Thursday, 22 January 2015

El-Sisi speaks at Davos at noon. EGX hits 6.5-year high, EGP a 3-year low. No repeat of summer electricity crisis? Gov’t hikes growth forecast to 4%. Oil Ministry faces continuing gas shortage. Shakeup of loss-making state-owned newspapers and magazines?


President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is expected to address delegates today at the World Economic Forum in Davos in a session titled Egypt in the World, which is expected to begin at 11:30 CET / 12:30 CLT and whose live webcast should be available here. The President’s session will be introduced by Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum Klaus Schwab and chaired by Philipp Rösler, Head of the Centre for Regional Strategies and Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum.

As we reported on Sunday, the president will then headline a dinner event under the banner “Shaping Egypt’s economic transformation.” El-Sisi will discuss Egypt’s vision for the economy in 2020. Among those scheduled to speak after the president are Trade and Industry Minister Mounir Abdelnour and Investment MinisterAshraf Salman. Sir Martin Sorrell (CEO of global PR giant WPP) and Ahmed Heikal (Chairman and Founder of Qalaa Holdings) will offer the private-sector perspective. The invite list includes c. 70 global chairmen, CEOs and politicos.

Yemen leader concedes to power-sharing agreement with Houthi rebels: Yemeni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi conceded defeat after Houthi rebels defeated his guards in a two-day siege of the president’s personal residence. Hadi has agreed to a power-sharing agreement with the Houthis. (Read inReuters or in Arabic in Al Borsa) Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement calling on Yemeni unity and Egyptian support for the UNSC’s consensus.

European Central Bank to launch QE program today? The Wall Street Journal was the first to break news yesterday that the ECB will launch a plan today to buy about EUR 50 bn of sovereign debt every month this year and maybe into 2016. Buys of that magnitude would put the program for 2015 at about EUR 600 bn for this, which the Journal noted is “less than the EUR 1 tn most people say is ‘big enough’ move the proverbial needle.” The Journal‘s take is here, the FT‘s here.

Today is the final day of the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. View the official website here.


Whether you observe it as Police Day or the day the 25 January Revolution kicked off, Sunday is a national holiday. Banks, the stock exchange and public- and private-sector offices alike will be closed, and the gang here at Enterprise will be sleeping in.


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Exceptionally slow Wednesday nights like last night are proof that Egyptian talk show hosts possess the uncanny ability to talk for hours and say precisely nothing.

Youssef El Housseiny, who was rumored to have been offered a position as a governor, assured his viewers that he has no intention of leaving his program nor of accepting public office anytime in the near future.

In reference to President Abdelfattah El Sisi’s recent remarks in Abu Dhabi to the effect that talk show presenters should be governors so that they may actually put themselves in the shoes of those that they have made careers out of criticizing, El Housseiny said, “Thanks, but no thanks. The job doesn’t pay well and our voices are much louder as media than any government official.

“It is being said that qualified candidates are refusing governmental posts because of the whip that talk show presenters are wielding night after night. This isn’t entirely true. Most of us are willing to give government officials the benefit of the doubt. Everyone makes mistakes, so for the most part we will give our government officials several chances before we call them on their mistakes,” said El Housseiny.

“This isn’t an enviable position to be in. If we criticize too harshly we are told that we are complaining for the sake of complaining and if we give praise we are accused of having ulterior motives,” he added.


EGX hits 6.5-year high, closing at 9,856.30 points yesterday. Reuters notes that if the bourse manages a “clean break — two straight daily closes above that level — [it] would indicate the index could this year challenge the record high of 12,039 points hit in June 2008.” (Read)

EGP hits new low of 7.34 per dollar: The EGP was allowed to officially depreciate for the fourth time this week, hitting its lowest point since currency auctions began in 2012, Reuters notes. In a widely picked-up piece by AP, appearing in The New York Times and the Washington Post, EFG Hermes strategist Simon Kitchen is quoted as saying, “Almost all other currencies in the world had weakened against the dollar over the past six months… It was surprising that Egypt had not let its currency move. This is sort of catching up, I suppose to some extent, with the rest of the world.” Meanwhile, Heba Saleh covers the same ground for the FTif you prefer salmon-colored backgrounds to your reading.

The Cabinet of Ministers held its weekly meeting yesterday with PM Ibrahim Mehleb at the head of the table. Major decisions included:

  • Approving the import of six LNG cargoes from Algeria’s Sonatrach. (Read in Arabic)
  • Discussing the butane canister shortage and efforts to improve the distribution network. (Read in Arabic)
  • Amending the chambers of commerce law to allow them to establish retail outlets. (Read in Arabic)
  • Forming a committee to assess the optimal usage of Egypt’s monuments and tourist sites. (Read in Arabic)
  • Granting the Egyptian Airports Company a plot of land to build the Ras Sidr Airport. (Read in Arabic)

CAPMAS begins today measuring the incidences of violence against women in Egypt and will also attempt to ascertain an economic cost to them, according to Al Ahram.

Shakeup of loss-making state-owned print media in the offing? Members of the Supreme Council of the Press are praising the government’s move to restructure state newspapers by adding business leaders, economists, seasoned ex-government officials, and university professors on their boards. Among those reportedly set to be appointed to one board or another: Hani Sarie El-Din (ex-chief of CMA, as EFSA was then known), Mahmoud Abdellatif (former chairman of the Bank of Alexandria), Akram Tinawy (CEO, Arab Banking Corporation) and Ossama Saleh (ex-minister of investment), among others. Al Mal carries what it says is the full list.

IPO delays likely in 2015 due to oil price effects: Arab News quotes Phil Gandier, MENA transaction advisory services leader at EY, as saying: “Despite the significant improvement in the capital raised during 2014, many companies took the decision to delay or abort their IPO plans in Q4 due to declining oil prices. Although there is a healthy pipeline of IPOs for 2015, companies are adopting a wait-and-see approach until markets have settled.” (Read)

The New Suez Canal will be inaugurated on time, Investment Minister Ashraf Salman tells the BBC’s Orla Guerin. (Story includes brief text, video)

Al-Mal carries this morning what it claims are shots of the branding for the March Sharm El-Sheikh economic summit.

Apache for sale? Forbes writer Christopher Helman speculates that the announcement of former Apache Oil CEO Steven Farris’ retirement indicates that the company may be readying for a “a long-awaited spinoff of Apache’s international operations or even an outright sale.” (Read)

Oil isn’t heading for USD 20 per barrel, says OPEC head. “The price will not go to USD 20 or USD 25. I think the price will stay at where we are now. We have seen this before — prices coming down very fast and go up very slow. But prices will rebound,” Abdalla El-Badri told Bloomberg TV at Davos.

And could be north of USD 200 per in five years’ time, says ENI chief. “If you are cutting capex drastically now, we can have a lack of production in four or five years creating a new increased oil price at USD 200 maybe,” Claudio Descalzi is quoted as saying by Reuters.

The FT’s Simeon Kerr is running with the IMF World Economic Outlook we noted earlier in the week with a piece headlined “IMF urges Gulf countries to reduce spending as oil price plunges.” Reuters, meanwhile, has the story under the headline “Oil export losses to reach USD 300 bn in Middle East.” The USD 300 bn angle is also making the rounds of the local press (cf: Al-Borsa).

Franklin Templeton sees MENA opportunities: Per the WSJ’s Frontiers blog: “Investors’ concerns about the impact of sliding oil prices on the economies of the Middle East and North Africa are overblown and the ensuing regional equity market sell-off offers an excellent buying opportunity, says global asset manager Franklin Templeton. ‘To associate the region with just oil is a myth,’ says Bassel Khatoun, head of MENA Equities at Franklin Templeton. ‘The big question for us going into 2015 was how will the governments respond in terms of their budget spending to declining oil prices … and the results we’ve seen today are quite encouraging.’”

Are Egyptian women statistically among the heaviest in the world? Bloomberg believes so, marshaling UN and OECD data to come up with a table that women in Egypt, Jordan, South Africa, the United States and Syria as being among the five heaviest populations of females globally. There’s no context to any of the data, but it’s one of several dozen data tables to be found on Bloomberg Visual Data, including banks with the most assets worldwide, lowest-paying and most-dangerous jobs and largest M&A deals of all time. The homepage for the project is here; make sure you don’t just scroll, but also check the topical dropdown menus.

First, some idiot broke King Tut’s goatee. Then, they re-attached it with superglue. You may now weep. Details from Al-Ahram Online or the AP, close-up photo on Egyptian Streets.


President Abdel Fattah El Sisi travelled yesterday to Davos accompanied by the ministers of industry and trade, finance, foreign affairs and the governor of the CBE, according to an emailed statement from Ittihadiya.

Thursday, 22 January, 11:30 CET / 12:30 Cairo time: The President will speak at a special session Thursday titled Egypt in the World. As noted above, the live webcast should be available here. This evening, the Forum will host a dinner in the President’s honor, attended by 70 CEOs of leading multinational corporations interested in exploring investment opportunities in Egypt.

Friday 23 January: The President will preside over a closed meeting with 52 VIPs, including heads of states, ministers, heads of international organizations and prominent public figures.

On the sidelines of the Forum, the President will meet with a number of world leaders, including the King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan His Majesty King Abdullah II, President of the Swiss Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.

Mustafa Abdel-Wadood, partner at private equity firm Abraaj Capital was interviewed by CNBC for his comments on the Egyptian economy and his expectations for President El Sisi’s speech. Running time:  (Watch)

As the forum enters its second day, you can follow all the developments from the official website here.

FT Davos 2015 – What to expect: “World and business leaders are descending on Davos for the annual World Economic Forum. The FT’s Lionel Barber, Martin Wolf and Gideon Rachman provide their views on the big issues and themes likely to dominate the conference this year.” Running time: 5 minutes. (Watch)

CNBC interviews Qalaa Holdings’ Ahmed Heikal at Davos Economic Forum: Chairman and Founder Ahmed Heikal responding to a question as to what he thought would be the main topics of conversation at Davos this year, replied: “The general economic slowdown in China and Europe, added pressure on oil and food prices to fall, as well as the low interest rate environment … Regarding Qalaa Holdings, our past three quarters were very impressive and our full year financials will be even more so. We expect 2015 to be a good year for the company.” Running time: 8 minutes 7 seconds. (Watch)

Amr Moussa will be part of a panel on Friday 23 January titled Regions in Transformation: The Arab World.


President El Sisi speaks to Japan’s Prime Minister Abe: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi made a call on Tuesday to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe to follow up on Abe’s visit to Egypt from 16-17 January, according to a statement from the Presidency. The President reiterated that Egypt looks forward to boosting mutual cooperation and to Japan’s continued role in supporting the growth of Egypt’s economy, and renewed the invitation to Abe to participate in the economic conference to be held in Sharm El Sheikh in March.

Mending ties with Morocco: President El Sisi accepted an invitation to visit Morocco by Moroccan King Mohammed VI on Tuesday during a call, and reciprocated with his own invitation, according to an emailed release. The President reiterated he values the longstanding relations between the two countries, and praised the positions of King Mohammed VI in support of the choices of the Egyptian people in the aftermath of the 30 June revolution.

Putin likely to visit Egypt in February: Russian President Vladimir Putin will probably schedule his visit to Egypt during the first ten days of February, sources have told Al-Borsa. Both governments are currently maintaining open lines of communication to make ready for the Russian President’s arrival. (Read in Arabic)


There is a confluence of negative human rights coverage of Egypt, none of which necessarily adds anything that hasn’t been said before. Rather, the reports serve as retrospectives of the past year to four years or more, along with the implicit critique that problems which have compounded over decades should have been solved by now, or that those problems are getting are worse. In one day (yesterday), Amnesty (noted  in yesterday’s issue), Human Rights Watch, Bloomberg, the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP), and the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) all released highly critical reports of Egypt focusing on human rights. All the reports have in common a focus on criticism of human rights abuses – some of which have time spans of years or decades, many conflating issues of free public assembly and economic growth, a smaller minority with an implicit left-leaning bent. In brief:

Circles of Hell, Amnesty International. First mentioned in yesterday’s issue, the report argues that successive governments have failed to move beyond superficial improvements to the status of women. (Download the 88-page report as a pdf) This story continues to generate attention, with pickups by Time, Huffington Post, Juristand the Iranian PressTV.

Egypt: Rash of Deaths in Custody: The Human Rights Watch report chronicles allegations of deaths in police custody in 2014. (Read) The report is prominently covered by Al Jazeera America.

Meet the New Egypt, Same as Old Egypt, Four Years After Uprising, on Bloomberg: Tarek El-Tablawy writes something about Egyptians trying to find the equilibrium of a new normal with blast walls put up around Cairo. After several re-reads, this writer still isn’t completely sure what point or conclusion El-Tablawy was going for, or why this article is marked as news rather than commentary. (Read)

Egypt’s Long Walk to Despotism, by Amro Ali for TIMEP. A long read that argues that Egyptians are currently in a state of voluntary servitude to a despotic system, but warns that such voluntary servitude cannot sustain authoritarianism for long. (Read)

Meanwhile: Egypt is on the sidelines of a spat between the New Yorker’s Peter Hessler — best known as a China hand, but now reporting on Egypt — and the editors of state-run China Daily. Seems the China Daily interviewed Hessler, then spun an op-ed out of his comparison of China and Egypt. And, well, just might have laced the op-ed with a little bit of pro-China propaganda. (Read)


Conflicting views of Islam spill onto the soccer pitch, by James M. Dorsey, senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. Dorsey takes a reprieve from the usual doom and gloom that he pours onto the pages of Daily News Egypt to write on a topic on which he knows a lot about – the politics of Middle East soccer, having previously authored a book titled ‘The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.’ This surprisingly positive blog post on the societal, religious and security significance of allowing Sarah Samir to become the first female referee in Egypt, juxtaposed with the recent slayings 13 young boys by Daesh in Iraq for simply watching the Asian Cup on television.

Other than being a stark contrast to Dorsey’s usual writing on Egypt, it’s also a counterbalance to Amnesty’s recent critique (noted yesterday as well as again today below) that Egypt’s efforts to reform the status of women are only symbolic. While the criticism is duly noted, the point that may be missed is the power that such symbolism may have on countless Egyptians. This should also be read in mind with the recent statementissued by the Ministry of Awqaf in association with the National Council for Women calling upon women to volunteer as preachers in women’s sections of mosques. Note that rather than this statement being calling for something new, it appears the intent is that the system is once again opened up to women volunteer preachers as before Adly Mansour’s interim administration. It is unclear from Awqaf’s announcement if these volunteers will require licensing.  (Read Conflicting views of Islam spill onto the soccer pitch, and please don’t be put off by his blog’s bizarre color scheme)


The best part of Tuesday night’s U.S. State of the Union address. Running time: 9 seconds. (Watch)

Editorial note: Yes, there was a comeback but it’s funnier this way. Also, the comeback wasn’t that great.


Last summer’s electricity crisis will not be repeated — Minister of Electricity
Al Borsa | 21 Jan 2015
The Minister of Electricity reiterated the ministry’s commitment to increase the country’s capacity to produce electricity as he unequivocally said that last summer’s energy crisis will not be replicated next summer. The issue is one of national security according to the minister. The Ministry has undertaken projects to increase electricity production capacity by 3.5GW along with other initiatives to improve the efficiency of stations currently in service. (Read in Arabic)

Egypt’s Sisi outlines national energy policy at World Future Energy Summit
Platts | 21 Jan 2015
Continuing coverage of the president’s remarks at the Abu Dhabi industry gathering, with the crux being: “Key pillars of the emerging energy policy would include measures to increase oil and gas production; diversifying the power generation sector to encompass “clean coal” technology and nuclear energy, as well as more gas and renewable energy to displace fuel oil thermal power generation; a five-year program of fuel and electricity subsidy reform; accelerating repayment of government debts to international contractors; and optimizing exploitation of Egypt’s geographic position between oil producers and consumers, especially through a project to expand the Suez Canal and associated oil pipelines.” (Read)

60% of all power stations repaired by the end of the month — Ministry of Electricity
Al Mal | 20 Jan 2015
The Ministry of Electricity will complete repairs to 60% of the country’s power stations by the end of the month, according to a source within the ministry speaking to Al Mal. 140 units have been repaired so far with a total capacity of 14GW, and the ministry expects to be done with repairing all units by May. In order to improve the efficiency of the power stations, the ministry  is also reducing the usage of heavy fuel oil as an input and will rely more on natural gas instead. (Read in Arabic)

OTMT wins EGP 1 bn contract to build three power stations in Aswan and Minya
Amwal Al Ghad | 21 Jan 2015
Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding announced it was awarded an EGP 1 bn contract to build three new power stations in Upper Egypt. The power stations will be built in Aswan as well as two in East and West of Minya. OTMT’s Deputy CEO also said that the company is considering expanding in participating in transport project. (Read in Arabic)


EGPC to build three new pipelines to transport butane gas domestically
Al Mal | 21 Jan 2015
EGPC announced its plans to build three pipelines with a total length of 500km to transport butane gas to Egyptian cities. The pipelines will deliver the gas to Assiyut, Sohag, Fayoum, Beni Suef, and El Ain El Sokhna. EGPC’s plans also include building eight new storage cisterns with a capacity of over 80 thousand tons, with about 70% of their capacity going to serve Upper Egypt. (Read in Arabic)

BG Egypt’s receivables from EGPC down to USD 920 mn
Al Borsa | 21 Jan 2015
EGPC’s payments to IOCs in 2014 drove BG Egypt’s receivables down to USD 920 mn, BG Egypt’s President Arshad Sufi said during an interview with Al Borsa. Sufi praised the Egyptian government’s willingness and speed to respond to market demands and change policy like it did with adjusting the natural gas purchase price. BG also expect the results of its seismic survey of its West Delta Deep Marine concession this year. During the interview, Sufi also noted news we previously covered in Enterprise, including the linking with BP infrastructure and the development of BG’s 9A West Delta site. (Read in Arabic)

Ministry of Petroleum expects daily gas shortage of 1.017 tcf despite imports
Al Borsa | 21 Jan 2015
The Ministry of Petroleum is expecting a shortage in Egypt’s natural gas of 1.017 tcf a day in FY2015 / 16, and this is after taking the agreed upon daily imports of 0.5 tcf into consideration. Average natural gas production is expected to reach 5 tcf per day, down from 5.03 tcf per day in FY2014/15. 3.48 tcf of the daily production will go to supply power plants, up from 3.23 tcf. The supply plan also includes pumping 100 mcf daily to the Idku liquefaction plant with a possibility of exporting 100 mcf to Jordan – if the quantities are available. (Read in Arabic)


Ministry of Finance cancels EGP 2.2 bn subsidy to the National Railways
Al Borsa | 21 Jan 2015
The Ministry of Transport is currently looking into different financing option to fund the Egyptian National Railways’ expansion plan after the Ministry of Finance cancelled EGP 2.2 bn in subsidies to the sector. The expansion plan involved initiatives to improve monitoring and safety standards. Representatives from the Ministry of Transport will hold meetings with others from the ministries of Finance and Planning to discuss possible funding options. (Read in Arabic)


Government raises GDP growth forecast to 4%
Al Borsa | 21 Jan 2015
The Egyptian government has raised its economic growth rate forecast to 4% from 3.5% in FY2014 / 15. The upgrade followed better-than-expected performance in the first quarter of the fiscal year with growth reaching 6.8%. Al Borsa mentions en passant that Q2 growth rates, which have not yet been published officially, recorded 5.7% – also significantly higher than expected. A Ministry of Planning consultant expects a revival of the tourism sector and the resumption of manufacturing operations to contribute to the higher economic growth rates. (Read in Arabic)

Government might just amend investment law, not issue a completely new one
Al Borsa, Al Ahram | 21 Jan 2015
The government may amend the current investment law rather than issue completely rewritten legislation, according to the VP of the economic legislations committee of the legislative reform committee Hisham Ragab. The issue is still being debated, Ragab said, but the absence of any consensus so far is increasing the likelihood of amending the existing law. Ragab also said that the legislative reforms committee aims to issue amendments to other business-related laws. Al Ahram is less equivocal with its coverage and notes that resorting to a series of amendments is the way forward and that issuing a new law is completely off the table. (Read in Arabic and here)

Maher, Doma, Abdel Fattah unlikely to be pardoned Sunday; Abdel Fattah moved to hospital wing after two months on hunger strike
Al-Shorouk, Reuters | 20 Jan 2015
High-profile youth activists Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Doma and Alaa Abdel Fattah are unlikely to be including on the widely anticipated 25 January pardon list President Abdelfattah El-Sisi is expected to issue on Sunday, security sources tell Al-Shorouk. Meanwhile, Reuters quotes a family member as saying Abdel Fattah has been transferred to a prison hospital after two months on hunger strike. (Read in Arabic or in Reuters)


Sudan and Ethiopia to establish joint economic committee
Al Shorouk | 21 Jan 2015
Sudan’s Minister of Investment announced the signing of an agreement to establish a joint economic committee with Ethiopia. The committee will be headed by Ethiopia’s deputy PM and Sudan’s VP. The agreement also includes the establishment of free trade zones and investment agreements to facilitate cross-country trade. (Read in Arabic)

VimpelCom reaches a resolution with Algeria’s government regarding the sale of Djezzy
Al Mal | 21 Jan 2015
VimpelCom announced it has resolved all the issues pertaining to its acquisition of 51% of the shares of telecom operator Djezzy. The official announcement and the details of the agreement are expected to be made public next week. (Read in Arabic)


Your Daily Erdogan: It seems that Erdogan’s impulse for wanting to see people dress up as medieval soldiers is not an individual eccentricity on his part, but rather part of a national fascination.

Turkish soap opera Muhtesem Yüzyıl (Magnificent Century) which portrays the life of Suleiman in the 16th century, has won loyal fans from Turkey, to Egypt, and to Israel. Haaretz covered this at the end of last month with: Forget about ‘Game of Thrones’: Turkish telenovela that enraged Erdogan is a hit in Israel. (Read)

It seems that the idea to have actual guards dress as Janissaries originated with AKP deputy Mustafa Kabakçı, who “floated the idea that Turkey could take a page from customs in several other countries and deploy men wearing Janissary uniforms for certain ceremonial occasions.”

Following the publication of the now infamous photo-op with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Turkish professor has been forced to resign for rightly pointing out that one of the soldiers standing behind Erdogan and Abbas clearly appears to be in some sort of bathrobe and not a medieval Janissary.

Erdogan seems to have accidentally inspired others to get dressed up, with protesting civil servants donning Janissary uniforms to draw attention to the fact that the AKP “are building palaces, but they say there is no money for public servants.”

Researchers have used lasers to create “self-cleaning surfaces” — surfaces that have tiny grooves which have successfully been laser-etched onto metals such as platinum, brass and titanium. The degree of superhydrophobicity achieved means that not only is water repelled, but it bounces off, as shown in this GIF. (Read Out of the groove in The Economist)

A 36-year old woman in Cairo became the sixth individual to die of H5N1 this year. (Read)

About 50 people protested last night in Tahrir Square, Reuters reports.

Travco brought c.700,000 tourists to Egypt last year, the most of any Egyptian tour operator, a company spokesman says in a piece carried by Daily News.


USD (CBE auction): 7.3401 (+0.05)
USD (parallel market): 7.93 (+0.05)

EGX30 (Wednesday): 9,856.30 (+0.53%)
Turnover: EGP 923.6 mn (35% above the 90-day average)

WTI: USD 47.44 (-0.71%)
Brent: USD 48.87 (-0.33%)

TASI: 8,393.8 (-1.1%)
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KSE: 445.2 (+0.7%)
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