Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sharm summit set for 13-15 March • El-Sisi to meet Pope Francis • Uber arrives in Cairo • Naguib Sawiris says Ikhwan crackdown going too far • EU funds wind + solar power in Egypt • Fraser Institute ranks Egypt 17th of 28 oil jurisdictions

FX WATCH

The EGP held steady at the CBE dollar sale on Thursday, while black market prices were volatile but generally stronger, traders said. The bank offered USD 40 mn on Thursday and said it had sold USD 37.6 mn at a cut-off price of EGP 7.1401 pounds per dollar, unchanged from its last sale on Wednesday, as reported by Reuters. In the unofficial market, the pound was trading at EGP 7.55 according to one trader, who said he had sold dollars for EGP 7.57 pounds on Wednesday. Another trader said he was trading pounds at EGP 7.65, stronger than his Wednesday rate of EGP 7.67.

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Tunisians return to the polls to elect their president

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING THIS WEEK

24-25 November (Monday-Tuesday): President Abdelfattah El-Sisi arrives in Rome on the first leg of his inaugural European tour since being elected. El-Sisi will meet with Pope Francis on Monday according to French religious news outlet I.Media. The president, who will visit Paris after Rome, gave an exclusive sit-down to France 24. A summary of his first remarks tailored for a European audience appears in a special section of today’s edition, just before On Your Way Out.

25-26 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): MEED Invest in Egypt 2014 Conference, Abu Dhabi. Participating firms include EFG Hermes, Qalaa Holdings and Dana Gas, according to conference organizers, who are billing this as a “roadmap builder” for the Sharm investment summit now set for 13-15 March.

27 November (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt holds Monetary Policy Committee Meeting, and OPEC meets in Vienna.

28 November (Friday): Alleged “Islamist revolution”

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Lamees El Hadidy interviewed Minister of Investment Ashraf Salman and Minister of International Cooperation Naglaa Al-Ahwany, about the Egypt Investment Summit. Salman announced officially that Lazard and WPP have been appointed to organize the event.

“14 Egyptian investment banks will be involved preparing feasibility studies and investment prospectuses for the projects that will be presented at the summit,” said Salman, adding, “We are trying to attract a number of foreign private equity funds into the country during the coming period.”

“International institutions including the World Bank and the IMF are very interested in participating in the summit. Their representatives will be invited to Egypt on December 15 for a preview of the projects we are presenting,” said Al-Ahwany.
Asked about the necessity of having a parliament in place before the March summit, both ministers claimed that we don’t necessarily need an elected parliament by that time — but there should be clarity on the road ahead.

Al-Ahwany spoke about the strategic involvement of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the summit and how members of both governments are involved on a daily basis with its planning.

A number of talk show hosts including Lamees El Hadidy, Youssef El Houssieny and Amr Adeeb voiced an single opinion on Egyptian-Qatari relations: All were skeptical about Qatar’s intentions. Adeeb took a wait and see approach.

“November 28th will be the first test of their intentions. How will Al Jazeera report on this day,” said Adeeb. “Right now we only have the word of King Abdallah and we must honor that. The rest is up to Qatar. We will give them one more chance to change their tune.”

SPEED ROUND

The EGX30 inched up 0.4% on Thursday to close at 9,258 on EGP 537 mn in total turnover, about 22% below the 90-day average. The Tadawul added 0.3%, Kuwait was down 0.2% and Qatar shed 0.4%, while the DFM added 0.3% and the ADX 0.4%.

On a full-week basis, the EGX30 gained 0.3%.

US and European markets surged in Friday trading after the European Central Bank made clear once more it would expand its stimulus program and its counterpart in China implemented a surprise interest-rate cut (its first in two years), which market watchers hope will spur demand. The WSJ has a nice wrap-up on the impact of the central bank moves, while the Fortune recaps “anotherrecord-breaking week for US stock markets.”

Brent crude closed up 1.03% at USD 80.36, it’s highest point since 12 November ahead of an OPEC meeting scheduled to take place on 27 November in Vienna.

Egypt’s investment summit is scheduled for 13-15 March, Prime Minister Mehleb announced on Saturday. Minister of International Cooperation Naglaa Al-Ahwany also said on Saturday that the March conference will showcase 20 projects, which the Sisi administration hopes will draw USD 10-12 bn in investments. (Read)

Following our coverage of Uber on Thursday, it was announced on the same day that Uber Egypt has arrived. Anthony El-Khoury is launching the app in Cairo, aiming to connect users to freelance drivers. Speaking to Rachel Williamson writing for Wamda, El-Khoury stated that at least three local limousine companies will participate in the introduction of UberX, a product that taps private car company drivers during reduced periods of activity. The soft launch will target the trendier Cairo neighborhoods of Zamalek, Maadi and Mohandiseen. Uber intends to partner with local apps to navigate both traffic and roadways. Crowd sourcing traffic app Beyollak is one option, as is Mobinil’s Taree2y.

Egypt has three conditions for normalizing relations with Qatar, suggests Al-Watan: Recognize the legitimacy of the 30 June Revolution, hand over wanted Ikhwani exiles in Qatar, and rein-in Al-Jazeera. The third condition may already be in the works, after reports throughout the weekend that Al-Jazeera anchors were referring to President El-Sisi as the “elected president of Egypt.”

Egypt and China are eyeing a new partnership in the run-up to President Abdelfattah El-Sisi’s planned December 2014 visit to Beijing. Meng Jianzhu, secretary of Central Politics and Law Commission of the Communist Party of China, met with the president in Cairo on Saturday, saying the “comprehensive strategic partnership” would be announced during El-Sisi’s Beijing trip, the Daily News reported. Here at Enterprise, we note that the Sisi administration postponed to March the Sharm investment summit originally scheduled for February so as to guarantee Chinese participation; the original February timeframe overlapped with Chinese New Year celebrations.

Even if you buy that stimulus spending is bypassing “big business” (we’re not certain we would agree) and being directed by the Egyptian Army, that doesn’t mean business won’t play a role in the economy going forward. That’s the fundamental (and self-evident, to our readers here in Egypt) conclusion of a new paper from the Carnegie Middle East Center. The piece is frankly more remarkable for its fairly neutral tone than for the insights it presents, but would be a good starting point for international readers looking to get a fast overview — and for a reminder that post-2011 reporting aside, the Egyptian military does not dominate the domestic economy. Highlights: “The direct involvement of the military bureaucracy appears to be a necessary, short-term step to provide confidence to Gulf investors and deliver the first push to the struggling economy. … Long-term plans for economic recovery in Egypt depend on attracting foreign capital and mainly foreign direct investment, and they are heavily dependent on big business networks. After all, private big business still controls key sectors in the economy ranging from manufacturing, tourism, and telecommunications to commerce and housing, without which it is impossible to imagine any recovery in investment or employment.” Read The Future of Big Business in the New Egypt

Seven recently appointed ambassadors presented their credentials to President Abdelfattah El-Sisi at Ittihadiya yesterday; Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry was on hand for the ceremony. Those presenting credentials included:

  • Albania: Eduard Sulo
  • Canada: Troy Lulashnyk
  • Chad: Hassan Adam Adji
  • Cuba: Laureano Rodríguez Castro
  • France: Andre Parant;
  • Japan: Takehiro Kagawa
  • Peru: Hugo César Portugal Carbajal

Jordan’s USD 15bn gas deal with Israel could be in jeopardy as a result of flaring tensions in the Jewish state, according to a report in Friday’s FT, which spurred a follow-up from Haaretz. The FT notes that Jordanian officials say the 15-year gas deal “remains on track … however, they warn that any renewed tensions over al-Aqsa would jeopardise all areas of economic co-operation – tacitly including the gas deal, which awaits final government approval.” Our take: The gas deal is very much on track, given Jordan is desperate for hydrocarbons and won’t find better pricing than what the Israelis have on offer. The lifespan of a political crisis like the current one is measured in weeks or months; the gas deal will last 15 years and is a critical part of the Hashemite Kingdom’s energy security. (Read in Haaretz or the FT)

On a related note: Israel is exploring whether there’s political appetite in Europe for Israeli gas, billing it as a more secure source than product from Russia, even if it is more expensive than importing from Egyptand Turkey. Israeli Energy Minister Silvan Shalom reportedly floated the idea at a meeting of Euro-Med energy ministers in Rome last week, according to an Israeli Channel 2 report picked up by the Times of Israel. Said the Times of Israel: “It would be cheaper for Europe to work on a supply route with Egypt, but this could expose the Europeans to instability because of the unpredictable political developments in Egypt … Turkey would [also] be less expensive, but bilateral relations rule this out so long as Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a prominent critic of Israel, holds power there.” (Read)

US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Istanbul over the weekend didn’t produce anything solid on a range of issues between the two states, other than an announcement that the U.S. would provide USD 135mn in new aid for Syrian refugees. About 300 people protested Biden’s visit, chanting: “Biden get out. This country is ours.” Biden’s visit was supposed to, in addition to a number of other issues, address the Cyprus reconciliation efforts. His visit follows his stop in Morocco on Thursday where he addressed the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

Debt and corruption are hobbling growth in China, writes the WSJ’s departing Beijing correspondent, who notes: “When I arrived, China’s GDP was growing at nearly 10% a year, as it had been for almost 30 years—a feat unmatched in modern economic history. But growth is now decelerating toward 7%. Western business people and international economists in China warn that the government’s GDP statistics are accurate only as an indication of direction, andthe direction of the Chinese economy is plainly downward. The big questions are how far and how fast.” The essay mixes personal observations with a reasonable leavening of hard fact to make its point: “International Monetary Fund noted that over the past 50 years, only four countries have experienced as rapid a buildup of debt as China during the past five years. All four—Brazil, Ireland, Spain and Sweden—faced banking crises within three years of their supercharged credit growth.” Read The End of China’s Economic Miracle?

Goldman Sach’s top trades and 10 themes for 2015 are out. Among its top trades is to go long on “an equity basket of emerging market crude oil importers” as a play on what it expects will be lower oil prices for the year. Its top 10 macro themes for the year, as summarized by the WSJ, include:

  1. Expect the recovery to broaden beyond the United States.
  2. Divergence among developed countries’ economies will continue.
  3. The price of oil will continue to fall.
  4. Beware “lowflation.”
  5. The dollar will keep rallying.
  6. Don’t expect a Fed rate hike until September.
  7. It’ll be a bumpy road ahead for China.
  8. Look for ‘improving imbalances’ in the emerging markets.
  9. Volatility isn’t necessarily returning.
  10. Absolute returns are going to be low.

Read more detail on Goldman’s top trades and top 10 themes, hit the WSJ (they’re two separate blog posts).

Oh, and don’t be fooled by today’s cheap oil prices: Goldman’s 2015 play on currently-low oil aside, rock-bottom prices aren’t here to stay, and the future cost of under-investment in new exploration will be severe. As International Energy Agency chief economist Fatih Birol warned on the release of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook earlier this month: “A well-supplied oil market in the short-term should not disguise the challenges that lie ahead, as the world is set to rely more heavily on a relatively small number of producing countries. The apparent breathing space provided by rising output in the Americas over the next decade provides little reassurance, given the long lead times of new upstream projects.” (Read the full press release, which is long on outlook and low on PR puffery)

WHAT YOU CLICKED ON LAST WEEK

The five most-clicked links in the Enterprise Morning Meeting in the week of 17 November were:

SPOTLIGHT: Ikhwan crackdown in the news, Sawiris drawn into the fray

Mohamed Ali Bishr, one of the last senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood not already behind bars (and the group’s primary interlocutor with the state) was arrested on Thursday. Bishr has apparently been charged with incitement of violence, calling for illegal protests, and conspiring with foreign nations — and has so-far refused to respond to the prosecutor’s’ questions. (Read El-Shorouk in Arabic or in the New York Times in English)

Egypt has welcomed news of the GCC reconciliation announced at the Riyadh summit. Bishr’s arrest and news that presidential pardons for the imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists are under consideration all appear to be loose ends being tied-up. In a piece headlined “Will Egypt-Qatar rapprochement harm [the] MB?” Al Monitor offers the following: “Perhaps the purpose of this [arrest of Bishr] was to send a message claiming that the Qatari-Egyptian reconciliation would provide an opportunity for Egypt to tighten the grip on the Brotherhood, and the arrest may be a preamble for a political settlement.” (Read)

France 24’s March Perelman, whose interview with President El-Sisi is detailed in a special section below following International news, said after the interview that there was “clearly something going on right now behind the scenes between Egypt and Qatar.” (Read)

The region-wide dragnet over the Muslim Brotherhood is spreading, with news that Jordan has arrested the deputy head of the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood for criticizing the UAE’s recent designation of the Brotherhood and its affiliates as terrorist organizations, Reuters reports. Even the Sudanese government has pledged (publicly, at least) not to offer safe haven to members of Egypt’s Brotherhood. Amnesty International, meanwhile, took advantage of the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi this weekend to draw attention to what it says is a “ruthless crackdown on dissent [that] exposes [the] ‘ugly reality’ beneath façade of glitz and glamour” in the UAE, citing in part the clampdown on Ikhwan and the group’s few backers in the Emirates.

Finally, the WSJ has taken up the crackdown on the Brotherhood and adds nothing new on the whole other than a striking (and important) quote from Naguib Sawiris: “We fought against these people because they were doing exactly what we are now doing to them today. This is not the right way. …This is not the right way … There will have to be a solution. They have one or two million people, very militant and very active. What are you going to do with these people? You cannot put two million people in jail.” Asked whether this is likely, Sawiris replied “This is not something anybody is going to accept right now.” (Read)

There may be a backlash in Egypt against Sawiris for his comments, with both Youm7 and Al Masry Al Youm picking up the story yesterday. Youm7: “Wall Street Journal defends the Muslim Brotherhood, says they are an important gauge of public opinion in Egypt.” (Read on Youm7 in Arabic here and in Arabic on Al Masry Al Youm here).

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

Should President El-Sisi be invited as a special guest to the 2015 GCC Summit in Qatar? Former Al Sharq Alawsat editor-in-chief Tarek Alhamid floated the suggestion this weekend, saying that although the invitation would only provide a sentimental resolution to the rift between Egypt and Qatar — would not address their strategic differences — it could be an opportunity to rehabilitate relations between the two states (Read in Arabic)

The first prosecution of a physician for carrying out FMG failed on Thursday when a judge in Mansour dismissed manslaughter charges against a doctor charged in the death of a 13 year-old on whom he was performing the “procedure.” The case is attracting widespread media attention globally, as this piece in the widely read USA Today indicates.

ICYMI

El-Mogamma has been declared by the FT to be among the world’s most heinous architectural atrocities: “Many Egyptians and foreigners have ambled through its hallways, struggling against its 18,000 surly employees to secure applications for passports or visa extensions,” it notes (in part). Read the full entry and browse the rest of the list on the FT in Demolition dreams: the world’s ‘worst’ buildings.

WORTH READING

The New York Times raises the critical point that “India’s coal mining plans may represent the biggest obstacle to a global climate pact to be negotiated at a conference in Paris next year. While the United States and China announced a landmark agreement that includes new targets for carbon emissions, and Europe has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40%, India, the world’s third-largest emitter, has shown no appetite for such a pledge.” (Read)

James Shinn, former CIA officer and assistant secretary of defense for Asia at the Pentagon, takes a long look at what’s keeping politicians and investors worried in the Gulf: Chaos and crashing oil prices are raising anxieties in Middle East

ENERGY, RENEWABLE ENERGY & SUBSIDY REFORM

EUR 106 mn from EU to fund solar and wind power stations in Egypt
Masrawy | 21 Nov 2014
Ambassador James Moran, Head of the EU Delegation to Cairo, confirmed that the European Union will allocate EUR 106 mn to fund solar and wind power stations in Egypt and help bring the technical know-how to develop the country’s overall energy strategy. Minister of Investment Ashraf Salman had said recently that the government will offer within two weeks projects to generate up to 8 GW of electrical power using solar and wind energy. This comes on the back of the government’s efforts to increase the portion of renewable energy to 20% of total electricity generated by 2020, against the current level of 2.5%. (Read in Arabic)

Electricity sector owed EGP 17.5 bn by consumers
Al Mal | 18 Nov 2014
A senior official at the Ministry of Electricity revealed that the energy sector is owed EGP 17.5 bn by its customers as of mid-November, up from EGP 17 billion in October. Its receivables apparently break down as follows: Government agencies and ministries, EGP 6.5 billion; water and sewage agencies, EGP 4 billion; residential consumers, EGP 3 billion; and public holding companies, EGP 2 billion. The source told Al-Mal that President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has emphasized the need for more strict collection policies, adding that power was recently shut-off to several government agencies in the governorate of Gharbiya, which owed millions in unpaid electricity bills. (Read in Arabic)

South Korean PM arrives in Egypt for nuke diplomacy tour
Yonhap News Agency | 22 Nov 2014
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won began a trip Saturday to Egypt, Morocco and Azerbaijan to boost economic ties with the countries, his office said Saturday. The first leg of his seven-day tour will start in Egypt and last until Monday 24 November, during which the prime minister plans to meet with Egyptian PM Ibrahim Mehleb for talks on South Korean firms’ possible participation in the country’s nuclear reactor construction project and cooperation on defense projects. Chung also plans to visit Ain Shams University, which opened the first Korean language department the Arab world. (Read)

OIL & GAS

Fraser Institute releases global petroleum survey; Egypt ranked 18 out of 27 jurisdictions
Fraser Institute | 20 Nov 2014
Conservative libertarian thinktank the Fraser Institute has released its annual Global Petroleum Survey, which has ranked Texas as the most desirable of 27 large reserve holder localities for investment. Egypt ranks 18th on the list, which weighs policy prescriptions as creating either an enabling or prohibitive investment climate in addition to the other metric of proven reserves by bboe. Coming in last place despite its significant reserves is Venezuela on the back of its negative policy prescription of 100 points, with lower scores indicating a more desirable operating environment. A total of 710 respondents participated in the survey, providing sufficient data to evaluate 156 jurisdictions. (The report may be downloaded as a PDF here)

Delek and Union Fenosa to build underwater pipeline to Egypt
Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Globes | 18-20 Nov 2014
Delek Drilling issued their 3Q2014 earnings release last Wednesday, which states that Israel’s offshore Tamar gas field may get a USD 1.5-2 bn upgrade, including the construction of an underwater pipeline to an export plant in Egypt run by Spain’s Union Fenosa Gas (UFG), according to Reuters. The Tamar group plans to expand production capabilities with new wells, platform upgrades and a pipeline to Egypt if a final supply deal with UFG is signed, according to Delek Drilling. If the deal is finalised, the US-Israeli group running Tamar would cover pipeline costs up to the maritime border with Egypt and UFG would pay for the rest, Delek Drilling said in its quarterly report. Delek also reported that gas will likely be flowing from Israel’s Leviathan field by 2018 according to The Jerusalem Post, and Globes is reporting that Delek raised their estimate for Cyprus’s Aphrodite field to 127 BCM from 113 BCM.

Four fracking blocs to come up for grabs in Western Desert
Daily News Egypt | 22 Nov 2014
EGAS has finalized approvals to open four shale gas exploration concessions in the Western Desert near an area in which Shell and Apache are beginning shale gas production trials this month, the Daily News reports. The paper quotes a US Energy Information Administration report as saying that Egypt has up to 114 bn barrels of oil in shale deposits, of which c. 4.6 bn barrels are likely recoverable. (Read the Daily News Story, download the entire US EIA report [65 MB PDF] or download the section containing Egypt [14 MB PDF])

BASIC MATERIALS & COMMODITIES

BCI Egypt acquires Egycol
Rubber News | 21 Nov 2014
Baalbaki Chemical Industries Egypt said it will purchase Egyptian polyurethane adhesive manufacturer Egycol. BIC Chairman Hassan Baalbaki said that up to this point the firm had been importing adhesives from abroad. With the addition of Egycol, the executive said BCI planned to become the leading supplier of polyurethane and polychloroprene adhesives to Egypt and to use Egypt as a base to export to other African markets. Baalbaki said that in October 2014, BCI started up its 15kT/year aromatic/aliphatic polyesters facility in Cairo in addition to a plant producing its polyurethane systems with a capacity of 45kT/year. (Read)

MANUFACTURING

Italian manufacturers ready to move part of their production to Egypt – IEBC
Mubasher | 22 Nov 2014
The Italian Egyptian Business Council (IEBC) is expecting President Abdelfattah El-Sisi to meet with its member during his trip to Italy to discuss investment opportunities in Egypt. Higher costs at home and the possibility of benefiting from Egypt’s regional trade agreements are driving Italian producers to look into shifting some of their production to Egypt. (Read in Arabic)

HEALTHCARE

Global spending for medicines to reach USD 1.3tn in 2018 – report
IMS Health | 20 Nov 2014
IMS Health, a leading global healthcare analytics and intelligence company, has released their Global Outlook for Medicines Through 2018, which predicts global growth in demand for pharmaceuticals, including Egypt. The study was produced without industry or government funding, according to IMS. The report notes that global spending on medicines is forecast to reach nearly USD 1.3 tn by 2018, an increase of about 30% over the 2013 level. In the report, Egypt is classified as a ‘pharmerging’ country, which IMS defines as those countries with less than USD 1bn in absolute spending growth over 2014-18 and which have GDP per capita of less than USD 25,000 at purchasing power parity, placing Egypt in the third tier of their pharmerging rankings. The 21 pharmerging countries identified in the report will increase their contribution to growth in global medicine spending over the next five years and account for nearly 50% of absolute growth in 2018. Saudi Arabia is expected to be the first Arab country to join the top 20 healthcare spenders in 2018, climbing five spots to number 17. With respect to HCV drugs to treat viral hepatitis, global spending is set to exceed USD 100 bn by 2018, with pharmerging markets doubling their spending on viral hepatitis by 2018. (Download the report as a pdf here — email registration is required)

TELECOMS & TECHNOLOGY

Flat 6 Labs opens in Abu Dhabi, targets 80 launches in coming four years
Al-Arabiya | 21 Nov 2014
Early-stage tech accelerator Flat 6 Labs has opened in Abu Dhabi. The Egypt-based firm, which opened in 2011 and expanded to Saudi Arabia the following year, is looking to launch c. 80 UAE companies in the coming four years in sectors including “digital content, e-commerce, social media and citizen journalism, media and video productions and mobile applications.” (Read)

BANKING & FINANCE

NBE to provide an EGP 3 bn loan to Al Futtaim-Egypt
Al-Bayan | 20 Nov 2014
National Bank of Egypt Vice President Mohamed Montaser told Al-Bayan that the bank is arranging an EGP 3 billion loan to UAE’s Al Futtaim-Egypt [not be confused with Majid Al Futtaim] to finance a number of projects ranging from commercial malls to logistics and real estate investments. This comes on the back of the Emirati company’s plan to invest c. EGP 17 billion in the local market, as announced previously in the presence of the Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb and senior officials from NBE. (Read in Arabic)

Startups are filling gaps left by Egypt’s banking behemoths
Wamda | 16 Nov 2014
The nation’s banks are missing the boat by pursuing expansion of their branch networks rather than looking to engage with their clients online and on mobile handsets, writes journalist Rachel Williamson, who covers the host of startups ranging from Fawry to PayFort and the recent DoPay–Barclays Egypt tie-up in this quick overview of who’s angling for a part of consumers’ wallets in the e-payments and online banking spaces. (Read)

Egypt T-Bill yields drop on improved S&P ratings
Shorouk News | 12 Nov 2014
Yields on government issued treasury bills dropped for the seven- and three-year tenors by 38.5 bps and 34.7 bps, respectively, to 13.67% and 14.872%. Meanwhile, shorter-term bills (six, nine and 12 months tenors) saw their yield drop by 41.9 bps, 7.4 bps and 9.1 bps respectively to stand at 11.927%, 12.116% and 12.219%. The movements comes during the same week as rating agency Standard & Poor’s issued its report on Egypt, raising the country’s long and short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit rating to ‘B-/B’ from ‘CCC+/C’. The improved ratings reflect the agency’s view that the government has secured sufficient foreign currency funding to manage Egypt’s short-term fiscal and external financing needs. (Read in Arabic)

OTHER BUSINESS NEWS OF NOTE

Eight insurance companies compete for EGP 20 bn coverage for the Egyptian Holding Company for Airports and Air Navigation
Amwal Al Ghad | 20 Nov 2014
Eight companies are vying to cover the Egyptian Holding Company for Airports and Air Navigation. Coverage requirements are estimated at EGP 20 bn, with EGP 10mn in annual premiums at stake, said Yasser Al Alam, managing director for Egypt Link Insurance Brokerage. Al Alam said the insurance policies cover everything from car companies, riots, civil unrest and worker strikes. Al Alam also said another group of insurance policies will be offered for tender in the next few days, which will cover fire, theft and damage to facilities. Competitors reportedly include Royal Insurance, GIG and Suez Insurance. (Read in Arabic)

Egyptian Iron & Steel workers go on strike
Al Masry Al Youm | 22 Nov 2014
Over 6,000 workers at the state owned Egyptian Iron & Steel Company went on strike starting Saturday morning, calling for management to disburse profit shares and bonuses that have been delayed since July. At press time, the strike was expected to reach some 11,000 workers as the day’s shifts come to an end, reported Al Masry Al Youm. Worth noting: Egyptian Iron & Steel Company has been reporting substantial losses for the last three years, with net losses standing at EGP 962.2 mn in fiscal year ending June 2014. The workers were quoted saying that they are owed some 16 months’ worth of profit shares and that they will continue their strike until they are paid, claiming that the company’s financial distress is largely due to mismanagement and not the fault of the workers. (Read in Arabic)

EGYPT POLITICS + ECONOMICS

Bilateral trade between Egypt and China up 16%
Shorouk | 21 Nov 2014
Although Egyptian exports with China fell 40% y-o-y, a rise increase in China’s exports to Egypt drove the volume of trade between the two countries up by 16% to USD 8.5 bn in the first three quarters of 2014. Egypt’s exports fell on a lower volume to petroleum exports to the Asian giant. (Read in Arabic)

CAPMAS: 36.1% of Egyptians are under the age of 18
Al Borsa | 19 Nov 2014
Over a 31.4 million Egyptians are under the age of 18, or about 36.1% of the population, according to state statistics agency CAPMAS. The breakdown of the under-18 set came as: Infants under one year old accounted for 6.1% of the nation’s total youth population, 1-4 year-olds were 23.9%, 5-9 year-olds stood at 29.1%, 10-14 year-olds were 26.1%; and 15-17 year-olds were 14.8%. CAPMAS also said that mortality rates for children under five years of age dropped from 19.7 per thousand children in 2012 to 19.1 per thousand in 2013. (Read in Arabic)

Saudi Arabia redoubles efforts to delay Egypt’s repayment of USD 2.5 bn to Qatar
Al Araby Al Gadeed | 22 Nov 2014
Al Araby Al Gadeed reports that an official from the Egyptian Ministry of Finance claims Saudi Arabia has undertaken efforts to mediate between Egypt and Qatar by attempting to convince the latter to postpone repayment of a USD 2.5 bn deposit due at the end of November 2014. The move comes as part of reconciliation attempts between Qatar and its fellow GCC compatriots and Egypt. However, the unnamed source referenced statements made by Hisham Ramez, Governor of the Central Bank of Egypt, which highlighted that in the event Qatar insists on timely repayment, the CBE is prepared to meet its obligations. The source added that repayment of the deposit will deplete foreign reserves to about USD 14 bn. The necessity of replenishing Egypt’s foreign reserves may prove to be the impetus behind these reconciliation talks with Qatar, the news outlet says, in light of increased deposits by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia of USD 1 bn and USD 2 bn respectively, in addition to the timing of the talks. (Read in Arabic in Al Araby Al Gadeed).

Note from Enterprise: Until corroborated by mainstream press, this story should be taken with a grain of salt as the source is an unnamed official and Araby Al Gadeed is a third-tier news outlet.

Minister: Plan to grow railway share to 10% of merchandise transport
Al Mal | 18 Nov 2014
Planning Minister Ashraf El Araby, said the government plans to restructure the country’s rail transport sector, including increasing the its share to between 5-10% of all merchandise shipments. Al Araby said only 1% of merchandise is currently transported by railway. Egyptian National Railways reported a deficit of EGP 6 bn in 2012/13. (Read in Arabic)

Nile University concludes Startup Weekend
News Today | 22 Nov 2014
Yesterday marked the final day of the Startup Weekend competition held at Nile University’s Main Campus, which began on Thursday and brought together 3000 entrepreneurs from across Egypt. The competition will allow budding entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas and be judged and ranked by VCs and representatives of the investment community. According to Nizar Samy, the head of the Career Development Office at the University, that the top three teams would receive funding from the University to participate in the Global Startup Battle 2014. (Read in Arabic)

INTERNATIONAL

Tunisia begins presidential elections
New York Times | 21 Nov 2014
Tunisian are heading to polls today (Sunday) to elect a president in the country’s first ever open elections. 26 candidates are trying to catch up with the 88 year old front-runner Beji Caid Essebsi whose party, Nidaa Tounes, came in first place in the parliamentary elections last month. (Read)

Bahrain holds its first parliamentary elections since 2011
BBC | 22 Nov 14
350,000 eligible voters are expected to choose 40 legislators for Bahrain’s parliament. The elections are the first since 2011 but are boycotted by Shia opposition groups that demanded an elected prime minister who is independent from the ruling al-Khalifa monarchy. (Read)

Lebanon’s Shahiya acquired by Japan’s largest recipes site for USD 13.5 mn
Wamda | 21 Nov 2014
Cookpad, Japan’s largest recipe portal, will acquire Lebanon’s Shahiya for USD 13.5 mn. The transaction, if concluded, would be the first exit for Beirut-based Middle East Venture Partners. Cookpad said in a statement that the transaction “enables Cookpad to tap into the Arabic speaking market, continue to boost Cookpad’s user base, and accelerate the global launch of Cookpad’s recipe services.” (Read)

HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESIDENT EL-SISI’S INTERVIEW WITH FRANCE 24

On ongoing military procurement deals with France: Military relations with France are nothing new. We have the Mirage 5, Mirage 2000… New contracts, however, hinge on what France can deliver. If France understands the current economic situation and can offer us certain [payment] facilities, that’s going to be an important factor in decisions on future contracts.

On support to the fight against Daesh: We’ve been part and parcel of the international struggle against terrorism long-before there was a group called the ‘Islamic State.’ We have been working to secure Sinai and our Western and Southern borders. We’ve called for a coalition against extremism for several years now. The fight against terrorism cannot only be from a military point of view. Economic, social and political measures must be taken, too.

On reports of joint Egypt-UAE military strikes in Libya: Let me be crystal clear: Had we intervened directly, I would not have hesitated to say it. Whatever we’ve been doing has been in support of the Libyan National Army and the Libyan Parliament at the behest of the Libyan government. If we intervened directly, I would state it openly. To this day, we are providing support to the Libyan National Army to secure Libya. We all as members of the international community — Egyptians, Europeans, Americans — should work together to strengthen the Libyan Army’s ability to secure the country against terrorism.

Should France be more supportive on Libya? The situation in Libya requires more interest on the part of the international community, certainly. The regime was defeated, but Libyan institutions have not been given back to the Libyan people. Foreign forces departed after the fall of the regime — and left weapons in the hands of militias. Today the effort is beyond the capacity of France and Italy individually. Libya must become a functioning state and not a zone of attraction for terrorists in the Mediterranean — a nuisance for neighbors and for Europe. It requires concerted effort.

Bahrain, UAE and KSA have reconciled with Qatar. Will Egypt normalize? Wait and see. Wait and see the outcome. … We issued a communique yesterday in which we answered the appeal of the King of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah. We are preparing the ground for a more positive position. We started that as of today.

On military assistance from the United States and the delivery of 10 Apache helicopters: You asked earlier about the 1,200 km of borders we share with Libya. We also have 1,000 km with Sudan, to say nothing of the Gaza Strip and Israel. This is a huge area that demands modern equipment to avoid human losses. The delivery of 10 helicopters and 12 F16 has been planned for more than a year.

Are US relations still a priority when Egypt is reaching out to Moscow, Paris? Our relations with the US are strategic. Of course we have relations with France, Italy and other countries around the world. And those relations do not come at the expense of those with any other single country.

On Israel / Palestine: Is this a third intifada? Whenever I speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I always tell him, ‘We need to deliver hope to the Palestinians. We need to deliver them a state so they live in peace alongside the Israeli people.’ We must provide all the guarantees to the emerging Palestinian state and to the State of Israel so neither country threatens the other. With a courageous process, the deal will change.

On connections between Hamas and Ansar Beit El-Maqdis: Extremist thought and political Islam share the same roots. You cannot separate the IS from what’s happening in Afghanistan or from Ansar Beit El-Maqdis in Egypt. And the approach to them should not only be military.

On the crackdown on the Brotherhood in Egypt vs. Tunisia: You in Europe must be aware of the will of the Egyptian people, who refused the Muslim Brotherhood. We took no exceptional measures on 30 June, 3 July, 7 July. We invited everyone into the political process, but they refused. They resorted instead to violence. That’s the doctrine of political Islam.

On the Al-Jazeera English journalists: The decision to arrest those people was taken when I was not in office. Had I been in office then, I would have preferred to have them arrested and returned to their countries of origin. This is in the country’s best interests. The whole issue would have been done with. … I can tell you that this issue is under consideration; we’re looking for a solution. If we consider this in the national interest of Egypt, we will do it. [That passage from the interview has sparked widespread coverage in the Australian and Canadian press.]

ON YOUR WAY OUT

In separate statements issued Saturday, the State Information Service noted thatCanada and Egypt had held on Thursday high-level consultations on a basket of issues. While the statements made no mention of detained Al-Jazeera English bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy (a dual Egyptian-Canadian national), the statements note the two sides chewed over regional, security and trade issues — and that Egypt has asked Canada to lift a warning against its citizens traveling to Sinai. (Read here and here)

Security sources told Reuters that the Egyptian army is planning major operations in North Sinai necessitating shutting down schools in the area. The military does not want children caught in the crossfire and Schools in Sheikh Zuweid and Rafa would remain closed until the surrounding areas are secured, North Sinai governor told state news agency MENA on Thursday. (Read)

Islamist militants claimed responsibility for one bomb attack and were suspected of a second this weekend. Anjad Misr claimed responsibility for a bomb attack outside Helwan University on Thursday that resulted in no casualties, while parties unknown detonated one bomb and planted at least three others near Beni Suef, killing at least one person on Saturday night.

“In possibly the greatest [squash] World Championship final, Ramy Ashour, of Egypt, claimed his third world title on Friday night, while world No 1, Mohamed Elshorbagy, was left runner-up for a second time.” Readthe Telegraph’s wrap-up, then head over to the Atlantic for a look at “Why Egypt crushes at squash” and learn that it is at least in part because of Hosni Mubarak (story includes vintage pic of squash fan Mubarak on the court).

The finals of the inaugural Egyptian Rugby Football Union’s cup were held at the American University in Cairo’s New Cairo campus on Friday. Alexandria Rugby Club beat hosts AUC 8 – 0 in a tightly contested match to clinch the title while Cairo Rugby Football Club bounced back from their semi-final loss to beat AAST Titans 46 – 0 for the third place.

A small Polish town has taken action to ban children’s icon Winnie the Pooh from a local park. In the eyes of the town council, Pooh is a (potentially) hermaphroditic bear whose lack of pants should preclude him being allowed near children. (Read)

صفحة الحوادث
(The “crime page” is a staple of Egypt’s local press)

Erdogan wants to build a mosque in Cuba to drum up domestic populist sentiment by insisting that Muslims discovered America. This statement should come as no surprise from a man whose senior advisor believes that Erdogan was under threat of assassination via telekinesis. Telekinesis, like Jean Grey from the X-Men.

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