Wednesday, 14 April 2021

EnterprisePM— Turning over a new leaf? Turkey’s foreign minister is seeking “a new era with Egypt.”

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TONIGHT

Well, friends, we’re very (very) deeply in the arms of the Ramadan news slowdown this afternoon. We expect more of the same tomorrow before things start to pick up next week.

THE BIG STORY TODAY- Diplomacy takes center stage as we contemplate face-to-face talks with Ankara amid a push to repair frayed ties.

HAPPENING NOW- US President Joe Biden has proposed to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for a summit in a third country “in the coming months … to discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia”. Bkden has also “called on Moscow to de-escalate tensions following a build-up of Russian military in Crimea and on Ukraine’s borders,” the Financial Times reports.

WATCH THIS SPACE- Ever Given’s operator, Evergreen Line, is wondering whether it could unload the ship and move its cargo out of Egypt as the Suez Canal Authority seeks some USD 916 mn in compensation for the ship’s blocking of the canal last month, Reuters reports. The Ever Given would then stay put until compensation is sorted out — if the court order permitting its seizure allows the unloading. We’ll have more on all this in tomorrow’s AM edition.

Reminder: The SCA is also due to announce the results of its probe into the incident tomorrow.

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

THE BIG STORY ABROAD- No single story dominates the news global business press’ news agenda this afternoon. HSBC is ditching London: The Financial Times notes that the leaders of “divisions that account for almost all of HSBC’s global revenues” are being relocated to Hong Kong from London as the bank “continues its strategic shift to Asia.” Meanwhile, a panel at the US CDC will meet today to “debate whether and how Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine should continue to be used,” the Wall Street Journal writes, noting that the jab has been linked to blood clots in six women out of the 7 mn people who have taken it.

On the wires: Coinbase listing marks latest step in crypto's march to the mainstream, Reuters reports, while CNBC warns that while the listing is indeed a “watershed” for crypto, risks abound, including “wild volatility in crypto prices and the potential for stricter regulations.” Bloomberg, meanwhile, is still leading with Tehran’s announcement that it’s pushing ahead with its nuclear enrichment program ahead of talks later this week in Vienna.

HAPPENING TOMORROW- It’s the last day for large taxpayers to sign up for the state’s new e-invoicing system or face prosecution, Tax Authority head Reda Abdel Kader said in a reminder to the companies that were on-boarded for the second rollout phase of the platform. Finance Minister Mohamed Maait previously said companies failing to comply could face a host of penalties, including removal from large taxpayer classification, which would entail losing perks such as expedited tax procedures, settlements, and less frequent auditing.

🗓 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-

We could “discover” alien life in the coming 100 years — but it’s an open question how well that might work out for us. That’s one of the more accessible takeaways from the Guardian’s interview with the noted physicist (and popularizer of science) Michio Kaku, who’s doing the rounds in support of his new book The God Equation. “I think the chances are quite high that we may make contact with an alien civilisation. There are some colleagues of mine that believe we should reach out to them. I think that’s a terrible idea. We all know what happened to Montezuma when he met Cortés in Mexico so many hundreds of years ago. Now, personally, I think that aliens out there would be friendly but we can’t gamble on it. So I think we will make contact but we should do it very carefully.” Read the interview or check out the book on Amazon.

MUST READ FOR FELLOW NERDS (and survivalists): Aliens are not be the only things from outer space that may “want” to kill us. In our lifetime, there’s a much (much) greater chance that we’re all going to be whacked by a giant asteroid — like, you know, the one that wiped the dinosaurs from the face of the planet. There may be a way out: In How to survive a killer asteroid, Wired notes that “the impact that wiped out the dinosaurs would probably have killed you too — unless you were in the exact right place and had made the exact right plans.” How? First, it helps if you’re on the other side of the world from the point of impact. “As soon as you hear its sonic boom (don’t worry—you’ll be able to hear it from the other side of the world), get yourself to high ground and find underground shelter. Immediately.” Then the fun begins.

Reason #173 not to trust a multinational oil company: “Liberals on Facebook are given one picture of ExxonMobil. To them, the multi-bn USD oil giant sells itself as turning over a new leaf, exploring ‘carbon capture’ techniques that put carbon back into the ground. If you’re a conservative, Exxon has a very different message: ‘The oil and gas industry is THE engine that powers America’s economy,’ reads one ad targeted at conservatives. ‘Help us make sure unnecessary regulations don’t slow energy growth.’” Go read How Facebook’s ad system lets companies talk out of both sides of their mouths in The Markup.

From our Twitter feed: This six year old Dublin girl thing’s it’s completely unfair that her mum won’t let her go down to the pub. Just this once.

📺 ON THE TUBE TONIGHT-

(all times CLT)

If you haven’t watched Nomadland yet, it’s time to get on it before the Oscars. The film follows Fern, a woman in her 60s, who, after losing everything in the Great Recession, crams her scant, memory-laden belongings into a beat-up, second-hand van and hits the road, traveling from town to town as a modern-day nomad. The meditative drama acts as a sign of hope for people battered by the pandemic, writes The Indian Express, as it follows Fern in a state of uncertainty and isolation — themes that hit home in covid-19 times. The film is up for six awards, including best picture, best cinematography, best editing, best adapted screenplay (Chloé Zhao), best actress (Frances McDormand) and best director (Kathryn Bigelow).

The Oscars will be broadcast on Monday, 26 April and just yesterday the organization announced their cast of presenters which includes Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Harrison Ford, Joaquin Phoenix, Brad Pitt, Reese Witherspoon, Zendaya, among others.

Liverpool (aka Mo Salah for the home crowd) will play Real Madrid tonight in the Champions League. Dortmund and Manchester City also have a match tonight, with both games to take place at 9pm.

Egypt Cup matches have resumed: Al Ahly is facing off with Al Nasr while Zamalek is set to play against Haras El Hodoud, with both games at 9:30pm.

As for the Egyptian Premier League, Pyramids is playing against Misr Lel Mekassa at 9:30pm.

🎤 OUT AND ABOUT-

Zed Park is open every day after 9pm for those of you who want to get in some post-Iftar fun. Go on their ferris wheel or get some sohour from the many food carts at the Sheikh Zayed amusement park. Zed is also holding a PS FIFA 2021 Tournament starting today with the prize offering being the coveted PlayStation 5. You can sign up for the competition here.

💡 UNDER THE LAMPLIGHT-

No company has mastered reinvention like Netflix, which started off once upon a time as an online DVD rental service (remember DVDs?). Netflix cofounder Reed Hastings and INSEAD business professor Erin Meyer co-wrote the book No Rules Rules, which explores the entertainment giant’s flexible management approach that allowed for reinvention time and time again until the company revolutionized the industry. Hastings rejected the conventional wisdom under which other companies operate and defied tradition to instead build a culture focused on freedom and responsibility by valuing people over process, emphasizing innovation over efficiency, and giving employees context, not controls. No Rules Rules delves into Netflix’s psyche to put together a manual on how to keep a firm valuable in a rapidly changing world.


🌤 TOMORROW’S WEATHER- Expect daytime highs of 32°C and nighttime lows of 18°C. From what our favorite weather app tells us, it could be a windy week ahead — and we’re also looking at higher temperatures.

SPEED ROUND: DIPLOMACY

Turning over a new leaf?

Egyptian and Turkish officials could hold talks soon as Ankara looks for a way to turn the page on nearly a decade of strained ties. Turkish broadcaster NTV is running a banner headline declaring that Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu has declared “a new era with Egypt,” reporting that officials “at the level of deputy ministers and diplomats” are due to sit down to discuss several issues including reinstating diplomatic missions. No date has yet been set for the talks, Çavuşoğlu said. His statement comes after he exchanged Ramadan wishes on a call with Foreign Minister Sameh Shokry on Saturday.

Turkey has recently been trying to dial back tensions: Officials in Ankara told Turkish media in March to tone down criticism of Egypt that dates back to revolution that ended our Islamist interregnum in 2013. Cavusoglu also said his country is willing to sign a maritime pact with Egypt, potentially ending Ankara’s disputed territorial claims in the eastern Mediterranean and forcing it to recognize an agreement between Egypt and Greece creating a joint economic zone in the region. Turkey opposed the Egypt-Greece agreement, claiming it infringes on its continental shelf and runs at odds with an agreement it signed with Libya in 2019, which Egypt had originally rejected. We could now be closer to an agreement that could bring the neighbors closer together as Greece and Libya agreed this morning to hold talks on their maritime zones. Turkey is also motivated to mend its relations with Egypt because it’s interested in a larger share of the region’s natural gas reserves and in becoming a member of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum.

But we haven’t as of yet resumed official diplomatic communication. Egypt said last month that Turkey needs to abide by international law and stop meddling in the internal affairs of others for normal relations to be restored.

SPEED ROUND: M&A WATCH

EFG board greenlights Arab Investment Bank acquisition

EFG Hermes and the Sovereign Fund of Egypt are getting closer to acquiring a combined 76% stake in the Arab Investment Bank after EFG Hermes’ board of directors approved the acquisition and a fair value assessment at a meeting yesterday, it said in an EGX disclosure (pdf). SFE CEO Ayman Soliman said last month the acquisition will be complete “within weeks.”

What’s AIB? It bills itself as an “investment and business bank” under the aiBank brand and has a full banking license, offering business, personal and Islamic banking at more than 30 branches nationwide. The transaction would effectively transform EFG Hermes into a universal bank.

What is AIB worth? AIB's fair value is EGP 1.1 bn, according to the assessment from PricewaterhouseCoopers — EFG and SFE's independent financial advisor. The fund and EFG will purchase the stake through a capital increase.

Who gets what? Once the sale closes, EFG will become AIB’s controlling shareholder with a 51% stake, while the SFE will take no more than 25% through its financial services and digital transformation sub-fund. The state-owned National Investment Bank will retain a 24% stake of AIB post-transaction, having previously held 91.4% stake.

Background: EFG Hermes and the SFE announced in June that they had been given the green light by the Central Bank of Egypt to start due diligence on the AIB. The acquisition plans came after the National Investment Bank — AIB’s parent company — announced earlier last year that it plans to take several of its portfolio companies to market.

SPEED ROUND: CABINET WATCH

Cabinet approves AfDB financing for wastewater utilities near Luxor

Egypt will be getting at least EUR 108 mn from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to install wastewater utilities in rural Luxor after cabinet greenlit the recent financing agreement during its weekly meeting yesterday. Cabinet also authorized a decision made by AfDB governors in October 2019 to increase the bank’s capital by more than double. Egypt is among the AfDB’s major shareholders.

Also approved during the meeting: The rollout of the second phase of a government program to issue ID cards that make it easier for people with special needs to indicate their disability and a government committee recommendation to regularize the status of 82 churches and their affiliated buildings.

GO WITH THE FLOW

The market on 14 April 2021

The EGX30 fell 1.9% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 975 mn (28.4% above the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 6.7% YTD.

In the green: Fawry (+5.3%).

In the red: MM Group (-7.9%), AMOC (-7.7%) and ElSewedy Electric (-6.9%).

WHAT’S NEXT

Can a green future be good for both people and the planet?

The green transition is picking up momentum, with left-wing politicians in the developed world increasingly calling for climate change mitigation and a move away from non-renewables. While such a “Green New [Plan]” — which borrows its name from a series of progressive policies and projects enacted by the late FDR in the US between 1933 and 1939 — sounds promising, large scale reforms must always be mindful of one thing: people, Leke Oso Alabi writes for the Financial Times.

(Editor’s note: The word we want to use instead of “plan” — which starts with a “d” and rhymes with “seal” — drives the spam algos crazy.)

Transitioning away from fossils usually upends entire industries that employ mns or bns of people, so it’s not the smoothest of roads. One only need look at 1980s England, when then-PM Margaret Thatcher shut down the coal mining industry, leaving entire communities in shambles. And across the pond, former US President Donald Trump made promises to resurrect the coal industry — which had already been struggling for years — as one of the focal points of his presidential platform, tapping into a significant voter base. He did not fulfill that promise, leading to further disgruntlement among coal miners.

Over in Omm El Donia: Like much of the world, Egypt is heavily reliant on hydrocarbon-based fossil fuels, with renewables only accounting for 3.4% of the country’s energy in 2019. The government is working on winding down fossils’ contribution to the energy mix, and has set an ambitious goal of seeing 42% of the country’s electricity generated from renewable sources by 2035. By 2022, authorities are planning to have authorized 2.4 GW worth of renewable energy projects that would cost a combined USD 1.5 bn. Several new projects will also be funded through the USD 750 bn green bond issuance Egypt closed in September 2020, when it became the first country in the region to sell climate-linked debt.

Can we have a green transition without the upheaval? More green energy would “supercharge” the world’s hopes to curb emissions, but it would also mean jobs will be made redundant and thousands of workers will need to be retrained, says Alabi. “There’s no way of eliminating all losses and all transition costs — social as well as economic,” former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, a politician heavily on the green side of things, told the salmon-colored paper.

One solution is a UBI: In Europe, a Green New [Plan] would be a large-scale program involving massive spending that could cost the economy nearly 5% of GDP every year, Varoufakis said. This could be funded through green bonds issued by a public investment bank and would include a universal basic income (UBI) for workers exposed to job loss.

Central banks also play a crucial role as they’re the first line of defense against the risks environmental degradation poses to global financial stability. So far, major monetary policymakers have erred on the side of caution. Through the Network for Greening the Financial System, the world’s top central banks identified nine specific ways policymakers can make monetary policy greener. This is the furthest central bankers have come in their contribution in the fight against climate change, but it’s still no more than a toolkit of suggested actions including more green asset-purchase programs and greener lending schemes and a set of basic risk-management practices they should be doing anyway. The real game-changer (i.e. central banks directly acting to contribute to decarbonization) needs to be based on broader political backing, and this is still in the works, the FT suggests.

Norway sets a good example: Local financial institutions in the Scandinavian country are being offered access to climate change risk measurement tool PACTA at no charge with the support of their government, Bloomberg reports.

WORTH WATCHING

Carmakers struggle to charge up EV future

We have too many things to charge, and that's causing a bottleneck for electric vehicle makers: Battery-powered electric vehicles are expected to reach milestones in the next couple of years that will fuel their mainstream adoption. Yes, research shows that EVs will inevitably get cheaper, better and more diverse, but battery issues and a spotty charging infrastructure still pose a major challenge to mass-market EV adoption (watch, runtime: 19:50).

The technology isn’t yet at a tipping point: Major electric automakers are getting closer to the USD 36k price tag and the expected driving range of 291 miles that would ensure the mass proliferation of EVs among consumers, but reaching the 31 minute charging time that market research says consumers want is the largest barrier to its mass-market adoption. Tesla’s Model S — which currently has the best charging time of EV models on the market — can barely charge its battery to 83% in half an hour, and this is in ideal conditions using one of Tesla’s supercharging stations.

The industry doesn’t just need faster chargers, it also needs more of them, which is a big stumbling block due to the enormous cost of fast EV chargers. Tesla needs to build an additional 31.3k supercharging stations in the US, which would cost the company USD 7.8 bn, or almost 10x their total annual profits from 2020. But the infrastructure is still not ready to underpin such a breakthrough, and continues to undermine EV makers’ ability to meet the mass-market demand.

And the fundamental structure of electric grids is getting in the way: Alternating Current (AC) power is the standard for most electricity grids, but EV charges need a direct current (DC) supply to power up. This requires the integration of high wattage AC to DC power inverters to allow EVs to charge their batteries, which is both costly (around USD 58k) and about the size of a large fridge, hampering owners’ ability to charge their EVs rapidly at home.

Egypt’s journey towards an EV-powered future has its own hurdles — not least of which is the charging problem: The government plans to establish 3k EV charging stations nationwide within three years, in addition to establishing electric vehicle parking and charging stations in shopping center garages and the Tahrir and Ramsis garages. Our friends at Infinity-E have also set up 130 charging points across the country, and other multinationals — including Schneider Electric — are also looking to get in on the action. The good news for Egypt is that the costs of charging EVs (and owning them as a whole) are expected to drop over the years, once a critical mass of users is reached. Schneider Electric’s Regional President of Egypt, North East Africa, and the Levant, Walid Sheta previously told us that the cost of battery storage alone has already dropped 80% in the past 10 years.

ON YOUR WAY OUT

We could be seeing the commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the relocation of Aswan’s Philae Temple after Tourism Minister Khaled El Enany and Italian Ambassador to Egypt Giampoalo Cantini discussed the idea yesterday, according to a ministry statement. An event celebrating the archaeological feat and a potential book detailing the effort could be in store. Philae Temple was relocated in 1971 to higher ground on Agilika Island after rising Nile waters resulting from the construction of the Aswan Dam threatened to submerge it. The UNESCO-driven rescue effort, which included Italian partners, was estimated to cost some USD 10 mn at the time.

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.

25 April (Sunday): Sinai Liberation Day.

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

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

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

2 May (Sunday): Coptic Easter Sunday.

3 May (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 June (Wednesday): 30 June Revolution Day.

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 August (Monday): Islamic New Year.

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

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

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

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

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

1 October (Friday): Expo 2020 Dubai opens.

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day.

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

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

18 October (Monday): Prophet’s Birthday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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