Sunday, 11 April 2021

EnterprisePM — Is the economic reform agenda getting a new coat?



Good afternoon, everyone, and we hope you already stacked your fridge over the weekend.

THE BIG STORY AT HOME as we kick off this new week: Macro Group is postponing its IPO on the Egyptian Exchange despite strong appetite from international institutional investors. A statement (pdf) out just minutes ago says that the company’s “international road show … met with very strong demand from international institutional investors in major financial centres, reflecting Macro Group’s unique position as Egypt’s leading cosmeceutical and neutraceutical company and our team’s ambitious growth plans.”

What happened? Too many offerings at once for domestic institutions: “In consultation with the relevant regulatory authorities, we have nevertheless decided to postpone the offering,” the statement said. “The determining factor in our decision is the market’s capacity to absorb multiple offerings.” Multibrand higher education outfit Taaleem started trading last week, and London-listed consumer healthcare giant IDH is likely to conclude a technical listing of at least 5% of its shares on the EGX later this month.

Macro will likely look to the fall IPO window, writing in the statement that, “in concert with our selling shareholders, we are entirely committed to the next stage of our journey as a publicly traded company and look forward to the start of trading in our shares later this year.” Macro had been scheduled to open the window today to local retail subscribers after having suggested it would price its offering of some 45.8% of the company at EGP 5.30-6.15 per share.

TAKE NOTE- We’ll know in a few hours’ time whether Ramadan begins tomorrow or on Tuesday, as Dar Al Ifta is expected to hold its traditional moon sighting this evening. (We incorrectly said in this morning’s EnterpriseAM that the moon sighting is happening tomorrow. Calendars. They’re hard, sometimes.)

** CATCH UP QUICK on the top stories from this morning’s edition of EnterpriseAM:

We’re also pretty excited about the discovery of what’s being billed as “Egypt’s answer to Pompeii” — a lost city from Egypt's “Golden Age” that has been unearthed near Luxor, almost three millennia after it was built for King Tutankhamun's grandfather.

HAPPENING NOW- The FY2021-22 budget is now with the House of Representatives’ planning and economic committees, after receiving the sign off of the Senate, according to Youm7. The bill will receive its final legislative approval from the House.

Also from the House: A plenary session approved today a USD 200 mn loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development — which is part of the World Bank Group — to implement air pollution and climate change management projects in Greater Cairo, according to a separate Youm7 article.

Are we going to see higher fuel prices as we head into Ramadan? The government’s fuel pricing committee is taking longer than expected to announce 2Q prices as it’s still discussing whether the rise of global oil prices last quarter warrants a hike of at least EGP 0.25 on the liter, Masrawy reports, quoting government sources. The committee was due to make a decision yesterday, with consensus being that it will at least maintain domestic prices since Brent crude was at USD 50-70 / bbl during 1Q2021, much higher than a USD 37-53 average in 4Q2020. The committee meets to review fuel prices under a pricing mechanism that pegs prices to Brent crude and global exchange rates.


“Summer hours” will come into effect for retail stores and restaurants as of 17 April. This means retail shops can close at 11 pm (instead of 10 pm during the winter), while cafes and restaurants can stay open until 1 am (instead of midnight currently). We have more details on the winter vs. summer hours here.


SIGN OF THE TIMES- We’re installing chips in monkeys’ brains to watch them play video games with just their minds: A male macaque with chips embedded on each side of its brain — courtesy of Elon Musk’s brain-chip startup Neuralink — can play videogame Mind Pong by simply thinking about moving his hand up or down (watch, runtime: 03:27). Neuralink works by recording and decoding electrical signals from the brain using more than 2k electrodes implanted in regions of the monkey’s motor cortex that coordinate hand and arm movements. The technology may seem frivolous because it’s … a monkey playing video games, but Musk hopes the chips can eventually help paraplegics to walk again by shunting signals from Neuralinks in the brain to Neuralinks in body motor and sensory neuron clusters. The technology is now being altered to allow humans with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using their thumbs, Musk said in a thread on Twitter.

London was a prime location for wealthy property owners last year, with the super-rich spending almost USD 4 bn on super-prime properties in the UK capital, more than any other city in the world, according to the Financial Times. The so-called super-prime properties are classified as anything with a price tag of USD 10 mn or more. Global buyers were lured to London’s real estate market by the weak GBP and the end of the UK’s Brexit saga, coupled with an exodus from the capital city to the suburbs during the pandemic.


Two very high profile figures passed away over the weekend that are worth noting if you missed it. The first is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh — consort of Queen Elizabeth — who died two months shy of his 100th birthday on Friday.

Millenials of a certain age should certainly shed a tear for the death of rap icon DMX on Friday. The rapper, who died at aged 50 from complications from an overdose, had been a fixture at house parties in the 90s and early 2000s with hits such “Up in Here,” the “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” and “X Gonna Give to Ya,” that had everyone literally barking.


(All times in CLT)

Netflix has released This is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist, which takes a deep dive into the 1990 theft of USD 500 mn-worth of art from a museum in Boston — the most expensive art heist in history. Two thieves posing as Boston police officers made their way into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and snagged masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, Manet, and more. Despite a reward offering of USD 5 mn, none of the works have been recovered and no arrests were ever made. The Netflix docuseries talks to museum staff, members of the FBI, and alleged eyewitnesses to the crime. The Guardian and Art News are both fans.

Football is back in full swing, with our favorite leagues showing matches today.

In the English Premier League, Burnley and Newcastle finished off their match earlier in the afternoon. West Ham and Leicester City are currently on the field, while Tottenham and Man United are up at 5:30pm, and Sheffield United and Arsenal will compete at 8pm.

Juventus is currently playing against Genoa in Serie A. Sampdoria will face off against Napoli at 3pm, Roma against Bologna at 6pm, Fiorentina against Atalanta at 8:45pm, and finally, Benevento will go head-to-head with Sassuolo at 8:45pm.

A match to look out for in La Liga: Real Betis will play against Atletico Madrid at 9pm.

Egypt’s Premier League has two matches on today: Ceramica Cleopatra is playing against El Entag El Harby at 5pm while Al Masry will play against El Gouna at 7pm.


Good Stuff Eatery is one of the best burger joints in Cairo, with both classic sandwiches and creative takes on burgers that is an experience for your tastebuds. As indecisive people, we sometimes love short menus that get to the point, and Good Stuff knows the good stuff. Chicken, beef, and vegetarian burgers, awesome fries, and milkshakes are the main event at the Galleria 40 restaurant — which we do recommend visiting in person to experience their sauces bar firsthand. Having originated in Washington DC, they have a Prez Obama Burger — which is our favorite, political connotations aside. You should also check out their Honey Love Bird sandwich and Sunnyside burger.


In commemoration of late Egyptian artist Saad Kamel, Mashrabia Gallery has on exhibition Folklore Tales, featuring a rare collection of his artworks. The exhibit is open everyday from 3-8pm and will run until Thursday at the Downtown Cairo art space.

It’s ladies’ stand up comedy night at The Room New Cairo with an epic lineup of women comedians including SNL’s Yara Fahmy, Noha Kato, Rahma Zein, Bernadette, Reem Nabil, and Medrona Selim. The show will start at 9pm.


The world needs a new social contract, argues Egyptian-born British-American Dame Minouche Shafik in her new book What We Owe Each Other. Shafik, who is currently the director of the London School of Economics, looks at how countries can do more than just offer citizens a decent life. She aims instead for a more generous and inclusive society which in her view would see people share more risks collectively and have them contribute more so that everyone can fulfill their potential. Her reordering of “the system” is comprehensive, taking readers through different stages of life from raising children, getting educated, falling ill, working, and growing old, and showing how together we can build better societies.

Shafik had lunch with the Financial Times: In a separate article, The FT looks at the simultaneous release of both Shafik’s book and Mark Carney’s Values: Building a Better World for All, writing that “there is something profoundly awry with the economy as it is now” which is alarming seeing as these two key figures couldn’t fix what is broken.

???? TOMORROW’S WEATHER- Expect daytime highs of 25°C and nighttime lows of 10°C tomorrow, according to our favorite weather app.


Economic Reform Program 2.0?

It appears that the government is working on an update to the 2016 economic reform agenda that will focus on “sustainable growth”and further diversifying the economy to better guard against external shocks, Planning Minister Hala El Said said (watch, runtime 11:43) at a conference last week. The plan appears to be working on five tiers:

  • A focus on promoting growth sectors, with ICT, agriculture, as well as health and education becoming priority sectors for public spending.
  • Spending on infrastructure and development targeting the country’s poorest villages.
  • HR and vocational training: Developing the country’s vast labor force through technical education.
  • Growing the green economy by making green projects constitute at least 30% of government projects over the next fiscal year.
  • Increasing the role of the private sector in the economy — which the Sovereign Fund of Egypt (SFE) has already been spearheading through the state-led privatization program.

The program seeks to build on Egypt’s 2016 economic reform program, says El Said. “The sustainability of this growth requires the continuation of structural reforms, which the government, represented by the prime minister, will announce in the coming days,” she said. The government had previously said it is targeting a 2.8% growth rate this fiscal year, which it hopes to increase to 5.4% in the coming year.

A much-needed update? Egypt has consistently scored well on the reform front in multiple IMF reviews, but could benefit from a number of further improvements, which have been called for by both the IMF and industry players through the years. This includes a more relaxed regulatory environment to encourage private sector participation, as well as more logistical and financial support for the industrial sector.

The covid crisis becomes a covid opportunity: International Cooperation Minister Rania Al Mashat had announced that Egypt would look to initiate a second wave of post-covid reforms focused on improving the business environment for the private sector. She said last year that covid-19 has expedited, rather than derailed, certain aspects of Egypt’s reform program — such as expanding social security nets and upping financial inclusion.


Mogamma building overhaul to be completed ASAP

And speaking of the SFE, the fund is expected to reach an agreement with a private sector partner to repurpose the Mogamma Tahrir building by 3Q2021, Planning Minister and SFE Chairperson Hala El Said said in a statement (pdf). A timeline to move forward with the project — which will see the iconic downtown Cairo building transformed into a multi-purpose attraction with an apartment hotel, commercial, and office spaces — will then be agreed with the developer, El Said said, adding that the contract will prioritize the fastest route to execution possible. The fund has issued the conditions booklet for the public-private partnership project to investors and foreign and local real estate developers, she added.

Meanwhile, SFE chief executive Ayman Soliman separately confirmed that the fund is mulling a minority stake in Amoun Pharma, Bausch Health’s unit in Egypt. Confirming previous press reports, Soliman tells Al Mal that the purchase is an attractive prospect for the SFE, and a decision is expected to be announced soon. If the SFE moves forward with the plan, the stake would be in the neighborhood of 10%, but this is still subject to the board’s final say, he added. Abu Dhabi investment arm ADQ recently acquired 100% of Amoun. The SFE and ADQ signed a partnership back in 2019 to set up a USD 20 bn joint investment platform.


GB Auto subsidiary sells 5% stake in Mashroey, Tasaheel’s MNT Investments

GB Auto is selling down its indirect stake in Netherland-based subsidiary MNT Investments to unnamed foreign investors in a EGP 352.7 mn transaction, it said in a statement (pdf). Under an agreement with “certain foreign investment funds,” a GB subsidiary will sell a 5% stake in MNT Investments. The sale will bring GB Auto’s stake in MNT Investments down to 57.26%, and will be completed as soon as the companies involved “fulfil their legal obligations,” the statement said.

Who’s MNT? It's the parent company of asset-based lender Mashroey and microfinance player Tasaheel and is majority-owned by GB Auto’s financial services arm GB Capital. MNT also holds a stake in tuk-tuk ride sharing, delivery, and microfinance business Halan. Back in 2018, GB Capital brought Africa-focused PE firm Development Partners International on board as a partner in MNT through a 33%, USD 45 mn stake sale.


This Carbon Holdings subsidiary is in trouble

Carbon Holdings’ EHC needs to restructure USD 600 mn in debt: Carbon Holdings subsidiary the Egyptian Hydrocarbon Company (EHC) is in talks with the US Export-Import Bank and other unnamed financial institutions to restructure USD 600 mn in debt it took on to finance its mining-grade ammonium nitrate plant, Al Shorouk reports, citing unnamed banking sources. EHC has struggled to keep up with the payment schedule on its debt, according to the sources, and the company is now looking to pay off a portion of the debt by handing the lenders a stake in the company.

What’s the issue? The company took out a USD 385 mn loan from 11 banks back in 2013 to finance the construction of an ammonium nitrate plant in Ain Sokhna, which has since been plagued by difficulties. The plant, which EHC brought online in 2017, is part of Carbon Holdings’ USD 10.6 bn Ain-Sokhna based Tahrir Petrochemicals Complex, which was designed to serve industrial demand in Egypt and abroad for raw materials used in the automotive, building and packaging industries, among others. EHC previously agreed with its lenders to restructure its debts, but has since failed to meet the payment schedule, according to Al Shorouk.


  • Dry-cleaning and laundry app Laverie has raised an undisclosed six-figure investment from tech investor A15, which the startup will use to expand its local operations, with an eye to entering the Gulf market within the coming two years, according to a press release (pdf).


Secondary bond market to be opened to retail investors

The EGX30 rose 0.9% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 749 mn (46.1% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 4.2% YTD.

In the green: GB Auto (+8.6%), Fawry (+6.4%) and Export Development Bank (+3.9%).

In the red: Eastern Co. (-1.7%), Abu Qir Fertilizers (-1.2%) and EKH (-1.0%).

REGULATION WATCH- Bond listings on the EGX are now subject to new rules that could encourage wider participation from retail investors. The rules require issuers tapping the secondary market to allocate at least 10% to retail investors and companies that won’t be bound by a minimum buy-in, Financial Regulatory Authority Deputy Chairman Islam Azzam said, according to Masrawy. Institutional investors are subject to a minimum 1% or EGP 10 mn buy-ins to participate in bond placements and high-net-worth investors need to snap up at least 0.5% or EGP 1 mn, whichever is smaller. Exempting smaller players from this would allow them to take part in placements, widening the investor base, Azzam says.

How could it work? Regular folks will likely be able to invest savings in bonds traded on the secondary market through term deposits at their banks, Prime Holding senior economist Mona Bedeir tells us. It could work in the same way the National Bank of Egypt allows its customers to own government bonds and treasuries, she adds.

A case of ‘if you build it, they will come’? It’s a good first step to channel more savings to private borrowers, and one which will test the extent to which non-traditional investors are willing to invest in bonds, Bedeir told Enterprise. If the new minimum succeeds in attracting more investors to the secondary market, there would be scope to increase it above 10%, she added, noting that the move is a litmus test for the bond market.


Venture capital vs private equity

Enterprise Explains: Venture capital vs private equity investments. At their core, venture capital and private equity have the same mandate — investing in companies and then exiting these investments to generate returns. Despite their similarities (and the fact that VC is actually a subset of private equity), the two types of investments differ vastly.

The definitions: Venture capital is capital funding provided by a group of investors to startups or small businesses in which they see long-term growth potential. These investments typically run high risk levels, but they also have the potential for higher payoff and higher-than-average returns as an upside. Venture capital is popular among startups and small businesses because they typically don’t have access to capital markets or bank loans for funding, unlike a well-established corporation. Private equity, meanwhile, is a branch of investment banking whose goal is to take on an underperforming company or asset and manage or restructure it to increase its profitability. Both VC and private equity end with an exit once the investment has generated a certain level of return.

The key differences between these two types of investments:

#1 – The types and size of companies in which the investments are made: Private equity is typically used for mature, well-established companies that have potential to generate greater returns, or are experiencing a downturn and need an experienced pair of hands with deep pockets. VCs look at early-stage companies, and often focus on businesses in the tech, biotech, clean tech, and fintech spaces.

Many of the PE funds that come to Egypt have developed a particular liking for the infrastructure, fintech, and healthcare businesses. Examples include SPE Capital Partners’ SPE AIF I fund — which is active in Egypt’s healthcare sector — and pan-African PE firm DPI, which led a consortium of investors in the USD 126 mn acquisition of Egyptian pharma company Adwia last year. Emerging markets PE giant Actis also entered into talks with the Sovereign Fund of Egypt earlier this year to drive investment to Egypt worth some GBP 3 bn in infrastructure, health, and education, after saying last year it has its eyes on fintech and healthcare acquisitions in Egypt. And global private equity outfit Apis — which is setting up an office in Cairo — specializes in financial services and is open to investing in Egypt.

#2 – The value of funding (aka “ticket size”): The global average PE investment value for a single company is upwards of USD 100 mn, while the typical VC investment is in the neighborhood of USD 10 mn or less per startup.

#3 – Equity percentage: Because of the high risk associated with venture capital, these funds or firms typically invest in a small equity percentage (typically 50% or less) per company — but have a bigger portfolio to spread the investments across. That way, if one investment flops, there are other prospects in their basket. Venture capital is solely equity-based, which gives investors a say in how the company is run and managed to increase the likelihood of its success. In the private equity world, investments use a combination of equity and debt: PE investors will usually snap up a company in its entirety, and then pour in investments to improve its performance.

How PEVCs are regulated in Egypt: The latest Capital Markets Act (pdf) defines “private ownership funds” — a term that can be used interchangeably to refer to PE or VC funds — as closed-ended funds which raise money through private placements. These funds, which operate under the purview of the Financial Regulatory Authority, are allowed to invest in listed or privately-held securities, or any asset for which the FRA sets guidelines. As it stands, PE and VC outfits need to be managed by certified general partners (GPs) that meet licensing requirements defined by the FRA back in 2018. Before the now-displaced Investment Ministry issued a 2018 directive making the FRA the primary regulator of the industry, the limited partnership model (also known as the GP-LP structure or the preferred structure for PEVC activity) didn’t exist.

Most PE and VC funds currently active in Egypt are first set up offshore, and then come to Egypt and the region eyeing investment prospects, Egyptian Capital Markets Association (ECMA) Chairman Mohamed Maher said last year (watch, runtime: 4:47). The majority of those based on-shore are traditional money market, stock, and fixed-income funds, according to Maher. Industry insiders we have previously spoken with told us that a large part of the impetus for setting up funds offshore is the simple fact that the PE and VC space in Egypt — and by extension, the regulations and legal frameworks that govern it — is still nascent, making it easier and more logical for investors to base their funds in tried-and-true markets.

What to expect this year from Egypt’s VC world: In the first three months of the year, 34 Egyptian startups raised USD 22 mn, making Egypt the third largest recipient of VC funding in MENA, after the UAE and KSA, according to a Wamda report. March alone saw startups in Egypt raising USD 5 mn, the report. And international funds are expected to continue piling into Om El Donia in 2021 as VC players, particularly those in the UAE, are being priced out of Saudi Arabia. Egypt already has an active VC market, accounting for 25% of the MENA region’s transactions in the first half of 2020, according to a Magnitt report. Looking ahead, several VC firms have made commitments to invest in Egypt’s tech space over the coming year, including Algebra Ventures through a new USD 90 mn tech fund, and Sawari Ventures through a USD 28 mn tech fund.


April: The government’s fuel pricing committee is scheduled to meet for its quarterly review of prices

April: EBRD president Odile Renaud-Basso expected to visit Egypt.

12 April (Monday): Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Egypt for GERD talks (watch: runtime: 1:28).

13 April (Tuesday): First day of Ramadan (TBC).

25 April (Sunday): Sinai Liberation Day.

29 April (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Sinai Liberation Day (TBC),

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

1 May (Saturday): Labor Day (national holiday).

2 May (Sunday): Coptic Easter Sunday.

3 May (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

13-15 May (Thursday-Saturday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

25-28 May (Tuesday-Friday): The World Economic Forum annual meeting, Singapore.

1 June (Tuesday): The IMF will conduct a second review of targets set under the USD 5.2 bn standby loan approved in June 2020 (proposed date).

7-9 June (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo, Egypt.

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

17-20 June (Thursday-Sunday) : The International Exhibition of Materials and Technologies for Finishing and Construction (Turnkey Expo), Cairo International Conference Center.

24 June (Thursday): End of the 2020-2021 academic year (public schools).

26-29 June (Saturday-Tuesday): The Big 5 Construct Egypt, Cairo International Convention Center, Cairo, Egypt.

30 June (Wednesday): 30 June Revolution Day.

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

1 July: (Thursday): National holiday in observance of 30 June Revolution.

1 July (Thursday): Large taxpayers that have not yet signed on on to the e-invoicing platform will suffer a host of penalties, including removal from large taxpayer classification, losing access to government services and business, and losing subsidies.

19 July (Monday): Arafat Day (national holiday).

20-23 July (Tuesday-Friday): Eid Al Adha (national holiday)

23 July (Friday): Revolution Day (national holiday).

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

9 August (Monday): Islamic New Year.

12 August (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the Islamic New Year.

12-15 September (Sunday-Wednesday): Sahara Expo: the 33rd International Agricultural Exhibition for Africa and the Middle East.

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

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

30 September-8 October (Thursday-Friday): The 54th session of the Cairo International Fair, Cairo International Conference Center, Cairo, Egypt.

1 October (Friday): Expo 2020 Dubai opens.

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day.

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

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.

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

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

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

29 November-2 December (Monday-Thursday): Egypt Defense Expo

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

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

May 2022: Investment in Logistics Conference, Cairo, Egypt.

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

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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