Wednesday, 17 February 2021

EnterprisePM — Healthcare M&As heating up + Ezdehar has two exits in the pipeline

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TONIGHT

Good afternoon, friends. How cold is it outside? Enough so that we feel like this idiot must have. And the high winds in the People’s Democratic Republic of Maadi do not help at the moment. Holy sandstorm, Batman.

THE BIG STORY THIS AFTERNOON? Lots and lots of M&A news, most of it in healthcare. We have chapter and verse in this afternoon’s Speed Round, and ask in Parting Shot if we really know what we’re getting ourselves into as the House inches toward giving the Egyptian Competition Authority the right to approve or reject M&As.

*** CATCH UP QUICK- The top stories from this morning’s edition of EnterpriseAM:

  • Cabinet is preparing a three-year budget and fiscal outlook it plans to unveil in March as it starts working on the 2021-2022 state budget.
  • Who was in charge of drafting this non-compete? Adwia’s former owners look to re-enter the market after flipping their first company to a consortium led by EBRD and CDC last year.
  • The Biden White House is looking to redefine its relationships with key Mideast partners.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD heading into the final hours of the workday: Bloomberg notes that the UAE could slap price controls on chicken and milk as crop prices climb, while Reuters is leading with an exclusive claiming that “Congressional Democrats have begun discussions with the White House on ways to crack down on Big Tech,” with social media companies particularly in the cross-hairs. “The planned ‘e-yuan’ could boost Beijing’s surveillance state and create competition for private fintech groups,” the Financial Times says in its Big Read today.

Speaking of which: We had an explainer about central bank digital currencies earlier this week.

🚙 FOR YOUR COMMUTE-

MUST-READ for IR professionals (and Canucks) What do you do when you miss your quarterly guidance and are vilified in the court of public opinion for running a storied national brand into the ground? Declare you’re “democratizing the earnings call” by hosting a “people’s earnings call” in the form of an “open kitchen” on an elitist, invite-only chat app, of course.

Only climate nerds will read this to the end. Which is a shame, because every single person who has input into how businesses of all sizes spend money or plan out their strategy should read this epic interview with Bill Gates on why the ‘miracles’ of solar and wind energy won’t save us from climate change — and the breakthroughs that just might. Yeah, we know, the dude who foisted Windows on us all is getting a lot of ink this week, but his new book is that important.

Then go read about how much fun we’re going to have as we clean up the planet after having torched it with fossil fuels the past century and a half. Presuming we don’t fry the environment first.

Routine fascinates us enough that we devote the last word every Thursday to someone’s morning / WFH routine — so imagine our delight when CNN took a deep dive into President Joe Biden’s daily routine. It begins with early-morning coffee with his wife, then a 9am kickoff in the Oval Office and a 7pm walk back to the residence with binders under his arm.

We don’t miss travel. Not us. And we definitely haven’t started a countdown until the last day of school — in December — in the hope that we’ll be able to board a plane that day for our first vacation outside our borders in nearly two years. Nope. Not us. No, ma’am. But if we were longing to travel, we’d probably enjoy reading this package from the Economist on the future of travel, dubbed “Return of the Wanderer,” wherein we learn that covid-19 could shake up air travel for the better, that business travel may never fully recover — but that tourism will (please, God), and that the industry is going to be more exotic than ever.

A word of advice: Be ready for the unleashing of pent-up demand. Thom Hogan, one of our favourite photo bloggers is leading his next safari / workshop in 2022 and warns “if you're really interested in international travel in the 2022-2023 time frame, you're going to have to consider taking a risk and booking now. Once the floodgates of travel re-open, all the postponed tours are going to be sitting there eating up much of the availability, and I expect demand will exceed supply in many places.” The catch? Deposits are likely going to be non-refundable, so you’re going to want to buy travel ins. given the times in which we’re now living. (Hogan is particularly worthwhile reading if you’re at that peculiar intersection of business dweeb, photography nerd and gearhead — ie: kinda like us.)

But hey, not traveling? It’s good for our species’ carbon footprint, right?

Oh, and speaking of the Economist: They’re a bit late to this whole SPAC thing, but they’ve done it with style. Still not sure what a SPAC is? We’ve got you covered.

SIGN OF THE TIMES- Pizza babka is on track to be Instagram’s next big thing. You can “thank” this guy, Eater writes. (There are no words.)

PSA- A heartbreaking Twitter thread everybody should read if you’re uncomfortable around folks who display autistic behaviours.

🗓 CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Join a discussion on how to get innovation out of labs and classrooms and into hands of businesses just like yours. The Zoom webinar runs tomorrow starting at 1pm and will include a dive into the incentives business needs to establish joint ventures with universities to commercialize research. The talk is being organized by the USAID-funded Sustainable Services Activity for MSMEs in collaboration with the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT) at the Ministry of Higher Education. Sign up here.

Photographers and gear nerds have a week and a bit to go before the 25 February launch of this year’s version of CP+, the high-profile photo show that’s been reduced to an online-only event this year. Look for announcements from Canon and Nikon, though what exactly is hard to predict this year: Component shortages and a contracting market have pundits speculating that Canon just kicked back plans to unveil a new camera, saying it will instead settle for a development announcement. Nikon is expected to say something about a Z8 or Z9 body — something further up the value chain than its current Z 7ii — and make clear the timeline for its next lenses. Sony (Alfa 1) and Fujifilm (GFX100s) have already made major announcements this year, so it’s not clear what they might be bringing to the table).

MEANWHILE- Look for an announcement tomorrow from Nikon about a new firmware update to improve eye autofocus performance on the Z 6ii and Z 7ii, Nikon Rumors suggests.

AUC has announced the jury panel for Visions Cairo Film Festival which will take place between 21 and 29 March at AUC’s Downtown campus. Festival president Malek Khoury heads the jury, which includes DOP and film director Mohsen Ahmed, film editor and Higher Institute of Cinema professor Rahma Montasser, stage director, actor, and founder of AUC’s theatre department Mahmoud El Lozy, cinema and theatre actress and Al Warsha Theatre Troupe founder Hanan Youssef, and film set designer Fawzi El Awamri. The festival will see some 85 short films screened by filmmakers of varied levels of experience and backgrounds.

📺 ON THE TUBE TONIGHT-

Investor perspectives from New York to North Africa, a panel on venture capital tonight at 7:30pm CLT featuring Onsi Sawiris (HOF Capital), Amal Enan (Global Ventures), Omar Darwazah (AAF Management) and Ayman Ismail (AUC), moderated by Marco Viola. Sign up here.

Netflix is out with a new original interactive film Animals on the Loose that you and your family can enjoy. Featuring Bear Grylls from the Man vs. Wild series, animals escape from a sanctuary and you must pursue them and secure their protective habitat. The film can extend for 45-90 minutes, depending on the choices you make.

Online artists platform Talk to The Brush is holding a Facebook Live session with comic artist Deena Mohamed at 9pm. Mohamed is the creator of Al Qahera and Shubeik Lubeik which you can purchase in Arabic on Mahrousa.

Day two of the resumed Champions League will see Juventus play against Porto and Sevilla play against Dortmund, both at 10pm CLT.

The Premier League also has two matches on today. Burnley will hit the field against Fulham at 8pm CLT, while Manchester City and Everton will face off at 10:15pm CLT. Meanwhile, La Liga will see Levante and Atletico Madrid play at 8pm CLT.

🍫 EAT THIS TONIGHT-

You’ve got barely 12 days left to experience Ovio’s Belgian chocolate month. This year Ovio is using Callebaut chocolate for a menu that includes a “magic chocolate ball,” Brussels chocolate pancakes, and croquembouche. You can also enjoy chocolate month at home by ordering an assortment of the Belgian chocolate for delivery. Locations in Maadi, Cairo Festival City, Galleria 40, and The White by Waterway. Delivery: 19801 or hit up our friends at Elmenus.

KUDOS- Las Vegas is getting a taste of Omm El Donia’s cuisine after entrepreneur Iman Haggag opened Egyptian restaurant POTs, writes Egyptian Streets. POTs made it into Yelp’s list of top 50 places to eat in Las Vegas last year and is now focused on serving vegan food. Zooba’s success in New York inspired Haggag to open her own place. We talked to Zooba Founder Chris Khalifa about his business and his expansion abroad in an episode of our podcast Making It (listen, runtime: 44:10).

🎤 OUT AND ABOUT-

Taha El Korany’s latest exhibition, Over A Head, is on at Ebdaa Art Gallery (Google Maps), featuring colorful creations depicting large groups of people painted with an overhead perspective.

Cairo Jazz Club in Agouza is holding an anti-Valentine’s party today at 8pm. Cairo Jazz Club 610 (the second branch in Zayed) will feature Ahmed Sheba today at 9pm CLT.

💡 UNDER THE LAMPLIGHT-

Satirist Bassem Youssef has written a children’s graphic novel titled The Magical Reality of Nadia — inspired by the experiences of his younger daughter Nadia. When character Nadia moves from Egypt to the USA at six-years-old, she has to navigate the ups and downs of friendships, racism, and even some magic. The graphic novel was co-authored by Catherine R. Daly and published by Scholastic.

Learn to connect between art and science: World-renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote a final collection of essays before his death that looks at the intersections and crossovers between the arts and sciences through his own eyes and experiences. The River of Consciousness is described as a book to help you cleanse your mental palate and learn to make more connections. The Guardian is out with a review.

🌤 TOMORROW’S WEATHER- There’s a chance of a sprinkle this evening with an overnight low of 9°C. Tomorrow’s outlook includes a mix of cloud and sun with a high of 15°C.

M&A WATCH

Strong with the force, healthcare M&As are

The latest M&A activity in the red-hot healthcare sector appears to be a bidding war brewing for Alexandria Medical Services. Tawasol Holdings is looking to get full ownership of Alexandria Medical Services by snapping up the 74.08% stake it doesn’t already own, according to a bourse filing (pdf) by Alex Medical. Tawasol, which currently holds a 25.92% stake, is apparently a buyer at EGP 38.09 per share.

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank’s (ADCB), which has a 51.5% stake in Alex Medical, had also received an offer from a consortium made up of Mabaret Al Asafra Hospitals and Africa-focused investment firm Tana Africa Capital to acquire its full stake in the company. Separately, Egyptian-British entrepreneur Tamer Abdullah was reported in December to be looking to increase his 9.8% stake in Alex Medical. It’s unclear whether Abdullah is connected with Tawasol Holdings.

Speaking of which, Speed Medical (SPMD) has pretty much confirmed today that it is seeking an ownership stake in Prime Speed in a bourse disclosure (pdf) that outlines its stakes in Prime Speed’s subsidiary Misr Laboratories. SPMD noted that its potential acquisition of “a majority stake” in Prime Speed, would give it an effective ownership stake of 60% in Misr Labs, implying that it is seeking full control of Prime Speed. Zaki Hashem and Partners were chosen to act as legal advisor on the transaction.

Meanwhile, Hikma Pharma has appointed EFG Hermes as its financial advisor and Sharkawy & Sarhan as counsel ahead of its potential acquisition of GlaxoSmithKline’s Egypt assets, Hapi Journal reported this morning. The LSE-listed company last month signed a non-binding agreement with GSK to enter into talks to acquire a 91.2% stake in its pharma and manufacturing business in Egypt. GSK rejected rival bids by Rameda Pharma and Acdima last week.

IN OTHER M&A NEWS-

Ezdehar is still looking to exit two high-growth companies in 2021 as it inches closer to the launch of its new USD 200 mn fund, the fund’s managing director Emad Barsoum told the local press. The unnamed companies Ezdehar will be offloading in the coming year are delivering annual top line growth of 30-40% each year, Barsoum said. As a private equity player, Ezdehar typically has a 3-5 year holding period for its investments.

Background: Ezdehar said last October it was moving toward exits from three investments and went on to sell its full 22.5% stake in loyalty services provider Dsquares to Lorax Capital Partners. The news came as the private equity outfit prepared to hit the road to raise a new USD 200 mn fund that will target medium-sized companies operating in manufacturing, services, education, healthcare, non-banking financial services worth USD 10-30 mn per transaction. Barsoum said last fall that he expected the second and final close on the fund to come this year.

CORRECTION- 18 February 2021: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Tawasol is looking to raise its stake in Alexandria Medical Services to 74.08%. 

SPEED ROUND: AUTOMOTIVE

Mitsubishi to begin assembling cars in Egypt

Mitsubishi Motors is planning to start assembling cars in Egypt using a Nissan-owned plant, the local press reports, quoting sources close to talks between the two manufacturers. The two had reportedly signed an agreement that would see Mitsubishi roll out locally-assembled trucks as a starting point. Locally-assembled Mitsubishi passenger cars could then be next if the truck models successfully capture a “reasonable market share,” the sources said. Neither Nissan Egypt nor Mitsubishi replied to requests for comment as of dispatch time this afternoon.

Wait, aren’t they rivals? Globally, Mitsubishi and Nissan are partners in the Renault Nissan Mitsubishi alliance cobbled together by Carlos Ghosn. Nissan acquired a controlling stake in Mitsubishi back in 2017.

Gov’t automotive strategies bearing fruit? We’ve been keeping an eye on the package of incentives to automakers designed to spur domestic automotive assembly, which earned Cabinet approval in March 2020. The package includes giving global players access to incentives, infrastructure improvements, and Egypt’s network of trade agreements. Talks of those incentives has previously led several international automotive manufacturers — including Peugeot, Mercedes-Benz (which suspended assembly here four years ago), Kia, and Volkswagen — to announce they’re looking at potentially assembling models here in Egypt.

Other expected drivers for local assembly include a parallel strategy to kickstart a market for electric vehicles and while simultaneously pushing a transition to natural gas. Earlier in February, state-owned El Nasr Automotive said it will begin assembling EVs in Egypt sometime in July under contracts it finalized with China’s Dongfeng in January. The government has been pushing for a transition to EVs with incentives including set charging prices, subsidies of up to 50k per vehicle, as well as customs breaks. This is part of an overall direction to promote the use of clean energy on the roads, which also includes the state’s multi-year natural gas transition plan, which will see major domestic players investing to put dual-fuel cars in showrooms.

OTHER NEWS YOU SHOULD KNOW

Other stories we’re tracking as the workday draws to a close:

The ceiling for Egypt’s eurobond program has been raised to USD 40 bn from USD 30 bn following the recent USD 3.75 bn eurobond sale that was listed on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange, head of the Finance Ministry’s Debt Management Unit Mohamed Hegazy told Enterprise. The increase was “procedural” and came as the latest eurobond sale nudged the size of Egypt’s overall international debt issuance program to over USD 25 bn, creating the need for more room to expand in the future, Hegazy said. Finance Minister Mohamed Maait had said that the most recent sale would be Egypt’s last during FY2020-21.

Labor rights advocate and parliamentarian El Badry Farghaly passed away at the age of 73 in his coastal hometown Port Said after complications following surgery, according to a statement by leftist political party Al Tagmoaa which Farghaly co-founded in 1978. Farghaly started his career in the 1960s as a laborer at the Suez Canal before entering into public affairs work in the late ‘70s. He was then elected in 1990 as a member of parliament four consecutive times during the 30-year tenure of former president Hosni Mubarak, spending nearly a decade advocating for laborers and the poor as a persistent thorn in the side of Mubarak-era ministers.

CORRECTIONS-

  • In EnterpriseAM today, we included the wrong figure for inflows into NI Capital’s Sioula money market fund. It is EGP 1.075 bn, not EGP 1.7 bn. The story has been corrected on our website.
  • We also goofed on the currency in our pickup of Sarwa Capital’s FY2020 earnings, which were in EGP (not USD). That story has also been corrected on our website. H/t Haitham El-S.

We regret the errors.

GO WITH THE FLOW

OIH is back

The EGX30 fell -1.1% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 1.4 bn (3% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net buyers. The index is up 5.24% YTD.

In the green: Orascom Investment Holding (+51.5%), CI Capital (+0.9%) and Sodic (+0.6%).

In the red: Orascom Financial Holding (-15.5%), Pioneers Holding (-3.3%) and MM Group (-2.5%).

Orascom Investment Holding (OIH) rose more than 50% to EGP 0.262 on its first day back to trading after the spinoff of its non-bank financial services (NBFS) holdings into Orascom Financial Holdings (OFH). Meanwhile, Orascom Financial Holding was the worst performer of the day, with its shares falling 15.5% to EGP 0.385.

That suggests both companies have overshot: OFH is oversold and OIH over-bought. Prime suggested OIH had 8% to run and OFH would contract 3%, with Head of Research Amr El Alfy suggesting that “we believe [OFH] is where all the action will be, starting with a clean slate and zero leverage. OFH will likely go on an acquisition spree within the NBFS space, potentially raising capital through debt or equity.” OIH, on the other hand, is more of a play on how the Koryolink story will unfold, with Pharos’ Bassma Bakry saying that a resolution on the status of the North Korean mobile operator could be the “saviour” of the share.

EARNINGS WATCH- There are no surprises as FY2020 earnings season continues: Healthcare had a reasonably good year, and banks saw pressure on their bottom lines thanks to covid-19, interest rate cuts and the central bank’s debt-relief measures.

First up, Cleopatra Hospital is set to report revenue growth of around 20% y-o-y in 4Q2020 and a full-year revenue growth of 10% y-o-y in FY2020, Cleopatra said in a trading update (pdf) ahead of the release of its audited financial results. The hospitals group expects net profit to be in line with top-line growth despite higher depreciation as Cleopatra continues to invest in its infrastructure with lower interest income following the CBE’s multiple rate cuts in 2020.

Management is optimistic about 2021: Cleopatra’s management is optimistic about the Group’s growth prospects in 2021 after managing to diversify its revenue stream and digitalize many of its operations in 2020. The Group is “ideally positioned to continue building on the solid momentum witnessed in the final months of 2020 to deliver strong growth and improved margins in the coming period.” The release makes no mention of its in-progress acquisition of Alameda Healthcare, owner for Cairo’s Dar El Fouad and As-Salam International hospitals.

The National Bank of Kuwait- Egypt reported a 33.2% y-o-y dip in 2020 net profits to EGP 1.44 bn, according to the bank’s earnings release (pdf). The lender’s top line declined to EGP 3.26 bn last year, compared to EGP 3.76 bn in 2019.

Misr Fertilizers Production Company’s (MOPCO) net profits rose 37% y-o-y in 2020 to EGP 1.14 bn, compared to EGP 830.42 mn in 2019, according to a regulatory filing (pdf).

Arab Aluminum’s net profits rose 81% y-o-y in 2020 to EGP 13.67 mn, compared to EGP 7.55 mn the previous year, the company said (pdf).

LIFE & ARTS

How self improvement may just be another marketing scheme: We’re already a month and a half into the new year, and (wild guess) you’ve already slipped up on at least one of your resolutions, giving way to a renewed sense of inadequacy: You didn’t stick to your diet plan to lose weight, you’re still working too much, or you haven’t started that new hobby. The natural and common sense of obligation to “fix” our faults is exactly what companies — be it ins. providers, gyms, or department stores — tap into, argues the Atlantic. These businesses will push products or services you believe will help you make a change, and help them pocket some income, in what is known as “resolution-dependent advertising.”

Where did new year’s resolutions even come from? Resolutions date back at least 4k years to ancient Babylon, where people celebrated the feast of Akitu and promised to repay debts to please their deities. Versions of the practice were also common in ancient Rome and medieval Europe, and the concept was carried into modern cultures by religions such as Christianity and Judaism, which encourage taking stock of the previous year and making amends moving forward. The religious or spiritual facet of the practice is less prominent, and instead resolutions more typically focus on the self.

The self-improvement ideology is no longer contained to New Year’s, instead seeping into our day-to-day doctrine through social media advertising and influencers who push on consumers the idea that they can become a better version of themselves — if only they tried harder. This constant onslaught of messages suggesting that you’re not good enough can become more anxiety-inducing than motivating, writes Riot Act.

And the self-help industry doesn’t necessarily help: The industry — which was valued at over USD 10 bn in 2016 — usually focuses on short term personal pleasure and not long term growth, argue several psychologists, according to Mic. “Individuals can become so fixated on building a cocoon of self improvement that it isolates and deemphasizes relationships and external reinforcers,” says Sabrina Romanoff, a New York City-based psychologist. By focusing on the self, there appears to always be room for tweaking and improvement, and the normal periods of fatigue and failure are seen as a problem that must be “fixed” quickly, writes the Cut.

So how should you improve this year? A change in habits or even lifestyle is far from impossible, but the impetus must be genuine personal desire, as opposed to an arbitrary date on the calendar or getting your money’s worth from a product. Some suggest changing the angle or focus of resolutions to be more devoted to others, rather than to oneself. Think: “How can I be a better part of my family, citizen and contributor to society?” And if you insist on buying something for self-improvement, consider a gratitude journal to list all the things you’re thankful for on a daily basis. The journal is an especially useful tool in a situation as difficult as the pandemic, which could ease anxiety and help revert your focus to some of the good around you.

ENTERPRISE EXPLAINS

Enterprise Explains: Messenger RNA vaccines

Enterprise Explains: Messenger RNA vaccines. You might have seen us throwing about the term “mRNA vaccine” a lot recently. With the rollout of the Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna jobs over the past month or so, the vaccines have been generating a lot of buzz, not only for potentially helping to save human civilization, but for their experimental technology. To answer what an mRNA vaccine actually is, we need to go back to basics.

What, exactly, is a virus? To understand the vaccine, you need to get two basic things about how a virus is structured. In general, it has a genome (genetic material consists either of DNA or RNA) and a shell that surrounds it. The shell (a protein layer known as a capsid and in some an outer layer called an envelope) both protects the genome and helps the virus attach itself to and invade cells. Once inside, the genetic material is released, allowing the virus to effectively take over the cell and use it machinery to replicate itself.

(One note: This is a slightly rudimentary explanation of how a virus actually operates, since viruses come in different shapes, sizes and types. And don’t even get us started on prions.)

How did vaccines work in pre-covid times? Back before mRNA jabs were a thing, vaccines were generally composed either of weakened (or “attenuated”) versions of a virus or a part of its outermost shell, the goal being to teach the immune system what the virus looks like, enabling it to produce the correct antibodies to fight the infection.

Introducing mRNA: mRNA is a single-stranded set of directions that tells a cell’s machinery how to build one specific thing. In humans our genes are encoded in double-stranded DNA — think of it like a coiled up book of blueprints that tell your cells how to make any protein that your body may need. It does that by using en enzyme to translate a specific stretch of DNA into a strand of mRNA, which forms a literal blueprint for how to make one specific protein.

That’s where BioNTech and Modern come in: Rather than putting the entire virus inside the body, Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna have engineered a stretch of mRNA used by the coronavirus to make a harmless (but really important and unique) “spike” protein. The mRNA is treated so that your body doesn’t destroy it once it’s injected into you (it’s coated in an envelope of fat, effectively) — and so that passing immune cells suck it up and start cranking out the spike protein, which triggers your body’s immune response. As the immune system gets to work, you ultimately wind up with two different types of “memory” cells that know how to recognize and start a response to the coronavirus and its “spike” protein if you’re challenged with the virus for real.

mRNA vaccines haven’t appeared out of the blue: Scientists have been studying the technology for the past 30 years. The main problem has been finding a way to keep the mRNA stable after it has entered the body. And given that this is the first time these kind of vaccines have been deployed, there are also questions about how long they will keep people immune.

What about the AstraZeneca vaccine? The inoculation developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University is also a type of gene-based vaccine, but instead uses DNA carried by a version of the common cold virus to trick our cells into producing the mRNA. The adenovirus has previously been used to create vaccines against ebola, and advanced trials are underway to test it against HIV and Zika.

Why do mRNA vaccines have to stay super cold? Single-stranded mRNA is super unstable by nature, so the Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines need to be stored at -70°C. By contrast, the Oxford / AstraZeneca is a much more stable DNA-based concoction that can be stored at 2-8°C for several months, protected by the adenovirus’ shell.

Want more?

PARTING SHOT

The Egyptian Competition Authority could soon see itself muscled up after Rep. Ahmed Samir said yesterday his House Economics Committee had given preliminary approval to amendments to the Competition Act (law 3/2005) that would give the ECA the power to reject mergers and acquisitions, Youm7 reports. The amendments would require companies to notify the ECA that they plan to merge or undertake an acquisition and would give ECA the power to approve or reject the transaction.

Samir said the amendments could also change the definition of “economic concentration,” a key principle in evaluating the potential market impact of a transaction.

How it works today: The ECA can raise red flags, but only after a transaction is concluded. Successive antitrust bosses have sought the power to approve or reject M&As.

As always, the devil is in the details. US law, for example, gives the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department the right to review any merger worth at more than USD 94 mn. Companies need to report transactions over that threshold, and most get the green light after a preliminary review of 30 days or less. But US law provides clear avenues for appeal — and the bureaucracy is run by staff with deep expertise in the topic. Remedies for businesses that run afoul of the Justice Department or FTC are also clear: The investigating body can move into settlement talks to find a way forward, or take action in federal district court to block the transaction.

What’s more, there needs to be an agreement on the bad corporate behaviour we’re trying to prevent. Is it the unfair quashing of competitors? Or the fleecing of customers? US antitrust law, thanks to Robert Bork, defines antitrust law largely in terms of consumer welfare — which is entirely different from whether fair competition for another corporation is being stifled. Amazon, for example, does plenty of things that critics argue exploit is market position to stifle other companies (including using its trove of data to figure out what’s selling well, then have it made by a contract manufacturer and undercutting an established brand. Those same practices aren’t generally seen as narrowly anti-consumer, because it results in lower shelf prices. Dive deeper with Lina Khan’s seminal Amazon's Antitrust Paradox in the Yale Law Journal or read / listen to her interview with The Verge’s Nilay Patel (himself a journalist turned lawyer).

The keys to making this work here in Egypt? The business community will want some reassurance that the head of the ECA is both pro-free market and pro-consumer — and that speedy remedies will be available in the event the ECA takes issue with a transaction and the parties to it want to mount an appeal.

In this respect, committee-level approval of the amendments is just the first step. What this ultimately means to a business community increasingly enamored of growing through acquisition won’t be clear until the executive regulations are handed down, until we agree on what we’re trying to prevent (companies being quashed — or consumers being harmed) — and until we know who will be interpreting them.

Want to dive deeper? There’s no better starting place than Planet Money’s three-episode podcast arc, tracing antitrust law in the US of A from Ida Tarbell’s takedown of Standard Oil to the brewing showdown with Big Tech via Mr. Bork.

CALENDAR

February: France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, is set to visit Egypt.

6-27 February (Saturday-Saturday): Mid-year school break (public schools — enjoy the break from bumper-to-bumper traffic).

7-28 February (Sunday-Sunday): The Finance Ministry will receive applications from companies wishing to take part in the second phase of its program for the immediate payout of export subsidy arrears to exporters, minus a 15% fee.

17 February (Wednesday): MENA x CEO MENA Entrepreneurship & VC Panel: Investor Perspectives from New York to North Africa will be hosted by the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization.

20 February (Saturday): Final results of applications for private university places will be announced on the Higher Education Ministry’s electronic university admissions site

22-24 February (Monday-Wednesday): Second Arab Land Conference on land management, efficient land use, among other topics.

22 February- 5 March (Monday-Friday) Egypt will host the World Shooting Championship in 6 October’s Shooting Club, with 31 countries set to participate

26 February (Thursday): The Afro Future Summit will take place virtually.

26-28 February (Thursday-Saturday): The second edition of the Egypt International Art Fair will be held at Dusit Thani Lakeview Cairo.

28 February (Sunday) Deadline for businesses, sole traders, and those generating income from sources other than their day job to file wage tax returns through the electronic filing system.

March: Potential visit to Cairo by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

1 March: Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum comes into effect.

1-5 March (Monday-Friday): Aswan Forum for Peace and Development will take place virtually.

4-6 March (Thursday-Saturday): Cairo Fashion & Tex trade show, Cairo International Convention Centre, Cairo, Egypt

8 March (Monday): The IDC Future of Work Egypt conference will be held virtually featuring experts from Egypt and Jordan.

9-11 March (Tuesday-Thursday): EduGate 2021 – Enter The Future conference, Kempinski Royal Maxim Hotel, Cairo, Egypt.

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

23 March (Tuesday): The second edition of the Egypt Retail Summit takes place at the Nile Ritz Carlton hotel.

25-27 March (Thursday-Saturday): The Real Gate real estate exhibition, Egyptian International Exhibition Center, Cairo.

31 March (Wednesday): Deadline to visit the moroor and get an RFID sticker affixed to your car’s windshield — or run afoul of the Traffic Police.

1-3 April (Thursday-Saturday): HVAC-R Egypt Expo.

8-10 April (Thursday-Saturday): The TriFactory’s Endurance Festival at Somabay.

13 April (Monday): 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): 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 June-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.

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.

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

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

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.

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.

1 October (Friday): Expo 2020 Dubai opens.

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2021 Enterprise Ventures LLC.