Wednesday, 19 November 2014

EGP falls to 19-month low • Sherif El-Zayat tapped as EKH CEO • Abraaj gets ok on Bisco Misr acquisition • Salman says Disney may open park in Egypt • GDP up 6.8% from low base • Arab Dairy gets another bidder • EDITA looks to list

FX WATCH

The EGP fell a to 19-month low in the parallel market amid concern the forthcoming USD 2.5 bn bond payment to Qatar may drain foreign-exchange reserves. Bloomberg said yesterday the pound slipped to EGP 7.70 against the dollar, its lowest level since April 2013. “The pound’s official price hasn’t changed for more than five months and is down 2.8% this year,” the wire service notes. (Read)

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

A number of secular groups, including 6 April, have announced their intention to commemorate today’s anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes with a peaceful march, despite other groups rejecting the call to participate on the grounds that the Muslim Brotherhood will exploit the opportunity to escalate any potential confrontation. Mariam Rizk writing for Ahram Online anticipates low turnout.

Tensions that began over calls for Jews to pray at the Temple Mount continue to escalate in Jerusalem following an unprecedented attack on worshippers inside a synagogue in West Jerusalem, killing four. Netanyahu has vowed retaliation. Direct impact on Egypt? Nil. Cost of lost focus and attention from more noise in the neighborhood? Substantial.

Dina Ezzat never really gets around to providing solid answers to the titular question of her latest piece What does a GCC rapprochement mean for Cairo? but she is one of the few writers on Egypt who is at the very least asking the right questions.

Today marks the beginning of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2014, Marrakech, which will run to Friday 21 November.

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

After his nightly tirade against Ikhwan and what he sees as the government’s inability to deal with Islamist extremism, Ibrahim Eissa hosted veteran banker Amr El Garhy, whom Eissa introduced as an “economic expert” and managing director at Qalaa Holdings.

El Garhy commented on a variety of issues including the global and domestic implications of declining oil prices.

“For Egypt as a net importer of oil, the reduction in price means that the government’s subsidy bill is going down. I think we can expect to see prices go down in the coming months,” said El Garhy. “This may negatively impact the future of exploration in Egypt, particularly offshore drilling, as companies will find that margins are becoming too low to justify the high cost of drilling.”

“We must decide who we are as a country. Are we a free market economy that is pursuing private sector-led growth? This identity has to be reinforced and maintained regardless of any changes in government,” said El Garhy. “The state is currently playing a large role when they should be playing the role of regulator, not manager or investor.”

El-Garhy also made the point that after the economic crisis, the United States did not waste time playing the blame game: “They simply did what had to be done to fix their economy.” He reiterated the need for legislation to provide protection for civil servants so that they are not afraid to make decisions.

He also discussed the importance of providing opportunities for the youth of Egypt.

Judging by the frequent appearances of Hizb El Nour members on talk shows lately, it appears as if the Salafist party is trying to put its best face forward in an attempt to sway public opinion in its favor ahead of the parliamentary elections.

Nader Bakkar, party’s official spokesman (and every liberal’s favorite salafi) continued to do his best to differentiate Hizb El Nour from the Salafist Front on Mohamed Sherdy’s show last night.

As proof of his party’s claim that they are “moderate” and do not stand in direct opposition to the government, Bakkar said, “Not only are we not taking part in the Salafist Front’s November 28 demonstration to assert Egypt’s Islamic identity, we are actively trying to convince others to stay away as well.”

Dream 2’s Wael El Ebrachi reported on last week’s kidnapping of Yaseen El Shahawy, the son of a former police officer, on his way to school in Sheikh Zayed. The child’s father, Mohamed El Shahawy, explained the details of the kidnapping, which took place last Thursday when four cars forced the child’s vehicle to come to a stop near Hyper One Supermarket. The fact that the family refused to pay ransom is a bit unusual and Yaseen’s return to his family unharmed because, according to the father, “The kidnappers simply gave up” raises questions. The details of the negotiation for his return remain vague. The segment included a video of the child’s homecoming filmed in what appears to be the terrace of his grandfather’s villa.

SPEED ROUND

The EGX30 snapped its losing streak, inching up 0.61% yesterday to close at 9,178 points on turnover of EGP 657 mn, about 7% below the 90-day average. Saudi Arabia gained 0.9%, Kuwait shed 0.2%, Qatar was up 0.3%, ADX added 0.7% and DFM was the biggest gainer of the day, advancing 1.4%. All regional markets saw volumes lagging their 90-day trailing average.

American and European markets were up, with the S&P and Dow both hitting new record highs once again on the back of mega-merger news and neutral US inflation data. The Nikkei rebounded slightly yesterday to close up 0.54%, as a delay in a tax hike raised hopes the country may look to stimulus spending after the country officially ank into recession.

Brent crude dropped for a second day, Bloomberg reports, on the back of the fastest rate of US pumping in three decades and fears of a slowdown in global growth. OPEC meets a week from tomorrow, and FT oil and gas correspondent Anjil Raval says there are no easy options for the cartel, writing today that analysts are split on whether the group will cut production targets to boost prices: “The apparent lack of consensus between members underlines the struggles the group is facing to address the relentless increase in US output, which has coincided with Opec production above targets and weaker than expected demand growth in Europe and Asia.” (Read more in the FT)

Did EFG Hermes Private Equity kick-start a trend? Back in October, the PE arm of the regional investment bank broke new ground by raising GCC money to invest in cash-yielding infrastructure assets in one of the first transactions of its kind. Now comes news that state-owned Saudi Electric (one of the region’s biggest utilities) is considering investing in Electricite de France’s proposed USD 25 bn “Hinkley Point C” nuclear plant in the UK, “potentially leading to billions of pounds of investment in the venture and huge revenues for the Saudis in coming decades,” writes the FT. Meanwhile, Reuters does the math and suggests that Saudi Electric is probably looking to take a 15% stake alongside French nuclear reactor maker Areva and other minority investors from China.

Are we the only ones wondering whether we’re seeing an M&A bubble globally? Cheap debt and solid share performances have made 2014 the best year for M&A transactions since before the Great Recession, with a 27% surge in deal value to north of USD 3 tn (corporate transactions last peaked at USD 4 bn in November 2007). TIAA-CREF’s Daniel Morris was on CNBC yesterday (video) suggesting he was comfortable we aren’t in bubble territory because, unlike in 2006-07, today’s mergermania is backed by strong fundamental corporate earnings growth and is not credit-fueled. The Australian Financial Review has anice look at how the year has gone so far.

Another type of bubble: The tech community — now awash in founders who have no living memory of the “dotcom meltdown” of 2000-01 — has worried enough about a potential bubble in fundraising for startups with no revenues that its leading lights (including Andreesen Horowitz on the WSJ and CNBC) have taken to the airwaves all year long to preach about how nothing could be further from the truth.

Open mouth, insert foot: Quartz has a smart take on a series of tweets made by the CEO of ride-sharing app Uber Travis Kalanick after the company’s senior VP for development suggested during an “off the record” dinner party attended by journalists that “that the company should hire a team to dig up dirt on journalists who criticize it, and threatened to reveal something in particular about Sarah Lacy, the editor of tech site PandoDaily.”

Wait, why do we care? Setting aside Uber’s particular industry and geographical reach (it’s big in the US and India, where it overcame local Indian credit card rules to establish its second-largest market), this story is a universal cautionary tale about the private sector’s relationship with the media. The first step in handling journalists is clear: Get a handle on your own people first.

Kalanick sent out a series of 13 tweets to apologize, but Quartz argues that this “is not an apology to the public or to the press. Rather, it’s an internal memo to Uber’s staff. It’s an admonition to people to stick to their jobs.”

The Quartz story is here, and in the time since we first picked this up on Twitter yesterday thanks to @rafat, the story has gone mainstream: It’s out this morning on the front page of the digital edition of the Financial Times. See also Kalanick’s comments on Obamacare in our story in the International section below)

Oh, and lesson #2: No matter what you’re told, nothing is ever off the record.

For the first time in a long while, we don’t want to slap Thomas Friedman after reading his latest piece on the region. But that could have to do with the fact that he’s penned a love letter to our friends in Dubai this morning. His insights are no less facile than usual. (Read)

The 2014 Global Slavery Index estimates that 35.8 million people in the world are living in slavery, with over 2.2 million in the Middle East and North Africa. How Egypt ranks (lower is better in all cases):

  • Egypt is 53rd in the world when ranked by prevalence of population living in what the report defines as modern-day slavery, at 0.48%;
  • Mauritania (4,00%), Uzbekistan (3.97%) and Haiti (2.30%) take the top three places by the same metric;
  • Egypt ranks better than Nigeria (0.481%), Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman (all three at 0.709%);
  • Ranked by the absolute number of people living in modern-day slavery, Egypt rises to 12th place with 393,800 people, just ahead of 11th place Sudan (429,000);
  • At the top of the list in absolute number: India (14.3 mn), China (3.2 mn) and Uzbekistan (1.2 mn)
  • Biggest negative for Egypt beyond the absolute numbers: The report carries a detailed look at the horrific practice of people smugglers in Sinai allegedly buying migrants to extort money from their families by subjecting them to torture.
  • Download report here

ENERGY, RENEWABLE ENERGY & SUBSIDY REFORM

Solar energy production falls by 48%: Baseera
Daily News Egypt | 18 Nov 2014
Egyptian electricity production generated from solar energy dropped by 48% in 2012/13 compared to the year 2011/12,the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research (Baseera) declared on Monday. Baseera reported that solar energy production in Egypt totalled 247m KWh in 2012/13, compared to 479m KWh in 2011/12. Managing Director of the Egyptian Electric Utility and Consumer Protection Regulatory Agency Hafez Abdel-Aal  Elsalamawy told Daily News Egypt that renewable energy production – both solar and wind – has fallen. Elsalamawy said that he was unable to confirm the figures issued by Baseera but he stated that “Solar energy does not constitute a significant portion of the energy in Egypt”. (Read)

OIL & GAS

BG postpones linking Phase 9B to the Borollos field to 2016
Al Borsa | 18 Nov 2014
A senior EGAS official revealed that British Gas (BG) will postpone linking production from Phase 9B to the Borollos field to 2016, Al-Borsa claims. The linking of Phase 9B’s 500 MMcf to the Borollos field was originally scheduled for the beginning of 2015, but has been delayed by the company because of the government’s failure to honor its debt payment commitments, explained the official. The Egyptian government had previously promised to pay foreign energy companies an installment of USD 700 mn in back debts, but only ended up paying USD 350 mn. (Read in Arabic)

TransGlobe CEO 3Q14 conference call- Talks underway with EGPC over direct marketing of oil
Seeking Alpha | 18 Nov 2014
According to TransGlobe’s CEO, the company is in active talks with the Egyptian government regarding direct marketing for their oil. How the Production Sharing Concessions (PSCs) work in Egypt is that the oil is sold by the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC), and then the company is paid their share of profit after the EGPC is paid. After the 2011 uprising, Egypt faced a significant balance of payments deficit and the EGPC began to delay payments to foreign energy companies in order to prop up the deficit. Direct marketing of TransGlobe’s oil would therefore be significant as they would no longer be relying on the EGPC for payments which would reduce risk and significantly reduce the days outstanding in the company’s future receivable balance. Ross Clarkson has discussed direct marketing in the past, but he has always cautiously referred to it as something that may occur 2 or more years into the future. During the latest conference call, however, he sounded optimistic and said that there has been a lot of movement on this issue with the Egyptian government and that if accepted, the receivable balance may no longer be an issue for TransGlobe in the next quarter. (Read first of three pages of the report here, with the rest behind a paywall)

BASIC MATERIALS & COMMODITIES

Government to restart gas supply to OCI’s EBIC
Daily News Egypt | 18 Nov 2014
A senior government official revealed last week that gas supplies, cut since August for political reasons, would return to Egypt Basic Industries Corporation (EBIC) fertiliser factory, a subsidiary of Orascom Construction Group. In statements made to Al-Borsa, the official said that gas would be pumped once more as Nassef Sawiris, Chairman of the Board of Orascom Construction Industries, decided to waive his rights to the Egyptian Tax Authority. The decision follows the tax appeal committee’s ruling that he donate a sum of EGP 2.5bn to the Long Live Egypt Fund. The official said that 35m cubic feet of gas was currently pumped daily to the EBIC factory, equivalent to 60% of the contracted value which amounts to 65m cubic feet. He explained that in previous statements Ministry of Petroleum officials justified the suspension of gas supplies to the factory saying that it exported all ITS ammonia products abroad. They added that it did not sell any on the local market, with the ministry giving priority to factories feeding the local market in light of continuous production decreases in Egyptian gas. (Read)

Supply Minister: FAO wants to invest in commodities logistics center in Damietta
Al Ahram | 18 Nov 2014
Supply Minister Khaled Hanafy said the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has expressed an interest in investing in the proposed National Logistics Grain Center, which the government is looking to build in Damietta. FAO said it wanted to use the proposed facility to store the organization’s food materials. Hanafy also said that an investor from the UAE has offered to shoulder the cost of all investments related to the project, while another global company offered to build a 600-kilometer railway to transport grains to the facility. The proposed center is expected to cost EGP 15 bn and is scheduled for completion within two years and will help reduce grain costs by 30% by cutting down on waste and transportation costs, Al-Ahram says. (Read in Arabic)

HEALTHCARE

Health Ministry hospitals capture 80% of government-paid treatments
Al Mal | 18 Nov 2014
Egypt’s health ministry reports that 80% of patients treated at the expense of the state in October were sent to hospitals supervised by the Health Ministry, while 16.57% of covered patients were referred to medical university hospitals. The remaining patients were treated at hospitals belonging to the armed forces, police, NGOs and private medical groups. State-paid medical expenses cost the government EGP 255 million in October, according the health ministry. State-paid expenses covered several ailments, including liver disease (15.05%), kidney failure (5.80%), cardiac problems (9.46%), hypertension and diabetes (24.91%), oncology (13.89%) and other diseases (30.89%). (Read in Arabic)

REAL ESTATE

SODIC to develop 3.5 million square meters within five years
Al-Arabiya | 17 Nov 2014
In an interview with Al-Arabiya, Ahmed Badrawi, Managing Director of SODIC, said that the company has successfully resolved all outstanding disputes with the Egyptian government through an EGP 900 million settlement. Badrawi also announced that the company has plans to develop 3.5 million square meters over the coming five years. (Read in Arabic)

TECHNOLOGY

Internet speed to increase to 40mbps – minister
Al Mal | 18 Nov 2014
In a speech at the Business Connect conference, the CIT minister outlined a plan to increase ADSL speeds to 40mbps in the next three years. The ministry also aims to extend broadband access to 40% of the population. (Read in Arabic)

BANKING & FINANCE

Five Egyptian banks ink EGP 1.273bn loan for South Valley Cement
Zawya and Amwal Al Ghad | 17 Nov 2014
Five Egyptian banks signed on Sunday a long-term syndicated loan contract worth EGP 1.273 billion in favor of South Valley Cement Company (SVCC). CIB, AAIB, Banque Misr, Ahli United Bank and QNB Al Ahli signed the syndicated long-term loan to finance SVCC ‘s expansions. The loan is an eight-year grace period, to go for financing SVCC ‘s expansions in grinding, energy, storage, and energy alternatives, banking sources with knowledge of the matter told Amwal Al Ghad. (Read in Zawya)

MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS

Abraaj receives regulatory approval for Bisco Misr acquisition
Reuters and Company Statement | 18 Nov 2014
UAE-based Abraaj Investment Management has won regulatory clearance for its EGP 850 million Egyptian pound (USD 119 million) offer for Bisco Misr, one of Egypt’s main producers of cakes and biscuits. An arm of the UAE’s Abraaj Capital, the Middle East’s largest private equity firm, Abraaj Investment Management will begin buying shares of Bisco Misr on Thursday and aims to complete its purchases by 17 December, Egypt’s stock market regulator said on Tuesday. Bisco Misr said in a statement it was still possible for competing offers to be made, thought it had said on Nov. 2 that shareholders holding 56 percent of the snack maker had agreed to sell to Abraaj. (Read on Reuters or download the pdf statement sent to the EGX)

Lactalis makes bid on Arab Dairy
Company Disclosure | 18 Nov 2014
Arab Dairy (ADPC.CA) sent a statement to the EGX reporting that French dairy producer Lactalis International Group, maker of Lactel dairy products, has sent a letter of intent to acquire Arab Dairy at a price of EGP 66 per share pending due diligence. (Download the pdf in Arabic)

OTHER BUSINESS NEWS OF NOTE

EK Holding appoints Sherif El-Zayat as CEO, releases Q3 2014 earnings results
Company Statement | 18 Nov 2014
Egypt Kuwait Holding Company (EKHO on the Egyptian Exchange and EKHOLDING on the Kuwaiti Exchange) reported today its consolidated results for the third quarter and first nine months of 2014. The company reported Attributable Net Income of USD 14.5 million in Q3 2014, a 36.9% year-on-year drop, on Consolidated Revenues of USD 100.9 million. EKH reported Attributable Net Income of USD 49.0 million in 9M 2014, a 25.6% year-on-year decrease. Setting aside the impact of reversed provisions in 2013, Q3 and 9M 2014 Attributable Net Income surged by 62% and 54%, respectively, over the same periods of last year, underscoring important improvements in the performance and profitability of ongoing operations despite continued challenges in the availability of energy. Consolidated Revenues in 9M 2014 rose 6.4% to USD 376.3 million as strong operational performances in 1H offset a soft third quarter, the company said.

The same earnings release reports that noted Egyptian entrepreneur Sherif El-Zayat has been appointed CEO. El-Zayat was until recently founder and chief executive of Misr Glass Manufacturing Co., one of the largest producers of glass containers in the MENA region. He was previously managing director and deputy chairman of Al-Ahram Beverages Co.

Salman: Disney mulls opening theme park in Egypt
Ahram Online + Al Wafd | 18 Nov 2014
Minister of Investment Ashraf Salman and representatives from the Walt Disney Company discussed the possibility of opening a Disney World branch in Egypt, the Minister told reporters during a joint press conference with company officials. Salman said such a move would prove that international businesses are comfortable with the situation in Egypt. (Read in Arabic or in English)

EDITA officially requests to list on EGX
Al Masry Al Youm | 18 Nov 2014
EGX Chairman Mohamed Omran said that EDITA Food Industries has submitted an official request to list on the EGX. (Read in Arabic)

Management control behind Pioneers’ decision to shelve acquisition of Dice and Master Line — Al-Mal
Al Mal | 18 Nov 2014
Al Mal reports that Pioneers Holding decided to shelve its plans to acquire Dice and Master Line because it wanted a 50.01% stake in Dice and management control of both companies, a request that was reportedly rejected. Pioneers had planned to acquire shares of Dice and Master Line, both of which are owned by the Grandview Fund, which is managed by Sphinx Private Equity Management. Qalaa Holdings is the primary stakeholder in Sphinx Private Equity Management and has announced plans to exit non-core industries. (Read in Arabic)

EGYPT POLITICS + ECONOMICS

Egypt’s GDP grew by 6.8% in 3Q14
Al Shorouk | 17 Nov 2014
The Planning Ministry issued a statement noting that 3Q14 GDP grew 6.8% y-o-y; the ministry expects growth in FY14/15 to come in at c. 3.8%. (Read in Arabic)

Note from Enterprise: Egypt hasn’t experienced a faster quarterly growth rate in the past five years. While the depressed base (given last year’s turmoil) set a platform for accelerated growth, it doesn’t explain the whole story. A key thing to note here is that investments fell 7.33% and 5.13% y-o-y in 3Q13 and 4Q13, respectively. Put together with the minister’s comments about the manufacturing sector growing by 26.5% y-o-y (still a mystery given the severity of the power cuts experienced last summer and the inconsistency of fuel supplies), it could be concluded that an increased volume of investments led to the accelerated GDP growth. This is reinforced by the decrease of the domestic unemployment rate from 13.4% in 3Q13 to 13.1% a year later. We await now full GDP data from the Ministry of Planning and balance of payments figures from the CBE.

Interior Ministry: Military Courts and live ammunition await violent demonstrators on 28 November
Al Shorouk | 17 Nov 2014
In response a call to arms by the Salafi Front on 28 November, the interior ministry has issued a stern warning that it has put into place a plan to confront any group trying to create chaos or spread violence, vowing to try perpetrators in Military Courts. Deputy Minister Abdel Fattah Osman also said police will use live ammunition if public facilities are attacked. A Facebook page purportedly belonging to the Salafi Front has called on Egyptians to take to the streets on 28 November for an “Islamic Revolution.” (Read in Arabic)

Egypt seeks African votes for Security Council bid
Ahram Online | 18 Nov 2014
African ambassadors met in Cairo to hear why Egypt should be elected to one of the rotating seats on the UN Security Council in 2016/17. Assistant Foreign Minister for African Affairs Sabry Magdy and Assistant Minister for Multi-party Matters and International Security Hisham Badri met with ambassadors of the African Group in Cairo on Monday. Elections for Security Council membership are due to take place in October 2015. Badri presented Egypt’s vision about regional matters and expressed Egypt’s hope that the African countries will support it during the elections. The African Group is one of five regional groups in the Security Council, and includes 54 member states. If the African Group gives its endorsement to Egypt, its chair would submit to the president of the Security Council a “clean slate,” which helps in the documentation of the election process by the UN’s secretariat, according to a Special Security Council report about the elections published in September. (Read)

Government faces difficult task of carving-out voting districts
Al Sharq Al Awsat | 17 Nov 2014
The Egyptian government is facing the difficult task of identifying voting districts for parliamentary elections, currently planned for the first quarter of 2015. The government’s dilemma is between two options. First, they could use existing administrative districts, which means each district will have two parliamentary seats. However, this option may be ruled unconstitutional and result in a dissolution of the legislature. The second option involves creating new districts, which would mean each new district would be represented by a single parliamentary seat. However, this option would likely lead to a violent voting process. (Read in Arabic)

INTERNATIONAL

Uber just stuck a knife in the Republican party’s heart
New York Magazine | 17 Nov 2014
This weekend, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick appeared at a dinner in New York and, in a few words, fatally undercut the premise of the Republican Party’s economic philosophy. Kalanick told reporters that Obamacare had been a crucial element in his firm’s success. “It’s huge,” he said, according to BuzzFeed. “The democratization of those types of benefits allow people to have more flexible ways to make a living. They don’t have to be working for The Man.” New York Magazine takes a fairly one-sided look at the issue, ultimately concluding that democrats are good, republicans are misguided and that the health-care reform law has encouraged entrepreneurship. (Read here)

Haaretz obtains full document of EU-proposed sanctions against Israel  
Haaretz | 17 Nov 2014
An internal European Union document on proposed sanctions against Israel, which Haaretz obtained in its entirety on Monday, reveals new details on the suggestions being made in the internal discussions among EU member states that have been taking place in Brussels. The full story is behind the Haaretz paywall. If you are a subscriber, you can read more here:

ON YOUR WAY OUT

The CEO of Emaar Properties’ international unit, Fred Durie, has left the company to head private real estate company Nshama, Bloomberg reports. (Read)

The National Cement Company has submitted a request to the Chemical Industries Holding Company to double its paid in capital from 206.4 million to EGP 412.8 million in order to be able to meet the financial requirements needed for its projects. (Read in Arabic)

Pioneers Holding reported a net profit of EGP 20.1 mn for the nine-month period ending 30 September (Read in Arabic)

Fifa asks Swiss police to launch criminal investigation into Russia and Qatar World Cup bids following allegations of corruption: Fifa’s president, Sepp Blatter, said internal inquiries had discovered “grounds for suspicion that, in isolated cases, international transfers of assets with connections to Switzerland took place,” (Read).

The Philae lander has detected organic molecules on the surface of its comet, scientists have confirmed. More tests are needed to determine whether these are simple carbon molecules such as methane, or more complex ones like amino acids, the building blocks of life on earth. Scientists are hoping the comet may shed light on whether organic molecules could have been brought to the early earth by comets.

Can money buy happiness? The WSJ’s look at that question has been on its top-five most-read articles for a week now. Among its suggestions: Science shows that buying things won’t make you as happy as investing in experiences. (Read)

King Musa’s gold may have bought a lot of happiness in the 1300s: A letter-writer to the FT this morning extols the virtues of Musa, the “forgotten” king of Mali, who singlehandedly disrupted Cairo’s economy with his free-wheeling spending on a hajj trip via our nation’s capital in 1324. (Read)

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