Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Private sector employment up for first time in 20 months, but contraction deepens -PMI

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TONIGHT

Good afternoon, nice people — who hope Tuesday has been kind to you, heat wave and all. The heat and humidity are set to continue for the indefinite future, with temperatures at 40°C or above for most of the next two weeks.

THE BIG STORY THIS AFTERNOON: Egyptian companies are adding jobs for the first time in some 20 months, according to the IHS Markit purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for Egypt. Still, the headline PMI declined 0.8 points m-o-m to 49.1 in July, heading away from the 50.0 mark that separates growth from contraction. Sluggish domestic demand led to a dip in output and new orders that saw the index register its seventh contraction in eight months, after a strong June raised hopes of continued recovery. We have chapter and verse in this afternoon’s Speed Round, below.

ALSO, FROM THE DEPT. OF SMART POLICY: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi grabbed firmly onto what pundits had previously regarded as the “third rail” of Egyptian politics, saying that it is time to increase the price of subsidized bread. Subsidized baladi bread has sold for 5 piasters a piece for decades now. El Sisi also discussed vaccination targets and childhood obesity in the speech at the opening of a state-owned complex that will help produce school meals for some 13 mn children nationwide. We’ll have full coverage of the subsidy story in tomorrow’s EnterpriseAM. You can watch El Sisi’s full address here (runtime: 16:36).

HAPPENING NOW- It’s day two of the Africa Food Manufacturing exhibition at the Egypt International Exhibition Center. The event wraps up tomorrow.

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

CORRECTION- The International Monetary Fund is making available USD 650 bn in special drawing rights (SDRs) to support emerging economies struggling with the impact of covid-19, not USD 650 mn as we reported this morning. Fat fingers, small keys. Our apologies, folks. H/t to reader Ahmed Th.


THE BIG STORY ABROAD- Online gaming might be next on China’s crackdown list after state-owned media went after Tencent, describing its gaming arm as “spiritual opium” (the latter being a particularly loaded term in Chinese culture given its association with foreign meddling and social degeneration). The comments fueled investor concern that the firm could come under regulatory pressure as part of China’s ongoing crackdown on tech, leading shares of the firm to fall as much as 10.8% in Hong Kong in early trading. Tencent’s online gaming business contributed to 30% of its total revenues in 1Q2021. The company was quick to damage control, saying that it would add new restrictions limiting how long minors can play its online games on normal days and holidays. The Financial Times, Reuters, and the Wall Street Journal are all leading with the story.

Speaking of China’s crackdown… bn’aire investor Ray Dalio suggests Beijing is on the right track — and that Westerners have misunderstood the implications of what China is trying to achieve, he says in a LinkedIn blog post. His argument is that China is a state capitalist system that puts the needs of the majority of the population ahead of the sensitivities of the capital market. While the West sees China’s crackdown on tech and education as the latest sign that it is “anti-capitalist,” Dalio says the “same moves happened many times in many capitalist markets” and US monetary policy interventions are often sharper and more sweeping than those in China. His only issue with the world’s second-largest economy: Policymakers are not transparent when it comes to the reasoning behind their decisions.

ALSO- PepsiCo will sell its juice businesses including Tropicana in North America to private equity outfit PAI Partners in a transaction worth about USD 3.3 bn. The cola-maker will retain a 39% stake in the business. The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, but it’s now everywhere in business media.

YOUR STATUTORILY REQUIRED COVID-19 STORY- We have yet another variant to worry about, inventively named Delta Plus, because it’s an offshoot of the Delta strain that first appeared in India that has also picked up a spike protein mutation that first appeared in the South African variant. The variant was first discovered in India and is now in South Korea after having made appearances in North America, Asia and Europe.

🗓 CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

It’s interest rate week: The Central Bank of Egypt will meet this week to review interest rates. All 12 analysts we surveyed expect the central bank to leave rates on hold, with inflation and rising global commodity prices weighing heavily on their decision.

Other news triggers to keep an eye on in the coming couple of weeks:

  • Foreign reserves: July’s foreign reserves figure should land next week.
  • Inflation: Inflation data for July will be out on Tuesday, 10 August.

The Dokki Book Fair will be held from 5-10 August at the Ebda3 Villa, boasting 1 mn books on sale at this year’s event.

🚙 FOR YOUR COMMUTE-

Crypto as a national currency is a “step too far” -IMF: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is warning that widespread use of crypto assets in nations would threaten “macroeconomic stability” and harm financial integrity. The comments from the world lender come just a month before El Salvador is set to roll out a BTC-based financial system on 7 September where the crypto will be used to pay for everything from hair cuts to taxes. While the IMF didn’t mention the Latin American country by name, the warning suggests that relations could be complicated between the two sides during the critical negotiating phase of a USD 1 bn loan in favor of El Salvador, writes the Financial Times. The World Bank also shied away from the country, refusing a request from El Salvador last month to help it roll out the new system over “environmental and transparency shortcomings”.

📺 ON THE TUBE TONIGHT-

This Rose Byrne-led series is about finding empowerment in the most unconventional of ways. A dutiful housewife in 1980s San Diego, Sheika Rubin seemingly has it all together. Physical follows Rubin as she lets her inner, sassy personality be known as she forays into the world of aerobics. The sport gives her confidence and happiness, and eventually business success as she decides to combine her newfound passion with the burgeoning technology of videotape to start a revolutionary business. The end result is the start of something we’re all familiar with now, but was radical at the time: the female lifestyle guru.

🏅 TODAY IN THE TOKYO OLYMPICS-

Egypt’s handball team is going to the semifinals for the first time in history after they beat Germany 31-26 in the quarter finals right before dispatch.

Mohamed Ibrahim Kicho will compete for wrestling bronze in the men’s Greco-Roman 67kg class after making it to the semifinals, but falling in the final seconds.

Mohamed Metwaly also has a shot at bronze in the men’s Greco-Roman 87kg. Both wrestlers will play tomorrow with their opponents still TBD.

Mostafa Amr Hassan has qualified for the next round of the men’s shot put after finishing in third in today’s Group A event and recording a season best score of 21.23.

Mohamed Magdi Hamza is out of the running after coming in 12th place in the men’s shot put Group B games.

Diver Mohab Mohymen Ishak claimed 11th place in the finals of the men’s 3m springboard.

Egypt failed to qualify for the next round of artistic swimming women’s duet, after Leila Ali and Hanna Hiekal came in 19th place in the technical routine.

Meanwhile, Nayel Nassar, Mouda Zeyada, and Abdel Said are representing Egypt in the equestrian individual jumping qualification round with the event still live as we head into dispatch.

WHAT TO WATCH tonight and tomorrow-

  • 2:05am: Ihab Abdelrahman El Sayed will compete in the athletics men’s javelin qualification round.
  • 2:37am: Momen Mahran will participate in the canoe sprint men’s K-1 200m heat 2 round.
  • 4:01am: Samaa Ahmed will compete in the canoe sprint women’s K-1 500m heat 4 event.
  • 8:00am: Maha Gouda is up in the women’s 10m platform diving preliminary round.

🍕 EAT THIS TONIGHT-

Ultimate Sahel vibes with a side of pizza: Mariolino is Seashell Playa’s newest addition — and the Italian restobar is a sight to behold. Their interiors boast a ton of beige and white and plants galore, all located on a great spot on the beach. You can opt for the classics including their bresaola and bufala pizzas or go for a more culinary-curious experience with their octopus carpaccio. They have huge colorful salads on their menu, as well as delicious grill options and chocolatey desserts. All in all, Mariolino is a great place to end your day of fun in the sun.

🎤 OUT AND ABOUT-

Lamasatt Art Gallery will host the exhibition Out Of Box today at 7pm, featuring contemporary works of art that show innovation and creativity.

Massar Egbari will perform a livestream “store-front concert” next week as part of the launch of Vatreena, a new music venue at the renovated Cinema Radio created by Al Ismaelia and Freedom Music Egypt.

💡 UNDER THE LAMPLIGHT-

A revised edition of one of the most important books in behavioural economics to be written in the past two decades is out today. Nudge is positioned as one of the more influential books on how humans make decisions, in business and government. Written by Nobel Prize-winning economist Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, the book has introduced the concept of “choice architecture” using nudge units that aim to include behavioural insights into policies and programs. The duo have been in and out of government organizations for over the past decade and are using what they learned to create a revised version of their original 2009 book to include new discussions about topics such as covid-19, health, personal finance, retirement savings, credit card debt, home mortgages, medical care, organ donation, and climate change. You can check out Nudge: The Final Edition on Amazon.


☀️ TOMORROW’S WEATHER- The mercury will be at 43°C in Cairo tomorrow setting us up for another week of heat and humidity, our favorite weather app tells us. Sahel is not too far off, with temperatures of 37°C tomorrow.

SPEED ROUND: ECONOMY

Private sector employment is up for first time in 20 months

Employment in Egypt’s non-oil private sector rose for the first time since late 2019 in July, as firms looked to capitalize on the pickup in new orders last month, according to IHS Markit’s purchasing managers’ index survey (pdf). Heightened demand meant that the private sector built up a backlog for the first time this year, prompting businesses to expand capacity and fuelling a recruitment drive, the survey suggests.

But private sector contraction deepened: The headline PMI dropped slightly to 49.1 in July from 49.9 the previous month, as output and new orders gauges fell back into negative territory. The two gauges had risen in June for the first time in seven months; the rate of contraction in July was weather than has been generally seen year to date.

Demand weakens from June: IHS Markit pointed to weak demand caused by sluggish domestic consumer spending to explain the dip, suggesting that the government will need to do more to support spending in the coming months. “It is clear that the economic recovery remains fragile and in need of further supportive measures to strengthen demand,” chief economist David Owen said.

Rising employment signals improved confidence: Despite the drop in the headline index, the positive employment figure signals that business confidence is improving and indicates that the economy has seen the worst of the pandemic, Owen said.

Overall inflation eased to a four-month low in July, as rises on input costs including employee wages and fuel narrowed, while the surge in raw materials prices also noticeably tailed off. Fewer companies hiked output charges as a result, while some offered discounts as they sought to entice reluctant domestic clients wary of ongoing pandemic measures.

Many sub-gauges showed good signs going forward despite the headline dip. Along with rising employment and easing inflationary pressures, foreign orders were positively impacted by ongoing recovery in the global economy, while supply chains also saw improvement. And June’s high optimism was carried over into July, with 51% of those surveyed saying they expect activity to increase in the next 12 months, suggesting confidence in the idea of a post-covid-19 recovery.

ELSEWHERE IN THE REGION- Saudi Arabia’s PMI saw its first drop in four months to 55.8 in July, down from 56.4 in June. Growth in output, new orders and employment all saw weaker growth compared with last month, but Saudi output expansion in particular remains rapid.

The UAE’s non-oil private sector registered its strongest growth rates in two years, with its headline PMI up to 54.0 in July from 52.2 in June, as new business, orders and employment all spiked sharply.

SPEED ROUND: INVESTMENT WATCH

Odin targets EGP 200 mn first close for joint fund with Kasb

Odin Investments is targeting a EGP 200 mn first close for its EGP 500 mn joint equity fund with Saudi’s Kasb Capital by the end of this year, Odin’s CEO Hashem El Sayed told Al Mal. The fund was originally scheduled to launch last September, but the process was delayed due to protracted negotiations with the government and the Financial Regulatory Authority, Odin’s senior financial analyst Karim Hashem told Enterprise. It has now been listed on the EGX, and will be open for public subscription before the end of the year, he said. Odin and Kasb — which control 55% and 45% stakes respectively — have put in EGP 20 mn in initial capital, he added.

GO WITH THE FLOW

Meet our analyst of the week: Arqaam’s Soha Saniour

OUR ANALYST OF THE WEEK- Soha Saniour, associate director at Arqaam Capital (LinkedIn).

My name is Soha Saniour and I started my career in equity research after graduating from AUC in 2015. I was very lucky to land my first job at Pharos where I met Hany Genena. He’s not in the field anymore but I will always owe him a lot for how much he inspired me. I then moved to Beltone where I stayed for three years and became their associate vice president, before finally moving to Arqaam Capital for the past two years. I was hired as a senior associate, but promoted this year to associate director.

I now cover industrials in the GCC and to a lesser extent in Egypt. That includes fertilizers, utilities, and fuel retailers.

The best part of my job is the exposure you get with every stock you cover, especially in a diversified sector such as industrials. It’s important to understand the core of every business and the details of production to the extent that you need to put on a chemical engineer hat when looking at fertilizer stocks… I never imagined I would be back to writing down chemical equations after high school but here I am [laughs].

There has been an increased focus on ESG from investors in the past couple of years. They are very keen on companies who issue an annual sustainability report while shying away from stocks that have a negative impact on the environment. As Arqaam, we’ve started publishing periodic ESG reports focused on the whole region that look at ESG scores and how they’ve evolved throughout the years.

There is a lot of room for improvement in Egypt on the ESG front. The focus isn’t quite as big on the environment front and corporate governance is way behind. I think firms need to improve their management quality, communication, and the positioning of their strategy to encourage foreign investors to inject capital into them.

The worst part of my job is being unable to disconnect and the unpredictability of the workflow. The schedule never plays out the way you think it will as a lot of things happen throughout the day while sometimes one announcement can change your whole week. It’s also been difficult for me to accept that not all of my calls are going to play out correctly. I take failure very heavily. However, I try and tell myself that if we could always predict the movements of the stock market then we would all be bn’aires and stop working [laughs].

I found work from home and the lack of travel to be quite isolating. However, on the work front, we’ve been able to adapt and the business practice has flowed as usual (albeit virtually). We’ve held two successful virtual conferences and conducted several virtual roadshows. Meanwhile, client calls have significantly increased as research teams now seem more accessible so it's nice to be engaged on that front. However, I miss the face-to-face factor when interacting with people, especially in negotiations where body language and reactions help you determine your strategy for persuasion. The chit chat before and after meetings is also where a lot gets done and we’re missing out on that.

I think roadshows will come back but not with the same frequency — and probably not this year.

My theory of investment is to advocate for fundamentals. If a firm has a top-down story and cheap valuation, the stock will confidently re-rate. I’m not a hit-and-run strategy kind of person; I prefer the long-term approach to see how things play out. However, you have to know where the story is going and its limits and whether the stocks you’re investing in are well-positioned according to forecasts. Commodity-based stocks made a lot of returns these years because the industry itself was going through a change and a lot of investors caught it from the beginning. Good timing is always a plus.

2021 will definitely be the year of industrials. Fertilizers are at levels that haven’t been seen since 2012, with companies reporting record earnings. Meanwhile, utilities are very resilient and have stayed steady throughout all the twists and turns. Industrials came out even stronger post-pandemic because of the commodity boom and I think that even if we have a correction next year, the fundamentals are solid enough that it will be at a healthy level as well.

If I had to cover another industry I would choose between education or healthcare. They’re promising industries with obvious growth stories and they’re very hot now. There’s also the added bonus of them being less volatile than my current coverage.

The last great thing I watched is How To Get Away With Murder. I love seeing small town family TV shows. After a demanding day, it’s great to watch something light.

I’m a very musical person. I have played piano at the Opera since I was a kid and only stopped after I started working. My favorite piano pieces (that I can still play on the go without looking at piano notes) are The Meadow by Alexandre Desplatt, and Venetian Boat Song by Felix Mendelssohn.

I spend my time off work with my four-year-old daughter Lara. She’s at a difficult toddler phase and I’ve been reading How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk to try and understand her better. It’s a really good book and I recommend it to my fellow parents.


MARKET WATCH-

The EGX30 fell 0.9% at today’s close on turnover of EGP 1.80 bn (29.8% above the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 1.1% YTD.

In the green: Ezz Steel (+3.8%), Pioneers Holding (+2.9%) and GB Auto (+2.1%).

In the red: Orascom Development Egypt (-9.3%), Egyptian for Tourism Resorts (-4.2%) and Cleopatra Hospital (-3.2%).

THE MACRO PICTURE

We (quite literally) just can’t get enough of copper

Market strategists have been warning of a shortage in copper that could come knocking our doors sooner than later. This is because the essential metal is in huge demand despite soaring prices, thanks in no small part to its importance to green industries of the future including electric vehicle production and solar energy.

Why is this a problem worth noting? We’re yet to see the new, higher prices translate into new supply. If that doesn’t happen, the world runs the risk of an unavoidable shortage “with dire consequences,” CNBC suggests (watch, runtime: 8:52).

The boom: Copper is one of the most important raw materials in the global green transition. Electric cars need nearly four times more copper than their traditional counterparts, and renewable energy power grids — on which much of the world will rely in the future — also run on more of the metal than the global industry currently produces. All of this means that demand is likely to continue rising as we move deeper into the century.

Prices have spiralled since the global pandemic erupted: The futures price has more than doubled since March 2020, reaching a record high in May thanks to widening supply-demand gap.

This isn’t all down to countries doubling down on green technologies: Pandemic-related trade disruption, local problems in major copper-producing countries and stimulus-driven speculation have all contributed to throwing supply-demand dynamics out of whack.

This could jeopardize ambitions to clean up the planet: The International Energy Agency warned in May that heightened prices could impede the transition to green technologies. Demand for copper and other metals will quadruple if the world is to meet the Paris climate goals, a trajectory that the agency’s executive director said will not be sustainable at current price levels.

We just need to mine a little harder: It’s not that we don’t have enough copper. In fact, humans have only mined some 12% of all copper on the planet throughout history, and much of what has been mined gets circulated and reused. The real issue is that the current mining and recycling infrastructure isn’t capable of standing up to the coming boom expected to be brought about by the so-called “green energy revolution.”

Local issues: Chile and Peru provide almost 40% of the world’s supply of copper but recent events are slowing both these countries’ abilities to scale production. Chile this year introduced new environmental rules and could introduce a new royalty, both of which reduce margins and make copper mining less attractive to investors. Over in Peru, a USD 1.4 bn copper project that was supposed to start operating in 2011 still hasn’t been finished due to local opposition.

SOUND SMART– The copper market is typically considered a proxy or indicator for economic growth because of how commonly used it is. Industry bums often jokingly call the metal “Dr. Copper” to emphasize the idea that the metal might as well hold a PhD in economics. As long as demand for copper is high and supply is keeping pace, news of a copper boom is good news for the economy.

CALENDAR

23 July-11 August (Friday-Wednesday): Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

2-4 August (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt is hosting the Africa Food Manufacturing exhibition at the Egypt International Exhibition Center.

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

9 August (Monday): Islamic New Year.

9 August (Monday): Russian flights to Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada resume.

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

September: Delegation of Russian companies to visit Russian Industrial Zone.

3-5 September (Friday-Sunday): The World Karate Federation will hold the third competition of the 2021 Karate 1-Premier League in Cairo.

7-8 September (Tuesday-Wednesday): Euromoney Conferences will host the GlobalCapital Sustainable and Responsible Capital Markets Forum 2021, featuring Vice Minister of Finance Minister Ahmed Kouchouk.

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

15 September (Wednesday): The CFO Leadership & Strategy Summit is taking place in Egypt.

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

21-22 September (Tuesday-Wednesday): The Federal Reserve meets 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 Cairo International Fair, Cairo International Conference Center, Cairo, Egypt.

30 September: Closing of 2021’s first oil and gas tender in the Gulf of Suez, Western Desert, and the Mediterranean.

October: New legislative session begins.

1 October (Friday): Businesses importing goods at seaports will need to file shipping documents and cargo data digitally to the Advance Cargo Information (ACI) system.

1 October (Friday): Expo 2020 Dubai opens.

1 October (Friday): State-owned companies and government service bodies selling goods and services to customers that have not yet signed 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.

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day.

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

11-17 October (Monday-Sunday): IMF + World Bank Annual Meetings.

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.

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.

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

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

31 October – 12 November (Sunday-Friday): The 26th UN Climate Change Conference, Glasgow, UK.

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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. © 2022 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

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