Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Passing the buck on the Ever Given

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TONIGHT

The torrent of news continues, everyone, at home and abroad as we speed toward the end of the first quarter. (And, incidentally, as we have exactly 14 days left until the start of Ramadan.)

THE BIG STORY AT HOME as we head toward the end of the workday: The investigation into what caused the Ever Given to wedge itself across the Suez Canal. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi paid a visit to the Suez Canal Authority this morning following the refloating of the Ever Given, Ittihadiya said. The visit comes as an investigation has begun into what exactly caused the giant ship to choke one of the world’s most important waterways. We have chapter and verse on the ongoing probe — which could potentially lead to an endless flow of ins. claims and lawsuits — in the news well, below.

The House will decide today when they will question Information Minister Osama Heikal about his use of public funds. The minister was censured by MPs in February over the ministry’s slow progress on major projects, as well as several public comments they say were “exploited by foreign media.” To be clear: The questioning is about efficiency, not corruption. MPs are not alleging that Heikal misappropriated funds or used them for his personal benefit.

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

  • CI Capital has priced the IPO of multi-brand higher education player Taaleem Management Services at EGP 5.75 per share.
  • Consumer healthcare giant IDH is kicking off its roadshow this afternoon in support of its local listing on the Egyptian Exchange, CEO Dr. Hend El Sherbini tells us. The transaction will see existing shareholders transfer at least 5% of the company’s shares to the EGX.
  • The Suez Canal has reopened and at least 113 container ships are traveling in both directions now that the MV Ever Given has been unstuck. The vessel is sitting in the Great Bitter Lake as an investigation continues into what caused it to wedge itself across the canal.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD is the still-smouldering crater caused by a forced sale foist upon Bill Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management, the family office that Bulge Bracket banks pushed into a fire sale of some USD 19 bn worth of equities that shaved USD 33 bn off the companies involved.

Okay, so what really happened? Archegos is said to have bought derivatives called “total return swaps,” which Reuters explains “allow investors to [wager which way shares are moving] without owning the underlying securities. Archegos had assets of around USD 10 bn, but held positions worth more than USD 50 bn,” it says. Its trading partners forced it to sell off assets (to cover their own risk) when the derivatives moved against Archegos.

Why does the story have legs? Some Bulge Bracket banks are going to take a hit.

Why should you care here in Egypt? The bears are hoping this is the big one. Let’s unpack it:

Some Bulge Bracket biggies dodged losses, while others took it behind the ear, the FT reports, saying that, “before the troubles at the family office burst into public view at the end of the week, representatives from its trading partners Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, UBS and Nomura held a meeting with Archegos to discuss an orderly wind-down of troubled trades.”

Who got whacked? Reuters claims that Credit Suisse and Nomura will take the worst hits. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley got out of the firing line really quickly, according to the FT. The WSJ also has the story.

Is this the trigger of a global correction in equities? Talk of risk is in the air as investors and the press get their heads around “highly leveraged” Archegos’ “downfall,” Reuters notes in an opinion piece that openly wondering whether this gets us one step closer to the something that will put a smile on the face of the bears among us.

Also happening in global markets:

Long-term US borrowing costs have hit new record highs, with the 10-year Treasury yield reaching 1.77% this morning, its highest level since January 2020, reports the Financial Times. Investors dumped more government bonds amid a burst of economic optimism on the back of a vaccine recovery and government stimulus package, fueling expectations of high inflation and lower bond prices.

The rally in treasuries will continue putting pressure on EM bonds, making it more expensive for sovereigns to borrow and making EM debt less attractive as developed markets pay increasing returns to lenders. Tap / click here for our recent look into what it means for Egypt and the rest of the EM-verse.

China to give EMs a pick-me-up this week? PMI data from China due tomorrow could buoy EMs from their slump last week, as manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries are expected to show a strong rebound, Bloomberg reports. EM equities entered their longest losing streak in six months last week under pressure from rising US bond yields and a strengthening greenback, but the pullback is encouraging investors to look for bargains in some emerging economies and strong data from the world’s second-largest economy tomorrow will raise expectations of a faster global recovery, analysts tell the business news information service.

FOR TOMORROW- The Egyptian-Croatian Business Forum meets tomorrow 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.

🗓 CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

The HVAC-R Egypt Expo will run Thursday through Saturday 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 will 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 Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum will reopen after 10 years of closure on Sunday, 4 April, according to a statement (pdf) by the Culture Ministry. The museum is located in Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil’s palace built in the early 20th century and houses the family’s expansive collection of masterpieces by great artists such as Paul Gauguin, Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, John Jongkind and Charles Francois Daubigny.

The Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group are set to take place from 5-11 April. This year’s virtual meetings will bring together central bankers, ministers of finance and development, private sector executives, representatives from civil society organizations and academics. The topics up for discussion include the world economic outlook, poverty eradication, economic development, aid effectiveness, and the global financial system. Some events will be open to the public and can be streamed live from the World Bank’s platform.

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.

🚙 FOR YOUR COMMUTE-

Say bye-bye to jobs in Amazon “fulfillment centers”? US robotics company Boston Dynamics unveiled a new single-purpose robot designed to move boxes at warehouses, Reuters reports. Stretch is equipped with smart-grips, an extendable arm, and advanced vision and sensing capabilities.

Deliveroo has cut the target share price range for its IPO in London following investors’ concern over its shareholder structure and workers’ rights, CNBC reports, slashing up to GBP 1 bn from its post-IPO market cap. The company said the decision was a reaction to market conditions after a series of tech IPOs last week priced in the bottom third of their ranges. The announcement came after some of the UK’s largest fund managers raised doubts about how the company treats its couriers as well as concerns over CEO Will Shu’s over 50% voting rights.

PayPal has launched a crypto checkout service allowing US users to use crypto to pay online merchants globally, a new service that could significantly boost use of digital assets in everyday commerce, writes Reuters. The checkout will convert Bitcoin and other cryptos into fiat currencies and will be applicable for all 29 mn of its vendors in the coming months. PayPal’s announcement comes a day after Visa said it would support payments in USD Coin as part of a pilot program with payment platform Crypto.com.

Turkey has appointed Morgan Stanley executive Mustafa Duman as deputy governor to the country’s central bank, the latest in a shake-up at the monetary authority, reports Bloomberg. Duman is replacing Murat Cetinkaya, who was sacked last week by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the third such move in less than two years, shocking investors and sending the currency tumbling 15%. The lira has fallen an additional 0.6% since the replacement was announced, reports Business Recorder.

📺 ON THE TUBE TONIGHT-

The Boys on Amazon Prime is a two-season twist on usual superhero TV shows, depicting a group of vigilantes out on a quest to expose Vought International, a multi-mn corporation that markets and monetizes heroes. However, outside of their heroic personas, most of the heroes in the corporation are going rogue and abusing their powers ― with Vaughn International helping with the cover up. In the most realistic visualization of what could happen if people get superpowers (lots of corruption), you get to know the eclectic and hilarious Billy Butcher and his team who are trying to keep superheroes in check and protect the non-super humans. Rotten Tomatoes crowned The Boys as the top-rated superhero show of 2020, awarding the series its Golden Tomato award.

⚽️ It’s a really big day for football: Eighteen matches across three continents are ongoing today in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers. Among those to look out for at 8:45pm: Luxembourg will play versus Portugal, Belgium kicks off against Belarus and Gibraltar will take on the Netherlands.

FOOTBALL UPDATE- Egypt qualified for the 2021 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) after beating Comoros 4-0 yesterday, putting them at the top of Group G. (See On Your Way Out, below, for more.)

Today is the last day of the Afcon qualifiers, with Ivory Coast currently on the field with Ethiopia. Other matches to note include Nigeria playing against Lesotho at 6pm, Cameroon against Rwanda at 9pm and Morocco against Burundi at 9pm.

🥐 EAT THIS TONIGHT-

Eat seafood everything at Maine: After winning over stomachs with their rolls and buns, Maine is putting seafood sandwiches on our list of gastroporn loves. We love their avocado chimichurri shrimp roll, wasabi crab roll, and angus and shrimp burger. They also have burgers that don’t have seafood in case a friend tagged along that’s not a fan of all things from the sea (we all have them). Also worth trying: Lots of different mac and cheese combos. You can find Maine at The Drive by The Waterway on the Ring Road near New Cairo. Bonus points: While lobster rolls are absent from the menu (think of the cost…) their shrimp roll is on the closest approximation we’ve seen to a proper New England / Maritimes hot dog bun.

🎤 OUT AND ABOUT-

The second session of RDNA Salon: Economy of Love is taking place today at 6:30 at KMT House in Maadi. The series is exploring how we can create a global commercial system that allows us to care for each other, the planet and meet everyone’s needs.

The Sinatras are performing at 9pm tonight at The Room Art Space in New Cairo alongside Farida Tamer.

💡 UNDER THE LAMPLIGHT-

A guide to building an “unshakeable” corporate culture: Kevin Oakes, head of HR research firm the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), has put his ideas and insights onto the page, writing the newly released Culture Renovation: 18 Leadership Actions to Build an Unshakeable Company. Oakes identifies actions management can take to turn any culture into an agile, resilient, and innovative high-performance organization all while setting a new cultural path for decades to come.


🌤 TOMORROW’S WEATHER- It’s a windy day tomorrow. Expect daytime highs of 22°C and nighttime lows of 11°C tomorrow amidst high winds, our favorite weather app tells us.

SPEED ROUND: SUEZ CANAL

Operation Ever Given is over. Operation Pass the Buck begins.

An investigation to determine what went wrong with the Ever Given is underway, with a team of experts boarding the refloated vessel this morning searching for answers, the Associated Press reports, quoting a senior canal pilot speaking on the condition of anonymity. The probe is expected to reveal details about what exactly caused the giant container ship to run aground last week. The ship, which is currently anchored in the Great Bitter Lake while the investigation unfolds, will also be checked for damage.

The results could mean years of litigation and a flood of ins. claims. Payouts would cover the repair of potential damages, undo dredging on the canal’s embankment, and compensate cargo owners for the inconvenience. It would be nothing short of a “merry-go round” of court action and ins. claims by everyone affected — whether shipping lines, manufacturers, or oil producers, Bloomberg cited legal experts as saying. Goods owners will seek compensation from shipowner Shoei Kisen, which has already held its hands up to the incident but said that the charterers will be responsible for compensating the cargo owners. Fitch Ratings estimated yesterday that claims can easily surpass hundreds of mns of EUR, and that it would particularly affect marine reinsurers.

Egypt will likely be paid by Shoei Keisen for services rendered to the ship, and the Suez Canal Authority will be entitled to slap on fines, law firm Clyde and Co. said, according to the AP. Former SCA boss Mohab Mamish said earlier this week that the country could claim damages as the blockage had cost the state some USD 15 mn in foregone daily revenues. The SCA said the fault lies with the Ever Given’s captain, and not the two Egyptian canal pilots who boarded the vessel for guidance.

Besides losses for insurers, freight rates are also expected to continue rising due to a more tight availability of vessels. Many ships are still stuck and others are taking longer after having rerouted to round the Cape of Good Hope, Bloomberg quoted Arthur Richier, a senior freight analyst at energy market intelligence firm Vortexa, as saying.

There could be “ripple effects'' on global shipping: The backlog of delayed ships will lead to a surge in arrivals at ports over the next weeks, or possibly months, and add strain to an industry already pressured from the pandemic, Reuters said, citing the world’s two largest container shipping companies. We could see significant global shortages in capacity and equipment, Maersk told its clients yesterday. “We envisage the second quarter of 2021 being more disrupted than the first three months, and perhaps even more challenging than it was at the end of last year,” MSC, meanwhile, said in a statement cited by the newswire.

More than 200 ships are still waiting to transit: As of dispatch time, at least 200 of the 422 ships left stranded in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean had transited the canal, according to statements President Abdel Fattah El Sisi made to reporters (watch, runtime: 2:07). All ships are expected to have passed in the next three days, El Sisi said.

SPEED ROUND: FINTECH

Orascom Financial pushes into fintech

Orascom Financial Holding (OFH) is making its entry into the fintech space, announcing today in an EGX statement (pdf) that it will partner with Egyptian software provider Excel to launch a new e-payments company. The statement did not specify which end of the sector the company will target. OFH will hold a 79.9% stake in the as-yet unnamed company, the statement said, while Excel will hold the remaining 20.1%, a source familiar with the matter told us. The firm will launch with EGP 100 mn in paid-in capital, which OFH and Excel expect to increase to EGP 500 mn in the future.

The company has ambitious targets, setting itself the goal of reaching 1 mn customers in the medium-term, the statement said without elaborating. The venture will introduce a new technology with a group of products and solutions “that will facilitate cashless transactions for all payments and financial needs,” the new company’s CEO, Mohamed Aboul Naga, said.

SOUND SMART- Aboul Naga (LinkedIn) is the co-founder and former COO of Halan, the transport play that aims to become Egypt’s first “super app.” We last spoke with him in April 2020, when he was our Work From Home Routine.

SPEED ROUND: MARKETS

Preparations for the Egycomex pilot are ramping up

Some 425 wheat collection points have been established across the country for farmers who want to offer their harvest on the new Egyptian Commodities Exchange (Egycomex), Ibrahim Ashmawy, head of the Internal Trade Development Authority and chairman of the new exchange, told Al Mal. The commodities exchange will start trading on a pilot basis in April to coincide with the start of the wheat harvest.

Only wheat will be available to trade at first: The government is looking to add other tradable commodities such as rice, cotton and iron, said Ashmawy, who had initially told us that traders would be able to buy and sell wheat, oil, sugar and rice at launch, but a few months later said that only wheat will be tradeable at first.

SPEED ROUND: REGULATION WATCH

New boardroom rules for clearing, depository service providers

Egypt’s three clearing and depository companies will need to run their board elections under new rules announced by the Financial Regulatory Authority yesterday. The rules come as executive regulations to enact boardroom guidelines that were originally announced by the authority announced last year. They apply to clearinghouse MCDR and two other companies: One licensed to settle financial trades in the new futures exchange and another that handles clearing and depository for government securities.

What’s in the rules? They set requirements for minimum experience to serve on the board and give an FRA committee a role in screening the candidates for election before a slate is put to a vote in the general assembly. The FRA guidelines issued last year also mandate that the companies have at least two independent directors who don’t necessarily need prior experience in financial services, as well as one woman to their boards. Hit the link for other stipulations.

SPEED ROUND: COVID-19

Because covid news never, ever ends…

The border with Israel at Taba has reopened for vaccinated Israelis, with some 300 people per day now crossing, reports i24 News. Visitors coming over to hit the beach will need to show a negative PCR tests on arrival in Egypt and return to Israel. The current rules will remain in place until 12 April with the possibility of increasing the number of people allowed to pass. The passage is popular with Israelis who travel to Sinai for vacation.

World leaders agree to create international treaty to avoid covid-esque situations in the future: The World Health Organization (WHO) and 23 countries have agreed to draw up an international treaty outlining cooperation in the case of future health emergencies, according to Reuters. The treaty has the aim of ensuring universal and equitable access to vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for pandemics as “no single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone.”

Vaccines that rely on mRNA technology like Pfizer and Moderna are 90% effective in preventing infections of the virus that causes covid-19 within two weeks of administering two doses, according to the first “real-world” study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Clinical trials had placed the vaccines’ effectiveness after two doses 4-5 percentage points higher. Still don’t know what mRNA vaccines do? We’ve got you covered.

A startup that used to focus on cancer is trying to build a vaccine that can confer immunity to mutant strains of covid-19. The company is Helix Nano and CNBC has more. We’re going to need something like it ASAP as epidemiologists warn mutations could render current vaccines ineffective in a year or less. A survey of 77 leading epidemiologists from 28 countries, carried out by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, found that two-thirds of the experts believe we have a year or less before the virus mutates to an extent where the majority of first-generation vaccines are rendered ineffective and new or modified vaccines are required, reports Relief Web.

GO WITH THE FLOW

Meet our analyst of the week: Sigma Capital’s Dareen El Arousy

OUR ANALYST OF THE WEEK- Dareen Mostafa El Arousy, senior equity analyst at Sigma Capital (Linkedin).

My name is Dareen El Arousy and I’m an analyst to my core. I’ve been in the financial field for the past seven years. I started off in research, but quickly moved to the credit risk department at QNB before joining Dar Al Mimar as a real estate strategic planner. While my time there was enjoyable, I felt I was too young to specialize in just one sector as I was still curious about other fields and everything else happening in the world. I decided to transfer to Sigma and that is where I’ve been for the past two and a half years.

My favorite thing about Sigma is that our head of equity research AbouBakr Emam lets us work in all sectors. He likes to tell us “if you’re an analyst, you’re an analyst for all industries.” I work in everything from consumer staples and consumer discretionaries to contractors and industrials. We’re also a very close team and work together comfortably and without any competitiveness.

The best thing about the research field is that you have ownership of your work. Your research holds your name and your credibility and when you help people make money, they treat you like a hero that just saved their lives. It’s also great to always be updated and feel like you have a hand in creating the news in the market.

I always tell new analysts to put their own wealth into the stock market. The worst thing about the job is feeling the pressure and impact of your work and your recommendations. I imagine that these people could be my mom or my relative and they’ve trusted me with their wealth. That’s why when you put your money where your mouth is, you get a better sense of what investors feel and learn how to empathize with them.

My theory of investment is to diversify your portfolio as much as possible. As the saying goes, never put all your eggs in one basket. You have to have a clear target lined up and then prioritize asset classes from there. You also have to set a strategy and know from the very beginning when you’ll enter and when you’ll exit, which often means integrating technical, fundamental, and quantitative calls together.

For new investors in the market, my advice is to set your expectations. People think that once they go into the stock market, they’ll immediately make 5x returns, but it doesn’t work out that way. Their decisions must be disciplined, with a clear entry point, target return, and stop loss. They also have to have a general overview of the market and read a lot to both stay updated and create your own educated point of view.

The thing I focus on most before recommending an investment is the risk surrounding it. You can take the girl out of the risk department, but you can’t take the risk department out of the girl [laughs]. You should hope things go right, but at the same time you always need to be aware of how things can go wrong and what your limitations for loss are. It takes time to assess the risk tolerance of clients, but once we do, we use it to determine which investment is most suitable for their needs.

I think 2021 will be a better year for Egypt than 2020. 2020 was the year of retail investors in the Egyptian market, and it proved very volatile. I follow a few social media groups where the participants discuss investment in EGX and it was crazy to see that even though the posts are often inaccurate, they have a large impact that we see in the day’s trading. We’re hoping this year’s potential new IPOs will bring institutional investors back into the market. We’re also thinking that people might begin to see the stock market as a more attractive venture as banks begin to lower rates for savings.

That isn’t to say that 2020 was a bad year — on the contrary actually. During the peak of the pandemic we all sat together and started running scenarios of what we think could happen in industries, companies, and the overall market. We were worried about problems within supply chains and loss of demand for oil, and our scenarios reflected that. However, almost all of the companies outperformed our predictions and had a faster than expected recovery, so we were pleasantly surprised then. That’s the approach I’ll take for this year, hope for the best and see what happens.

I love reading. My favorite books are 1984 by George Orwell and The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. I love Orwell as a writer as he’s always been ahead of his time. He might sometimes go to the extreme to explain his points, but they’re still accurate and timeless in how they translate into the current society we live in. As for Shafak’s beautifully written novel, it gave me more insight into how I see love and how to be more aware of my actions and beliefs. I also really enjoyed The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Utopia by Ahmed Khaled Tawfik.

The last great thing I watched recently (even though I’m late to the party) is 12 Angry Men. It’s probably one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. The film is very simple and to the point, and shows you how to analyze and look at situations. Of course, the TV series Friends will always be my comfort zone no matter how many times I watch it.

I’m not someone who was born with a clear talent, so I tried a lot of things. I’m very passionate about photography, reading, and taking walks in green areas. I tried yoga, but I think I’m not peaceful enough for it, so I ended up practicing body combat instead [laughs].

I also started to learn piano. I had been asking my mom why she never taught me any sports or music when I was younger. She gave me a look and told me you’re old enough, learn whatever you want now. Her words hit me, and I decided to enroll in a piano class. My last exam was playing Old Macdonald Had a Farm, which I was very proud of.


The EGX30 ended today’s session flat on turnover of EGP 1.05 bn (27.8% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net buyers. The index is down 1.0% YTD.

In the green: Orascom Financial (+6.0%), Pioneers (+3.5%) and Orascom Investment (+2.4%).

In the red: Eastern Co. (-2.6%), Oriental Weavers (-1.5%), and MM Group (-1.3%).

WORTH READING

The World Health Organization’s report on the origins of covid will soon be out — but can we trust it?

Can the WHO’s conclusions about covid’s origins be taken at face value? Not necessarily, says the Wall Street Journal, whose investigation into the access granted to the organization’s scientists on a fact finding mission in Wuhan in January revealed that government-imposed constraints may have affected their ability to reach conclusive findings.

“Extremely unlikely”: The investigation concluded that a lab leak being the cause of the virus is almost impossible, according to a draft copy of the report obtained by the Associated Press this week. Instead, the study says that it was likely spread from bats to humans either directly or via another animal, but provides little fresh insight into its true origins, the AP said. Transmission via frozen food — a theory the Chinese government has championed — was found to be unlikely.

Why the skepticism? The WHO-led team faced a number of obstructions during their trip which could call these findings into question:

#1- A potentially opaque selection process: US allies were reportedly concerned about opacity in the selection process, but were reluctant to say so publicly for fear of antagonizing China and harming their vital trade relationships, several Western government officials told the WSJ. The US claims the scientists it put forward were excluded from the team without good reason. The one US scientist who was selected, zoologist Peter Daszak who was part of the team that identified bats as the source of SARS, is president of a non-profit that had previously provided funding to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the research lab at the center of the Trump administration’s claims that the virus came from a lab. Daszak maintains that it did not.

#2- China’s direct (and indirect) vetoing of team members: China’s participation in the investigation was contingent on having veto power over who would join the team, a condition with which WHO officials complied. Following the selection process, and as the team began arriving in China, at least one scientist had to turn back mid-trip due to not having received approval from the Chinese authorities. Two further scientists were denied travel to Beijing after they reportedly tested positive for covid-19 antibodies (indicating that they had the virus in the past) despite their PCR results having come back negative, indicating they were not currently infectious.

#3- Lack of access to information: WHO team members didn’t have the mandate, expertise or access to investigate the possibility of a lab leak, they told the WSJ. Scientists were not given access to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and were not shown raw data, safety and animal breeding logs. Though the team was able to visit three laboratories and review more aggregated data than had been shared before, they were not able to see the raw data gathered from 76k patients in October, November and December, that China had used to draw the conclusion that first known case of covid-19 had occurred on 8 December. The team believed they could filter the data differently to identify earlier infections, which they think could be in the range of 1k, but the Chinese authorities said they could not grant that access due to regulatory restrictions.

#4- Chinese government oversight: The WHO team’s vote on their findings included the Chinese experts, many of whom report directly to the government. The virus is a politically sensitive issue for Beijing, and the Chinese government had already ruled out the possibility that covid-19 started in a lab before the WHO trip began, the WSJ notes. Chinese officials posited the virus could have entered China via frozen food, and urged the WHO to conduct probes in other countries. Independent researchers have said the frozen food theory is unlikely, and no other probes seem to have been ordered.

The probe was complicated by US-China political tensions: Donald Trump asserted in April 2020 that covid-19 likely came from a Wuhan lab ,while the Biden administration has stressed that any report produced should be independent of Chinese government intervention. Meanwhile, Chinese officials have called for an investigation in the US, with some suggesting covid was already spreading there in 2019.

The WHO report, due to be published shortly, is likely to be inconclusive, though researchers agree the trip was “valuable” and revealed insights into how covid was spreading in December 2019, which could help pinpoint the virus’ origins.

Why does this matter? Because we’re at risk of losing vital information about the virus: Knowing how covid-19 began could help scientists and policymakers work out how to prevent another surge, or other pandemics. It’s also key to tracking viral evolution, which could help in developing vaccines and treatments. “What should have been a timely collaborative scientific inquiry has become slower, harder and more opaque,” the WSJ says. Now, the world may never know where covid-19 originated.

ON YOUR WAY OUT

Egyptian Olympian swimmer Farida Osman has qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics after landing the gold medal in all three events she competed in at the International Swim Coaches Association finals this week. The Tokyo games will be the third time Osman competes at the Olympics, after representing Egypt at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Egypt crushed Comoros 4-0 in yesterday’s final qualifying match for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AfCON), placing the Pharaohs at the top of its group in the qualifiers. Egypt had already ensured qualification for AfCON, which is scheduled to take place in Cameroon next year, following their away draw in the previous round of the qualifiers.

CALENDAR

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.

31 March (Wednesday): British Egyptian Business Association (BEBA) webinar on workplace harassment.

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

5-11 April: The Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group will take place virtually.

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.