Tuesday, 5 October 2021

EnterprisePM — IMF boss in the hot seat over corruption allegations, but Egypt shows its support.

TL;DR

🔎 WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TONIGHT

It’s been a busy day, ladies and gentlemen, as we approach the end of the short work week. We have everything from key macro indicators and updates on long awaited projects on the local front. As for globally, let’s just say it’s a day of reckoning if you head up Facebook or the IMF.

THE BIG STORIES TODAY-

#1- Egypt’s non-oil private sector activity hit a four-month low last month: The non-oil private sector’s activity continued its contraction for the tenth consecutive month in September, according to the latest reading of IHS Markit’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (pdf). The index dropped to 48.9 in September from 49.8 in August — a four-month low from 48.6 in May.

That said, Egyptian non-oil private sector firms reported a record level of confidence in upcoming business activity, with about 71% of the panellists giving a positive forecast indicating that firms are growing hopeful that the Egyptian economy is on route to recover from the pandemic over the coming 12 months.

#2- OC-led consortium signs contract for electricity grid connection with KSA: An Orascom Construction-led consortium signed a contract with the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC) to connect the national power grids of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, according to an OC press release (pdf) out today. The long-awaited project — the first inter-continent high-voltage direct current (HDVC) project in the world, according to OC — had been on hold since 2018 when the Saudi’s began work on the Neom project.

#3- EFG Hermes’ leasing and factoring arm has signed an EGP 750 mn sale and leaseback agreement with Misr Italia Properties to refinance its Garden 8 Mall in New Cairo, EFG Hermes Corp Lease said in a statement today (pdf).

^^ We’ll have more details on those stories and more in tomorrow’s EnterpriseAM.

CLARIFICATION- Sorry to disappoint, but commuters cannot in fact buy metro passes online through operator RATP Dev as we reported in this morning’s EnterpriseAM. What you can do is fill out the application form for seasonal, student and senior tickets through this website, before taking a copy with you to a physical station where you pay for and pick up the pass.

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

  • DPI could have built the largest-ever Africa-focused PE fund: Development Partners International (DPI) is on track for a USD 900 mn final close to its third fund, giving the firm a total of USD 1.15 bn for investing in Africa.
  • Vortex invests EUR 625 mn in Spanish solar developer: EFG Hermes’ energy investment platform Vortex Energy will invest EUR 625 mn in Spanish solar developer Ignis Energia, reportedly in return for a 49% equity stake.
  • ACWA Power eyes desalination plants: The Saudi renewables company may be looking to partner with Egyptian companies to bid for desalination projects being offered by the SFE.

HAPPENING TODAY-

The Senate is beginning its new legislative session today following the end of its summer recess. This comes four days after MPs returned to the House over the weekend with a raft of business-relevant legislation to chew over in the coming months. Check out our run-down of the legislative agenda here.

IMF head Kristalina Georgieva is being grilled by the Fund’s executive board today over allegations that she pressured World Bank staffers to rig the 2018 Doing Business report in favor of China during her time as the bank’s chief executive. Hundreds of former bank staff earlier this week urged the IMF to take “decisive action” against the IMF chief, calling the allegations — made recently in a report commissioned by the bank — a form of “institutional corruption.”

Egypt is among 16 African countries to come out in support of Georgieva, calling her a “true partner” to the continent for her efforts during the pandemic, Bloomberg reports. Under her leadership, the Fund mobilized USD 30 bn in new reserve assets for African countries and has promoted new debt relief efforts to help low-income countries through the crisis.

There may be more to this than meets the eye, according to Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, who characterizes the report in Project Syndicate as a “coup attempt” against Georgieva by conservative forces and a group bondholders, unhappy with her focus on poverty and climate change, and er hesitancy to get tougher on indebted countries. Errors and omissions in the report, he says, renders it a “hatchet job” against the IMF head, and one that ignores the behaviour of World Bank president David Malpass, who discussed changing the report’s methodology to downgrade China in the rankings.

IMF + World Bank meetings next week: The IMF and the World Bank will hold their annual meetings during the week beginning 11 October.

THE BIG STORIES ABROAD-

Facebook’s PR team is going to have a hard time cleaning up the front pages of the global press this afternoon:

#1 Facebook an “urgent threat” to the US, whistleblower to tell Congress: The whistleblower who accused Facebook of knowingly contributing to users’ mental health problems and spreading disinformation will appear before the US Senate later today to warn lawmakers that the company is "one of the most urgent threats" facing the country. Frances Haugen, who spilled the beans on the company to the Wall Street Journal last month, will also accuse the company of intentionally misleading investors by downplaying a decline in younger users and misrepresenting the size of its audience. Ahead of the congressional hearing, the social media giant is mounting what one ex-executive characterizes as “much more aggressive, defensive and dismissive of the whistleblower’s claims.” The hearing is getting a lot of play in the international media: AP | Reuters | FT | Washington Post | Bloomberg | WSJ.

#2 Facebook’s fat finger: “A faulty configuration change” was apparently the reason why 3.5 bn users couldn’t log in to Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram yesterday, the company said today. Facebook’s shares fell by 4.9% yesterday — their biggest daily drop since last November — as users flocked to other platforms where the memes exploded.

Nobel prize for physics announced: The 2021 Nobel Prize for physics has been divided between three scientists studying “complex physical systems.” One half of the prize has been allocated to US citizen Syukuro Manabe and German Klaus Hasselmann "for the physical modelling of Earth's climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming", with the two scientists to each take a quarter of the USD 1.15 mn prize. The other half went to Italy’s Giorgio Parisi "for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.”

The Evergrande crisis is pulling other Chinese property developers down with it: The world’s most indebted company may have started a chain reaction in the Chinese real estate market as smaller developers are hit with credit rating downgrades, writes Reuters. Developers’ repayment ability is coming under scrutiny amid continued uncertainty over Evergrande’s future as it attempts one of China’s largest-ever debt restructurings. First off on the hit list was developer Sinic, whose long-term issuer default rating was cut to 'C' from 'CCC' by Fitch, and taken down a peg by S&P Global Ratings, which warned that the company has a “severe liquidity problem and its debt-servicing ability has almost been depleted.”

🗓 CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Key dates for your diaries this month:

  • Public schools are back in session this coming Saturday, as are universities.
  • Inflation: Inflation figures for September will be released on Sunday, 10 October.
  • Interest rates: The Central Bank of Egypt will meet to review interest rates on Thursday, 28 October.

The Cairo International Fair continues today at the Cairo International Conference Center, running through 8 October.

A series of webinars on digital credit scoring led by the Egyptian Banking Institute, the Financial Services Institute, I-Score and GIZ Egypt will launch later this month, according to a press statement (pdf) out today.

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

☀️ TOMORROW’S WEATHER- Expect highs of 31°C during the daytime and lows of 20°C at night, our favorite weather app tells us.

🚙 FOR YOUR COMMUTE

The energy crisis currently gripping some parts of the world is unlikely to be a one-off, according to Bloomberg, which places the blame for natgas and electricity shortages squarely with renewable energy. The piece claims that the transition to renewables in advanced economies will destabilize global energy markets, causing more frequent shortages and inflation.

Underinvestment, overinvestment: “You’re definitely moving into a system that’s more vulnerable,” said one energy expert, warning of the potential for instability as investor interest in fossil fuels declines at a time when many parts of the developing world remain reliant on oil and natural gas for their energy needs. “In many parts of the world, you’ve overbuilt wind, you’ve overbuilt solar,” said another. “The new economy is over-invested and the old economy is starved.”

More electricity means more power: Power consumption is projected to increase 60% by 2050, as markets phase out fossil fuels and switch to electric-run cars, stoves and heating systems. Economic and population growth will continue to drive consumption power higher as well, with the biggest challenge being in delivering reliable power when people need it the most.

One of the solutions may come in the form of hydrogen energy, a form of energy that is split from water using electrolyzers powered by renewable energy, and which produces no greenhouse gases. Green hydrogen plants, which are still in the planning stages and remain untested, are attracting interest from the Egyptian government, which has recently signed agreements with a number of international companies to create a local industry.


International law firms have decided to heed warnings about the workforce burnout epidemic, instating wellbeing programs and hiring “burnout advisers”, according to the Financial Times. UK-based Ashurst as well as US’s Baker McKenzie and Reed Smith are among the firms that have rolled out these initiatives to retain their employees amid a rise in M&As that is stoking a war for talent in the industry. Long hours, strict management, and miniscule work-life balance has intensified legal professionals’ risk of burnout, with 69% having experienced mental ill-health in the past year, according to a study by LawCare.

Why bother with burnout advisers when brain implants can help make all those negative feelings go away… A team of US scientists has developed a brain implant that can help cure severe depression in what is being billed as a significant breakthrough in the treatment of mental health disorders, the FT says. The device works by sending an electronic impulse into the brain when the patient has negative or irrational thoughts. The team calls it a “landmark” study. We say ‘Get that [redacted] thing away from my head.’

👌 ENTERPRISE RECOMMENDS

📺 ON THE TUBE TONIGHT-

(all times CLT)

Marvel film Black Widow is now streaming on OSN: When she’s not in her skin-tight black suit, Natasha Romanoff (played by Scarlett Johannson) is quite family-oriented. In this latest feature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, her history and motivations are explored in a more-human-than-usual rendition of the superhero saga. That’s not to say that the film is slow, on the contrary, Director Cate Shortland makes sure that Black Widow moves deftly from one action set piece to another. The film once again parodies James Bond movies by allowing villains’ monologues to take up a big portion of a sequence. The film is sleek, action-packed, and emotion-inspiring — though we still don’t see the point of a backstory for a character that we know dies in Avengers: Endgame (spoiler alert not needed since the movie is two years old now).

An interesting tidbit about the film — it could change how actors get paid: The film release was marred by Johansson launching a lawsuit against Disney, alleging that the simultaneous release of Black Widow in theatres and on the Disney+ streaming service hurt Box Office revenues and therefore, her cut of ticket sales, writes The Hollywood Reporter. While the lawsuit has now been settled (the terms were not disclosed), many are suggesting that the pandemic and the resulting shift to streaming will change how leading men and women negotiate their revenue sharing compensation.

🥐 EAT THIS TONIGHT-

Breadfast’s flagship store is now open in Madinaty’s new Open Air Mall. Simply named Breadfast Coffee, the futuristic exterior and interior design is impossible to miss and we can already see the store becoming a safe haven for university students and employees and their laptops. The freshly baked goods are undoubtedly the star of the show and we’re partial to their lineup of donuts with flavors such as cheesecake, salted caramel, and chocolate cream. On the sandwiches front, we loved their turkey cranberry brie (a little early Thanksgiving) and house caprese. Their coffee is good, but at times can be a bit too watery, so if you like your coffee strong, make sure to specify that to the barista. If Madinaty is a bit too far for you, a smaller version of Breadfast Coffee is also open at Chillout Boulevard in front of Rehab and in the Chillout station in front of Sheikh Zayed’s Galleria 40.

🎤 OUT AND ABOUT-

(all times CLT)

The state-backed Turathna Exhibition is back for another round starting tomorrow at the Egypt International Exhibition Center. The massive exhibit brings together handcrafted items from all over Egypt, from handmade rugs and plates to crochet and furniture. The event will run until 10 October at 10pm.

TAM Gallery’s new exhibition Daydreaming showcases digital artworks from dozens of local artists. The opening reception is today, while the exhibit will continue until 23 October.

Gouna’s The Venue is hosting the Elements of Life music festival that will bring famous DJ Camelphat to Egypt for the first time. Other artists playing at the event are Berlin-based Lovra and Egypt’s own Youssef Awadly.

💡 UNDER THE LAMPLIGHT-

One revelation can change everything: Sankofa by Chibundu Onuzo is a stirring narrative about family, self-discovery, and African history. The novel follows Anna who finds her absentee father’s diary when looking through her late mother’s belongings. Suddenly going from knowing nothing about her dad to having a treasure trove of information, she discovers not only that he’s still alive but that he played a prominent role in West African politics (we don’t want to give anymore spoilers away, but the payout is worth it). The revelation puts her on a path to find her father in a much-need journey of self-discovery following her divorce. The book highlights the often debilitating need to belong in a story that stays true to the heritage and history of Africa.

🌊 GO WITH THE FLOW

ANALYST OF THE WEEK- Alaa Tolba, consumer sector head at CI Capital (Linkedin).

My name is Alaa Tolba and I’ve been with CI Capital since 2015. I’m currently the MENA consumer sector head and we mostly focus on Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. I’ve always been interested in the field and during university I did a couple of internships at investment banks. I started my career at Naeem Holding and then left the field a bit and moved to Banque du Caire. Even though I wasn’t working in research at the time, I finished my CFA back in 2014 as I felt it was a way to get the position I wanted. I’ve been working in sell-side research since then and I’m very passionate about it. There’s so much more to the job than research and analysis: you have to be creative and market your ideas, especially these days where engaging with clients is an integral part of your role.

The best part of my job is the ability to get your name out there. The more you offer a forward looking view, be creative, look outside of the box, and provide good calls, the more likely you are to develop a franchise name. You become the go-to when someone wants information about a certain sector. This gives you a high sense of ownership in your work that motivates you to always learn more. The job also helps to expand your network because you are in contact with high-level management and investors. Covering more than one country pushes you to think bigger and gives you a sense of the bigger picture and how it links together.

The most challenging part of the job is how unpredictable it is. There’s always room for a new development to upend your workflow and shift your priorities.

We managed to hold virtual roadshows and conferences during the pandemic and it served us well. We were able to do more things in a shorter time frame as we weren’t limited by travel time. So yes, there are benefits to keeping it virtual, but it doesn’t fully replace real life interactions. I believe in-person roadshows will still be less frequent moving forward.

My theory of investment is to pick stocks with promising fundamentals, stories and interesting industry dynamics. After that, you need to diversify your portfolio and be flexible — don’t get too attached to a stock. I combine both top-down and bottom-up approaches when I analyze a company. Sometimes the macro outlook for a country is good, but a firm isn’t positioned to take advantage of it and vice versa, so by doing both analyses you can decide on which one is more fitting or if there is a catalyst that could make one more likely.

When I recommend a stock, I tailor my suggestion based on the investor. I get a sense of their investment horizon, whether they’re looking to commit medium term or short term and how big their appetite for risk is. Usually they offer this insight or with time, analysts can pick it up as we talk. As Alaa, I often like to go for quality names as they are usually backed by strong management teams that are agile and have a good strategy to expand.

I’m not sure whether the EGX30 will close in the green this year. The pipeline of IPOs could be a good catalyst and motivate more investors to participate in the exchange, while on the macro front, the outlook seems pretty solid. However, it could go either way still.

There are too many uncertainties to say whether 2022 will be the year of Egypt. It all comes down to how the pandemic plays out in the coming months — and it’s certainly thrown us for a loop before. If we hit our vaccine targets, the impact will be positive. Our position so far seems promising and it paves the way for a further recovery. In the consumer sector, we’re also expecting things to look up as wage increases accelerated faster than inflation, causing consumer spending to rise.

If I had to switch and cover another industry, I would choose healthcare. I like that, similar to consumers, you can easily relate to it and see its performance on the ground. It’s also highly diversified and a growing sector, especially since it's now backed by a number of regulatory changes.

The last great thing I watched was the last season of Money Heist. But usually work is hectic enough so when I go home I like to watch anything that is light [laughs].

Yoga has become a part of my daily routine. I’ve been quite consistent about it in the past few months. Other than that, it’s usually seeing friends and family. Before covid I used to travel whenever I could. It was my way to disconnect and recharge.


MARKET NEWS-

Trading on Pioneers Holding shares on the EGX have been put on pause for three days as the company completes its demerger, according to an EGX statement. Pioneers had announced last month that it would be registering two new subsidiaries — Pioneers Properties and Gadwa Industrial Development — with the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA), which has been in the works since 2019.

MARKET ROUNDUP-

The EGX30 rose less than 0.1% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 813 mn (47.9% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 3.8% YTD.

In the green: Raya Holding (+7.5%), Fawry (+3.9%) and Ezz Steel (+3.6%).

In the red: Cleopatra Hospital (-3.4%), Egyptian Resorts Company (-2.5%) and CIRA (-2.3%).

📆 CALENDAR

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

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

3-5 October (Sunday-Tuesday): Pharmaconex, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

5 October (Tuesday): Senate returns from recess; new legislative session begins.

5 October (Tuesday): Afreximbank will host a preparatory conference (pdf) for the intra-African Trade Fair 2021 at the Westin Cairo Golf Resort & Spa.

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day.

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

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

9-15 October (Saturday-Friday): Turathna Exhibition, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

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

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

15-21 October (Friday-Thursday): Intra-African Trade Fair 2021, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

18 October (Monday): E-Finance begins trading on EGX.

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.

31 October (Saturday): World Cities Day, Luxor, 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.

8-10 December (Wednesday-Thursday): Global Forum for Higher Education and Scientific Research (GFHS), Cairo, Egypt.

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.

1Q2022: Launch of the Egyptian Commodities Exchange.

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

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

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.

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.

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