Thursday, 8 April 2021

EnterprisePM — Inflation is up slightly, supporting expectations the CBE will leave rates on hold later this month



…and that’s a wrap, everyone. We hope Thursday has been kind to you all and that you’re looking forward to a great weekend — the last one before the start of Ramadan this coming Tuesday.

THE BIG STORY AT HOME as we gear up for the weekend: Inflation is up ahead of Ramadan, supporting the view that the Central Bank of Egypt will leave rates on hold when its monetary policy committee meets later this month. Also this afternoon: A big startup raise and banking news. All of this and more in this afternoon’s Speed Round, below.

HAPPENING NOW- The Health Ministry is expected to unveil today a series of new restrictions designed to keep covid-19 under control during Ramadan. The measures could include reduced hours of operation for public-facing government services and the closing of some public spaces, according to a report earlier this week. Look for the news after Health Minister Hala Zayed attends a conference now taking place on human rights and the pandemic.

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

  • The IMF has upgraded its outlook on Egypt, saying our public finances have withstood the impact of covid-19 better than previously expected. The news came as the institutional also backed a one-time wealth tax or or additional tax on high incomes to help countries face the fallout from the pandemic.
  • Egypt’s banks could face further pressure on net income in 2021 due to the lower interest rate environment and a potential rise in bad loans when the Central Bank of Egypt lifts support measures it introduced at the onset of the pandemic, Fitch Ratings said.
  • Eva Pharma and a unit of Pharco will manufacture China’s Sinovac vaccine alongside state-owned vaccine maker Vacsera.
  • Sodic has tapped an unnamed financial advisor to assess a bid by the UAE’s Aldar to acquire at least a 51% stake in the upmarket real estate developer.

Happy Ramadan, y’all: Bank hours during the Holy Month will run from 9:30am to 1:30pm for customers, while staff will need to be on the job 9:00am to 2:00, the CBE said in a statement. Look for a similar statement from the EGX later today or on Sunday. Ramadan is expected to start on Tuesday, 13 April.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD this afternoon: The Biden administration is going to propose that big multinationals pay national taxes based on their local sales, the Financial Times reports in an exclusive. Reuters is out with an explainer on what the move could mean for companies and countries. The proposal is part of the White House’s push to create a global minimum tax for corporations. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal says that investors are souring on emerging markets as prospects for the US economy brighten.

Also happening abroad this afternoon:

  • The Biden administration plans to restart aid to Palestine, pledging USD 235 mn in total, according to a statement by the US Department of State. Egypt was quick to chime in with support for the US decision.
  • US troops may be staying in Afghanistan a while longer as Biden seems ready to let lapse a 1 May deadline for completing a troop withdrawal, according to The Associated Press.
  • Twitter is no longer in talks to acquire Clubhouse, sources familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. The two companies had discussed a potential valuation of roughly USD 4 bn for Clubhouse, an audio-based social network that launched in April of last year.


The TriFactory’s Soma Bay Endurance Festival kicks off today and will run until Saturday. The multi-sport event offers challenges including the sprint, supersprint, olympic, and the youth race.

Shares of Macro Group will start trading on Monday, 19 April in the second hotly anticipated IPO of the year. The window for retail subscriptions runs 11-15 April.


Start the weekend on the right foot: Our current preoccupation with feet could have something to do with our need to replace an old pair of tennis shoes. But still, two pieces about our most taken-for-granted appendages have recently caught our eye. First, The Cut’s Lauren Bassett has “an interview with the man who keeps uploading my feet to WikiFeet.” It’s not (quite) as creepy as you might think — entirely because of Bassett’s charm. From there, go on to How science solved the mystery of feet washing ashore in the Pacific Northwest, in National Geographic.

Investment giant BlackRock needs to hit ESG targets — or pay more to borrow money under an agreement it inked with lenders behind a USD 4.4 bn credit facility. The firm will keep costs lower if it hits milestones on minority hiring, women in leadership, and growing assets in funds with high ESG ratings, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Are we heading into a Second Cold War that will pit the US (and some of its allies) against China (and some of its BFFs)? That’s the contention now even among moderate conservatives in the United States. Exhibit #1: How will we win the Second Cold War? by NYT columnist Bret Stephens. The Economist thinks we may be heading in that direction, too, writing in China is betting that the West is in irreversible decline that “the country’s leaders see their moment, and are seizing it.”

Speaking of Cold Wars, who won the first one — and how? Whatever you think, the answer is probably wrong — particularly if you’re American. This epic Twitter thread by Curmudgeon-in-Chief Tom Nichols is a must read, whether you’re a history nerd or just old enough to have had political consciousness (not the same thing as a political conscience) in the 1980s.

What if you could lose weight and improve your biomarkers by eating … croissants? And cheese. And lots of butter. It’s called the Croissant Diet, and it all hinges on stearic acid. And oddly enough, the science behind it seems pretty tight — if you can stomach wheat.

A life well-lived: Bernadette Bartels Murphy, who started on Wall Street as a secretary and became a TV personality as one of America’s most-respect financial advisors. Among those who followed the path she broke: Her niece, Mary Ann Bartels, who rose to become a managing director at Bank of America. Read the obit in the New York Times.

Nassef Sawiris is the richest of 22 Arabs on the Forbes World’s Bn’aires 2021 ranking. He holds the #297 spot with an estimated net worth of USD 8.3 bn. The top two spots are held by Jeff Bezos (worth USD 177 bn) and Elon Musk (USD 151 bn). Other Egyptians on the list include Naguib Sawiris, and Mohamed, Youssef and Yaseen Mansour.


The long-awaited film Godzilla vs. Kong is in cinemas nationwide, with the mythic adversaries meeting in a spectacular battle of beasts. Kong and his protectors undertake a perilous journey to find his true home, and with them is Jia, a young orphaned girl with whom he has formed a unique and powerful bond. An enraged Godzilla stands in their way, causing destruction across the globe. In the fourth film in Legendary's MonsterVerse, the two titans face off in a way that lets the audience decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. You can check out the trailer here (watch, runtime: 02:24) or reviews from the New York Times and the New Yorker. Godzilla vs. Kong topped analyst expectations with a five-day box office of USD 48.5 mn, a figure that suggests folks are ready to start being more social, Deadline reports.

It’s another Europa League Thursday with four matches on tonight: Arsenal is playing against Slavi Praha, Granada against Manchester United, Ajax against Roma, and Dinamo Zagreb against Villareal. All matches kick off at 9pm.

Al Ahly has a match tomorrow in the CAF Champions League against Tanzania’s Simba at 9pm.

Gameweek 31 of the English Premier League is tomorrow. Friday will see Fulham play Wolves at 9pm while Saturday’s matches are Man City versus Leeds at 1:30pm, Liverpool versus Aston Villa at 4pm, and Crystal Palace versus Chelsea at 6:30pm.

A match to look out for: Real Madrid is playing against Barcelona on Saturday at 9pm in La Liga.

And speaking of football: Egypt’s national football team have risen three spots in the latest FIFA World Ranking for April to rank in 46th position. The Pharaohs are now sixth in Africa and fourth in the Arab region. Belgium maintained its position at the top of the ranking, followed by France and Brazil.


Make sushi rolls at home with an easy kit from Zumra Food. The bundle contains everything you need to make hoso rolls including salmon, nori, soy sauce, rice, wasabi paste, and rice vinegar. The only thing missing is the sushi rolling mat — snag one from their online shop. Zumra also has all the sauces and ingredients you’ll need for other Asian fare and highlights a few recipes you can make using their products. If you’re still iffy about making sushi at home, we assure you it's a super easy process and you can check out Zumra’s YouTube page for rolling techniques and tips.


(All times in CLT)

The Panorama of European Film is still ongoing, screening recently produced feature films, documentaries, and short films that were praised by critics at international festivals that you can watch tonight and over the weekend. You can check out the full schedule here, with films being played at Zawya Cinema and Galaxy Cinema.

Kempinski Nile Hotel’s Jazz Bar is hosting singer Okasha for their jazz night tonight at 9:30pm.

Stand up comedy group The Elite are performing at Sawy Culture Wheel tonight at 7pm.

Serbia-based DJ and producer Coeus is at Cairo Jazz Club in Sheikh Zayed tonight. Coeus’s sets include melodic techno, electronic, and disco sounds for a night of dancing.

U for Urban Impact will be holding a city tour as well as an “urban festival” at the Greek Campus on Friday as part of The Urban Week. The Downtown Cairo city tour is organized in cooperation with Gazef from 9am-12pm while the festival features music, food, and activities such as building lego houses, drawing on walls, and a global treasure hunt.

🌤 TOMORROW’S WEATHER- The mercury is back to the 20s tomorrow — still a little high for the season at 27°C during the day and 12°C at night. From there, we’re in for cooler days on Saturday and Sunday with daytime highs of 21°C and 23°C before the mercury gradually makes its way back up throughout the week. The long-range forecast sees the mercury at 27°C on the first day of Ramadan.


Inflation uptick as Ramadan approaches

Annual headline inflation accelerated slightly to 4.8% in March, up from 4.6% in February, state statistics bureau Capmas’ latest reading (pdf) showed. Annual urban inflation stood steady to 4.5% in March. On a monthly basis, headline inflation rose 0.6% m-o-m, compared to a 0.2% monthly rise in February. This is now the second consecutive month of inflation increase we’ve seen after it had been steadily decelerating from a five-month high of 5.7% in November to 4.3% in January.

The increase is attributed to a rise in food prices in March. On an annual basis, food prices saw an increase of 1%, Capmas notes, while increasing 1.9% m-o-m.

The Ramadan effect is in play: It is customary every year that the month preceding Ramadan witnesses a rise in inflation, Pharos Holding’s Radwa El Swaify tells us. Suppliers and producers anticipate the rise in consumer demand, and accordingly pump up prices to prepare. The import pressure for food items ahead of the holy month also contributed to the rise, CI Capital’s Sara Saada tells us.

Global commodity prices will bump inflation further: Headline inflation is expected to pick up in 2Q2021 and 3Q2021 as a reflection of a rise in global commodity prices, Beltone Financial says in an emailed statement. However, the magnitude of price increases over the next few months will be lower than in March, Saada says. Egypt is expected to end FY2020-21 (in June) with inflation averaging 4.7%, and 5% by December, El Swaify tells us.

Fuel price committee may keep prices unchanged: Petroleum products may see a hike of EGP 0.25 per liter to make up for production cuts in March 2020. However, there is a strong possibility that prices will remain unchanged, based on the government’s continued support during covid, Saada suggests. The government’s fuel pricing committee will announce 2Q2021 prices some time before this Saturday.

Interest rates are expected to remain steady, according to CI Capital, Pharos and Beltone Financial. The need to maintain the lucrative carry trade in the face of rising global yields should allow the CBE to keep rates unchanged, Beltone says. The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee is due to meet on Thursday, 29 April to set interest rates. The MPC left rates unchanged for a third consecutive time during their most recent meeting on 18 March as inflation inched up, accounting for the possibility of a further uptick of global commodity prices.


NBG is officially saying goodbye to Egypt

The National Bank of Greece (NBG) is set to terminate its activities in the Egyptian market after having submitted a formal request to the Central Bank of Egypt, according to Greek news outlet Business Daily. NBG’s decision comes after years of unsuccessful attempts to divest its portfolio in Egypt, which includes 17 branches. Bank Audi had seemed set to conclude a sale in early 2020, before the pandemic forced it and other Lebanese lenders to retrench as they faced challenges in their home markets.

NBG is no longer looking to sell its portfolio here and instead has chosen to change its exit strategy, a senior official at the Central Bank of Egypt told us, speaking on condition they not be named. NBG had informed the CBE back in 2018 that it planned to leave Egypt.

Central bank says it’s business as usual: “We are aware that the National Bank of Greece has decided to close its branch network in Egypt. This decision has been years in the making as a result of fallout in Greece from the global financial crisis more than a decade ago. Egypt’s banking system is not just sound, it is a vibrant one that has recently seen significant investor appetite when attractive assets have come on the market,” the official said, referring to First Abu Dhabi’s purchase of the Egyptian subsidiary of Bank Audi and the sale of Blom’s Egypt subsidiary to Bahrain’s Bank ABC. Both Lebanese banks chose to divest profitable subsidiaries in Egypt as their parent companies faced challenges in their home markets.

By contrast, NBG in Egypt isn’t a full subsidiary, as were Audi and Blom, but rather a branch of the Greek group. “In the meantime, the National Bank of Greece continues to operate in Egypt,” the official said. “The exit process has not been finalized yet.”

Why did NBG decide to exit Egypt in the first place? The move was mandated by the bank’s restructuring agreement with the European Commission after Greece’s government debt crisis. NBG was required to scale back its overseas presence after it received state aid in the context of previous recapitalizations. Under the agreement, NBG has also proceeded with the sale of its subsidiaries in Romania and Turkey and is working to sell assets in Cyprus. Following the exit of Egypt, NBG’s international operations will be limited to just two countries: Northern Macedonia and Malta.


Paymob raises USD 18.5 mn series A round

Payment gateway Paymob completed its series A round with USD 18.5 mn raised, the company said in a statement (pdf). Paymob raised USD 15 mn from existing investors in the second tranche of its series A led by UAE-based Global Ventures, A15, and the Dutch entrepreneurial development bank (FMO). Paymob had raised a USD 3.5 mn first tranche in August of last year. The company, which saw its monthly topline grow 5x in 2020 fueled by the surge in cashless transactions, is calling the move the largest series A funding in Egypt’s history.

This is probably the largest Series A raised by an Egyptian startup and one of the larger rounds raised by a North African fintech player.

Paymob has applied for a license to operate in KSA and is in talks with regulators ahead of an expansion there, company CEO Islam Shawky told Bloomberg. The company will use the funding to accelerate its Saudi Arabia expansion, and grow the domestic merchant network to meet increasing demand, as well as enhance its existing products, with the aim of “reducing digital payment bottlenecks,” Shawky adds. Paymob currently operates in Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Pakistan and Palestine.


Meanwhile, 34 Egyptian startups raised USD 22 mn in 1Q2021, making Egypt the third largest recipient of VC funding in MENA, after the UAE and KSA, according to a report out today from Wamda. Startups here raised USD 5 mn in March alone, up 6% m-o-m, largely thanks to Flat6Labs Cairo’s cohort of 18 startups.

KUDOS- Wamda gives a special mention to Sawari Ventures and Algebra Ventures who both launched new funds this year. The media outlet expects even more to come from Egypt in terms of startup and investment activity.

The MENA region raised a total of USD 396 mn through 125 transactions in 1Q2021, with the UAE leading the pack. 38 UAE startups raised USD 256 mn, while startups in KSA companies saw USD 76 mn raised through 28 transactions.

What were MENA VCs looking for in March? Most March transactions were made in the fintech and e-commerce sectors, while agritech and logistics raised the most venture capital. Ten investments were made in fintech startups, with e-commerce landing seven.

But they didn’t like healthcare and education: Only two edtech startups raised a total of USD 5 mn, while six healthtech companies raised USD 420k in March across MENA.


Rx Healthcare to acquire 80% of dental anesthesia producer

EFG Hermes’ Rx Healthcare Management is in the final stages of acquiring 80% of a local dental anesthesia producer in a transaction that could be worth as much as EGP 100 mn, local media reports. The acquisition is expected to be carried out via United Pharma, which EFG Hermes had acquired late last year.


The market on 9 April 2021

The EGX30 rose 0.7% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 692 mn (50.6% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 5.0% YTD.

In the green: SODIC (+3.3%), CI Capital (+2.7%) and Telecom Egypt (+2.5%).

In the red: GB Auto (-1.1%), Credit Agricole (-0.4%) and Orascom Development (-0.4%).


We can’t save the planet without changing what we eat

We need a shift in global diets if we want to reduce our environmental impact: With agricultural expansion continuing to dwarf reforestation efforts and Nature-based Solutions (NbS) to climate change, changing what we eat is going to be key in reducing carbon emissions and staving off global warming, WWF Global Food Lead Scientist Brent Loken writes for the World Economic Forum. “Planet-based” diets (not to be confused with plant-based) can offer a solution, by encouraging the consumption of healthy, locally produced food in moderation to reduce the environmental impact of our eating habits.

What are nature-based solutions? NbS are environmentally-conscious solutions to a range of issues, inspired by nature and designed to address major societal challenges like food security, climate change, water security, and social and economic development. Examples include restoring and protecting mangroves and coral reefs that act as a natural barrier to shoreline erosion, or adopting “nature-positive” farming methods, to ensure the increased storage of carbon in soil and farmlands. NbS were one of the most discussed topics at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit.

Sounds great. But why aren’t they working to mitigate climate change? The challenge is balancing reforestation and food security, and the issue comes down to is the finite available land. While nature-positive farming methods can reduce the environmental impact of food production, they will still drive an increase in demand for land if trends in food consumption patterns continue. There will only be enough land for reforestation at scale if we “halt agricultural expansion and reduce the amount of land currently used to produce food,” writes Loken. Roughly 50% of all habitable land is currently used for agriculture, and of that land, 77% is used to grow feed for livestock. In order to reduce our demand for more arable land, we need to reduce our consumption of meat and dairy.

Enter planet-based diets: If everyone adopted a planet-based diet — largely dependent on eating food that is high in nutritional benefit, but low in environmental impact — the WWF estimates we can cut food-related emissions by at least 30% and reduce agricultural land use by at least 41%. That could make a significant difference: food-related emissions account for 27% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Cutting out meat is not necessary, but reducing its consumption is essential: Animal source foods don’t have to be eliminated altogether, but animals should be reared on natural grasslands instead of fed with crops grown on deforested land. The OECD-FAO 2020-2029 Agricultural Outlook estimates that rising national GDPs will drive an increase in global meat consumption of 12% by 2030, with continued growth until 2050. This will nearly double food-related greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing our meat intake will also have a positive impact on our collective health, with the WWF estimating that 20% of premature deaths could be avoided if people ate planet-based.

We will also need to dramatically optimize crop yields and adopt new farming methods to meet the demand of a projected global population of 10 bn by 2050. Our current methods require additional water and fertiliser, though global freshwater supplies are already under strain, and nitrogen and phosphorus pollution “already greatly exceed planetary boundaries in some locations,” according to the WWF report.

A full range of policy levers will be needed: Relying on awareness and educational initiatives will not be suffiences, writes Loken. These must also be accompanied by regulatory or fiscal measures to ensure widespread adoption of healthy and sustainable diets. Shifting to a plant-based diet will look different depending on where you are, and while it could reduce biodiversity loss in some countries, it may lead to unexpected impacts in others.

You can calculate the impact of your own dietary shift with this calculator from the World Wildlife Fund, which will give you country-specific results and impacts.


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

5-11 April: The Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group will take place virtually.

8 April (Thursday): The Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) will host a matchmaking virtual event, dubbed “Hangout with VCs.”

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

10 April (Saturday): Techne Drifts Grand Finale, New Greek Campus, Mall of Arabia, Cairo, Egypt.

11-15 April (Sunday-Thursday): Retail subscription period for Macro’s IPO.

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).

19 April (Monday): Shares of Macro start trading on the EGX in the year’s second IPO.

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.

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.

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. © 2022 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

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