Sunday, 28 March 2021

EnterprisePM — Retail subscription opens on the Taaleem IPO

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TONIGHT

Good afternoon, and welcome to the weekend+ edition, as much of the news day consisted of updates to main headlines that dominated the weekend news cycle.

THE BIG STORY at home this afternoon is the ongoing saga of the Ever Given, which remains stuck for a sixth day now. We have the latest updates in the Speed Round below.

Subscription to the retail component of the Taaleem IPO has kicked off. We cover the announcement chapter and verse in the Speed Round below.

CORRECTION: In this morning’s EnterpriseAM, we said that Taaleem had priced its IPO at EGP 6.20 per share. We were incorrect. A close reading of the disclosure from the Financial Regulatory Authority indicates that Taaleem could price its IPO at up to EGP 6.20 per share, not at EGP 6.20. The company had previously said it expected to price the transaction at EGP 5.48-6.02 per share, and a senior source with first hand knowledge of the transaction confirmed to us this afternoon that CI Capital will price the offering within this range. We have amended the story on our website.

HAPPENING NOW- The House of Representatives has approved in principle legislation that would impose harsher penalties for FGM, reports Youm7. The tougher punishments for FGM moved through the House Legislative Committee last week and were approved in both circles.

Also on the House’s itinerary for today is discussion on the long-held up Water Resources Act that will introduce stricter penalties for water waste, while addressing pollution, dwindling resources, and climate change issues.

The central bank has put out another official warning of the fundamental dangers of crypto. Cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin are “extremely volatile” and risky investments that are neither based on tangible assets nor centrally regulated, making its holders susceptible to sudden losses in value, the CBE said in a statement (pdf) this afternoon. This comes as a reminder for people to abide by Article 206 of the recently-enacted Central Bank and Banking Act (pdf) — which prohibits issuing, trading and promoting crypto in Egypt without explicit licensing from the CBE’s board.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD- Abu Dhabi will begin selling tomorrow futures contracts for its flagship Murban oil grade, potentially changing how Middle East oil is priced, according to the Emirates News Agency (WAM). Abu Dhabi hopes that the futures will become the region’s main benchmark as opposed to other grades (such as Brent crude), writes Bloomberg. The move is also hoped to open the local oil sector to financial traders. The futures platform will be run by USA-based Intercontinental Exchange Inc. and called ICE Futures Abu Dhabi. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and 22 other banks and brokers will act as exchange members

Equipping Port Fujairah for the pivotal shift: Once sold on an exchange, Murban will be sent by pipeline to Fujairah, and then shipped to global markets. State-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) has earmarked around USD 900 mn to build 40 mn barrels of storage space in caverns beneath Fujairah’s mountains to ensure there’s plenty of Murban on hand to manage any future supply disruptions, Khaled Salmeen, the company’s head of marketing and trading, had previously said. The UAE says Murban futures won’t affect OPEC or its ability to stabilize oil prices, Adnoc’s Group Head of Trading Philippe Khoury was reported as saying.

🗓 CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

The Egyptian-Croatian Business Forum meets this Wednesday, 31 March, for the first time

since 2010. On the table: Giving a nudge to both trade and investment, a FEDCOC statement says. Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić-Radman and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry are expected to attend.

The Arab Federation of Exchanges Annual Conference 2021 will kick off tomorrow and run until Tuesday. This year’s virtual conference will discuss ESGs for economic growth and capital markets as well as fintech and innovation.

The Startup Festival is currently ongoing in Sharm El Sheikh and will run until tomorrow. The festival will gather investors, entrepreneurs and policymakers and more than 80 startups will participate in the exhibition, which will feature panel discussions and workshops.

The HVAC-R Egypt Expo will take place from 1-3 April at the Egypt International Exhibition Center in New Cairo. The fifth annual expo for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration, and energy and brings together more than 170 national and international operators with different suppliers.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization is set to open on Saturday, 3 April in El Fustat. Local and international visitors alike will pay less for admission for the first two weeks to explore the museum’s central hall, according to a cabinet statement. Meanwhile, the Royal Mummies Hall will be ready for visitors starting 18 April.

The Spring Flowers Exhibit (Ma3rad El Zohoor) is currently taking place at Orman Botanical Garden in Giza. More than 200 exhibitors have set up shop to sell flowers, plants, agricultural products, and gardening equipment. The exhibit runs through 13 April.

AUC Press’ Mad March book sale will wrap up by the end of the month. The sale is open to the general public every day from 10am–6pm CLT at AUC Tahrir Bookstore & Garden.

🚙 FOR YOUR COMMUTE-

enterprise

Spain held a concert with 5k fans as the country tested the revival of big events during the pandemic, reports Reuters. Saturday’s concert go-ers had to arrive early and have rapid covid-19 tests before being allowed to enter the venue. Those who tested positive were seen dancing and singing together in a packed concert with no social distancing, but with masks on.

📺 ON THE TUBE TONIGHT-

(All times in CLT)

Apple TV has released Calls, an avante-garde series that relies more on audio than visuals, with each episode featuring an eerie phone call conversation as a group of strangers simultaneously experience an apocalyptic event. The series pushes the limits of what visual storytelling can be through its risky choices and techniques.

A quick crime docuseries for those of you into that: Under Suspicion: Uncovering the Wesphael Case on Netflix looks into the high-profile case of Belgian politician Bernard Wesphael, who was accused of murdering his wife in 2013.

The 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers are going strong with Ghana to play against São Tomé and Sudan against South Africa tonight at 6pm.

CORRECTION- Egypt will be playing its Afcon match tomorrow at 6 pm against Comoros and not today as we incorrectly noted in EnterpriseAM.

The FIFA World Cup European Qualifiers are also up and running with some matches to note including: Georgia to face off against Spain today at 6pm, Albania against England at 6pm, Romania against Germany at 8:45pm, and Bulgaria against Italy at 8:45pm. Kazakhstan is currently on the field against France as we dispatch this newsletter.

A proud day for African contact sports: For anyone following mixed martial arts, Cameroonian bomber Francis Ngannou became the new UFC undisputed, heavy-weight champion of the world this morning after beating the defending champion Stipe Miocic in a second round knockout at UFC: 260. You can watch some of the highlights here (watch, runtime: 2:33).

Your feel good moment for the day: The victory is even sweeter when you consider the challenges Ngannou had to face to get to where he is. Born to abject poverty, Ngannou (who spent most of his life not knowing what MMA even was) spent his childhood working to help support his family, before moving to France and living on the streets in an attempt to kickstart his boxing career. Hear him tell his life story to Mike Tyson in this episode of Hotboxin’ (watch, runtime: 1:25:04).

🥐EAT THIS TONIGHT-

Deep dish pizza in all its glory: If you’ve tried Chicago-style deep dish pizza, you’ll know it’s an experience that fills your belly and heart with joy. American restaurant Country Hills has brought us deep dish pizzas galore, as well as a menu filled with other soul food including burgers and mac and cheese. Of course, we recommend the deep dish pizza — go for their lone ranger (hot dogs and pepperoni) and their shrimp volcano — but if you want something less filling-for-days, try their thinner New York-style pizza. We loved their buffalo ranch crispy chicken pizza and texas chili fries pizza. You can find Country Hills at Mall of Egypt and City Stars as well as in Heliopolis, Alexandria, and Mansoura.

🎤 OUT AND ABOUT-

Another Comedy Bunker is taking place at The Room Art Space in New Cairo tonight, with this event promising surprising new faces to take to the stage and perform their stand up comedy act. The event is set to start at 9pm.

Ubuntu Gallery is showing the gallery Reimagined Memories which brings together several works focusing on the textile hangings of Cairo. From weddings, to moulids, to public events, Cairo is known for bringing out colorful and textural cloth hangings at big events to decorate the street and signify the type of event. The exhibit — curated by Seif El Rashidi — poses the question as to whether this form of expression has a future in the city.

The Nile Art Gallery is hosting the exhibition Bayati by Hany Abdel Badee.

💡 UNDER THE LAMPLIGHT-

The New York Times’ debut cookbook is out titled The New York Times Cooking No-Recipe Recipes. The cookbook hailing from the popular NYT Cooking website and app, features 100 vividly photographed no-recipe recipes to help readers improve their improvisational cooking skills and learn the basics of substituting ingredients and mentally calculating portions. Recipes include pizza without a crust, weeknight fried rice, roasted shrimp tacos, and oven s’mores.

🌤 TOMORROW’S WEATHER- More of the same tomorrow, with daytime highs of 23°C and nighttime lows of 10°C, our favorite weather app tells us. Expect the weather to stay in this range for the rest of the week.

SPEED ROUND: IPO WATCH

Retail subscription opens on the Taaleem IPO

Retail investors who want shares of Taleem’s IPO on the Egyptian Exchange are now placing their orders. Would-be shareholders have until Thursday to get their requests in, the company said. Taaleem is offering 17.9 mn shares in the retail portion of its IPO, which represents 5% of the shares up for grabs and 2.4% of all outstanding shares, it said in its prospectus (pdf). The private portion of the sale accounts for the remaining 95% of the IPO and is equal to 46.55% of Taaleem.

CI Capital will price the offering somewhere in the EGP 5.48-6.02 per share range, a senior source with first hand knowledge of the transaction confirmed to us this afternoon. The company’s filing today said it will announce the final offer price of shares tomorrow.

MEANWHILE: Single orders by institutions will need to be for at least 1% of the shares on offer in the private placement, and those by qualified individuals at least 0.5%, according to the filing. CI Capital will allocate the private placement shares directly and it already has in place an agreement with a single unnamed investor for the purchase of USD 30 mn-worth of shares. That’s close to a fifth of the shares on offer through private placement, by our math.

Advisors: CI Capital, also a shareholder in Taaleem, is running the sale and serving as bookrunner. MHR & Partners in association with White & Case are the counsel CI Capital, while Matouk Bassiouny & Hennawy are domestic counsel to Taaleem. PwC acts as an auditor for the transaction, and BDO is the independent financial advisor.

SPEED ROUND: SUEZ CANAL

We’re stumbling, but we’re getting there

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi ordered authorities to begin preparations to offload some containers from the Ever Given to make it lighter and easier to move, Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Chairman Osama Rabie told Extra News (watch, runtime: 12:15). Offloading the containers will be a last resort move, Rabie said, adding that the SCA will do this if current efforts to move the vessel fail. The possible course of action was posed this weekend by ship owner Shoei Kisen. The stranded vessel has been blocking the canal since Tuesday and salvage teams had been working to dislodge it with dredgers and tugboats. There are now 352 vessels waiting to move through the Canal, with a further 23 to arrive for transit in the next day.

Offloading the vessel will likely add even more days to the canal’s closure as it requires a crane and other heavy equipment that is yet to arrive, a top pilot with the canal authority told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.

Today’s efforts to move the ship have resulted in damage to the ship’s front, a spokesman for Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the vessel’s manager, told Bloomberg. Water entered two tanks of the Ever Given, but were removed using high powered pumps. The vessel is now stable, but there is now a chance it will be unfit to leave the canal once it is dislodged.

How far have we come so far? Rabie further explained that the vessel has moved an additional four meters with the help of rising tides in the canal, adding to the 29 meters it moved yesterday. Meanwhile, Egypt is sending veterinarians onboard the ships to examine cattle and other livestock that have run out of provisions on the vessels waiting to cross the canal, according to an Agriculture Ministry statement.

THE IMPACT ABROAD- Companies such as Ikea and Caterpillar are considering taking detours to avoid the Suez Canal, going through the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa and adding over a week to the Asia-Europe journey, reports Bloomberg.

Short-term disaster, long-term meh: With all the talk about disrupted supply chains getting worse, Robert Koopman, chief economist of the World Trade Organization is trying to put things into perspective, saying that firms might be overestimating the long-term damage of the blocked canal. In the short term, the Suez Canal block will lead to higher transportation costs, tighter supplies, and more delivery delays, but the situation in the long-term is “another test that the global economy will battle through in the weeks ahead, but will ultimately pass,” Koopman said. He called the situation “a great photo op,” but not in any way indicative of global supply chains potentially disintegrating or a warning against over-globalization.

GO WITH THE FLOW

Re-energized small-cap index coming to a market near you at the end of the year

The EGX30 ended today’s session flat on turnover of EGP 685 mn (53.5% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is up 0.2% YTD.

In the green: Pioneers (+3.3%), Oriental Weavers (+2.2%) and Telecom Egypt (+2.1%).

In the red: Eastern Co. (-2.1%), Export Development Bank (-1.4%) and GB Auto (-1.3%).

The EGX is in early talks with three unnamed banks to list their SME subsidiaries on the revamped small-cap index dubbed “Tamayoz'', which will replace the NileX index, bourse chairman Mohamed Farid told us this morning.

Twenty-eight companies have so far applied to join the new index, and the EGX is currently evaluating their suitability for inclusion, the chairman noted. The final list will be announced in the second half of the year, he said.

But what is the criteria? Details on the eligibility criteria remain sketchy, with Farid only telling us that companies should be in a strong financial and operational position before being considered for entry.

The EGX plans to launch Tamayoz' before the end of 2021, Farid tells us. In the meantime, the bourse is also trying to convince the banks and asset managers to buy into small cap stocks in a bid to stimulate demand and thus boost market liquidity, he added.

Background. The small-cap exchange being restructured and rebranded under a plan being undertaken by the EGX alongside the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to help SMEs access equity finance and increase their competitiveness. The EBRD offered in September to cover up to 70% of the costs paid out by Nilex-listed SMEs for financial sponsors, and a month later the Financial Regulatory Authority eased rules on sponsorship and slashed evaluation fees by 50% to encourage small firms to go public.


EARNINGS WATCH- Al Ezz Dekheila Steel’s (EZDK) losses eased slightly to EGP 4.7 bn in 2020, compared to a EGP 5.2 bn loss the year before, according to the company’s earnings release (pdf). This came despite revenues falling almost 11% to EGP 33.9 bn, down from EGP 38 bn in 2019.

ENTERPRISE EXPLAINS

Euroclearable? What’s that?

What is clearing, and what does it mean to be ‘Euroclearable’? Towards the end of last year, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait used a prime time appearance on Bloomberg to announce that Egyptian bonds will officially be “Euroclearable” at some point between September and November of 2021. But what is clearing, exactly? And why should we care whether it happens in Egypt or abroad?

Clearing = settling a financial trade and everything that entails: Ensuring that buyers have the funds to make the purchases, crediting and debiting trading accounts, collecting margin payments, delivering securities, and reporting data.

This is all done by a clearinghouse: These are financial players that sit in the middle of buyers and sellers, passing the securities to the buyer and crediting the account of the seller. This means that they take the reverse position of every trade, buying the securities from the seller and selling them on to the buyer. As such, clearinghouses are a critical part of the plumbing that ensures the global financial system operates smoothly and provides security to tns of USD of daily transactions.

Introducing one of the world’s most important clearinghouses: Euroclear. Since its establishment more than five decades ago, Euroclear has become one of the world’s most significant clearinghouses and is responsible for settling equity, bond and derivatives trades in the eurozone and internationally. At the end of 2019, the Belgium-based company had some EUR 31.4 tn assets under custody, making it one of the largest clearinghouses in the world.

What would it mean for Egyptian debt to be “Euroclearable”? Simply put, locally-issued EGP-denominated debt would be cleared in Europe. Currently, foreign investors can only participate in the local market through a handful of local banks with licenses to operate at primary dealers, but after Euroclear steps in, Egyptian debt will become more accessible internationally and the country will be able to target a greater number of foreign investors.

In practice: This would mean more foreign investment in Egyptian debt, which means greater inflows of hard currency, stronger foreign reserves, lower borrowing costs and a stronger, more dynamic, and more liquid local market.

We’re not quite there yet though: The agreement will see the Egyptian government set up a new central securities depository that acts as a “cross border link” with the European institution and clears local debt securities. There are a raft of other criteria on issues such as transparency and debt structure that Egypt will need to meet before Euroclear gives the green-light.

WANT MORE?

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

AI is learning to play Diplomacy, and it’s pretty good at it

AI is learning to play Diplomacy: Tech company DeepMind is training AI systems to play the strategy board game Diplomacy, which requires a mixture of competition and collaboration to win, according to Spectrum.

Turns out diplomacy is much more complex than chess: Whereas AI has previously been successfully trained to play purely competitive games such as chess and the Chinese board game Go, developing software that can manage a seven player game where each player moves simultaneously is “a qualitatively different problem,” according to DeepMind computer scientist Andrea Tachetti. While in the full version of Diplomacy players can verbally negotiate, DeepMind is focused on training AI to play the “no press” variant of the game that disables explicit communication.

How does it work? DeepMind refined the neural network DipNet, which had been fed data from 150k human games, by using a tweaked reinforcement learning algorithm. Instead of

using pure reinforcement learning (which would require the AI to work through a ridiculous number of possible moves each turn) programmers calculated the move that works best on average against likely moves of opponents, and trained the AI to prefer those moves, letting it work from its learning without sampling after training.

DeepMind’s AlphaGo became the first computer program to defeat a Go world champion in 2016, with the championship becoming the subject of a documentary film of the same name (watch, runtime 1:30:27). Since then, DeepMind has developed the more complex AlphaZero, which can also play chess and shogi, followed by MuZero, which learns games without being taught the rules and can also play visually complex Atari games. Humans have been losing games to Chess AIs since the 1980s, most notably with the 1997 defeat of world champion Garry Kasparov at the (hands? Wires?) of IBM supercomputer Deep Blue.

Facebook is set to join the game, and will present its own work on no-press Diplomacy in April, using a human-imitating network similar to DipNet. Instead of using reinforcement learning, Facebook enhanced the AI with a search function that allows the bot to more closely imitate human reasoning. The SeachBot takes its time to reason through the best strategy by calculating each opponent’s equilibrium strategy, through considering a series of probabilities across 50 likely moves. This slows the SearchBot down in real gameplay, but allows it to win more games.

Who is winning? While DeepMind appears to be a better player than DipNet (with one DeepMind AI playing against six DipNet players winning 30% of the time compared to DipNet winning only 3% of the time when the roles are reversed), SearchBot seems to be a better player than DeepMind, beating DipNet by a greater margin. SearchBot was also able to rise to the top 2% of players when competing against humans on a Diplomacy gaming website, and won 94% of the time when playing a set of 35 games against two top human Diplomacy players. We’re still waiting for a faceoff match between DeepMind and SearchBot.

AI learning to play collaborative games is cool, but also has real world implications: Games that require collaboration and not just pure competition are a lot more similar to real life situations, where a number of factors need to be weighed out before a decision can be made, DeepMind scientists say. The creation of AI bots that can comprehend multiple variables, map out possible scenarios, and come up with a strategy in response has implications for policy, healthcare, governance, and beyond.

CALENDAR

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

28 March (Sunday): Executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Ghada Waly will address AmCham in a talk on tackling corruption in African countries and reinforcing women’s rights. You can register for the event here.

29-30 March (Monday-Tuesday): Arab Federation of Exchanges Annual Conference 2021.

29-30 March (Monday-Tuesday): Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport Startup Festival, Sharm El Sheikh.

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

31 March (Wednesday): Income tax deadline for individuals. Real estate tax filing deadline.

31 March (Wednesday): The Egyptian-Croation Business Forum will convene.

1-3 April (Thursday-Saturday): HVAC-R Egypt Expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo.

6 April (Tuesday): French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Egypt working breakfast with Sovereign Fund of Egypt CEO Ayman Soliman.

7 April (Wednesday): British-Egyptian Business Association (BEBA) webinar on digital banking and fintech.

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

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

25 April (Sunday): Sinai Liberation Day.

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

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

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

2 May (Sunday): 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.

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

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

1 October (Friday): Expo 2020 Dubai opens.

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day.

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

18 October (Monday): Prophet’s Birthday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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