Thursday, 23 September 2021

Egypt taps the bond market, Mercedes is inching closer to assembly, and Cairo and Washington are getting chummier



Well, wonderful people, that’s a wrap on another workweek. We hope this second day of fall has been good to you — and we’ll leave it at that, because we have tons of news to dive into before we can suggest (below) what you may want to watch tonight or where you may want to go this weekend.


#1- Egypt has tapped the global bond market: Egypt has begun selling USD-denominated bonds today, with 6-, 12-, and 30-year tenors, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait tells us, confirming a story broken by Reuters this morning that has since been widely picked up. Egypt is offering the 6-year bonds at a yield of 6.125%, while the 12- and 30-year bonds carry yields of 7.625% and 8.875%, respectively. Maait did not say how big the offering is.

Piggybacking off the Fed: Maait hinted that the US Federal Reserve’s decision yesterday to push its expected tapering of its stimulus program to November made it the right time to go to the markets now before US bonds become more competitive.

Advisers: HSBC, FAB, Citibank, Standard Chartered, and JP Morgan are advising on the sale.

^^We’ll have updates on demand for the bonds in Sunday’s EnterpriseAM.

#2- Is Mercedes-Benz one step closer to resuming assembling in Egypt? Mercedes-Benz received a 20k sqm plot of land in the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone), which will be used as a logistics base that will distribute cars locally and for re-export, SCZone head Yehia Zaki tells us, confirming a story that first ran this morning in Al Borsa. The logistics hub will also see the company warehouse and distribute components and spare parts, says Zaki. The company had signed the agreement for the logistics base back in 2019.

Does that mean assembly is back on the table? That’s not clear yet, and Zaki would not comment on when it may actually happen. The company got our hopes up back in September 2019, when it said it expected to produce its first locally assembled vehicle in years by the second half of 2020. Government sources told us last year that local assembly would resume “soon.” The pandemic and the subsequent global chip shortage have created havoc for the global auto industry, and we haven’t heard news of the company’s plans to resume assembly in the months since.

Background: The luxury carmaker shut down its local assembly in Egypt in mid-2015, saying at the time that Egypt’s trade agreement with the EU — which saw tariffs on European cars to zero as of 1 January 2019 — would make it economically infeasible to continue its local assembly operations here long-term.

IN OTHER AUTO NEWS- Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly met with the regional heads of Nissan, Skoda, and other big brand cars today with a view to enticing them to assemble vehicles here, according to a cabinet statement.

#3- Egypt and the US are looking forward to strengthening bilateral ties, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in a meeting yesterday in New York City on the margins of the UN General Assembly, according to a statement by the US embassy in Egypt. The pair discussed regional issues including Israeli-Palestinian relations, Libya, and Egypt’s leadership of the fledgling Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum.

The US is pushing for Egypt to improve its record on human rights to “facilitate” a “strengthened partnership,” including through implementing measures arising from the country’s first national human rights strategy, announced earlier this month.

More to come: Blinken and Shoukry agreed to meet again to discuss regional issues, human rights, security cooperation, and economic relations, the statement said without specifying a date.

IN OTHER DIPLOMACY NEWS- Sweden wants to help our green transition. Swedish Trade Minister Ann Hallberg is town for meetings with cabinet ministers. She noted that a number of institutions are willing to fund Egyptian companies in the green economy during her meeting with Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker, according to a cabinet statement. She also discussed support for smart city tech in Egypt’s cities with Deputy Housing Minister Khaled Abbas, according to a cabinet statement.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD- With Xi Jinping’s ruling party reluctant to bail out China Evergrande, Beijing is telling local officials to make preparations for a “possible storm,” the Wall Street Journal reports in an exclusive. Traders’ attention has been split between the Fed and Evergrande all week, and pundits who have suggested that we need not worry about a collapse of Evergrande may be mistaken. Beijing is now bracing for “social and economic fallout” in the event Evergrande collapses. “Local governments have been tasked with preventing unrest and mitigating the ripple effect on home buyers and the broader economy, for example by limiting job losses” in the event the country’s second-largest home builder fails.

What to watch for next: The world’s most-indebted company has a big interest payment due today on its offshore debt, and regulators have “asked” it to “avoid a near-term default,” Reuters notes.

HAPPENING NOW- Global markets have (for the most part) taken in stride the Fed’s signals on the tapering of stimulus this fall and an interest rate hike as early as next year, which we covered earlier today in EnterpriseAM. European markets are all handily in the green this morning. Futures show North American markets following suit later today. The Dow and S&P both snapped four-day losing streaks yesterday after the Fed suggested it would start tapering before year’s end and could hike interest rates next year.

SIGN OF THE TIMES- The UK is begging consumers not to “panic buy” amid supply chain kinks that are being made worse by soaring natural gas prices. Officials are trying to reassure the public that the UK ‘s not heading into a “1970s-style ‘winter of discontent’ of strikes and power shortages” and empty store shelves.

IS THERE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL in the Emirates? Dubai’s jobs market is the hottest it has been in nearly two years, adding thousands of jobs thanks to employers including Amazon, Emirates Airlines and the hotel industry.

Get your gadget freak on with the new iPad Mini. It’s not an iPad Pro Mini and there’s no separate keyboard for it (yet). But the updated design, crisp screen and blazingly fast processor is getting really solid reviews everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to John Gruber’s Daring Fireball. Want to watch rather than read? Rene Ritchie and MKBHD have got you covered.

Does your taste run more to Windows? You’ll definitely want to check out Microsoft’s powerful new Surface Laptop Studio, which The Verge tells us is being billed as the successor to the Surface Book. It features three pretty cool “modes” for how you can use the screen and a nice new Surface Slim Pen 2, sold separately. CNBC has a rundown on other announcements from yesterday’s event, including a Surface Duo 2 smartphone that we have a hard time getting excited about.

** CATCH UP QUICK on the top stories from today’s EnterpriseAM:

  • The capital gains tax is definitely coming to the EGX on 1 Jan: Finance Minister Mohamed Maait confirmed in an interview with CNBC Arabia earlier this week that a 10% tax on the gains investors make on EGX transactions will be coming into effect on 1 January.
  • A pilot program for B2C e-invoicing has kicked off: The Finance Ministry has announced the rollout of electronic invoicing for business-to-consumer transactions, with 100 companies taking part in a six-month trial phase by recording all transactions via a real-time electronic system.
  • Is Vodafone Egypt back in play?: Saudi Telecom (STC) may be resurrecting its bid to acquire a majority stake in Vodafone Egypt, nine months after talks broke down with its parent company. Both Vodafone Egypt and minority shareholder Telecom Egypt denied yesterday that talks had restarted.


In town next week: White House National Security adviser Jake Sullivan will visit Cairo next week as part of a brief Middle East tour that will take him to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, sources with knowledge of the matter tell Axios.

Conference season continues next week with ITIDA’s DevOpsDays Cairo 2021, which is being organized together with Software Engineering Competence Center, DXC Technology, IBM Egypt and Orange Labs. The event will take place on Wednesday, 29 September. Other events include:

  • Egypt Projects 2021 construction expo, which will take place at the Egypt International Exhibition Center on 30 September-2 October.
  • The Cairo International Fair, which will take place on 30 September-8 October at the Cairo International Conference Center.

ALSO NEXT WEEK- The deadline to register for the AUC Business School’s Private Equity Diploma is coming up on 28 September.

Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news events, national holidays and news triggers.

☀️ TOMORROW’S WEATHER- Friday and Saturday promise gorgeous fall weather, with daytime highs of 31°C and nighttime lows of 20°C, our favorite weather app tells us.


ATTENTION RETAILERS- Amazon is coming for your brick and mortar business too: After killing the department store, Amazon wants to combine brick and mortar with tech for a new department store experience, according to a Wall Street Journal exclusive that cites people familiar with the matter. Selling Amazon’s own labels as well as products from other sellers on the platform, the department store is a way to improve brand recognition and test out a new model for brick and mortar retailers.

Bringing the Whole Foods model to dept stores: One idea is to make the fitting rooms the main attraction, sources said. Customers will browse the score and scan the QR codes for items they like and sales representatives will collect them and place them in the fitting room. Once there, customers can use a touch screen to ask for different sizes, colors, or altogether new products recommended by the all-knowing Amazon algorithms. Another idea is to deploy robots and other forms of automation. Amazon had been playing with similar ideas after it acquired groceries chain Whole Foods.

Amazon could open its flagship store by next year, but there are no plans set in stone just yet for how it will look like.

IN OTHER TECH NEWS- Ford, Redwood to recycle batteries and create closed supply loop in the US: Ford has teamed up with Redwood Materials, the startup founded by Tesla alum JB Straubel, to recycle and reuse key ingredients within the lithium-ion batteries in Ford’s upcoming EV fleet, according to Bloomberg Green. Ford will initially source batteries from Korea’s SK Innovation. Once finished, they’ll move onto Redwood which will extract key metals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and copper, and use them to build more batteries. If successful, the partnership will create a closed loop for EV battery production within the US, reducing the cost, dependence on China and the global supply chain, and environmental impact of making batteries.

???? Equal pay for equal work is still a long ways away it seem: Female MBA graduates make around USD 11k less than their male counterparts, a gender pay gap that widens to USD 60k a decade after their graduation, according to a study (pdf) by the Forte Foundation that asked over 1k MBA schools alumni from nearly 60 elite programs around the world.

Women hold less than 10% of S&P 500’s CEO positions and are similarly underrepresented at a vast majority of business schools, holding 40% of seats. Even when they make it to high paying industries and jobs, the gender pay gap continues its course, with post-MBA men earning USD 29.7 more than similarly credentialed women on average. Bloomberg has the story.

But you need not worry if you are a male CEO of a Wall Street bank. You can stay on for decades apparently: Despite bosses everywhere else cutting their tenure shorter and shorter, more C-suite execs at major Wall Street firms are opting to stay for longer tenures, the Financial Times writes. The story names Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan’s intention to spend 30 years running the bank and JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon who is seeking a CEO term of at least two decades.

This wasn’t always the case: The average CEO duration at financial firms within the Russell 3000 index saw a drastic fall from almost 15 years in 2017 to seven years in 2020.

Blankfein has something to say about this Castro-style of leadership: Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein, who resigned from his position only 12 years later, provided insight into why these CEOs refuse to hang their titles and move on. “When things are going well you don’t want to leave but when things are going poorly you feel you can’t leave … You have to have discipline to leave when you don’t want to leave.”



(all times CLT)

Fellow sci-fi geeks rejoice: It’s your weekend.

Even folks who don’t consider themselves fans of the genre will want to check out Apple TV+’s adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, which makes its debut on the streamer this weekend. Two episodes drop tomorrow, with a new installment every Friday thereafter. Showrunner David Goyer (known for his work on both superhero flicks and video games) sought permission from Asimov’s family to “gender flip” a handful of characters to get some women into Asimov’s almost-all-male books. Gizmodo has lots more and the really damn good trailer is here (watch, runtime: 2:48).

Looking for a more big screen experience? The lure of the 2021 remake of the sci-fi classic Dune is enough to have us debating whether to cancel covid, with the film now in screens across the capital city. Based on the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert, the film is the first of a two-part adaptation and covers the first half of the book. The all-star cast includes Timothée Chalamet, Stellan Skarsgård, Zendaya and Jason Momoa, among others. The film is set on a desert planet best known as Dune — the only place in the universe for a life-extending compound known as the “spice melange” that also happens to make you super freaking smart — and that permits faster-than-light travel. You can catch the trailer for the film here (watch, runtime: 3:27)

Why we’re very excited about this one: Often hailed as one of the best sci-fi novel series ever written, Dune dives into themes of environmentalism, allegorical geopolitics (a desert, tribal land with Mahdis and Jihad that contains the most important resource out there does sound familiar), and the dangers of falling for charismatic leaders. Dune has also influenced much of popular sci-fi, with elements of the novels being supplanted into works such as Star Wars. Critics are already calling this adaptation far superior to David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation, giving it a Rotten Tomatoes score of 90% certified fresh.

We’d suggest watching the original 1984 film on Apple TV or on Youtube (watch, runtime: 3:04:34) and then heading to Vox Cinema at Mall of Egypt or City Centre Almaza to catch the remake, which starts playing in Egypt today.

Classics including Willy Wonka, Matilda and The Witches are coming (some day) to Netflix: The streaming giant has snapped up the entire works of Roald Dahl, buying the rights from the late author’s family and acquiring Roald Dahl Story Company, Netflix said in a statement without disclosing the size of the transaction. But under the agreement, Netflix has the rights to remake any movies and/or adapt other characters and stories. There are several new projects already in the pipeline which include a Taika Waititi series inspired from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and another original take on the Oompa-Loompas. Also, a new live action feature film of Matilda will be released in 2022.

Catch Barcelona v. Cadiz tonight in La Liga at 10pm. Also playing today are Granada and Real Sociedad as well as Osasuna and Real Betis, both at 7:30pm. On Saturday, gameweek seven will begin with Alaves playing Atletico Madrid at 2:00pm, before Valencia and Athletic Club hit the field at 4:15pm, Sevilla and Espanyol at 6:30pm, and last but not least, Real Madrid and Villareal at 9:00pm.

Serie A: Playing today are Sampdoria and Napoli at 6:30pm, Torino and Lazio at 6:30pm, and Roma versus Udinese at 8:45pm. Saturday will see gameweek six kick off with Spezia kciking off against Milan at 3:00pm. Afterwards, Inter Milan will play Atalanta at 6:00pm and Genoa will hit the field against Verona at 8:45pm.

Al Ahly is playing against Enppi in the Egypt Cup round of 16 on Saturday at 7pm.

Saturday is a big day for Premier League fixtures: Chelsea take on Man City and Man United kick off against Aston Villa at 1:30pm. Next up at 4:00pm are Leicester City vs. Burnley and Everton vs. Norwich City, while Leeds play West Ham, and Watford will look to get past Newcastle. Finally, Brentford kick off against Liverpool at 6:30pm.


Get Smack’d one bite at a time: This dessert shop at the Lake House in New Cairo is playing up its “instagrammable” credentials. Try their cruffins — the love child of a croissant and a muffin or the croissant cereal. Smack’d also offers mini Nutella and Lotus donuts as well as cakes in flavours including pistachio, vanilla caramel, and cookies and cream. Their caramel cookies cream frappe sent us into a diabetic coma at the end of the feast.


(all times CLT)

It’s Sandbox Festival weekend in El Gouna, with the fun starting today and running through Saturday. Under the brand SBX Music Forum this year, the event is running at two large venues and includes smaller events all over the beach-side city. A ton of musical performers have come from across the globe to help you get your party on and you can check out the lineup or book a pass from their Instagram page.

Get a scent based on your personality at the Algorithmic Perfumery exhibition held by Cairotronica at the Tahrir Cultural Center. Participants will answer a 15 minute questionnaire which includes psychological, sociologica, and cultural questions. The results will include a mixture of scents for a perfume that reflects who you are. The exhibition is on until 30 September and you can buy tickets here.

Load the kiddies in the car and head to Kempinski's Circus Brunch which is taking place tomorrow at 1pm. The pool-side brunch includes entertainment including a clown show, acrobats, face painting, kids on-ground games, fun activities by WellSpring, and dazzling musical performances.


The EGX30 rose 0.4% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 1.28 bn (18.9% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 1.9% YTD.

In the green: AMOC (+6.1%), Orascom Development Egypt (+3.0%) and Egyptian Resorts Company (+2.6%).

In the red: CIRA (-3.5%), Rameda (-0.9%) and Pioneers Holding (-0.7%).


The latest in the European natgas crisis blame game: The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that Russia should increase its supply of natural gas to Europe, as skyrocketing prices threaten a winter energy crisis across the continent. The IEA — which is payrolled by mostly Western nations to advise and intervene on energy supply — said that while Russia had fulfilled its contractual obligations to Europe, it could make more natgas available to alleviate the current squeeze. “This is also an opportunity for Russia to underscore its credentials as a reliable supplier to the European market,” it added.

Turning up the heat on Russia: Greedy energy companies, increased orders from Asia, and the switch to renewables have all been blamed for shortages that have seen gas prices break records on the daily. But despite murmurs that Russia is withholding supply to force through a quick agreement on its new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe, official fingers have until now been reticent to point the Kremlin’s way. A Sciences Po professor and former oil and gas adviser at the French economy ministry said the IEA was “highlighting what has been discussed in the industry for some time but many politicians in Europe have been hesitant to address — the role Russia has played in the current energy crisis.”

The US jumped at the chance to play hero, vowing to “stand up to” suppliers accused of manipulating prices, US energy secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a press briefing. The US will keep an eye on any possible manipulation of gas prices by hoarding or the failure to produce adequate supply, she added.

OPEC doubled down on blaming climate activists for the crisis, calling for increased investment in fossil fuels: “Emotions have overtaken industry facts,” OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said on a panel with the Emirati and Qatari energy ministers, reports Bloomberg. “Civil society and climate activists have taken over the space. Activist shareholders have held the industry nearly to ransom.”

And Europe prayed for a mild winter: The head of Vitol, the world’s biggest oil trader, said “markets are frantic and panicky at the moment,” adding that a warm winter in the northern hemisphere could be the only way to calm the volatility. The executive vice president of a French energy firm agreed: “Little can be done … We hope the start of the winter will not be too cold in the northern hemisphere. Otherwise, we are in trouble.”

The natgas crisis is leading to other problems as well, including shortages in CO2 and other gases: The carbon dioxide shortage taking place in the UK will spill over into Europe, distributor Nippon Gases tells the Financial Times, pointing to its supplies falling 50% across the region. Fertilizer companies are the main source of CO2, but rising natural gas prices have forced many to suspend or lower operations. The CO2 shortages are affecting sectors from soft drinks and meat to steel and nuclear power plants.

We don’t want to keep harping on the point, but Russia really isn’t the only place where Europe could get gas. The East Mediterranean is swimming in it, and the region’s countries have gotten together to coordinate on the East Mediterranean Gas Forum with Cairo as the location of its HQ. Egypt’s liquefaction plants, the only ones in the region, are due to receive gas from Israel’s Leviathan field and steps are being taken that would see gas from Cyprus’ Aphrodite field being liquified here.


14-30 September (Tuesday-Thursday): 76th session of the UN General Assembly, New York.

22-25 September (Wednesday-Saturday): Cityscape Egypt, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

29 September (Wednesday): DevOpsDays Cairo 2021 is being organized by ITIDA and the Software Engineering Competence Center in cooperation with DXC Technology, IBM Egypt and Orange Labs.

30 September-2 October (Thursday-Saturday): Egypt Projects 2021 expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

30 September-8 October (Thursday-Friday): The Cairo International Fair, Cairo International Conference Center, Cairo, Egypt.

30 September: Closing of 2021’s first oil and gas tender in the Gulf of Suez, Western Desert, and the Mediterranean.

30 September (Thursday): First tranche of overdue subsidy payouts will be handed to eligible exporters.

30 September (Thursday): Direct flights between Egypt and three Libyan airports resume.

October: New legislative session begins — must be held by the first Thursday of October.

October: Romanian President Klaus Iohannis could visit Egypt in mid this month to discuss ways to boost tourism cooperation between the two countries.

1 October (Friday): Businesses importing goods at seaports will need to file shipping documents and cargo data digitally to the Advance Cargo Information (ACI) system.

1 October (Friday): Expo 2020 Dubai opens.

1 October (Friday): Deadline for state-owned companies and government agencies to sign up to e-invoicing platform.

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day.

7 October (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Armed Forces Day.

9 October (Saturday): Public schools begin 2021-2022 academic year

11-17 October (Monday-Sunday): IMF + World Bank Annual Meetings.

12-14 October (Tuesday-Thursday): Mediterranean Offshore Conference, Alexandria, Egypt.

18 October (Monday): Prophet’s Birthday.

21 October (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the Prophet’s Birthday.

24-28 October (Sunday-Thursday) Cairo Water Week, Cairo, Egypt.

27-28 October (Wednesday-Thursday) Intelligent Cities Exhibition & Conference, Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski, Cairo, Egypt.

28 October (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

28 October (Thursday): Second tranche of overdue subsidy payouts will be handed to eligible exporters.

30 October – 4 November (Saturday-Thursday): The first edition of Race The Legends, Egypt.

November: The French-Egyptian Business Forum is set to take place in the Suez Canal Economic Zone.

November: Egypt will host another round of talks to reach a potential Egyptian-Eurasian trade agreement, which can significantly contribute to increasing the volume of Egyptian exports to the Russia-led bloc that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

1-3 November (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Energy exhibition on power and renewable energy, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

2-3 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): The Federal Reserve meets to review interest rates.

1-12 November (Monday-Friday): 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), Glasgow, United Kingdom.

16-17 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): Africa fintech summit, Cairo.

26 November-5 December (Friday-Sunday): The 43rd Cairo International Film Festival.

29 November-2 December (Monday-Thursday): Egypt Defense Expo, Egypt International Exhibition Centre.

7-8 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): North Africa Trade Finance Summit.

12-14 December (Sunday-Tuesday): Food Africa Cairo trade exhibition, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

13-17 December: United Nations Convention against Corruption, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

14-19 December (Tuesday-Sunday): The Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theater.

14-15 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): The Federal Reserve meets to review interest rates.

15 December (Wednesday): Deadline for joint stock companies and investment companies in Cairo to join e-invoicing platform.

16 December (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

14-16 February 2022 (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo, Egypt.

1H2022: The World Economic Forum annual meeting, location TBD.

22-24 April 2022: World Bank-IMF spring meeting, Washington D.C.

May 2022: Investment in Logistics Conference, Cairo, Egypt

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

27 June-3 July 2022 (Monday-Sunday): World University Squash Championships, New Giza.

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

**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 below between the actual holiday and its observance.

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