Monday, 12 April 2021

EnterprisePM — Ramadan Kareem, everyone.

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TONIGHT

We’re literally hours away from Ramadan, and we hope you have a blessed, restful, productive, safe, and festive 30 (or 29) days. Who says we can’t have it all.

So, when do we eat? Maghreb prayers are at 6:21pm in the capital city tomorrow. You’ll have until 4:01am to finish sohour tonight.

As a reminder: Bank hours will run 9:30am-1:30pm through the holy month (9am to 2pm for staff), while the EGX is also on shorter hours, with the opening bell at 10am and last trades by 1:30pm.

The epic Ramadan news slowdown has begun, with nothing of particular note coming in the local and foreign press save Agthia interest in Egypt, Suitera’s USD 100k investment, and more antagonism from Ethiopia. We dive deeper into these in the Speed Round below.

And since it is that season, we thought we’d run our inaugural Ramadan TV guide. Scroll down to Worth Watching to see how you may want to kill brain cells while you digest.

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


THE BIG STORY ABROAD: Iran is pointing the finger of blame at Israel for the attack yesterday on its Natanz uranium enrichment facility, which caused power outages and possibly damaged a centrifuge, Reuters reported. Israel, which strongly opposed the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran that the Trump administration pulled out of in 2018, has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the attack. Tehran’s accusation comes two days before its diplomats are set to meet with officials from China, Russia, the EU and the US in Vienna to resume talks on lifting sanctions and returning Iran to full compliance with the nuclear program.

THE BIG GLOBAL MACRO STORY- A rally in US treasury yields could make a comeback after a two-week pause as auctions for USD 271 bn-worth of new debt kick off today and a closely watched inflation report is due to be released, reports Reuters. Expectations of weak demand and inflation data seen marking the beginning of consumer prices and record producer prices could send borrowing costs a notch higher, potentially reversing a recent lull in the market as yields have been falling since the start of April, investors tell the newswire.

REMINDER- Higher treasury yields is bad news for EMs: The rally on US government bonds and a stronger greenback have been the biggest drag on the EM recovery story in the first quarter of 2021, Eva Szalay writes in an op-ed for the Financial Times. This is increasingly proving itself a problem for central bankers in the developing world as it could force many of them to hike their own rates sooner than they would have otherwise liked. Policymakers in South Africa, Brazil, and other countries would need to raise rates much faster to keep domestic inflation in check, and this “can kill off budding economic recoveries,” says Ed Al-Husseiny, a senior rates and currencies analyst at Columbia Threadneedle.

Need a refresher on why higher borrowing costs aren’t ideal for us? Look no further than our recent deep-dive into the issue, which focuses on what higher US bond yields mean for Egypt and the wider EM-verse.

Increasingly, EM economies have been deploying asset purchase programs to boost money supply, which could prove useful in helping shield EMs from outflows in the event higher US yields draw investors westwards. We have more on EMDE asset purchase programs in The Macro Picture below.

🗓 CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

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

🚙 FOR YOUR COMMUTE-

Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) might exit stage left by 2026, when they will no longer be classified as “sustainable investments” under draft EU policies, Reuters reports. Once touted as a transition technology that was on par with all-electric vehicles, PHEVs are now seen as “worse than the technology they’re replacing,” experts tell the newswire. PHEVs’ produced four times the emissions they were approved for, and when used in combustion engine mode used more fuel than a standard car. Manufacturers will not be allowed to label PHEVs as sustainable investments beyond 2025, while rules on emissions will increase the costs of production.

Automakers already lining up excuses: Automakers not yet in EVs are now using this to stall on green commitments, arguing that PHEVs (which they claim is their only transitional tech) are almost certainly looking at a drop in investor interest in the next few years as production costs are expected to shoot up. “A battery electric car is not yet practical,” Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark said, highlighting consumer concerns for a full range of EVs and charging infrastructure.

The benefits of a tiny country: Bhutan only needed 16 days to vaccinate 93% of its adults, bringing the tiny Buddhist kingdom’s total vaccination coverage to 63% of its population — just behind Seychelles, which has inoculated 66% of its 100k residents, reports the Associated Press. Bhutan, which has a population of 800k people, got its hands on AstraZeneca doses in January, but only started its rollout in late March to coincide with dates in Buddhist astrology.

📺 ON THE TUBE TONIGHT-

For those not partaking in some Ramadan viewing, the Oscar-nominated short film Two Distant Strangers is out on Netflix. It’s GroundHog Day meets identity politics, as the film follows a Black man stuck in a time loop, forcing him to relive a deadly run-in with an aggressive white police officer. The Oscars are coming up soon, with the date for the prestigious award show set for 26 April, so you might want to get caught up on some nominees.

⚽ The English Premier League’s *awful* Gameweek 31 is coming to an end today. West Brom is playing against Southampton at 7pm while Brighton and Everton will go at it at 9:15pm.

La Liga will see Celta Vigo play against Sevilla at 9pm while Serie A’s solo match of the day is Benevento versus Sassuolo at 8:45pm.

🎤 OUT AND ABOUT-

The Natural Hair Fest is on until 8pm tonight at Maadi’s Club 7, bringing together some of the country’s best natural hair care brands in one place to show off their products and services.

💡 UNDER THE LAMPLIGHT-

Girl Decoded by Egyptian-American scientist Rana El Kaliouby is a must-read for tech nerds. El Kaliouby is the CEO of Affectiva, the pioneering firm in the new field of Emotion AI, which allows our technology to understand humans the way we understand one another. The book makes a strong case for why we must make AI systems more equitable, diverse, and human, while also recalling El Kaliouby’s own journey as an Arab Muslim within the region and when she moved to the West. She has long believed that we need to “humanize technology before it dehumanizes us.”

🌤 TOMORROW’S WEATHER- Hydrate a lot at Sohour if you’re observing Ramadan: It’s about to get hotter out there. Tomorrow and Wednesday are our last days in the 20s before the mercury goes all the way to the 40s next week. Expect daytime highs of 26°C and nighttime lows of 13°C tomorrow and say sayonara to winter.

SPEED ROUND: INVESTMENT WATCH

Emirati foods group Agthia has big plans for Egypt and MENA

Egypt is a priority market for UAE-based foods group Agthia, which plans to become a MENA leader by 2025 through boosting efficiency and striking more M&A agreements, Chief Executive Alan Smith tells Reuters. The company is currently in talks to acquire 75% of Ismailia Agricultural and Industrial Investments, the frozen meat and poultry producer which owns the Atyab brand and other brands in Egypt. Agthia’s board of directors approved the EGP 3.2 bn bid last week, putting the acquisition on track to close before the end of 1H2021. The agreement will primarily be financed through bank debt, Smith told the newswire today but gave no further details.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Turkey are also important markets for the subsidiary of Abu Dhabi’s investment arm ADQ, Smith says, noting that Pakistan is another country on the Emirati company’s radar. Agthia is planning to smooth into the corporate transition through hiring more strategically and bringing on board executives with prior experience in running large multinational firms, he adds.

Expansion through acquisition: Agthia, whose main products include baked goods, frozen foods, and bottled water, has a market capitalization of USD 1.3 bn, which is lower than its regional rivals Saudi’s Almarai and Savola Group, notes the newswire. But the company has recently been expanding primarily through acquisitions. The group earlier this year closed a takeover bid of Kuwait’s Al Faysal Bakery and Sweets and is close to wrapping up a separate agreement to buy out Amman-based Nabil Food Industries that is pending regulatory approvals. It also acquired Emirati dates producer Al Foah around the same time.

SPEED ROUND: STARTUP WATCH

Software startup Suitera lands USD 230k in investments

AUC software spinoff Suitera has received USD 230k in investments from electronic design automation firm Mentor Graphics’ former CEO Walden Rhines and three other private investors, according to a press release (pdf) from AUC. Rhines invested USD 100k, while the other three investors put up a combined USD 130k. Suitera plans to use the funding to hire talent and continue building its product pipeline.

What is Suitera? The semiconductor startup — which was founded in 2020 by AUC professor of electronics Yehea Ismail and electronic design automation industry veterans Magdy Abadir and Eby Friedman — creates analysis and optimization tools. These tools are designed to reduce the computational time and resources required to perform complex modeling, analysis, and simulation tasks. Suitera has one viable product currently being tested by global market leaders, with another product in development and more products in the pipeline.

SPEED ROUND: DIPLOMACY

Ethiopia trolls

Ethiopia thinks it has cleared up Egypt and Sudan’s concerns on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), saying today that the dam’s safety is “well taken care of.” Addis Ababa claims it has “addressed” its downstream neighbors’ technical concerns over the dam by sharing data on the dam's operation and filling, the second phase of which Ethiopia is still going to begin next August during the rainy season, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

In the diplomatic equivalent of trolling, Addis Ababa says that Egypt didn’t appreciate its “generosity,” which undermined the success of the negotiations. The fact that there are no comparable situations apparently means that Ethiopia agreeing to sit down with the two countries that could face destructive flooding or severe water shortages is an indication of Addis’ goodwill, the statement says. The statement also suggests that Sudan would benefit from the dam, which could deter severe floods.

GERD talks are still in limbo: The latest round of four-days talks between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia in Kinshasa once again reached a dead end after the three countries were unable to agree on how to proceed with negotiations. Egypt and Sudan do not want Addis Ababa to continue with plans for the second dam filling before reaching a binding agreement, while Ethiopia insists to proceed with or without an agreement. A proposal put forward by Sudan to bring in new international mediators was rejected by Ethiopia, who preferred to stick with the African Union-led process. But the red line that President Abdel Fattah El Sisi recently put to warn against threats to Egypt’s share of the Nile’s water remains and would not be tolerated, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said yesterday. The government is taking all diplomatic and political measures to try and resolve the issue, he added, after earlier stressing that the start of the dam’s second filling would be a “tipping point."

Enter Russia: GERD should be on the agenda for Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who is in town for talks with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Shoukry. Lavrov met with El Sisi earlier this morning and was wrapping up a separate sit-down with FM Shoukry as we hit dispatch, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. Earlier press reports indicated the stalled GERD talks would be high on the agenda for Lavrov's visit, which comes after expectations that Russian President Vladimir Putin would visit Egypt sometime in March did not materialize.

GO WITH THE FLOW

The market on 12 April 2021

The EGX30 rose 0.6% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 1.23 bn (10.7% below the 90-day average). Local investors were net buyers. The index is down 3.6% YTD.

In the green: AMOC (+6.7%), Ezz Steel (+3.7%) and Orascom Development (+3.2%).

In the red: ElSewedy Electric (-2.2%), CI Capital (-1.5%) and Cleopatra Hospital (-1.0%).

THE MACRO PICTURE

Asset purchase programs heat up in EMDEs

Uncharted territory: How asset purchase programs became a thing for EMDEs: Amid the economic fallout from the pandemic, a wave of asset purchase programs in emerging markets and developing economies (EMDEs) over the past year has helped to instill some stability in financial markets, but their long-term macro consequences remain unclear, according to the World Bank. Asset purchases are a quantitative easing policy that sees a central bank piling into government bonds or other financial assets from commercial banks and financial institutions in a bid to stimulate GDP growth and help accelerate inflation. The policy measure, which is somewhat unusual, also helps to bring down yields on bonds and financial assets and bump up money supply.

EM central banks — at least 18 of them — resorted to buying government bonds in 2020 — making purchases ranging from less than 1% to 6% of GDP — despite the practice traditionally being limited to the developing world. Defying warnings the move would prove fiscally irresponsible and cause inflation to soar uncontrollably, developing economies managed to bring bond yields down and stabilise their currencies. “While most have been purchasing only in secondary markets, some have purchased bonds directly from governments with the objective of financing rising fiscal deficits.” In some cases, the asset purchase programs continue to grow, and many central banks have not announced the scale and duration of purchases.

And some have continued their QE programs into 2021: India announced earlier this month that it would purchase USD 14 bn worth of government bonds in the first quarter of its 2021-2022 fiscal year (which starts 1 April) having purchased USD 41 bn in FY2020-2021. This is the first time India’s central bank has committed upfront to an amount, amid pressure from traders to give guidance on government purchasing plans. Though markets are taking the policy positively, according to ICICI Securities’ Naveen Singh, “it would be a challenge to keep absorbing the huge supply at prevailing prices.”

This is the first rodeo for many EMDEs, and the timing may help them out. Current macro conditions in EMDEs are much more “benign” than previous instances when central banks in these economies financed fiscal deficits. These previous scenarios were “preceded by long periods of high inflation, external debt defaults, and stubbornly high fiscal deficits, set against the backdrop of less credible fiscal and monetary frameworks,” the World Bank writes, making EMDE asset purchase programs less risky this time around.

But don’t take that to mean that the positive outcome makes future success in implementing the same policy a certainty, as the context of “uniquely accommodative macroeconomic policies in advanced economies” may be undone in the future. The bank also points to the fact that “fragile liquidity conditions in EMDE financial markets are conducive to volatile movements in asset prices, possibly leading to unintended consequences,” especially if the programs are seen to be financing unsustainable fiscal deficits.

WORTH WATCHING

Some of the TV shows you should look out for this Ramadan

It’s the 2021 Ramadan TV guide: At the time of year where many of us realize we have a television, we thought we’d see what the airwaves have in store for us during the holy month. While not all show schedules have been released, we’ve done our best to gather what’s out so far:

The only drama we can stand in our lives right now: Harb Ahleya stars a strong female trio of Yousra, Jamila Awad, and Arwa Gouda. The series follows Yousra, who is forced to abandon her daughter as a child to be raised by the girl’s stepmother, making tensions high between the mother and daughter as the years pass. You can watch Harb Ahleya on Watch iT or on CBC at 7:45pm.

Then there’s Bein Al Sama Wel Ard, which is based on the novel by Naguib Mahfouz and stars Hani Salama and Dorra. The show promises to be more introspective than its peers, depicting a group of people of different beliefs and backgrounds getting stuck in an elevator and later being involved in each other’s lives. Catch the15-episode show during the first half of Ramadan on OnE at 11:30 pm and Shahid.

Meanwhile, Qasr El Nile follows Dina El Sheribini, who after her husband dies, is forced to wed his already-married brother. Catch the show on MBC at 9pm and OnE at 7:30pm and Shahid.

It wouldn’t be Ramadan without Nelly Karim, who joins Tara Emad and Mohamad Farrag in Ded El Kasr — a series revolving around marital problems in Egyptian society. You can catch it on CBC at 10pm or on Shahid and Watch iT.

Leading our action series lineup is the second season of the series Al Ekhteyar, which further commemorated the lives of Egyptian policemen who fought against terrorism in recent years. The cast boasts Karim Abdelaziz, Ahmed Mekky, Asmaa Abo Elyazeid, Injy El-Mokadem, Khaled El-Nabawy, and Mohamed Farrag and you can find the show on OnE at 9pm, Art at 11pm and Watch iT.

Depicting the flipside is El Qahera Kabul, which has been long awaited since it was pushed from last year. The series shadows fictional terrorist leaders, depicting how people fall into these organizations. Among the actors in the series are Tariq Lotfi, Fathi Abdelwahab, and Khaled Al-Sawy. Find it on CBC at 11pm, Al Hayah at 10pm and Watch iT.

A little explosion here and there (and a pinch of moustache) to help the iftar go down: Ahmed El Sakka and Egypt’s Tom Selleck (Amir Karara) teamed up this Ramadan to bring the action-packed Nasl El Aghrab. The duo are pitted against each other after one of them marries the other’s wife while he was in prison. The series will be shown on OnE at 8pm and Watch iT. Mohamed Ramadan’s new show Moussa is a historic drama set during the time of the British occupation of Egypt. Moussa is a man from Upper Egypt taking care of his brothers in an action-filled series full of revenge, patriotism, and political turmoil. Watch Moussa on MBC at 10pm, Art at 10pm, DMC, and DMC Drama, as well as Shahid and Watch iT. Finally, Hagma Mortada features Ahmed Ezz and Hend Sabri in a romantic thriller following the duo’s experiences working in Egypt’s secret services. The show will be aired on DMC, DMC Drama, and Art at 9pm, and released on Watch iT and Shahid.

The midnight thriller hour: Director Tamer Mohsen has teamed up with actress Mona Zaki for Le3bet Newton, a thriller following a woman who travels abroad after disagreements with her husband. You can find the show on DMC at 12am and Watch iT.

Hoping for some laughs this Ramadan? Fares Bela Gawaz is reminiscent of films from the early 2000s, starring Mostafa Amar as he tries to search for a wife in a comedy series that will air on Al Nahar, Al Nahar Drama, Al Mehwar, and Al Qahera Wel Nas. We’re also looking forward to Amina Khalil and Mohamed Mamdouh’s lighthearted series Khalee Balak Mn Zizi which sees Khalil take on the role of a strong spirited woman who seems to go around breaking all the rules. The show will be on MBC Masr at 9:30pm and on Shahid. Meanwhile, the woes of parenting is the main theme in the 15-episode comedy series Ahsan Aab starring Ali Rabei which will show on Al Hayah at 11pm. Then there’s Zeina and Ahmed El Sadaany who head a criminal ring in Kolo Bel 7ob that will be airing on Al Nahar at 10pm, Al Nahar Drama at 8pm, and Shahid.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you: Ramez just won’t quit. His show 3a2lo Taar will be shown on MBC Masr at 6:30pm and Shahid, so you can keep flipping the channel. Seriously, watching Ramadan ads is a better use of time.

The lone sci-fi entry hitting way too close to home: A sci-fi show that has been praised for its graphics and filmmaking, Covid-25, is heading to OnE at 11pm during the second half of Ramadan. We’re reluctant to call it sci-fi as it seems pretty realistic right about now, but the show follows Doctor Yassin, played Youssef El Sherif, as he heads a medical group that tries to manufacture vaccines to fight dangerous diseases hitting the world.

No Egyptian Game of Thrones this year: Pharaonic TV series El Malek was suspended from being released this Ramadan after receiving backlash for historical inaccuracies. The show’s producer United Media Services said it would form a committee of history, archeology and sociology experts to watch and review the show, the company said in a statement. El Malek, which features Amr Youssef as the Pharaoh Ahmose, faced heavy criticism over his “historically inaccurate” beard (eyeroll) as well as the cast’s costumes that failed to represent the era. Arab News and The Times UK have the story.

Talk shows are getting a shake up during Ramadan: Amr Adib’s talk show El Hekaya is moving to Shahid during the month of Ramadan, with episodes dropping on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at 10pm, Adib announced on his show (watch, runtime: 03:36). Meanwhile, Kelma Akhira with Lamees El Hadidi will be moved to Extra News airing on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at 11pm, reports Youm7. Ala Mas’ouleety will remain on Sada El Balad, but will be shortened to an hour with Ahmed Moussa saying he would reveal the show times later today, the channel reported.

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.

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

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

25 April (Sunday): Sinai Liberation Day.

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

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

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

2 May (Sunday): Coptic Easter Sunday.

3 May (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 June (Wednesday): 30 June Revolution Day.

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 August (Monday): Islamic New Year.

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

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

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

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

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

1 October (Friday): Expo 2020 Dubai opens.

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day.

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

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

18 October (Monday): Prophet’s Birthday.

21 October (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the Prophet’s Birthday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note to readers: Some national holidays may appear twice above. Since 2020, Egypt has observed most mid-week holidays on Thursdays regardless of the day on which they fall and may also move those days to Sundays. We distinguish below between the actual holiday and its observance.

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