Monday, 19 April 2021

EnterprisePM — Listed banks earnings expected to have grown 10% in 1Q2021

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TONIGHT

Good afternoon everyone. And we’re quite relieved that it’s another slow news day — particularly as the nation reels from another train accident in Qalyubia that left at least 11 dead and 98 injured. With several investigations being launched, we await updates that have yet to emerge as of dispatch time.

On a more upbeat note, banks in Egypt appear to be the second fastest growing in the region, with EFG Hermes stating that aggregate earnings grew 10% y-o-y in 1Q2021. We cover this in greater detail in the Speed Round below.

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

  • No VAT on office rents: Amendments to the VAT act propose a 1% schedule tax instead of the standard 14% VAT.
  • Hello wave 3? Officials expect covid-19 cases to continue rising throughout Ramadan.
  • Natgas transition: The government plans to convert 450k cars to run on natgas within three years.

enterprise

Introducing Robo Tax Cop: The government appears to be turning to AI technology to bust tax cheats, as government-owned eTax signed an MoU with Microsoft this week that will see them work on using AI to improve taxation in Egypt, according to a joint press release (pdf). The agreement will see Microsoft help eTax develop core capabilities in e-invoicing and electronic tax services, as well as allow it to create “smart” tax reports that would improve authorities’ ability to crack down on tax fraud and evasion. eTax is a EGP 100 mn JV between the Finance Ministry and state-owned payments firm e-Finance to provide services and tech solutions to companies and authorities as Egypt transitions toward an electronic tax system. We recommend they add deep fake algorithms to give it a face and sound like Peter Weller.

Habemus margin trading, fund managers: Fund managers licensed by the FRA can now officially begin financing margin trading after a recent regulatory decision was published in the Official Gazette. The authority recently moved to allow fund managers and non-bank firms to finance brokerages after the central bank earmarked EGP 1 bn to be lent out in a bid to boost liquidity on the bourse. At the same time, it’s working on separate regulations to cap the practice and mitigate the risk of a boom in using borrowed funds on the EGX.

Unclear on what margin trading is? We published a recent explainer on the A-Z of trading on margin, which is another fancy way of saying debt or leverage — specifically, debt owed by traders to their brokers.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD- 12 of the biggest teams in European football gave the rest of the sport the biggest middle finger ever, after announcing late last night that they would form their own breakaway Super League. The move was widely maligned to say the least, and was universally condemned. And word is out that investigations and possible legal actions could be taken. We break all the happenings of this Super League in today’s Sports section below.

** So, when do we eat? We’ll break our fast this evening — and mark one full week of Ramadan — at 6:25pm. Eat your yogurt and guzzle your water (and coffee) before fajr prayers at 3:52am.

🗓 FOR TOMORROW-

Renaissance Capital is holding a virtual conference titled RenCap ESG – a New Focus for EM starting tomorrow and running until Thursday. The conference will include three panel discussions exploring ESGs from the focus of Development Finance institutions, ESGs and the energy transition, as well as a final panel on how to create an ESG equity success story in EMs. Notable speakers include Bertram Dreyer, senior investment manager at DEG-German Investment and Development Corporation, as well as Banji Fehintola, senior director and head of treasury at the Africa Finance Corporation. The panels will all be live streamed on the website.

The Middle East Angel Investment Network is hosting 'Mad Money: Rise of the Funds' on Clubhouse tomorrow at 8pm. The panel discussion will address the recent spike in the number of funds that have been set up to invest in early-stage startups and their impact on the local and regional ecosystem. The panel will be moderated by Sara Gamay, a Cairo Angels board member, and will also include Plus VC’s Hasan Haider, Access Bridge Ventures’ Issa Aghabi, and Cairo Angels board member Nader Aboushadi.

iSheep, take note: Apple is running a virtual event tomorrow at which pundits think it will unveil AirTags and a new iPad Pro with an improved display and faster processor, among other goodies. The headline: Spring Loaded. The event will stream at 7pm CLT on Apple’s website and on YouTube.

🚙 FOR YOUR COMMUTE-

SIGN OF THE TIMES- Have an office chat in the virtual Swiss Alps: As lockdown continues in many countries across the globe, developers of coworking tools are turning to VR to create solutions to the loss of contact brought about by WFH, according to The Financial Times. Applications such as Gemba have created VR worlds that can be accessed with an Oculus headset, allowing employees to move within a modern office space with huge windows and clear skies, hold a meeting on a virtual tropical island, or meet at the whiteboard to jot down ideas. Other 2D applications such as Reslash and Topia do not require headsets, but still allow for a collaborative experience.

The technology aims to allow for “water cooler moments” and help avoid Zoom fatigue, said Topia Founder Daniel Liebeskind. He stressed that these tools aren’t a substitute for productivity apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, but should help foster a friendly work culture and connections with clients from the comfort of your own home. Investing in VR meeting software may also reduce the need for in person meetings and help firms cut down on travel costs and business expenses in the long run.

First Ramadon soap to fall to censors this year? Ramadan series Al Tawoos is currently being investigated over its alleged use of language deemed “offensive to family values,” The Supreme Media Council said in a statement yesterday. The regulatory body added that while it supports freedom of expression, it insists that respecting audiences must remain “a priority for purposeful art.” Al Tawoos stars Gamal Soliman, Samiha Ayoub, Sahar Al Sayegh, and Khaled Eleish and follows a lawyer who investigates a [redacted] case brought forth by a woman. You can check out the trailer here (watch, runtime: 02:02).

📺 ON THE TUBE TONIGHT-

Netflix has released a short biopic remembering the late Chadwick Boseman, who gained international popularity after playing the leader of Wakanda in Black Panther. But beyond that role, his career has been built on playing historic and iconic African American figures of history, including Thurgrood Marshall (the first African American Supreme Court Justice), Jackie Robinson (the first black Major League Baseball player), and James Brown (the Godfather of Soul). The documentary brings together actors and directors to discuss what made Boseman one of a kind. Catch Chadwick Boseman: Portrait of an Artist or check out the trailer (watch, runtime: 01:36).

Just one lone match in the English Premier League tonight: Leeds United is playing against Liverpool at 9pm.

🎤 OUT AND ABOUT-

Get your 90s nostalgia fix with a jam session at Dozan in Downtown Cairo taking place tonight at 10pm.

El Sawy Culturewheel is hosting a play titled Pianola tonight at 9pm. The play will be performed by the El Rahala Theatre Troupe and directed by Hossam Ghoneim.

💡 UNDER THE LAMPLIGHT-

Whip up your own innovative Ramadan recipes with this newly released cookbook: Featuring 130 recipes, The Arabesque Table by Palestinian author Reem Kassis weaves together traditional Arab food with a contemporary international palette. Through her historic approach, Kassis examines the evolution of Arab cuisines through the stories of cross-cultural connection each dish recounts, paying tribute to the histories and journeys of the dishes we know and love today. Look out for creations such as tahini cheesecake and caramelized butternut squash fatteh with za'atar. The Wall Street Journal is out with a wonderful feature on the book and its importance beyond good cooking.

🌤 TOMORROW’S WEATHER- The mercury is finally making its way down tomorrow, falling to 34°C and relieving us of this horrible heat wave. Look out for possible wind, and break out your jackets once again before nighttime when temperatures fall to 16°C.

SPEED ROUND: BANKING

Egypt’s banking sector likely second fastest-growing in MENA, EFG says in earnings preview

Aggregate earnings of Egypt’s listed banks are expected to have grown 10% y-o-y in 1Q2021, reversing a trend of anemic bottomline growth in 2020 as lenders were forced to shore up loan loss provisions last year amid worries over pandemic-linked bad loans, EFG Hermes said in a note to clients forecasting 1Q2021 earnings for the sector. Earnings for eight publicly traded banks grew 3% q-o-q during the first quarter of the year, the report estimated, as higher net interest income driven by higher credit volumes offset lower central bank rates. A diminishing need for loan loss provisions as the economy recovers from covid-19 will also drive growth, with the aggregate cost of risk expected to fall to 130bps in 1Q2021, down from 198bps in 4Q2020, the report notes.

Loan activity for Egypt’s banks is expected to have ticked up 9% y-o-y during the quarter and 2% q-o-q, according to the report. “We expect retail credit and working capital financing to be the key drivers of credit growth during 2021,” EFG said, though the waiving of fees and commissions till June 2021 in accordance with a CBE decision last year is expected to keep fee income muted. The report covers CIB, QNB, Credit Agricole, Al Baraka Egypt, Faisal Islamic Bank, the and Development Bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, and Egyptian Gulf Bank.

But an increase in loan defaults remains a downside risk, the report said, as banks may need to ramp up provisioning costs once again if 1Q2021 results indicate increased risk.

Egypt’s banking sector was the second-fastest growing in the region, recording 10% following the UAE’s 13%. Overall, bank earnings across MENA grew 5% y-o-y in 1Q2021, staging a slight recovery from “various shocks” in 2020 including higher provisioning costs and pressure on margins from a series of rate cuts at the height of the pandemic, according to the report. “We expect broadly stable interest margins q-o-q,” EFG said, “as lower policy rates have largely been passed on to asset yields and funding costs, and as there is no evidence of tightening in banking sector liquidity.”

SPEED ROUND: STARTUP WATCH

Grocery app Appetito secures USD 450k in funding

Cairo-based grocery-delivery startup Appetito has secured USD 450k in seed funding to be put towards its product portfolio expansion, according to a press release (pdf). The round was led by Saudi Angel investor Ahmed Al Alola along with Africa-focused VC Fund Afropreneurs, and MENA-focused VC Jedar Capital. Established in March 2020, Appetito is an online platform offering next-day or pre-scheduled grocery and home supply deliveries in Cairo, Alexandria, and Giza. The Egypt-focused startup relies on dark stores — miniature warehouse-adjacent spaces, whose sole purpose is to pack online orders for delivery to households — and plans to capitalize on shifting consumer behaviour post covid-19 to secure “a leading position in the global race of grocery delivery,” according to founder and CEO Shehab Mokhtar.

ALSO IN STARTUP LAND-

** PSA: High-growth, early-state tech startups can now apply to the Falak Startups accelerator program year-round, after the government-backed accelerator restructured its model, according to a press release (pdf). Falak also raised its ticket size to up to EGP 2 mn for its startups in a bid to bridge the funding gap between seed-stage startups and series A investors, while providing mentorship and support to these businesses. Falak’s accelerator is supported by venture capital firm Egypt Ventures and the International Cooperation Ministry.

GO WITH THE FLOW

Earnings Watch: Dice

The EGX30 rose 0.8% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 735 mn (45% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 3.7% YTD.

In the green: Pioneers (+2.7%), Ezz Steel (+2.3%) and Palm Hills Development (+2.3%).

In the red: Edita (-4.1%), Cleopatra Housing (-1.8%) and Fawry (-0.9%).

Dice reported EGP 54.7 mn in consolidated net losses in 2020 down from EGP 120.8 mn during the previous year, according to the EGX-listed clothing manufacturer’s 2020 earnings release (pdf). Dice also saw total sales fall almost 22% to EGP 1.23 bn from EGP 1.57 bn in the same time last year.

SPORTS

Tsunami shakes global football

Twelve European football teams announce breakaway Super League in a move widely reviled by global football: Twelve leading European football clubs looking to secure more frequent matches between heavyweight teams to draw higher broadcasting and sponsorship income announced a breakaway midweek Super League, the league announced in a statement late last night. The story is receiving widespread coverage across major publications including the BBC, Financial Times, Reuters, the AP, and Bloomberg, and trending across social media platforms.

The move was universally condemned as a play for pure greed by football fans worldwide, pundits, insiders, associations, leagues, teams and basically anyone who doesn’t hold shares in these clubs. While the influence of finance in sports has been discussed for eons, the move has pushed the debate front and center on whether culturally significant institutions and events such as sports can purely be run for profit. So what is this Super League? Why is it being formed and why now? Why does everyone hate it? We break this all down here.

Who is involved: English football teams that have signed on include Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, and Manchester City. The Spanish teams include Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, and Barcelona, while the Italian teams were Inter Milan, AC Milan, and Juventus. Real Madrid CF President Florentino Perez is the first chairman.

Who isn’t involved: No French or German teams have signed on, including German top league team Bayern Munich, which CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had previously opposed claiming “It could cause serious damage to the national leagues.” Borussia Dortmund said the European Club Association board has agreed to reject the European Super League plans. France’s Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) are also unlikely to join, PSG Talk suggests.

How will it work? The move essentially applies the US franchise league model on the standard European pyramid model — not surprising considering that the owners of four of the Premier League teams (Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham) are American. There will be a fixed 15 permanent founding members and a 20-team league with five other clubs qualifying each season. Those permanent 15 members cannot be relegated and the league will effectively be governed by these founding clubs.

The super league has financial muscle: The teams that have signed on are undoubtedly among the richest in the world with the richest owners — from the Glaziers of Manchester United to the Abu Dhabi ruling family’s Manchester City. If that wasn’t enough, the league is backed by USD 6 bn in debt finance from JPMorgan, the Financial Times reports. The founding clubs said they would collectively be given a EUR 3.5 bn grant to spend on infrastructure investments and to mitigate the impact of covid-19, the salmon colored paper reports, while claiming they’ve seen documents that suggest that clubs will also receive EUR 100-350 mn each for joining, and a fixed payment of EUR 264 mn through expected revenues of EUR 4 bn.

This wasn’t exactly news, but why is it happening now? Talk of a Super League in the works had been happening since last year, after covid lockdown measures struck the matchday revenues of clubs and ticket sales. Former Barcelona FC president Josep Maria Batromeu had even warned that a shakeup in European football was coming during his retirement speech in October last year. The freak out is happening now, because many had assumed this was a negotiation tactic to force the hands of existing leagues to modernize and restructure to increase broadcast revenues. Some have already begun, including UEFA, which was considering implementing a new format for the Champions League commencing in the 2024 season. You can check out our explainer on the proposed updates to the UEFA Champions League here.

Why is it so universally reviled? For one, it creates an exclusive club of the biggest teams in the world, with very little say or oversight or inclusion from teams that are not part of the agreement. And as these clubs are the biggest revenue generators for their respective leagues in terms of broadcast, this gives all the teams who aren’t taking part a smaller slice of the global broadcasting pie.

It may be competitive business-wise, but certainly not when it comes to the sport: Naysayers also argue that the franchise league model makes the sport less competitive, as it cuts out smaller and mid-table teams who are rising in competitions based on footballing merit. Think Leicester City and West Ham, who are currently third and fourth respectively on the Premier League table. Not to mention the fact that some of the teams that have signed on to the Super League are not even top four teams by ability, despite having the financial backing to become permanent members. Tottenham and Arsenal, for example, are seventh and ninth respectively on the Premier League standings. What’s the incentive for these teams to get better if they already have a spot locked down in a league that dolls out massive revenues just for participating?

There’s also a nationalist component as many of the teams signing on to the Super League are owned by foreigners, whom fans say do not hold the local communities they represent in mind.

Want a brief 10 minute rundown of the main talking points? Check this debate that includes former Manchester United legends Gary Neville and Roy Keanes (who had harsh words to say to their former team) on Sky Sports News (watch, runtime: 9:38).

The legal jostling begins? UEFA is ready to use “all measures” to confront a Champions League rival, and threatened to ban teams from domestic leagues and international events, UEFA said in a statement. Meanwhile, FIFA expressed its disapproval with a league outside of international football structure, but fell short of banning players involved from playing in the World Cup. Football’s governing bodies were backed by European authorities including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as the English, Spanish and Italian football leagues and federations, Reuters reported.

The Super League threatened to take legal action of its own, meant to prevent UEFA and FIFA from any action intended to thwart the breakaway league, in a letter to the presidents of both governing bodies, the AP reported. “We do not seek to replace the UEFA’s Champions League or the Europa League but to compete with and exist alongside those tournaments,” the statement added.

THE MACRO PICTURE

Slow vaccine rollout in Sub Saharan Africa threatens to plunge region into further poverty

Sub Saharan Africa’s economic recovery could lag behind the rest of the world as vaccine shortages and policy restrictions continue to hamper its growth, according to the International Monetary Fund’s Regional Economic Outlook report (pdf), released last week. Despite seeing its economy do better than expected in 2020 — contracting by 1.9% instead of the 3% predicted in the IMF’s previous report in October — it is estimated that Sub Saharan Africa will still be the world’s slowest growing region in 2021. The region is expected to grow at a 3.4% clip — supported by increased exports and recovering consumption — compared to the average of 6% expected in the rest of the world, where vaccines are more readily available.

Vaccine availability will be key in ensuring an economic bounceback: Few countries in the region are expected to achieve the widespread availability of vaccines before 2023, with supply and distribution issues set to leave more countries in the region exposed to the emergence of new strains of the disease. However, “an accelerated vaccine rollout — or a swift, cooperative, and equitable global distribution — could boost the region’s near-term prospects,” the report concludes.

And so will structural reforms and increased health spending: Local health systems and containment efforts will require additional spending, as will the logistical capabilities to ensure a successful vaccine rollout. Governments will also need to enact reforms in the areas of “revenue mobilization, digitalization, trade integration, competition, transparency and governance, and climate-change mitigation,” the report suggests.

… As well as debt management: The decision to extend the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative to the end of the year earlier this month will allow more countries to channel resources toward the covid-19 crisis rather than debt repayments, and has already provided USD 4.8 bn in potential savings to participating countries this year. But G20 member states have said this will be the initiative’s second and final extension, meaning that highly indebted countries in Sub Saharan Africa — such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, and Somalia — may face further pressure on their balance sheets come the new year. Thirty eight out of the 73 countries eligible for debt deferral under the initiative are from Sub Saharan Africa.

But it will be a long road to recovery: Output may not return to pre-pandemic levels till at least 2023, in some cases 2025, for countries in the region, with the report estimating that output losses from the pandemic will amount to almost 12% over 2020-2021. Though average debt levels are forecast to ease slightly to 56% of GDP in 2021, Sub Saharan African economies have retracted at a remarkable rate. South Africa saw its GDP drop by 7% last year, while tourism dependent countries such as Cape Verde, Mauritius and the Seychelles saw their economies shrink by a whopping 14-16% in 2020. “Going forward, the general challenge for

policymakers will be to create more fiscal space, through domestic revenue mobilization, prioritization and efficiency gains on spending, or perhaps debt management,” the report said.

And will need to largely be financed by private investments: Though a potential new USD 650 bn in Special Drawing Rights to be considered by the IMF in June would allocate USD 23 bn to Sub Saharan Africa, this falls far short of the estimated USD 425 bn needed to finance the region’s recovery through 2025. And though the report suggests authorities may be able to “create space for more spending by improving public investment efficiency and the quality of public procurement,” it also predicts that official resources may not be sufficient, and that nations may need to step up their efforts to rapidly improve the business climate in order to attract foreign and private investment. These suggested measures, which include reducing red tape and upping financial inclusion, “are now more urgent than ever.”

Getting a grip on covid in Sub Saharan Africa is more than just a region-specific issue:

“For the international community, ensuring vaccine coverage for sub-Saharan Africa is not simply an issue of local livelihoods and local growth. Broad regional coverage is also a global public good,” reads the report. More funding for the WHO’s Covax program, fewer restrictions on the export of medical supplies, as well as the speedy redistribution of western countries’ unused doses are recommended by the IMF to ensure an equitable global recovery that does not leave Sub Saharan Africa behind.

CALENDAR

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.

20-22 April (Tuesday-Thursday): Renaissance Capital’s conference RenCap ESG – a New Focus for EM will take place virtually.

25 April (Sunday): Sinai Liberation Day.

29 April (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Sinai Liberation Day (TBC — the holiday could be observed on a Sunday or a Thursday).

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).

16-19 May (Sunday-Wednesday): The Arabian Travel Market (ATM) is taking place in Dubai. ATM is an international travel and tourism event to promote the Middle East as a tourist destination.

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.

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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