Thursday, 6 May 2021

EnterprisePM — Supply chains woes are hurting non-oil private sector businesses, especially auto makers

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TONIGHT

It’s the final weekend before the Eid break, everyone, as the nation will get a five-day holiday in observance of Eid El Fitr from Wednesday, 12 May to Sunday, 16 May. And while yes, the only travelling we’ll get to do is to the supermarket or the pharmacy, it’s still five days off.

PSA- Partial lockdown starts today: A reminder that all malls, stores, restaurants and cafes will be closed at 9 pm for the next two weeks and all events cancelled starting from today, as per directives from the Madbouly Cabinet. You can, however, still order food. Groceries and pharmacies are exempt.

THE BIG STORY TODAY- have global supply chain disruptions begun to take their toll on Egypt? That appears to be the overarching theme of today’s biggest headlines, with inflationary pressures on production inputs being a major contributor to Egypt’s non-oil private sector contracting for the fifth consecutive month in April, according to IHS Markit’s purchasing managers’ index out today.

Meanwhile, auto makers have begun cutting down production on domestic assembly lines as a result of the global chip shortage, industry insiders tell the local press. Local manufacturing could also see a hit, as copper is now turning to an ever-scarcer resource. We break these stories down in greater detail in the Speed Round below.

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

  • Egypt entered partial lockdown, with stores closing at 9 pm. It’s also going to be a lockdown affair as well for Eid break with beaches and parks closed.
  • The vast majority of Egyptians are open to using new payment methods, according to a survey by Mastercard.
  • Telecom companies may see bigger fines for offering poor quality of service

HAPPENING NOW- While normalizing relations is still on the table, clashes were plenty during yesterday’s Egypt-Turkey normalization talks. Turkish officials, who are in Cairo for a two-day visit, could not agree with their Egyptian counterparts on a specific timeline for Ankara to remove forces from Libya, one of the conditions Cairo has set to restore diplomatic ties, unnamed sources told Al Arabiya. Another condition causing strain is Turkey handing over Ikhwani figures to Egyptian authorities and deeming them terrorists as opposed to “political refugees”. Talks are ongoing today.

Turkey is still pining for friendship with Egypt, inviting a delegation from Cairo to visit Ankara to continue discussions. The date of the talks is yet to be announced.

Turkey also wants to make nice with KSA, with talks expected to take place on 11 May in the Kingdom, sources told Bloomberg. The visit comes after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz discussed ways to better relations in a call on Tuesday. It also marks the first time Turkey has visited Saudi since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

CORRECTION- The Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund ADQ-owned Amoun Pharma will NOT be merging with GlaxoSmithKline Egypt as was incorrectly noted in this morning’s EnterpriseAM. The company in question is in fact GSK Egypt subsidiary Amoun Pharma Industries in an internal restructuring. The story has since been removed from our website.

** So, when do we eat? Maghreb prayers will release us from our fast at 6:36pm, and we’ll have until 3:30am to eat and hydrate.

🗓 CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Inflation: April inflation figures will be out next week.

The IMF will conduct on 1 June a second review of targets set under Egypt’s USD 5.2 bn standby loan. The loan was approved in June 2020.

Africa-based startups have until 26 May to sign up for the French government-sponsored AFD Digital Challenge, an annual startup competition (pdf) by the French Development Agency (AFD). This year, the competition involves startups finding solutions to curb the carbon impact of economic activities or promote sustainable economic activity and the use of natural resources. The 10 startups chosen will receive an “acceleration pack,” a package of technical and financial support worth EUR 20k.

Will the Gouna International Squash Open 2021 — a PSA event — still take place on 20-28 May? It is not yet clear, as the government’s partial lockdown extends to 21 May. We’ll update you on the event as we know more.

🚙 FOR YOUR COMMUTE-

Microsoft is pledging an EU Data Boundary for the Microsoft Cloud: Microsoft is going to let its European public and business sector customers keep cloud computing data within the EU bloc, Microsoft president Brad Smith said in a blog post. The move comes to avert concerns over US government access to sensitive data, the AP reported. In July 2020, the EU’s top court struck down a transatlantic data sharing agreement known as Privacy Shield, which would have created the framework for the transfer of data from the EU to the US, claiming it did not adequately prevent the American government from snooping on user data because it “had to yield to US surveillance laws.” EU

📺 ON THE TUBE TONIGHT-

The first three seasons of Startup have dropped on Netflix. The show follows the emergence of GenCoin, a brilliant yet controversial cryptocurrency startup. The three founders of the startup struggle to get the needed USD 12 mn seed round, and turn to organized crime to pick their business off the ground. Along the way they team up with a corrupt FBI agent (played by Martin Freeman), in a series that gives a little insight on how average people can let their hunger for wealth get in the way of morals, humanity, and ethics — and how it can unfortunately help them succeed in the end.

The Europa League is on tonight: Catch the matches between Roma and Man United as well as Arsenal versus Villarreal at 9pm.

El Zamalek is playing today against Smouha while Ghazl El Mahalla will go up against Enppi at 9:30pm in the Egyptian Premier League.

You’ll also want to tune in to the Barcelona versus Atletico Madrid match on Saturday at 4:15pm in La Liga as well as Serie A’s Saturday match that will see Inter Milan and Sampdoria compete.

The English Premier League is coming back tomorrow with a double gameweek 35. Leicester will play against NewCastle tomorrow at 9pm, while Saturday will see Leeds vs. Tottenham at 1:30pm, Sheffield United vs. Crystal Palace at 4pm, Man City vs. Chelsea at 6:30pm, and last but not least, Liverpool vs. Southampton at 9:15pm.

Is covid disrupting African football? African qualifying groups for the 2022 World Cup have been postponed to September instead of June, with FIFA citing “current disruption caused by the covid-19 pandemic” for the decision taken in coordination with the Confederation of African Football. Egypt is currently in Group F alongside Gabon, Libya, and Angola.

🥐EAT THIS TONIGHT-

This might be the perfect time to ensure your kahk supply before Eid. Breadfast is our first pick, not just because of their tasty biscuits and gorgeous box, but because they’ve taken on a great initiative to donate one kahk box for every one bought. Gourmet is also a contender for coolest box with Gourmet collaborating with Artist Ahmed Ezzat to create tins with an Egyptian vintage design and holding spectacular kahk. Dukes is also on the map for the kahk game, with several sizes for the customizable boxes to make sure you have enough of the ghorayeba or whatever else you enjoy most.

Of course, you can’t mention kahk el Eid without mentioning El Abd — the quintessential kahk maker who this year spread their products far and wide, selling them at gas stations and small supermarkets as opposed to sticking to just their store. For our Alexandria readers, our resident Alexandrian recommends kahk from Cookie Man, a famous bakery around since 1986.

Get economic with your kahk: Egyptian data journalist and co-founder of Infotimes Amr Eleraqi took it upon himself to map out the prices of different types of the Eid biscuits to create a market price overview looking at eight stores. Through the interactive map, Eleraqi found that BiscoMisr offers 11 products at the cheapest price, while ghorayeba with pistachios and kahk with walnuts are the most expensive biscuits at all stores (probably because of the nuts).

💡 UNDER THE LAMPLIGHT-

Have central banks got it all wrong with their inflation mandate? The man who invented EM assets investing seems to think so. Mobius Capital Partners’ founding partner, and emerging markets investing sage, Mark Mobius poses serious questions on the metrics that determine monetary policy for us all in his book The Inflation Myth and the Wonderful World of Deflation. In it, he concludes that in the technology-dependent, and politically-charged markets we live in now, has led to inflation being an unreliable metric, especially seeing the amount of impact the figure has. The quantification of price movements is also complicated by the ability to access relevant data such as the difference between rural and urban inflation, leading to inflation not capturing the full story. Mobius takes the long view, tracing the historical context of the “inflation myth” to the Roman Empire’s degradation of its currency and onwards until today.

🌤 TOMORROW’S WEATHER- It’s going to be a hot weekend. The mercury will stay at 40°C tomorrow, before going up to 43°C on Saturday and Sunday, our favorite weather app tells us. Temperatures should reach a more tolerable level starting Monday.

SPEED ROUND: ECONOMY

Private sector conditions worsen again in April

The non-oil private sector in Egypt contracted for the fifth consecutive month in April, primarily as businesses recorded a sharp fall in new orders, output, and employment and higher input costs from the global commodities price rally, IHS Markit’s purchasing managers’ index survey (pdf) found. The PMI gauge dropped to 47.7 last month, below the 50.0 mark — which separates expansion from contraction — and down from 48 in March. The April figure is the lowest reading since June 2020.

Output is continuing to fall markedly, with the Output Index signalling a fifth consecutive m-o-m drop in business activity last month that coincided with a further drop in new business inflows, IHS Markit said. The rate of the fall in output was “broadly unchanged” from a nine-month low recorded in March.

A similar trend was recorded for new orders. "Business activity in the Egyptian non-oil sector was further dampened by weak client orders in April, marking a fifth consecutive month of decline,” IHS Markit economist David Owen said.

A sub-PMI gauge measuring output growth remained firmly in contraction territory in April, rising only slightly to 46.8 from 46.7 in March, while a separate sub-index for new orders edged up slightly to 47 from 46.9, Reuters noted, citing survey findings.

Weak new orders translated to wide employment cuts, which took the month’s drop in employment levels to its quickest pace in four months.

The drop in overall sales also meant firms slashed workloads, cleared backlogs, and lower purchasing activity. Many companies said higher input costs meant they had to delay purchasing decisions and draw down existing inventories.

Speaking of more expensive inputs, inflationary pressures were very strong throughout the month, with the rate of input price growth the fastest on record since September 2019. Overall input costs increased markedly due to higher raw material costs globally that was tied to global shortages and supply chain delays, which led many businesses to increase end prices. Firms reported higher prices for a range of goods including metals and plastics. However, the level of increase in selling prices was lower than the initial bump in input costs.

On the flipside, businesses cited a solid increase in new export orders received through foreign clients, and said this was owed to recovering foreign economies. The sub-gauge for new export orders rose to 53.1 in April from 48.6 in March.

Optimism still (somewhat) pervades: “Firms were still confident of a rise in output over the coming 12 months, although the level of sentiment dropped notably from March,” when Egypt witnessed a surge in the rollout of covid-19 vaccines, economist Davin Owen said. Fewer firms were optimistic about output and new business growth in April than in March, due mainly to a recent uptick in cases and ongoing concerns about financial liquidity. The sub-index measuring business expectations of future output dropped to 65 in April, still notably strong but lower than the 77.2 seen in March.

SPEED ROUND: AUTOMOTIVE

The global chip shortage has officially hit our local auto industry

Major car manufacturers including GB Auto have been forced to slash production due to the global chip shortage, Khaled Saad, who heads the Egyptian Association of Automobile Manufacturers, reportedly told the local press. Car makers weren’t able to get their hands on enough electronic control units (ECUs) in recent months, Saad said, adding that those are key components used to control electrical systems in vehicles. More crucially, these are not components domestic car makers can produce, he notes. This is already putting pressure on car prices domestically and is expected to raise prices further, he added.

A blow to the natgas transition plan? Car assemblers taking part in the government’s plan to swap out outdated cars for newly-built natural gas powered ones might be forced to delay deliveries if they don’t secure enough ECUs, say industry insiders speaking to the local press, including Saad. The pace of deliveries in the state-backed program, which aims to take as many as 1.8 mn old cars off the road over a decade, has already been sluggish since it began earlier this year.

How long is the shortage expected to last? At least a little while. Some global facilities might be able to start ramping up production and fulfilling orders during 1H2021, Saad said. Industry analyst Hussein Moustafa, meanwhile, expects the shortage to remain with us until at least the beginning of 2022.

On the global front, it could take even longer, as Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger suggested in an interview this week that, globally, the crisis could last a few more years. Demand had begun to search earlier in the year after lockdowns in 2020 pushed up sales of tech devices. Demand is expected to kick into overdrive this year with the advent of new technologies, such as 5G. Need a refresher on the global chip shortage? Check out our in-depth explainer here.

Can Egypt make those ECUs? Maybe. Setting up local facilities to manufacture those high-tech components is difficult at present, but it could be possible down the road if local car agents collaborate with their brand owners, noted Khaled Khalil, head of the Automotive Feeding Industries division at the Federation of Egyptian Industries.

Why is it so hard to establish a domestic chip industry? For one, it takes years to build semiconductor fabrication facilities and bns of USD, according to this interesting and well presented primer from Bloomberg yesterday. It also takes a deeper dive at the supply chain complexities that explain why the world can’t produce more chips and semiconductors despite really wanting to.

THE MOTHER OF ALL SUPPLY CHAIN DISRUPTIONS COMING? Copper has been growing increasingly scarce recently, with existing stocks enough to cover only three weeks-worth of demand, Bank of America commodity strategist Michael Widmer wrote in a recent note picked up by CNBC. This could lead copper prices to reach upward of USD 13k per tonne in the coming years after having already surged to a decade-high of over USD 10k a tonne this year on the back of the recovery-fueled global commodities rally.

SPEED ROUND: INVESTMENT WATCH

Algebra to raise USD 50 mn in first close of second fund

Algebra Ventures is looking to raise USD 50 mn in 3Q2021 for the first close of its recently announced USD 90 mn tech fund, managing partner Tarek Assaad told Al Mal. 80% of it will be invested in Egypt, with a focus on fintech, agritech, logistics and healthcare. The remaining 20% will be directed at MENA based startups. A second close of USD 40 mn is expected to take place 6-12 months after the first, Assaad said.

This is the company’s second fund, with ticket sizes ranging between USD 500k to USD 3 mn, depending on the stage of the startup. Potential limited partners (LPs) are development finance institutions and a few family offices, Algebra tells us.

Algebra Ventures’ inaugural fund was valued at USD 54 mn for 21 companies, with LPs comprising the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Cisco and the Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund (EAEF). The six most established startups in its portfolio are now valued at more than USD 350 mn.

GO WITH THE FLOW

Earnings Watch: Rameda, AMOC

EARNINGS WATCH- Tenth of Ramadan for Pharma Industries and Diagnostic Reagents (Rameda) reported a bottom line growth of 26% y-o-y to EGP 30.2 mn in 1Q2021, in an earnings release (pdf) out today. The company’s topline grew 17% y-o-y to EGP 270.8 mn during the quarter, “driven by strong performance from our recent launches, with a ramp up in sales of the new covid-19 related antiviral products, both domestically and internationally,” Rameda CFO Mahmoud Fayek said. These included the 2020 year-end launch of Anviziram and Remdesivir, which has supported Rameda’s growth in the first quarter of the year, CEO Amr Morsy said. "Easing import restrictions and strong demand for our antiviral medication regionally saw us enter new markets in 1Q21, with sales to the Levant driving pronounced growth at the Group’s exports vertical,” he added.

Looking ahead, Rameda will continue to focus on its portfolio optimization strategy, compound acquisitions, product launches and opening up new markets, Morsy says. “Rameda is currently completing the registration process to export its products to select GCC and Eastern European markets, with the aim of expanding our operations,” he added.

Alexandria Mineral Oils Company’s (AMOC) bottom line in 9M2020-21 reached EGP 103 mn, up from a net loss of EGP 152 mn in the same period last year, according to the company’s financials (pdf). Total sales in the same period dropped to EGP 7.1 bn from EGP 7.8 bn last year.

The EGX30 rose 0.7% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 1.02 bn (18.8% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 2.4% YTD.

In the green: Ezz Steel (+5.6%), AMOC (+3.7%) and Sidi Kerir (+3.2%).

In the red: Orascom Development (-2.8%), Orascom Financial (-2.3%) and Abu Qir Fertilizers (-1.2%).

OFFICE LIFE

Office layouts: to open floor or not to open floor

With the post-pandemic return to the office on the horizon, companies are shaking up the norm with open floor plans: HSBC CEO Noel Quinn recently announced the bank’s move to a fully open plan floor with no designated desks because after “having spent more than a year working from home, the last thing I want is to be stuck in an individual office when I return to the building,” he wrote on Linkedin. Meanwhile, Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters cleared out his personal office and made it available as a working space or meeting room, as last year’s events proved that “the concept of dedicated offices is incompatible with the emergent need for flexibility, collaboration and space-efficiency,” explained CFO Andy Halford, according to Bloomberg. These examples are just a drop in the ocean, with the traditional office space falling out of fashion among global firms after a year of solitude and disrupted communication.

This “new way of working” aims to bring on more engagement and easier communication: The disappearance of physical barriers — whether they’re cubicles or fancy executive offices — promises to make employees more visible to each other, and therefore, more likely to engage in a conversation that will foster relationships or lead to quicker problem solving.

But does it work? As CEOs enthusiastically order in the demolition crews, employees might opt out of removing the sense of privacy for a more monitored work environment. The close proximity doesn’t always mean that colleagues will hit up the water cooler or become besties. The ways they can choose to ignore each other, if that’s what they want, have become endless: avoiding eye contact, a bathroom break, or just being so engrossed in their tasks that they are selectively deaf (aided with a pair of headphones), suggests The Harvard Business Review.

It’s actually been tried and tested: A few years back, HBR collected data from two Fortune 500 companies who transitioned to open offices before and after the architecture change. The findings discovered that face-to-face interactions dropped by roughly 70% after the firms transitioned to open offices, while electronic interactions increased to compensate. The university news site got a bit artistic with their explanation of the results, looking to the 18th-century French philosopher Denis Diderot for an answer. Diderot was one of the first to discuss the fourth wall during performances and the argument is that as the audience grows, so does the need for the fourth wall. In open spaces, fourth wall norms spread quickly as employees try to respect their colleagues potential for distraction or want of quiet while in a busy or crowded area.

The openness could also lead to a lack of productivity, Forbes chimed in as saying in a follow up to the HBR article. In a cited study, 31% of employees in open offices said they hold back while on calls in the office because they don’t want coworkers to hear and judge them. Meanwhile, one-in-three workers feel distractions and noise from open work spaces hinder their productivity, while one-in-six responded to lower creativity.

This was before the pandemic, maybe things have changed: The layout of the office matters less after the pandemic, with the main pillar of change being a manager who has been able to dismantle virtual, as well as physical, barriers, argues Andrew Hill for The Financial Times. The symbolism of the open office plan and the moves taken on by Quinn and Halford aren’t to be underestimated, but it all depends on how approachable they seem to the common employee and how well they foster an environment of friendliness and teamwork. Take Mark Zuckerburg for example, who boasts an open office at Facebook. In reality, his desk is reportedly policed by a ring of security guards as part of the USD 10 mn he spends annually for private protection, reports Yahoo News. The lesson is, it’s less about the shuffling of desks and more about open minds.

So how should we create the best office spaces? As covid might have taught us, face-to-face interactions are by far the most important activity in an office and it's important that the blueprint of workplaces allow for chance encounters and unplanned conversations. Another HBR article delved into how to achieve this, urging for design offices to reflect how 21st-century digital work actually happens, re-engineering offices to become cohesive with the urban fabric, adding multipurpose spaces, and strategic coffee machines.

CALENDAR

12-16 May (Wednesday-Sunday): Eid El Fitr.

16-19 May (Sunday-Wednesday): The Arabian Travel Market (ATM) takes place in Dubai.

26 May (Wednesday): Final day for Africa-based startups to apply for the French government-sponsored AFD Digital Challenge (pdf).

27-29 May (Thursday-Saturday): Informa Markets’ Nextmove real estate exhibition, Cairo International Convention Center, Nasr City.

30 May (Sunday): Al Mal GTM is organizing the fifth edition of the Portfolio Egypt conference under the theme ‘Growth under the weight of the pandemic’.

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.

July + August: Thanaweya Amma exams take place.

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.

17-20 August (Tuesday-Friday): The World Economic Forum annual meeting, Singapore.

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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