyer GASC had been allocated some EGP 87 bn in this fiscal year’s state budget, according to official figures (pdf).

Commodities crunch hits home: As the world’s biggest importer of wheat, we’re significantly exposed to price hikes that saw the grain trade in 2021 at its highest levels in more than a decade amid the global commodities squeeze, with Egyptian tenders delivering the highest prices in at least five years.

Making matters worse: the threat of war in Ukraine. Conflict in the Donbas could have an impact on Egypt and other wheat dependent countries in MENA, food analyst Alex Smith writes in Foreign Policy. Egypt is the largest consumer of Ukrainian wheat, last year purchasing the equivalent of around 14% of its total wheat consumption from the eastern European country. Most Ukrainian wheat is grown in the east of the country, which also happens to be the area most likely to be hit by conflict, setting the stage for huge falls in production and supply shortfalls internationally should tensions spill over.

Wait, it gets better: We’re also bracing for the possibility of pricier wheat as Russia mulls higher export tariffs on the grain.

Bread prices could rise for the first time in decades: The reality of price pressure was spelled out last summer when President Abdel Fattah El Sisi signaled that the government could move to hike bread prices. Six months later and the Supply Ministry is now working on several scenarios that would see the government taper bread subsidies and limit the impact of rising international prices on the state budget. History suggests the state will move carefully on bread prices after a hike in the late 1970s provoked a furious response.

Hedging an option: The Finance Ministry was also mulling hedging against rising grain prices last year, but has not announced whether it has entered into any contracts.

ECONOMY

Budget deficit widens to 3.9% in 1H2021-22

Egypt’s budget deficit stood at 3.9% in 1H2021-2022, widening from 3.6% in the first half of last fiscal year, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait yesterday told Bloomberg Asharq. The figures continue a trend seen in the first quarter of the fiscal year, when the deficit widened y-o-y from 2.7% to 3.1% for the July-October 2021 period.

The budget deficit is expected to stand at 6.9% by the end of FY2021-2022, after the ministry last week revised upwards its prior forecast of 6.7% on the basis of first-half data. The deficit narrowed to 7.4% last fiscal year from 8.0% the year prior, and is expected to narrow again to 6.1% in FY2022-2023.

Primary surplus expectations narrow: FinMin is now expecting the primary surplus to hit 1.1-1.2% in the current fiscal year from 0.9% a year prior, Maait said, down from the 1.5% it had penciled in last year. Egypt generated a EGP 3.2 bn primary surplus in 1H2021-2022, the ministry announced last week. That’s down 77% on the same period last fiscal year, but nevertheless an improvement from the slight primary deficit registered in the first quarter.

No details on debt: Maait didn’t disclose how much the government spent on servicing its debts, which is the single-biggest cost to the public purse. Official figures show that interest payments alone accounted for 41% of all expenditure during 1Q2021-2022. The ministry expects to spend EGP 579.6 bn on interest during the course of the year, amounting to almost a third of total expenditure.


MEANWHILE- Samurai bonds coming in H12022: Egypt aims to sell around USD 500 mn of JPY-denominated bonds in Japan by the end of June, when the current fiscal year wraps, Maait also said. “The bond issuance will be in JPY, but the transfer currency can be in JPY or USD,” Maait said, adding that the ministry is currently discussing the issuance with the central bank.

Background: Maait and Japan’s ambassador in Cairo discussed last week taking the potential bond issuance to market in Japan, as part of Egypt’s debt diversification strategy. The government had been mulling selling JPY-denominated bonds back in 2019, as well as RMB-denominated Panda bonds, but Maait said in late 2020 that the planned sales were being pushed until at least FY2021-2022 because of complications caused by the pandemic. Marketing foreign bonds in Asian markets is a different ball game and also requires new ratings assessments by Asian agencies, a senior government official told us in 2020.

GREEN ECONOMY

EBRD writes USD 100 mn check for Scatec’s green bond

EBRD backs Scatec Solar Benban green bond: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will subscribe to almost a third of Scatec Solar’s upcoming green bond issuance, which will use the proceeds to support its solar plants in Benban, according to the bank’s website. The lender will contribute USD 100 mn to the USD 340 mn issuance, in addition to providing a USD 30 mn standby liquidity facility for other investors participating in the sale.

Another first: This will be the first-ever renewable energy, corporate green bond issuance in Egypt. CIB issued the country’s first private sector green bond last year with a USD 100 mn issuance supported by the International Finance Corporation, the proceeds of which were earmarked to finance green buildings.

The proceeds will be used for “further renewable energy development,” the bank said, without providing further information. Scatec’s Benban plants were completed and connected to the national grid back in 2019.

The project: Scatec is the majority owner of six solar plants in Benban, producing a combined 380 MW of electricity. The plants are 51% owned by the Norwegian renewables producer, 25% by African infrastructure investment bank Africa 50, and 24% by Norwegian development finance institution Norfund. Scatec has a 25-year power purchase agreement with the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company for the projects, which were partially financed by EBRD loans. The project’s other lenders are Dutch development bank FMO, Islamic Development Bank, Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector, and the Green Climate Fund.

STARTUP WATCH

Dsquares is not looking to launch a SPAC

FACT CHECK- Loyalty services provider Dsquares is not looking to create a SPAC, founder and CEO Marwan Kenawy tells us, denying a report from Al Shorouk we picked up yesterday.

Though cross-border acquisitions could be in the cards: “We are looking at possible acquisitions in other countries, but a SPAC or IPO is not in the plan at this point,” Kenawy says.

Dsquares is focused on scaling at a global level and launching new products. “We are expanding in the Middle East, Africa and Europe,” Kenawy told us. The company is already present in Egypt, Jordan, UAE, KSA, Romania, Kenya, and Tanzania, and is working with multinational companies including Vodafone and MasterCard.

The company is currently working on an Egypt-wide citizen engagement project with Prime Business Consulting to provide citizens with loyalty incentives for using the government’s online and offline products. This includes, for example, encouraging people to renew their driver’s license online or pay their electricity bills on time. The project is part of the government’s digital transformation mandate and the first phase should launch by mid-2022.

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BANKING

CBE confirms Standard Chartered en route to Egypt

Standard Chartered gets preliminary thumbs up from CBE to enter Egypt: The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has given preliminary approval for Standard Chartered to enter the Egyptian banking sector, CBE deputy governor Gamal Negm told state-owned Middle East News Agency yesterday, confirming news initially reported by talk show host Lamees El Hadidi on Sunday night. The British bank will open its first local branch by September at the latest and plans to establish a second branch in Alexandria in 2023, Negm said.

INVESTMENT WATCH

Gov’t targets USD 7 bn oil FDI in 2022-2023

The Oil Ministry wants to attract USD 7 bn of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the oil and gas sector in FY 2022-2023, ٌReuters reported Oil Minister Tarek El Molla as telling Sky News Arabia TV yesterday.

Oil + gas accounts for almost half of Egypt’s FDI: At least, it did in FY2019-2020, which is the most recent data the government has made available. Figures published in the central bank’s annual report (pdf) showed that USD 7.3 bn of the USD 15.8 bn of inflows went to hydrocarbons. Finance was the second-largest recipient, attracting USD 2.2 bn.

The sector has seen several high-profile investments in recent weeks:

Splurge on state-owned oil companies: The FDI target coincides with government plans to spend EGP 30 bn on developing public sector oil companies, which is reportedly the largest amount of money ever allocated to the state oil sector.

FDI has been heading in the wrong direction in recent years: Inflows fell 12% to USD 13.9 bn in FY2020-2021 from USD 15.8 bn the year before, and were down 15% from FY2018-2019. This has squeezed net FDI, which last year fell to USD 5.2 bn — its lowest level since the FY 2013-2014.

COVID WATCH

Egyptian Drug Authority approves Merck antiviral pill

The Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA) has approved Merck’s antiviral covid-19 pill Molnupiravir for emergency use, making Egypt the first country in the Middle East and Africa to do so, the agency announced yesterday.

Five local companies to manufacture Egypt-made Molnupiravir: Five companies have been licensed to produce the pill in Egypt, while several other companies could be given licenses at a later stage, the EDA said. Local firms have already produced around 25k packets of the drug, and have the materials at hand to manufacture 150k more, according to a Health Ministry statement.

Rameda is the first confirmed manufacturer: Rameda Pharma has already received EDA approval and begun manufacturing its generic version of the med, Molnupiravir Rameda, which is set to hit the shelves before the end of 1Q2022. Molnupiravir Rameda will retail at EGP 625 per 40 capsules with an initial dose of 200 mg.

Eva Pharma is also on board, according to Sky News Arabia, which carries an interview with company director George Maher, who says that the meds will be exported to Arab and African countries, as well as made available for domestic use.

Hikma Pharma is also in the mix: London-listed Hikma Pharma was among 27 companies globally to sign an agreement with the UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool last week, which is designed to promote access to the medication among 105 developing countries, the MPP said. The agreement allows the company to produce the finished pills via its Egyptian and Jordanian units

How is this being done? The MPP signed a licensing agreement with Merck allowing it to ink sublicense agreements with other companies, which in turn are permitted to produce the raw materials and the finished product.

Molnupiravir is arriving just in time for the news that covid could bypass antiviral meds: Researchers and US health regulators are bracing themselves for signs of resistance and mutation from covid-19 that could allow it to bypass antiviral pills like molnupiravir and Pfizer’s Paxlovid, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Health Ministry reported 1,651 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 1,603 the day before — the fourth-highest daily tally on record, as the omicron variant sees case numbers pushed to highs not seen since June 2020. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 411,749 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 28 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 22,396.

MOVES

Oil Minister Tarek El Molla has appointed Alaa Al Batal as chairman of the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC), effective tomorrow, the ministry said in a statement. Al Batal, who was previously the chairman of Ganoub El Wadi Petroleum Holding Company (Ganope), replaces Abed Ezz El Regal, who is retiring.

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LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Our meds regulator’s decision to approve Merck’s antiviral covid-19 pill Molnupiravir for emergency use was the talk of the talk shows last night. Al Hayah Al Youm (watch, runtime: 9:48), Hadeeth El Kahera (watch, runtime: 10:05) and Kelma Akhira (watch, runtime: 8:56) all had coverage. We have the full story in this morning’s news well, above.

Egypt-Algeria talks: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s forthcoming talks with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in Cairo earned significant coverage on the airwaves. The two are expected to discuss regional issues including Libya and Palestine when they meet today. Kelma Akhira (watch, runtime: 8:46), Al Hayah Al Youm (watch, runtime: 8:29) and Masaa DMC (watch, runtime: 12:03) all covered the talks.

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

It’s another quiet morning in the foreign press: Nature is the latest to take note of the “Mansourasaurus,” a prehistoric whale discovered in the Fayoum Depression last summer by by a team of paleontologists from Mansoura University.

Reuters is out with a short video about a designer who has QR coded a “smart dress” and the Guardian says it has obtained video footage allegedly showing detainees being mistreated in a Cairo police station.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Fawry is looking to partner with a local bank to issue prepaid cards soon, Al Mal reports CEO and founder Ashraf Sabry as saying. Sabry’s comments came on the sidelines of the company’s launch of Fawry Yawmy, the region’s first fintech-based money market fund, in partnership with Misr Capital. Fawry earlier this week said it is eyeing a US listing, and the company is also looking to raise its capital by EGP 800 mn through a rights issue to existing shareholders. The capital increase will help fund pre-paid card plans as part of a strategy to turn the MyFawry app into a super app, Sabry said on an investor update call last week.

Wataniya Petroleum could debut on the EGX this year, according to Ayman Soliman, head of the Sovereign Fund of Egypt, which is currently restructuring the military-owned company, according to Al Arabiya.

We’ll find out “soon” which mining companies have been awarded gold exploration rights in the latest government tender. Oil Minister Tarek El Molla says that four companies have been handed concessions, Al Arabiya reports.

Other things we’re keeping an eye on this morning:

  • The National Egyptian Railway Industries Company has reached the final stages of negotiations with Hyundai Rotem to sign a contract to manufacture, assemble and supply 40 subway trains for the National Authority for Tunnels.
  • Online marketplace Noon has launched (pdf) its payment platform for SMEs, Noon Payments, in Egypt.
  • Banque Misr will provide car rental firm Zoomcar Egypt with online and mobile payment services (pdf) for its customers.
  • Samsung will start trial operations at its EGP 500 mn Beni Suef tablet factory in March, with an eye to kick off production in May.

PLANET FINANCE

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The ADX is one step closer to welcoming the GCC’s first SPAC: The UAE’s securities regulator has approved the Gulf’s first regulatory framework for special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), the Abu Dhabi Media Office said yesterday. The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) could see its first SPAC listing this year, according to the statement. The framework allows sponsors abroad to apply for approval to list their SPACs on the ADX, with sponsors required to raise at least AED 100 mn in the IPOs, after which at least 90% of the SPAC’s capital must be put in a non-interest-bearing account, in a move that is meant to protect investors.

Bahrain-based crypto exchange platform Rain Management has received preliminary approval on a financial services license from the ADX, according to a statement (pdf). Once Rain meets the criteria to get final approval for the license, it will be able to list more digital asset trading pairs on the ADX and expand the scope of its services in the Gulf, the statement says. Rain last week announced it had raised USD 110 mn to fund cross-border expansion in a series B funding round led by Paradigm and Kleiner Perkins.

Saudi Arabia plans to keep its debt levels stable at SAR 938 bn — around 25.9% of GDP — in 2022, the kingdom’s National Debt Management Center said in its annual borrowing plan (pdf). Rising oil prices and production volumes are set to boost the crude exporter’s finances, with borrowing for the year focused on SAR 43 bn in debt refinancing. The kingdom “may explore” a non-USD denominated international issuance, as it looks poised to deliver its first budget surplus in eight years in 2022, amid oil-fueled economic growth.

Down

EGX30

11,616

-0.3% (YTD: -2.8%)

None

USD (CBE)

Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76

None

USD at CIB

Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76

None

Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

Down

Tadawul

12,068

-0.6% (YTD: +7.0%)

Down

ADX

8,701

-0.1% (YTD: +2.5%)

Down

DFM

3,147

-2.0% (YTD: -1.5%)

Up

S&P 500

4,410

+0.3% (YTD: -7.5%)

Down

FTSE 100

7,297

-2.6% (YTD: -1.2%)

Down

Brent crude

USD 86.27

-1.8%

Down

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 3.97

-1.5%

Up

Gold

USD 1,845

+0.1%

Up

BTC

USD 36,440

+3.7% (as of midnight)

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 fell 0.3% yesterday on turnover of EGP 934 mn (17.8% below the 90-day average). Regional investors were net buyers. The index is down 2.8% YTD.

In the green: EFG Hermes (+1.1%), MM Group (+1.1%) and Eastern Company (+1.0%).

In the red: Cleopatra Hospital (-3.8%), Speed Medical (-3.3%) and Raya Holding (-2.8%).

greenEconomy

PROJECT PROFILE- Egypt’s long-awaited bike-sharing scheme slated for March launch: Years in the making, bike-sharing program Bicicletta could land in Cairo in March, finally bringing an alternative, environmentally-friendly means of public transport to Wust El Balad, where the streets are often gridlocked and the air quality is poor.

Cycling culture has been on the rise in Egypt: While the pandemic forced the closure of gyms and sports clubs in 2020, the disruption may have helped to usher in a newfound interest in cycling. "After sports centers shut down, cycling became an alternative” for people, said Mohamed Helmy, marketing manager at Bescletta bike shop — not to be confused with Bicicletta the project.

Enter Bicicletta: Having faced long delays after first being introduced to us back in 2017, the Bicicletta project is on track to launch in Cairo in March, Ahmed El Dorghamy, Basic Services and Climate Change Programme Officer at UN-Habitat — one of the project’s key backers — told Enterprise. “We are in the process of finalizing the demo bike and the demo station … we expect it to be in the streets by March,” he said.

The project will initially launch in what is arguably Cairo’s most crowded area: Downtown. “It will start on a trial basis in Zamalek, Garden City and Downtown" before expanding to other areas, El Dorghamy told us. The project currently has plans to install 45 bike-sharing stations — all of which will be solar powered — equipped with a total of 500 bikes, he said.

How it will work: Bicicletta users have the option to either subscribe online or sign up by visiting the project’s information desk, which will be located in Tahrir Square, El Dorghamy said. An app will then direct them to the nearest Bicicletta station and using their smartphones they can unlock the bike. After they’re done cycling they return the bike to the nearest station and their total will be calculated based on how long they used it.

How much will it cost? That remains to be seen, according to El Dorghamy, who told us that the prices are still yet to be determined. Bicicletta’s services will be subsidized for the first five years after the project’s implementation to ensure that the service is affordable for all, he said, without providing further information.

Who’s taking part? The project is being implemented by the Cairo Governorate, in partnership with the UN-Habitat, Swiss nonprofit Drosos Foundation and the American Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP). A consortium of Egyptian and Danish firms has been chosen to operate the project.

Sources of finance: Drosos is providing USD 1.4 mn in financing for the project. We were unable to find out who else is contributing funds.

Cyclists vs. Egyptian streets: Unpaved Egyptian streets with their many bumps and potholes, as well as the volume of traffic, pose major challenges for cyclists. “We need better road quality and traffic calming measures to ensure a safer environment for cyclists,” El Dorghamy told us, explaining that additions like speed bumps and zebra crossings are needed to slow traffic and reduce risk to cyclists.

A solution: Bike lanes. Bicycle lanes are on the way as part of the state’s infrastructure drive, Khaled Siddiq, president of the Urban Development Fund, told Enterprise — a move that would help to facilitate an increase in bike riders on the streets of the capital. The government is yet to announce the specifics of the project, including where the cycle lanes will be placed, when they expect to finish them, and how much they will cost.

This isn’t the first time someone’s tried to make bike-sharing a thing in Egypt: Baddel, an e-bike sharing system that made its debut in 2017, had 37 stations in several locations around the country, including at SODIC West in Sheikh Zayed, AUC, Gouna and Fayoum. Enterprise was unable to reach a representative of the company for comment.

Bike-sharing could boost cycling culture: Helmy believes that the project could further increase interest in cycling as a means of transport. "The project will give people the chance to experience bike-riding and will increase the number of people wanting their own personal bike,” he told us.

The government seemed to be backing cycling culture in a big way a few years ago with its “A bike for every citizen” initiative. The Sports Ministry said in 2019 that hundreds of thousands of bikes would be distributed to members of the public, helping to lower pollution levels in urban areas and decrease traffic congestion. Some 100k bikes were handed out in the first phase of the project, and the ministry pledged to deliver a bike to all students at select universities. The government is also offering members of the public the chance to purchase bikes at discounted prices under the “Your Bike, Your Health” initiative.

But: We’ve heard little about “A bike for every citizen” in the 2.5 years since its announcement and the current status of the program remains unclear.


Your top climate stories for the week:

📆 CALENDAR

1Q2022: Launch of the Egyptian Commodities Exchange.

1Q2022: Swvl acquisition of Viapool expected to close.

1Q2022: Waste collection startup Bekia plans to expand to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

1Q2022: Rameda Pharma will begin selling its generic version of Merck’s oral antiviral covid-19 med.

1Q2022: Pharos Energy’s sale of 55% stake in El Fayum, Beni Suef concessions to IPR Energy Group subsidiary IPR Lake Qarun expected to close.

Early 2022: Results to be announced for the second round of the state’s gold and precious metals auction.

1H2022: Target date for IDH to close its acquisition of 50% of Islamabad Diagnostic Center.

1H2022: e-Finance’s digital healthcare service platform, eHealth, will launch its services.

1H2022: The government will respond to private companies’ bids to build desalination plants.

1H2022: Egypt’s second corporate green bond issuance expected to be announced.

January: Sovereign Sukuk Act executive regulations expected to be finalized.

January: Tenth of Ramadan dry port tender to be launched.

January: Three-month trial period of ACI for air freight to begin.

9 January – 6 February (Sunday-Sunday): 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon.

Second half of January: Egypt will host the Egyptian-Bahraini Joint Committee.

Second half of January: Regulations for installing EV charging stations will be published.

25 January (Tuesday): The IMF will release its World Economic Outlook.

25 January (Tuesday): 25 January revolution anniversary / Police Day.

25 January (Tuesday): Techne Summit announces awardees of Corporate Innovation Program.

25 January – 1 February (Tuesday-Tuesday): EGX will open over the counter transactions for the National Bank of Kuwait.

25-26 January (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

26 January (Wednesday): Climathon Giza 2022

27 January-7 February (Thursday-Monday): Cairo International Book Fair, Egypt International Exhibition Center.

27 January (Thursday): National holiday in observance of 25 January revolution anniversary / Police Day.

30-31 January (Sunday-Monday): Ins. Federation of Egypt medical ins. forum.

30 January (Sunday): Apparent deadline for the Egyptian government to meet human rights-related conditions to unlock USD 130 mn in frozen US aid.

End of January: The Egyptian-Romanian business forum will take place with the aim of strengthening joint investment relations.

January-February 2022: Construction work on the Abu Qir metro upgrade will begin.

February: Hassan Allam Construction’s new construction firm established with Russia’s Titan-2 to handle construction work on the Dabaa nuclear power plant begins its operations.

February: Ghazl El Mahalla shares will begin trading on the EGX this month.

February: Suez canal transit fees set to increase 6%, exempting cruise ships and LNG carriers.

Mid-February: End of grace period to comply with new minimum wage for firms who sent in exemption requests.

Mid-February: A Hungarian delegation will arrive in Egypt for talks over a potential investment in an industrial area in the SCZone.

3 February (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

3 February (Thursday): January PMI figures for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE will be released.

4-20 February (Friday-Sunday): 2022 Winter Olympics, Beijing.

11 February (Friday): Deadline for Anghami SPAC merger.

11-13 February (Friday-Sunday) FIBA Intercontinental Cup, Cairo.

14-16 February (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo, Egypt.

15 February (Tuesday): The Industrial Development Authority’s deadline for receiving offers from companies for licenses to manufacture steel products.

15 February (Tuesday): Orange Ventures’ deadline to receive applications from seed-stage fintech startups.

19 February (Saturday): Public universities begin the second term of the 2021-2022 academic year.

19-21 February (Saturday-Monday): Nebu Expo for Gold and Jewelry 2022.

21 February (Monday): Hearing at Cairo Economic Court (pdf) on FRA lawsuits filed against Speed Medical.

26 February (Saturday): Speed Medical will elect a new board during ordinary general assembly (pdf).

https://enterprise.press/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/Speed-Medical-statement_190122.pdf

End of February: Lebanon to receive gas from Egypt via a pipeline crossing Jordan and Syria.

March: Rollout of the government financial management information system (GFMIS), a suite of electronic tools to automate the government’s financial management processes (pdf) that will replace the existing “closed” financial management system.

March: 4Q2021 earnings season.

March: Deadline for the World Health Organization’s intergovernmental negotiating body to meet to discuss binding treaty on future pandemic cooperation.

March: World Cup playoffs.

March: The government hopes to sign a final contract between El Nasr Automotive and a new partner for the local production of electric cars.

March: Target date for Saudi tech firm Brmaja to IPO on the EGX.

March: Egypt to host World Tourism Organization Middle East committee meeting.

9-18 March (Wednesday-Friday): The 55th edition of the Cairo International Fair.

15-16 March (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

24 March (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

28-29 March (Monday-Tuesday): The Egypt International Mining Show (EIMS 2022) will take place virtually.

31 March (Thursday): Deadline for submitting tax returns for individual taxpayers.

31 March (Thursday): Vodacom purchase of Vodafone Group’s stake in Vodafone Egypt expected to be completed by this date.

31 March (Thursday): Supply Ministry expected to take final decision on bread subsidies by this date.

2 April (Saturday): First day of Ramadan (TBC).

3 April (Sunday): Bidding begins on the Industrial Development Authority’s license to manufacture tobacco products.

4 April (Monday): CDC Group will formally change its name to British International Investment.

22-24 April (Friday-Sunday): World Bank-IMF spring meeting, Washington D.C.

24 April (Sunday): Coptic Easter Sunday (holiday for Coptic Christians).

25 April (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

25 April (Monday): Sinai Liberation Day.

28 April (Thursday): National Holiday in observance of Sham El Nessim.

30 April (Saturday): Deadline for submitting corporate tax returns for companies whose financial year ends 31 December.

Late April – 15 May: 1Q2022 earnings season

May: Investment in Logistics Conference, Cairo, Egypt.

1 May (Sunday): Labor Day.

3-4 May (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

5 May (Thursday): National Holiday in observance of Labor Day.

2 May (Monday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

19 May (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

14-15 June (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

15-18 June (Wednesday-Saturday): St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), St. Petersburg.

16 June (Thursday): End of 2021-2022 academic year for public schools.

23 June (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

27 June-3 July (Monday-Sunday): World University Squash Championships, New Giza.

30 June (Thursday): June 30 Revolution Day, national holiday.

End of 2Q2022: The Financial Regulatory Authority’s new Ins. Act should be approved.

End of 1H2022: Emirati industrial company M Glory Holding and the Military Production Ministry will begin the mass production of dual fuel pickup trucks that can run on natural gas.

2H2022: The inauguration of the Grand Egyptian Museum.

2H2022: IEF-IGU Ministerial Gas Forum, Egypt. Date + location TBA.

July: A law governing ins. for seasonal contractors will come into effect.

1 July (Friday): FY 2022-2023 begins.

8 July (Friday): Arafat Day.

9-13 July (Saturday-Wednesday): Eid Al Adha, national holiday.

26-27 July (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

30 July (Saturday): Islamic New Year.

Late July – 14 August: 2Q2022 earnings season.

18 August (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

September: Egypt will display its first naval exhibition with the title Naval Power.

20-21 September (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

22 September (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

6 October (Thursday): Armed Forces Day, national holiday.

8 October (Saturday): Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, national holiday.

18-20 October(Tuesday-Thursday): Mediterranean Offshore Conference, Alexandria, Egypt.

Late October – 14 November: 3Q2022 earnings season.

November: Cairo Water Week 2022.

1-2 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

3 November (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

21 November-18 December (Monday-Sunday): 2022 Fifa World Cup, Qatar.

13-14 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

22 December (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

End of 2022: e-Aswaaq’s tourism platform will complete the roll out of its ticketing and online booking portal across Egypt.

January 2023: EGX-listed companies and non-bank lenders will submit ESG reports for the first time.

**Note to readers: Some national holidays may appear twice above. Since 2020, Egypt has observed most mid-week holidays on Thursdays regardless of the day on which they fall and may also move those days to Sundays. We distinguish above between the actual holiday and its observance.

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