Wednesday, 4 February 2015

PMI contracts for first time since July. BG could cut investment in Egypt by USD 4 bn. Pharos management buyout. Baligh to join Sigma as CEO. L’Oréal to open a new factory in 10 Ramadan City. Pressure on Europe to curb extremist websites, TV broadcasts.

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

We expect a slower news day on the government policy and business fronts given preoccupation with the hideous murder of Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot Muath Al Kasasbeh and international anticipation that imprisoned Al-Jazeera English bureau Mohamed Fahmy might be released as early as today after giving up his Egyptian citizenship. In connection with the latter, we’ll be looking for a negative reaction in the foreign press if there is no simultaneous movement in the case of producer Baher Mohamed, who unlike Fahmy and Peter Greste (released earlier this week) holds no foreign passport.

We’re also keeping a watchful eye on developments in the Saudi-Egyptian relationship, where a policy or business nod toward Egypt by the government of King Salman would go a long way toward dispelling the growing feeling that the King may be cooler toward Cairo than was his predecessor.

Finally, we expect the continued drumbeat of investment announcements to continue this week and next — particularly from the UAE and Kuwait — as the Sisi administration shores up the nation’s international profile ahead of both the visit next week of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the hotly anticipated Sharm economic conference.

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Reaction to the video of the barbaric murder of Jordanian pilot Muath Al Kasasbeh, who was burned alive by Daesh as early as 3 January 2015, dominated the discussion on last night’s talk shows.

Amr Adeeb praised the Jordanian government’s firm reaction to the savage murder.

“The immediate decision to execute suicide bomber Sajeda Al Rishawi and four other convicted terrorists in Amman tonight is the right thing to do in this situation. I would like to point out that this was a state decision, not a judicial decision. In cases like these it is imperative that the state becomes involved.”

[As we were dispatching, news came out that Al-Rishawi and an Iraqi named Ziyad Al-Kabouli, thought to be the most senior Daesh prisoner in Jordanian hands, were executed hours ago, just before dawn. Coveragehere.]

After airing the actual video of Al Kassabeh’s murder [to which we here at Enterprise will emphatically not be linking] Adeeb got so emotional that he nearly lost his mind and his voice.

“I never thought it would be possible to tarnish the image of Islam to this extent,” he said. “If there was ever anyone who wanted to intentionally annihilate Islam as a religion, they couldn’t have done a better job than these animals. Who are these people, who is funding them, where did they get those uniforms, where did they get the cameras? They have the physiques of trained killers; they are mercenaries with U.S. weapons, not merely volunteer fighters,” said Adeeb.  ”And yet your State Department is carrying on a dialogue with the Ikhwan. History has proven that your strategy doesn’t work — Sadat tried it and they killed him.

Added Ibrahim Eissa: “The entire world is talking about the video of the Jordanian pilot. This kind of viciousness is unprecedented … beheading, burning, burying alive. Then, like always, our sheikhs come out and say, ‘This is not Islam etc.’ while Daesh is quick to provide religious doctrine to support and legitimize their actions. Don’t be shocked by what I say, but they are right, there is hadith out there to support what they are doing — and anyone who denies this is a liar.

“These people are creating a parallel religion that can be called ‘sacred barbarianism’ which is based on faulty interpretations of historical facts,” said Eissa.

SPEED ROUND

Egypt’s headline PMI fell to 49.3 in January from 51.4 in December. The non-oil private sector contracted for the first time since July 2014 with companies lowering their purchasing activity, reducing new orders, and decreasing the size of the workforce. The report blames in part poor weather conditions and lower export orders on the back of the crisis in Russia. “The numbers show that Egypt’s recovery remains weak and vulnerable to downside risk. While we continue to [expect] an upward trajectory for the economy, the gains will come off a low base,” HSBC economist Razan Nasser is quoted in the document as saying. The full HSBC / Markit PMI report can be read here, while Reuters has coverage here.

BG could reduce spending in Egypt by USD 1 bn per year for the next four years, Egypt Independent reports in its coverage of the company’s fourth-quarter earnings. The move comes as the company looks set to reduce capital expenditures by as much as USD 7 bn this year amid slumping global appetite for hydrocarbons. BG also booked non-cash impairments related to Egypt of USD 775 mn after taxes, “principally driven by further reserve downgrades reflecting underlying reservoir performance, and a write-down of the Group’s investment in Egyptian LNG reflecting the Group’s expectation of limited LNG exports for the foreseeable future,” the company’s earnings release said (pdf download). The Wall Street Journal is among those with a bearish take on the company’s results, writing yesterday: “BG Group PLC is writing down the value of its oil and gas assets by nearly USD bn as the British natural gas producer adjusts to the plunge in oil prices. The charge, reported in Tuesday’s fourth-quarter earnings statement, capped a disappointing year for the U.K. company that was once a darling of investors.”

BG isn’t alone in tightening its belt: BP chief Bob Dudley is all over the press this morning after comments yesterday suggesting: “‘The fundamental supply and demand does remind me of 1986 a bit, where we could go into a period in this decade of lower oil prices,’ Dudley said a Bloomberg TV interview, adding prices may stay in a range below USD 60 for as long as three years. ‘It will be a long time before we see USD 100 again.’” Check out Bloomberg (text and video) or the FT, as you prefer.

Finance industry veteran and Pharos Holding Founder and Chairman Mohamed Taymour led a group of investors in a rare management buyout, acquiring 100% of Qalaa Holdings’ stake in the full-service investment bank. A news release issued overnight noted that Qalaa has inked a sale and purchase agreement to divest “its full 80% shareholding in Pharos Holding in a deal valuing 100% of Pharos Holding at c. EGP 40 mn.” The release quotes Taymour, who co-founded EFG Hermes, as saying, “We’re delighted to have concluded this transaction with Qalaa, which has been a trusted partner since our founding. We are looking forward to serving Qalaa as a client as we continue to build on an outstanding track record and capture the upside presented by the ongoing economic recovery in Egypt.” The sale comes as part of Qalaa’s strategy of “divesting “non-core businesses in a timely manner at the right valuations as we narrow our focus on core subsidiaries in sectors including energy, cement, agifoods, transportation & logistics and mining,” said Co-Founder and Managing Director Hisham El-Khazindar. Al-Mal has additional details, as does Reuters.

Maha Baligh to join Sigma Capital as chief executive officer, the firm announced yesterday, saying the asset management professional will take up her duties on 1 March 2015, with primary responsibility for “development of Sigma Asset Management and Sigma Capital Private Equity, in addition to contributing to the development of other SIGMA Capital lines of business,” the firm said in a news release. Baligh was previously CEO of Arab African Investments Holding Company, which she joined after a run with EFG Hermes Asset Management from 1995 through 2008, ultimately as managing director and head of asset management. Her personal track record includes having managed a fund noted by Standard & Poor’s as the best-performing fund in the world for three years.

The Financial Times is out this morning with a reasonably rare editorial criticizing Egypt:Egypt’s Sisi is selling delusions of stability” uses the international community’s welcome of the president at Davos to conclude that “At Davos he called on investors to come and inspect his Egypt at an economic summit next month. Yet economic development needs open politics and a reinvigorated society, not crony capitalism or the restoration of a security state that leaves militant Islamists as its only visible opponents.” Also in the FT this morning is a solid take from Heba Saleh: “Egyptian cotton in decline as farmers at mercy of world market” looks at how changes in the domestic market (including the ending of subsidies introduced last year) are intersecting with global dynamics.

One person was killed and three injured in a bomb attack yesterday in Alexandria, while another device exploded in Downtown Cairo, reportedly near Qasr El-Nil Street. Among the injured in Alexandria was a 12-year-old boy, Al-Arabiya says. NBC News has more, including brief video, as the story took off in the international press yesterday. Daily News, meanwhile, notes the Cairo and Alex attacks were among five nationwide yesterday.

Egypt is ramping up pressure on European countries to clamp down on extremist websites and broadcast outlets, including those linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. The move comes after Brotherhood-affiliated channels have threatened foreigners to leave Egypt by 11 February and openly called for the assassination of President Abdelfattah El-Sisi. (See examples here and here, among the half dozen to which we’ve linked in recent days.) Leading the effort is veteran troubleshooter Hatem Seif El-Nasr, Assistant Minister of European Affairs, who has reportedly taken the issue up with European ambassadors to Egypt. See more in Ahram Online or a MoFA press release. Meanwhile, Turkey signaled yesterday that it will do exactly nothing about three stations responsible for the hate-filled broadcasts — Al-Aan, Rabia and Al-Shark — as Hurriyet Daily News reported yesterday: “No official complaints have been lodged over TV stations with alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood broadcasting online to Egypt through Turkey, so no action on the issue is currently planned, the Turkish government has indicated. ‘If we receive an official demand on the issue we will consider sending recommendations to the related authorities,’ Turkish Foreign Ministry officials stated.”

Setting aside our feelings about the source, the Middle East Monitor picked up on Wael Ibrashi’s interview with Mohamed El-Orabi (who was briefly minister of foreign affairs under Essam Sharaf back in 2011) asking, in effect, whether Saudi Arabia’s King Salman is cooler toward Egypt than was the late King Abdullah. Whether or not that’s a “premature conclusion” as El-Orabi suggests, the question picks up on a thread of commentary we’ve heard from Riyadh in recent days and bears careful watching. (Transcript and video here)

It’s conventional wisdom to the business community, but Egyptian Federation of Industries chief Mohamed El Sewedy’s remarks yesterday explaining that the CBE is floating the pound ahead of the Sharm summit as part of its bid to win investment is a reminder that the sales job to the proverbial “Egyptian street” has just begun and probably deserves more effort and attention from all of us. (Read in Arabic)

Delek, Noble Energy will be forced to sell-off some Israeli gas reserves if they want to dodge monopoly charges, Reuters reported yesterday. Israeli Energy Minister Silvan Shalom indicated the move could ensure the two are not forced to take more drastic action by Israel’s antitrust authority. The government of Egypt remains interested in sourcing gas imports from both the Tamar and Leviathan fields (both controlled by Delek and Noble), while Arafa is leading the charge imports to serve industrial needs via its Dolfinus venture.

The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP) has a timeline with a good interface covering all the decrees that President Abedelfattah El Sisi has implemented since assuming office on 08 June 2014. (View the timeline here)

Could it be that everyone, not just Egyptians, is genetically hard-wired to be late for everything? That’s the takeaway in the Wall Street Journal this morning, where “We know why you’re always late“ looks at how the so-called “planning fallacy” that cites a study suggesting we underestimate the time it will take to complete a task by as much as 40%. Also included in the story: Suggested workarounds.

CORRECTIONS: Greek Defense Minister is a member of the Independent Greeks party, not Syriza.

WORTH WATCHING

Fifth wheel: This must-watch video is labeled as “funny” but in reality it’s just plain genius. Any further explanation or description will ruin the surprise. (Watch, running time: 1:35)

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

Coverage of Egypt in the international press overnight and into this morning was dominated almost entirely by follow-ups on the deportation of Australian journalist Peter Greste and the expectation that his colleague, former Al-Jazeera English Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy, could soon follow. Canada’s Globe & Mail has news that Fahmy, a dual Egyptian-Canadian citizen, appears to have been allowed by the Interior Ministry to renounce his Egyptian citizenship, while on social media MoI is reported to have said that Fahmy could some day re-enter the country on a tourist visa because “nationality is in the heart, not in a passport.” See coverage from BBC and CNN for additional examples. Media pundits, meanwhile, continue to use the AJE Three story as a jumping-off point for discussions of media freedom in Egypt (see, for example, The Atlantic).

Also competing for eyeballs this morning are follow-on stories of the confirmation of final death sentences against 183 alleged Brotherhood supporters found guilty of murdering 11 police officers and two civilians in the Kerdasa massacre of August 2013. See examples at CNN, the Guardian (carrying a Reuters report) and theLA Times.

Fox News’ love of President Abdelfattah El-Sisi rises to new heights this morning with a piece penned by Naguib Mahfouz biographer Raymond Stock titled “Egypt’s Muslim Churchill.” Stock uses El-Sisi’s “religious revolution” speech as his jumping off-point. (Read)

Human Rights Watch has taken up the case of Abdallah Shehata, a Morsi-era advisor at the Finance Ministry who once helped lead the country’s negotiations with the IMF, alleging that Shehata and his brother have been subject to coercive interrogation while in detention. (Read)

ENERGY, RENEWABLE ENERGY & SUBSIDY REFORM

PGESCo likely to be awarded consulting role to the West Cairo power station
Al Borsa | 03 Feb 2015
PGESCo will likely be awarded the consulting role for the West Cairo power station. Six other potential bidders for the contract have not submitted full applications. The power station has an investment value of USD 5 .4 bn. (Read in Arabic)

Butane storage capacity increased to 21 days
Al Borsa | 03 Feb 2015
EGPC will expand butane gas storage capacity by 85,000 tons by building storage depots in Alexandria and El Ain El Sokhna that would bring up the storage capacity to the equivalent of 21 days’ supply. Current storage capacity is 130,000 tons, with 53,000 tons located far away from Egyptian ports. (Read in Arabic)

OIL & GAS

A 400 km subsea pipeline to connect Cyprus’ Aphrodite well with Egypt’s Idku liquefaction plant
Al Borsa | 03 Feb 2015
Khaled Abdel Badie, the head of EGAS, talked to Al Borsa about the proposed plans to import gas from Cyprus. The delegation from Noble Energy, according to Abdel Badie, is in Egypt to discuss imports from the Cypriot Aphrodite well. Noble is considering connecting the production site to the BG and UFG owned liquefaction plant in Idku via a 400km-long pipeline. The pipeline cost will be split between the exporters (Cyprus and Noble Energy) and the importers (Egypt, BG, and UFG). Some technical issues are currently being resolved with Noble Energy and other financial and contractual issues with Cyprus, but Abdel Badie expects imports to actually begin by 2017. (Read in Arabic)

Production from the 9A gas wells to begin in June instead of March
Al Mal | 03 Feb 2015
Rashpetco, BG’s local affiliate, announced it will finish connecting the 9A gas wells to the national natural gas production network in June, instead of the scheduled date in March. Rashpetco has already completed connecting eight out of the nine wells of the 9A phase, with the last remaining well delayed only due to technical issues on site. The total production capacity targeted from this phase is 450 mcf, 250 mcf of which to go to supply the national electricity network. (Read in Arabic)

Petrobel to invest EGP 750 mn in FY 2015/16, add 270 mcf of gas in 1Q15
Al Mal, Al Masry Al Youm | 03 Feb 2015
Petrobel announced it will invest EGP 750 mn in E&P projects to reach a production level of 270 thousand barrels per day. The company also aims to dig a total of 34 new wells. Petrobel is also aiming to connect the production from the Deka concession to the national grid, with 270 mcf of natural gas expected to be added in 1Q15. (Read in Arabic and here)

MANUFACTURING

Kharafi Group to build car assembly plant in Qena
Al Borsa | 03 Feb 2015
Kharafi Group are currently in the process of obtaining final approvals to build an assembly facility for Mitsubishi vehicles, according to Bader Al Kharafi. The plant will be located in Qena. Kuwaiti telecommunications company, Zain, is also interested in investing in Egypt, according to Al Kharafi, who is also Zain’s deputy CEO. (Read in Arabic)

L’Oréal to open a new factory in 10 Ramadan City
Youm7 | 03 Feb 2015
French cosmetics and beauty products giant L’Oréal will launch operations at a new manufacturing facility in 10th of Ramadan City next week. The inauguration ceremony of the facility will be presided over by minister of industry, Fakhry Abdel Nour, and the minister of investment, Ashraf Suleiman. The state-of-the-art facility is the first of its kind in the Middle East. (Read in Arabic)

Pirelli Egypt to finalize studies for USD 100 mn expansion of tire plant by year’s end —Managing Director
Daily News | 02 Feb 2015
Studies for the USD 100 mn expansion of Pirelli’s Egyptian tires plant, the MoU about which we reported in November 2014 during President Abdelfattah El-Sisi’s visit to Italy, will be complete by year’s end. The expansion will add to the company’s tire production capacity, with the original announcement having pegged it as a 300,000 unit-per-year hike and more recent coverage in Daily News putting the figure at 200,000. (Read)

HEALTHCARE

MoH issues list of 5 counterfeit Betadine pharmaceutical, orders their removal from shelves
Masr Al Arabia | 03 Feb 2015
The Ministry of Health’s Central Authority for Pharmaceutical Affairs issued two orders enforcing a stoppage of all sales and the immediate removal of suspected counterfeit versions of five Betadine products. (Read in Arabic)

MoH to release Sovaldi on 1 May of this year
Mada El-Balad | 03 Feb 2015
Ministry of health spokesman, Hussam Abdel Ghaffar, announced that 19 companies have received licenses to manufacture the Sovaldi Hep C drug in Egypt, with 4 companies already in the final stages of rolling out of the product to pharmacies across the country by 1 May, where it will be sold off the counter at a price of EGP 2460 per treatment. Insured patients will be able to purchase the drug for EGP 1400. (Read in Arabic)

TELECOMS

Unified license negotiations on track –CIT Minister
Amwal Al Ghad | 03 Feb 2015
CIT minister Atef Helmy denied any significant disagreements at the negotiations for the unified telecommunications licence. The negotiations are going smoothly, the minister said, and the licence is expected to be launched “within days.” The licence will grant Telecom Egypt to provide mobile services for a fee of EGP 2.5 bn, while allowing the existing mobile operators to provide landline services as well as a gateway to international calls. (Read in Arabic)

IBM to boost investments and create more jobs in Egypt, says President’s spokesman
Youm7 | 03 Feb 2015
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met with Ginni Rometty, Chairman and CEO of international computer giant IBM, today in Cairo. The President and Rometty were joined by Attef Helmy, CIT minister, and discussed increasing the use of information technologies to aid in the country’s development and help alleviate poverty. According to the president’s spokesman, Alaa Youssef, Rometty had stated that IBM seeks to tap into Egypt’s burgeoning and increasingly educated youth population to further its operations in Egypt, which have been present since the 1950s. (Read in Arabic)

BASIC MATERIALS & COMMODITIES

Fino bread priced at around EGP 0.05 a piece with smart cards, says minister of supply
Aswat Misreya | 03 Feb 2015
Minister of Supply and Domestic Trade Khaled Hanafy announced today the roll-out of fino bread under the new smart-card system in Cairo and priced for around EGP 0.05 per loaf. The smart-card system provides each eligible citizen with 150 loaves through 10 state agency vendors across Cairo. He added the General Authority for Supply Commodities will spearhead extending the policy nationwide. (Read in Arabic: Aswat Misreya; Al Borsa)

Cement prices as of 03 February
Watny | 03 Feb 2015
Watny’s online publication released the prices across the Egyptian cement sector as of 3 February, which are as follows: Arabia Cement EGP 615/ton, Portland Tora Cement 620/ton, Helwan Cement EGP 620/ton, and lastly, Masr Qena Cement EGP 620/ton. On a related note, representatives from the aforementioned companies met with the government’s High Committee for Environmental Affairs to discuss the environmental impact of the government’s plan to reduce the amount of natural gas supplied to cement companies, replacing it with cheaper alternative forms of energy, such as TDF (Tire Derived-Fuel) and recycled oil. (Read in Arabic)

BANKING & FINANCE

Hisham Ramez: The CBE will beat the black-market:
Al-Mal | 03 Feb 2015
Central Bank Governor Hisham Ramez sent a stern message to dollar black market dealers during a conversation with members of the Egyptian community in Kuwait, reportedly saying, “Those who own dollars at the moment and are trading on the black market won’t be needing them.” (Read in Arabic)

Government to postpone USD 1.5 bn bond issuance — out of caution or fear?
Al-Mal | 03 Feb 2015
Al-Mal offers market commentary on a decision to postpone the USD 1.5 bn international bond issuance until after the Sharm summit. Former Finance Minister Momtaz El Said said the delay will allow the state to carry out the issuance with preferential interest rates, while former Tax Authority boss Ashraf Al-Arab says the delay will make the government appear to lack confidence. Al-Mal notes that preparations for the issuance continue apace, with no sign the Sisi administration is backing away from the issuance. (Read in Arabic)

OTHER BUSINESS NEWS OF NOTE

Al Shaya to invest USD 3 bn in Egypt
Al Borsa | 03 Feb 2015
Following a meeting with PM Mehleb, Kuwaiti businessman Mohamed El Shaya expressed his willingness to advise the Egyptian government as well as his interest in investing in Egypt. In total, Al Shaya plans to invest USD 3 bn over four years to build a new shopping mall. PM Mehleb noted it was possible to sign the contract for Al Shaya’s mall before the Sharm investment summit. (Read in Arabic)

EGYPT POLITICS + ECONOMICS

Egypt considering contributing to the AfDB’s Africa50 Infrastructure Fund
Amwal Al Ghad | 02 Feb 2015
The Egyptian government is mulling a contribution to the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Africa50 Infrastructure Fund’s capital. The fund targets pumping USD 3 bn in infrastructure projects in African states within 10 years. The fund has an initial size of USD 3 bn but is set to grow to USD 10 bn. Egypt is set to have a share in the fund’s projects, with the details of these projects likely to be announced during or after the Sharm investment summit. (Read)

Businesses relocating from Egypt to Algeria baseless rumor -Minister of Trade
Youm7 | 03 Feb 2015
Reports of major foreign investors pulling out major Egyptian projects to invest them in Algeria are unsubstantiated and categorically false, as confirmed by Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Mounir Fakhry in an interview with Youssef El Husseiny of OnTV. The minister added that foreign investors are seeking a market of over a billion consumers, an opportunity afforded to them when operating in COMESA, of which Egypt remains a vital gateway. (Read in Arabic)

REGIONAL

Abraaj Group invests in Turkey’s leading mattress and sleep products manufacturer, exporter and retailer, BRN Sleep Products
Zawya | 03 Feb 2015
Abraaj Group announced today the acquisition of a stake in Turkish mattress and sleep products manufacturer, exporter and retailer BRN Sleep Products, through its Anatolia Growth Capital Fund in partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). (Read)

African capital markets raised USD 11 bn in IPO, follow-on cash in 2014
Ventures Africa
2014 had been an interesting year for investments in East and Sub-Saharan Africa. According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), African equity markets raised USD 11 bn dollars from IPOs and follow-on proceeds in 2014, the highest level of activity in African equity capital markets over the previous five years. The report adds that the continent’s capital markets grew by USD 37.4 bn on the back of proceeds raised from 2010 to 2014, with expectations that 2015 will be another positive year for ECM activity. (Read)

ON YOUR WAY OUT

Bassem Youssef will be taking up a resident fellowship post at Harvard’s Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government for the upcoming Spring semester, according to a tweet by Youssef last Thursday as reported by UT San Diego. (Read)

While the cost of sourcing hard currency on the black market has been factored into goods for some time now, Supply Minister Khaled Hanafi says the price of domestic staples remains largely unchanged because the ministry has worked overtime to raise supplies in the market. (Read in Arabic)

BY THE NUMBERS

USD CBE auction (Monday): 7.5301 (unchanged)
USD parallel market (Tuesday): – no quote –

EGX30 (Tuesday): 9,954.34 (+1.26%)
Turnover: EGP 1 bn

WTI: USD 52.10 (-1.79%)
Brent: USD 57.36 (-0.95%)

TASI: 9,227.4 (+0.2%)
ADX: 4,591.7 (+1.4%)
DFM: 3,893.7 (+2.5%)
KSE: 444.7 (+0.01%)
QE: 12,279.4 (+1.3%)
MSM: 6,648.8 (+1.1%)

 

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