Wednesday, 27 October 2021

EnterprisePM — A “threatening letter” forced an EgyptAir flight heading to Moscow to turn back to Cairo.

TL;DR

🔎 WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TONIGHT

It’s another busy day as we wind down from the last work week of October, ladies and gentlemen. Heading into Halloween, we’ve got the MPC meeting tomorrow, new appointments, and Sudan may have been neutralized as an ally in the GERD talks by the AU. But first…

HAPPENING NOW- An EgyptAir flight heading to Moscow from Cairo u-turned 20 minutes after takeoff “​​after a threatening letter was found” on one of the seats, according to a statement. It remains unclear what the letter said, but the national flag carrier said the “necessary measures are being taken” after the aircraft landed again in Cairo Airport. We sincerely hope this incident doesn’t get in the way of air traffic between Egypt and Russia, particularly as demand among Russian tourists for trips to Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada is picking up after direct flights were reinstated just a few months ago after a six-year hiatus.

Maybe a new flight to Luxor from Sharm El Sheikh will keep ‘em coming? EgyptAir is now operating direct flights between Luxor and Sharm El Sheikh, with the first flight between the two cities in six years landing earlier today, according to a Tourism Ministry statement. The weekly flight is designed to diversify visitors’ touristic experience, allowing them to enjoy both coastal and cultural destinations.

THE OTHER BIG STORIES TODAY

We have a new military chief of staff: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has tapped Lieutenant General Osama Ahmed Askar as the new Armed Forces chief of staff, according to an Ittihadiya statement. Askar succeeds Lieutenant General Mohamed Farid, who will now become the presidential advisor for a Decent Life initiative, the presidency said.

Alexandria Medical Investment subsidiary TAT Medical Services just retracted its offer to acquire 100% of Alex Medical Services, according to a Financial Regulatory Authority statement (pdf). The decision comes a few months after TAT Medical upped its bid back in June. TAT is the second to exit the heated (and protracted) bidding war for Alex Medical, after Speed Medical pulled out earlier in May.

We now know who the two US companies that have agreed to work with the Military Production Ministry to manufacture desalination tech in Egypt. MPS Infrastructure and Aquatech signed an agreement forming a consortium with the National Authority for Military Production that will see them set up facilities to manufacture equipment used in desalination and wastewater treatment plants, in a statement (pdf) out this morning. This came as part of Cairo Water Week, a series of events put on by the government to raise awareness about Egypt’s growing water insecurity and drum up international support for its 20-year strategy to increase its water resources.

^^ We’ll have more on these stories and others in tomorrow’s EnterpriseAM.


More Israel-Palestine mediation: Intelligence chief Abbas Kamel will meet Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad al-Nakhalah in Cairo today to discuss the ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions, including Hamas, in the Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli press. Egypt recently played an instrumental role in brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas following a period of intense violence in Gaza, and has since met with multiple Hamas delegations and representatives to discuss peace with Israel and the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

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

FOR TOMORROW-

Interest rate decision day a’ coming: The Central Bank of Egypt will meet tomorrow to decide on interest rates, and despite global inflation on the rise — buoyed by skyrocketing energy prices — all 12 analysts polled by Enterprise see the central bank leaving rates on hold for another meeting. The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet one more time after tomorrow this year on 16 December.

The carry trade remains the name of the game, with the analysts citing the need to maintain portfolio inflows. The need to prioritize portfolio investments over rising inflation, which jumped to a 20-month high of 6.6% last month, is particularly important when weighed against the possibility of the ECB and the Fed considering a higher interest rate environment to curb inflation there. With interest rates globally on an upward trajectory, policymakers need to ensure fixed-income securities remain attractive to foreigners, supporting unchanged policy rates, Beltone’s Alia Mamdouh told us.

Speaking of which, it will also be Eurozone interest rate day tomorrow, with policy watchers banking on the European Central Bank keeping interest rates on hold as it has been pushing the line that global inflation will be temporary. If this happens, that will be good news for us and other EM debt looking to stay competitive.

Next week will be the US Federal Reserve’s turn, as its Federal Open Market Committee will meet to review interest rates on 2-3 November. The Fed is widely expected to keep interest rates steady in order to start tapering its asset purchases this month.

And there could be news on the global inflation front, as oil prices appear to be plateauing. After jumping to multi-year highs on Monday — Brent crude futures rose to USD 85.99/bbl — futures fell 1% today to USD 85.54.


ALSO HAPPENING TOMORROW- The Middle East Angel Investment Network’s Angel’s Oasis retreat runs tomorrow and Friday in El Gouna, with separate pricing for in-person and virtual attendance.

THE BIG STORIES ABROAD-

US Democrats unveil minimum corporate tax plan: The 200 largest companies in the US may soon face a minimum 15% corporate tax rate under proposals announced by Democratic senators yesterday to help fund the Biden administration’s Build Back Better agenda. The proposed legislation would apply to companies with a bottomline of USD 1 bn or more and would no longer avail a loophole for calculating taxes after deducting credits and other breaks. Meanwhile, the bill would also help encourage companies engaging in research and development and would provide credit for using clean energy and other practices the government is looking to endorse. (AP | Washington Post | New York Times | Bloomberg | Wall Street Journal | FT)

The minimum corporate tax proposal comes as the OECD is pushing ahead with an international tax agreement that would impose the same minimum 15% rate globally. The landmark agreement was formally endorsed at the G20 Meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors earlier this month. Egypt signed on to the agreement back in July.

SUDAN WATCH- Sudan has been suspended from the African Union (AU) “until the effective restoration of the civilian-led Transitional Authority,” according to a communique released following a meeting of the AU’s Peace and Security Council. The EU also condemned this week’s military coup in a statement supported by the UK, US, Norway and Switzerland, saying it would continue to recognize the transitional government.

Where does that leave the stalled GERD negotiations? We assume that this means that Sudan can kiss goodbye its seat at the AU-led GERD talks — if they ever materialize. There was talk a few weeks back that the AU could soon be sending delegations to Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia to restart mediation efforts to resolve the dispute over the hydropower dam. Last month, the UN Security Council urged all three parties to return to negotiations under the auspices of the AU.

And professionals that led the protests against Al Bashir are mobilizing: Doctors and state oil workers are joining the thousands-strong protests against Monday’s takeover, while organizers have announced a "march of mns" in Khartoum on Saturday to defy the putsch.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

📆 It’s almost the end of October. Here are dates for some key news triggers next month:

  • PMI: October’s purchasing managers’ indexes for Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will land on Wednesday, November 3.
  • Foreign reserves: October’s foreign reserves figures will be out sometime during the first week of November.
  • Inflation: Inflation figures for October will be released on Wednesday, 10 November.

Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news events, national holidays and news triggers.

☀️ TOMORROW’S WEATHER- Leave your jackets at home tomorrow, as our favorite weather app tells us that the mercury will rise to 34°C during the day. At night, temperatures will fall to 19°C.

🚙 FOR YOUR COMMUTE

The IMF is coming for receipts from pandemic-related loans, and the numbers aren’t adding up. From misappropriated funds in at least three Latin American countries, to embezzlement in Congo, bns of borrowed USD were mismanaged, Transparency International policy officer for anti-corruption Theo Van der Merwe tells Bloomberg.

While the IMF acted fast in the face of a crisis, many countries were not really prepared for the large influx of funding, leading to an expected “leakage,” according to senior lecturer on international development at the Harvard Kennedy School, Matt Andrews. Most leaders have been held accountable thanks to anti-corruption controls framework the IFC put in place in 2018, Andrews says.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the IMF disbursed a total of USD 118 bn in emergency covid-19 loans. The fund has since been doing its due diligence by regularly checking in on borrowing countries through audits and reports.

Omm El Donia has been as good as its word: Despite some pundits flagging concerns that the loans might be misappropriated, the IMF reported that Egypt has made good on its promise to use the USD 8 bn loan in order to “maintain macroeconomic stability” and “alleviate the health and social impact of the pandemic,” citing regularly published information on pandemic-related spending, quarterly procurement plans, and an audit report submitted by Egyptian authorities. The government’s policy measures were supported by the IMF’s USD 2.8 bn rapid financing instrument delivered back in May 2020, and a one-year USD 5.2 bn standby loan approved in June of that year and disbursed over three tranches.

👌 ENTERPRISE RECOMMENDS

Baba, I want to be a bakineer when I grow up + Check out the Breaking Walls Dance Film Festival

📺 ON THE TUBE TONIGHT-

(all times CLT)

Baking Impossible is Netflix’s new reality competition show and foodies will love it: While many baking competition shows already exist, Baking Impossible adds an element of engineering into the mix for a fresh take on an already popular concept, now coined “bakineering”. Teams consist of a baker and an engineer and together they are tasked to create towering and complex food creations that look and taste good while also withstanding a stress test that changes every week. For example, in an early episode the teams are tasked with creating an edible boat and the stress test is that it must traverse a long tank filled with obstacles without sinking.

There’s more from the Egyptian Premier League tonight: Al Ahly play their first game of the season, meeting Ismaily at 8pm. Pyramids and Misr Lel Makassa kick off at 5:30pm.

The quarter-finals of the English League Cup will be decided tonight: The headline clash will see Man City — who have earned the trophy for the past four seasons — travel to in-form West Ham. Liverpool’s path to the next round should be fairly straightforward with a game against Preston, while Burnley host Spurs and Leicester play Brighton in the other two all-Premier League fixtures.

A couple of big matches in La Liga: Barcelona will want to recover from their home defeat in Sunday’s El Clasico with a victory against Rayo Vallecano (kick off: 7pm), who sit one point above them in the table. Meanwhile, Real Madrid can overtake Real Sociedad to go top of the table with a victory against sixth-placed Osasuna (kick off: 9.30pm). Also playing tonight: Real Mallorca v Sevilla at 7pm, and Real Betis v Valencia at 8pm.

Over in Italy’s Serie A, here are our picks of the six games tonight: Under-firing Juventus play Sassuolo and fifth-placed Atalanta travel to Sampdoria (kick offs: 6.30pm). Later, Roma are away to Cagliari and Inter Milan face Empoli (kick offs: 8:45pm). Just a reminder that the matches are available to watch on YouTube.

🎤 OUT AND ABOUT-

(all times CLT)

The Breaking Walls Dance Film Festival is kicking off today, showcasing films about dance from Egypt, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, France and Argentina. The event will run until the end of the month and is taking place at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Zamalek.

A creative exhibition titled A Piece of Memory is being held at the Cairo Opera House, with artist Sara Medhat creating collages by drawing on old cassette tapes and floppy discs. The exhibit is running until Saturday.

Lamasatt Art Gallery is hosting an exhibition titled Chess that explores the relationship between the colors white and black and what they symbolize. The exhibit runs through to Saturday.

💡 UNDER THE LAMPLIGHT-

Dave Eggers once again questions humanity’s obsession with technology in his newest novel The Every: Egger’s previous book, The Circle, took place in a world where everyone’s personal data is made public thanks to the business model of the world’s most powerful internet company, named The Circle. The new sequel, The Every, sees the company merge with an enormous ecommerce site (ahem ahem Amazon), creating the most powerful tech giant on the planet. The novel follows Delaney Wells, a new hire at The Every, who has a secret agenda to destroy the monopoly from the inside and end its surveillance of humanity. However, as she proceeds with her mission she makes a shocking revelation… maybe humanity doesn’t want to be saved.

🌊 GO WITH THE FLOW

Market roundup on 27 October

The EGX30 rose 1.0% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 1.21 bn (20.7% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is up 4.8% YTD.

In the green: Aspire Capital (+3.5%), CIRA (+3.3%) and CIB (+3.1%).

In the red: Rameda (-5.2%), Ibnsina Pharma (-3.8%) and Egypt Kuwait Holding-EGP (-3.0%).

💲 CRYPTO

Could ethereum lead the charge into a new internet? If decentralized apps, typically those running on blockchain, take over from Big Tech and form the basis of the internet of the future, ethereum could very well be the platform of choice. The world’s number two cryptocurrency has been the go-to building block for things like decentralized finance (DeFi), which could revolutionize fintech, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which can be vehicles for digital content in an internet of tomorrow. While ethereum excels in this domain, the platform is “heavily behind schedule with a complex set of technical upgrades,” the Financial Times’ Richard Waters writes.

Ethereum has been booming in popularity among developers who use it to create “smart contracts through which internet users will no longer have to rely on middlemen to either manage transactions or just do normal internet stuff. While BTC and some other cryptos only allow peer-to-peer transactions, ethereum adds an extra layer by offering a platform to create and build smart contracts. The added functionality allowed it to dominate this area. “Sixty to 70 per cent of the [decentralized apps] industry runs on ethereum. It’s very sticky,” says Sandeep Nailwal, the co-founder of Polygon, a company that uses ethereum’s smart contracts functionality.

The caveat: Ethereum’s network, as it currently stands, can handle a very limited number of transactions at a time (15 to be exact), meaning it’s near-impossible to use at peak times with small-value transfers. The network has been attempting to reinvent itself: First, with a planned shift toward “proof of stake” from a “proof of work” mining system, and second, with a move to split or “share” its network to make transaction validation simpler.

Will it hold up? Ethereum supporters claim that, even with its shortcomings and with rivals emerging in this space (including Avalanche, Solana and Cardano), the network’s foothold over smart contracts puts it in a strong position to lead. Smart contracts “really changed everything” in the crypto space, giving ethereum “the most upside,” b’naire investor and crypto bum Marc Cuban recently said.

What does this all mean for ethereum investors? Ethereum has come a long way in the few recent crypto booms, and the market value of its currency “eth” is now worth close to half of all BTC in circulation, which is more than double what it was a year ago. Should ethereum’s smart contracts functionality continue to lead, this would be the first of many reasons the cryptocurrency will continue to have “intrinsic value,” says Institutional Investor. The network is also being praised for working to shift to proof-of-stake (also being touted as Ethereum 2.0), which is an energy-efficient consensus algorithm that will replace mining.

Having intrinsic value and being more environmentally friendly will distinguish ethereum significantly from other cryptocurrency, as economists generally shun cryptos for lacking the former and environmentalists for the latter. “The success of the currency will rely on ethereum opening up more,” said Jack O’Holleran, the CEO of Skale, a network operating on ethereum’s network, according to the FT. “It will become the global settlement layer” for decentralized apps, O’Holleran and others predict.

📆 CALENDAR

23-28 October (Saturday-Thursday): A high-level delegation of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will visit Egypt to meet with government officials and travel to IFAD-supported projects in the country.

24-28 October (Sunday-Thursday): Cairo Water Week, Cairo, Egypt.

27-28 October (Wednesday-Thursday): Intelligent Cities Exhibition & Conference, Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski, Cairo, Egypt.

27 October (Wednesday): World Cloud Show.

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

28 October (Thursday): Second tranche of overdue subsidy payouts will be handed to eligible exporters.

30 October – 4 November (Saturday-Thursday): The first edition of Race The Legends, Egypt.

30-31 October (Saturday-Sunday): G20 Leaders’ Summit, Rome, Italy.

31 October (Saturday): World Cities Day, Luxor, Egypt.

November: The French-Egyptian Business Forum is set to take place in the Suez Canal Economic Zone.

November: Egypt will host another round of talks to reach a potential Egyptian-Eurasian trade agreement, which can significantly contribute to increasing the volume of Egyptian exports to the Russia-led bloc that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

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.

2-3 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): The Federal Reserve meets to review interest rates.

6 November (Saturday): Deadline to apply to Nahdet El Mahrousa’s Rabeha, a women entrepreneurship accelerator program.

7-10 November (Sunday-Wednesday): Cairo ICT 2021, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo.

8 November (Monday): Egypt CSR Forum, International Citystars, Cairo.

15-21 November (Monday-Sunday): Intra-African Trade Fair 2021, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

16-17 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): Africa fintech summit, Cairo.

18-19 November (Thursday-Friday) British royal family members Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visit Cairo.

25-27 November (Thursday-Saturday): RiseUp Summit, Cairo, Egypt.

26 November-5 December (Friday-Sunday): The 43rd Cairo International Film Festival.

29 November-2 December (Monday-Thursday): Egypt Defense Expo, Egypt International Exhibition Centre.

30 November (Tuesday): Launch of open call by GIZ and KfW for green project proposals in Egypt as part of their Investing for Employment facility (pdf).

7-8 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): North Africa Trade Finance Summit.

8-10 December (Wednesday-Thursday): Global Forum for Higher Education and Scientific Research (GFHS), Cairo, Egypt.

12-14 December (Sunday-Tuesday): Food Africa Cairo trade exhibition, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

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

14-19 December (Tuesday-Sunday): The Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theater.

14-15 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): The Federal Reserve meets to review interest rates.

15 December (Wednesday): Deadline for joint stock companies and investment companies in Cairo to join e-invoicing platform.

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

1Q2022: Launch of the Egyptian Commodities Exchange.

7 January 2022 (Friday): Coptic Christmas.

27 January 2022 (Tuesday): National holiday in observance of 25 January revolution anniversary / Police Day.

14-16 February 2022 (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo, Egypt.

19 February 2022 (Saturday): Public universities begin the second term of the 2021-2022 academic year.

1H2022: The World Economic Forum annual meeting, location TBD.

2 April 2022 (Saturday): First day of Ramadan (TBC).

22-24 April 2022 (Friday-Sunday): World Bank-IMF spring meeting, Washington D.C.

24 April 2022 (Sunday): Coptic Easter Sunday (holiday for Coptic Christians).

25 April 2022 (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

25 April 2022 (Monday): Sinai Liberation Day.

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

2 May 2022 (Monday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

16 June 2022 (Thursday): End of 2021-2022 academic year for public schools.

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

30 June 2022 (Thursday): June 30 Revolution Day, national holiday.

2H2022: IEF-IGU Ministerial Gas Forum, Egypt. Date + location TBA.

8 July (Friday): Arafat Day.

9-13 July (Saturday-Wednesday): Eid Al Adha, national holiday.

30 July (Saturday): Islamic New Year.

6 October (Thursday): Armed Forces Day, national holiday.

8 October (Saturday): Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.

18-20 October 2022 (Tuesday-Thursday): Mediterranean Offshore Conference, Alexandria, Egypt.

**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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