Sunday, 8 February 2015

USD 10 bn sovereign fund in doubt. New governors appointed. Oil deals worth USD 9.2 bn in the pipeline. CBE international reserves stable in January. Five companies in Egypt’s IPO pipeline. Carrefour to open new branches, use more Egyptian goods.

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING THIS WEEK

We’re tracking a handful of stories closely this week after a busy news weekend. Among them:

  • Are our GCC allies planning a USD 10 bn sovereign fund to benefit Egypt — or are they not? Al-Mal casts doubt on the story (broken by Youm7 and confirmed by the Financial Times).
  • What do the new governors have up their sleeves — not just in Giza, but nationwide? We’re anticipating a flurry of announcements as the new (relatively youthful) appointees look to make a bang as part of the Sisi administration’s PR blitz ahead of the Sharm conference.
  • How much longer does the black market have to run? After demand in the parallel market dried-up almost entirely on Thursday following the imposition of hard-currency deposit restrictions, we’re looking for details this week of an extraordinary currency auction. Speculation, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm, is that the black market has about a month and a half left to live.

Also worth keeping an eye on:

  • Registration for parliamentary candidates opens today at 9 am and will remain open for the next 10 days. Ahmed Ezz’s lawyer confirms he will be among those submitting papers.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to arrive in Cairo tomorrow (Monday, 9 February). More on his upcoming visit may be found below following the Speed Round; we’re expecting progress on an oil and gas deal.
  • The Egyptian Petroleum Research Institute International conference begins today and runs until Tuesday, 10 February. Read more about the conference here.
  • 10 February (Tuesday): Cityscape Egypt Business Breakfast, Four Seasons Hotel at Nile Plaza.

Oh, and the EGX30 is up about 11.6% so far this year.

** DID YOU MISS ENTERPRISE ON THURSDAY? **

A number of readers failed to receive Enterprise on Thursday due to overzealous email algorithms. As is the case every day, Thursday’s issue (which included extensive coverage of Hisham Ramez’s currency decisions) is posted online here within a moment or two of its release.

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Two stories featured prominently on last night’s talk shows: the appointment of new governors and the announcement that Ahmed Ezz is running for parliament.

Lamees El Hadidy took phone calls from the new governor of Sohag and the new deputy governor of Cairo,Gehan Abdel Rahman.  She commended the new appointees, the vast majority of which are civilians and (relatively) young in age. According to El Hadidy the average age of the new governors is 49.

“We have never seen this before. The new governor of Beni Suef is 38 years old! I’m also very happy that the deputy governor of Cairo is a woman,” said El Hadidy.

Central Bank Governor Hisham Ramez called in to reassure viewers that dollars will be available to both businesses and individuals in the banks. He firmly and quickly dismissed any criticism of his decision to place a limit on foreign currency deposits, which stand at USD 10k per day and no more than USD 50k in a month.

“We cannot continue to have a parallel market. This decision is for the benefit of everyone in this country. I’m uninterested in listening to the criticism; we cannot let fear of being criticized deter us from doing what’s right,” said Ramez.

“The Central Bank is not doing this for the [Sharm] conference. I am doing this because it’s the right thing to do. I want everyone to work — including the currency exchanges — but at a smaller profit margin that is within reason. I’m not trying to shut them down completely. What this country needs in order to stand on its own two feet is people who will make bold decisions and stick to them. We cannot merely rely on outside help,” saidRamez.

In the studio, El Hadidy hosted former army general, intelligence official and strategy expert Sameh Seif El Yazal, political analyst Emad Gad, writer Lamis Gaber and Mahmoud Badr of Tamaroud fame. The eclectic group are some of the more prominent members of a new party list that has popped up called “Fi Hob Misr” (for the Love of Egypt). Fi Hob Misr billboards began appearing a few days ago with President Sisi’s photo and a backdrop of the Egyptian flag. They can easily be confused with Tahya Misr billboards.

“Who are you and what do you want,” asked El Hadidy.

“As our name suggests we are a group of people who really love Egypt. A group of individuals from various backgrounds and political affiliations who came together to fill a void,” said Seif El Yazal. “We think this is the most important parliament that Egypt will ever have, so we felt that we had to step up to ensure that there are qualified candidates. There has been a tremendous amount of interest in our movement since we made the announcement on Wednesday.”

Among those also on the Fi Hob Misr list — which includes 120 names in total — are former Free Egyptians party leader Ahmad Saeed, the Federation of Egyptian Industries’ Mohamed El Sewedy, businessman Mohamed Farrag Amer and former parliamentarian Mostafa El Guindy.

El Hadidy asked her panel what they thought about Ahmed Ezz’s announcement. All three responded with various degrees of negativity.

“It’s shocking,” said Gad. “The revolution was against two people, Ahmed Ezz and Gamal Mubarak, so even if there isn’t anything that can legally keep him from running, ethically he cannot.”

Amr Adeeb was also rather preoccupied with the issue of whether or not it’s kosher for former NDP figures like Ahmed Ezz to participate in the political process post-revolution, devoting more than half his program toEzz.

“There is nothing in the law that can stop him. He hasn’t been convicted of a crime yet, he has the money to run, and he is extremely popular within his own constituency. Does anyone care anymore whether or not he runs?”

Adeeb took a call from Ezz’s lawyer Mohamed Hammouda, who confirmed on air that Ezz is indeed planning enter the parliamentary election.

“Anyone who knows him well knows that he is a good person and that he hasn’t done anything wrong,” said Hammouda. “There is nothing to legally keep him from running. There are still two cases related to El Dekhela that are being appealed, and if it so happens that he is found guilty after he is a member of parliament, then he will simply be removed from his seat. He will not have any sort of immunity. Its important to clarify that immunity is not the reason he is running. He is running because we should not deprive Egypt and the Egyptian people of his expertise. He can make a very positive contribution to the future economic policies of this country.”

[Al-Masry Al-Youm has a take this morning on why Ezz is running.]

SPEED ROUND

On Thursday, we covered news — first reported by Youm7 — that Egypt’s Gulf allies were creating a USD 10 bn “sovereign fund” for Egypt in advance of the Sharm economic conference. The report was subsequently confirmed by the FT’s Heba Saleh, who said a senior government official had confirmed to her that the sovereign fund would “would invest in renewable energy, infrastructure projects and job creation schemes … It will also fund projects in health and education.” From Al-Mal this morning comes news that it might all have been a mirage: The paper quotes what it says is a statement from the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying Egypt will not be receiving additional funds before the Sharm summit, which in all cases is not a “donor conference.”

The Oil Ministry is working to finalize three deals worth a combined USD 9.2 bn, Reuters reported on Friday in a long piece arguing that Egypt’s “willingness to push fuel market reforms and stick to debt repayment plans has led to an unexpected resurgence in oil and gas exploration and supply deals previously delayed by political upheaval.” About USD 2.9 bn in fresh investment has already flowed into E&P activities since November 2013. It’s a must read if you want an overview of state-of-play and an argument in favor of staying the course on subsidy reform.

17 new governors were appointed yesterday, including Giza, Alexandria, Luxor, and Port Said. Find the full list (in Arabic) here and in-depth profiles in English at the Atlantic Council here.

The Central Bank of Egypt’s net international reserves stayed largely flat in January, inching up USD 100 mn from December to register USD 15.43 bn.

At least five Egyptian companies are set to go public this year and could raise as much as USD 1.75 bn, the UAE’s The National reports. Among those likely to list, the report says, are “Edita Food Industries, a cake and biscuit maker; Emaar Misr, a unit of Dubai’s Emaar Properties; Integrated Diagnostics Holdings (IDH), a private sector healthcare firm; Egyptian Centres, a unit of Saudi Arabia’s Fawaz Alhokair Group; and Engineering & Construction Group, a unit of the Egypt-based construction firm OCI.”

The Ministry of Industry and Trade is seeking Cabinet approval amend the nation’s corporate laws. Details about the proposed amendments are yet to be published. (Read in Arabic)

U.S. law firm Shearman & Sterling, whose Paris-based counsel Mohamed Shelbaya is representing Egypt and its state-owned companies in four cases of international arbitration, is planning to open an office in Cairo pending approval from Egyptian authorities, trade industry publication Legal Business reports. Notably, Shearman’s managing partner for the Middle East is Marwan Elaraby; the Abu Dhabi based lawyer was previously managing director at Qalaa Holdings and executive director at EFG Hermes’ investment banking division.

Pioneers Holding increased their bid for Arab Dairy to EGP 64.3 per share, a 2.06% increase over Lactalis’ most recent bid.

GB Auto EGM approves increase of company’s issued capital by c. EGP 960 mn to fuel growth:An EGM of shareholders approved an EGP 960 mn capital increase, according to an emailed press release on Thursday. The capital increase will be used primarily to grow their tires and motorcycle and three-wheeled vehicles business, as well as be channeled to possible regional expansion as opportunities arises. “The tradable rights issue will see existing shareholders given the opportunity to subscribe to 960 million new shares on a pro-rata basis at par (EGP 1 per share, plus issuance fees of LE 0.01 per share); shareholders exercising their right to subscribe may settle in cash or through capitalization of shareholder loans to the company.” Meanwhile, EFG Hermes has announced that they will be suspending research coverage on GB as the investment bank is acting as an advisor on the capital increase.

Mohamed ElBaradei’s Dostour party will boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections, Ahram Online reported. The party cited the Sisi administrations having “not released a number of detained youths as promised” and further noted that “the protest law hasn’t been amended, which has put many behind bars.” Dostour joins Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh’s Strong Egypt party and Hamdeen Sabbahi’s Popular Current, which announced boycotts last week.

WCO MENA Heads of Customs regional meeting: The World Customs Organization (WCO) MENA Heads of Customs held their regional meeting in Cairo on Monday of last week to follow up on the Policy Commission’s deliberations from last December, according to a WCO statement. Secretary General of the WCO Kunio Mikuriya “presented the way forward in respect of several key areas: implementation of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement through the WCO’s Mercator Programme; performance measurement; the regional Strategic Plans and regional structures; and the procedures for the elections to the WCO Director posts at the upcoming Council sessions.” (Read)

Meanwhile, according to the Algeria Press Service, the Director of the Egyptian Customs Authority Majdi Abdelaziz met with the Director General of Algerian Customs Mohamed Abdou Bouderbala on the sidelines of the aforementioned meeting to discuss a draft customs cooperation agreement which is set to be signed in April in Cairo. (Read)

The dates for the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) have been set for 02-06 March, as mentioned in an emailed press release from the Cairo Press Center of the State Information Service on Thursday.

Egyptian military kills 27 militants in the Sinai -Reuters: “Military air strikes killed 27 Islamic militants in Egypt’s Northern Sinai on Friday in one of the biggest security operations in the region in months, security sources said.” Other reports claim weekend operations by the military resulted in 47 deaths, with as many as 25 of those killed having been foreign fighters. (Read)

An 18-year old boy named Paula Mansour Fawzi was killed when the KFC at which he workedin Munufiya was set ablaze by assailants on motorcycles, who later opened fire. Two other KFC branches were set alight recently, with the Munufiya attack later being praised by the so-called Giza Popular Resistance Group.

Idiots stole bananas from the primate enclosure at the Alexandria Zoo, Al-Shorouk reports.

Cairo’s population will be in the neighborhood of 24.5 mn by 2030, judging from the Economist’s latest data gadget “Bright lights, big cities” on the rise of the global mega-city. Check it out from your mobile device if you like, but it works best on a laptop or desktop.

SMEs will make an appearance at the Sharm economic conference, Al-Mal reports, saying SME projects in agriculture-related sectors including fertilizers, cleantech, agricultural products, pesticides, and scientific research have been forwarded to prime minister’s office for review. (Read in Arabic)

The United States released its Security Strategy 2015 (you can find it here) although as David Rothkopf of American tabloid FP Magazine notes: “Of course, if you are like most Americans, you won’t ever read it at all. Which is just as well. Along with being devoid of strategy, the document is also devoid of surprises or new ideas … To be fair, most documents like this read like brochures. (Although thanks to its language and its focus, this one has more the feel of the annual report of a really big NGO than it does an official planning document of the most powerful nation the earth has ever known) … and it all seems as though it was drafted by a junior writer for Madame Secretary.” (Read Rothkopf’s takedown ‘Rice Pudding‘)

Qatar doesn’t just use slave labor to build its stadiums, it then has to hire people to sit in the stands and cheer. (Read in Slate about what the recent handball tournament in Qatar says about the future of sports)

‘Qatar’s embattled Brotherhood exiles see hope in new Saudi king’: In a highly speculative piece, Reuters tries looking for signs as to which direction King Salman is going to regarding the Brotherhood. The article actually contains nothing useful, save for the reminders of how emboldened Qatar has become since the passing of King Abdullah, and Salman’s silence so far on the matter. (Read)

You know that technical assistance the UAE is supposed to be providing us? How about lobbying them to rent us the services of Issam Kazim? Read: “Interview: Dubai Tourism CEO on Branding Dubai for the Future“ in Skift.

Greece wants no more bailout money with strings: The new Greek government does not want more conditional bailout money from the ECB, Reuters reports, but rather wants permission to issue more short term debt, “and to receive profits that the European Central Bank and other central banks have gained from holding Greek bonds.” What the Greek government is characterizing as a bridge agreement. (Read)

The Wall Street Journal has a nice profile this morning on Lazard’s Matthieu Pigasse, the “self-described pro-market socialist” and a man “with a taste for punk rock” who heads the company’s government advisory arm — the arm that is presently advising Greece, Ukraine and (it would seem) Egypt. (Read)

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IN FOCUS: PUTIN’S VISIT TO EGYPT

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is visiting Cairo on Monday. Reuters was informed he will likely discuss closer oil and gas cooperation with Egypt (potentially expediting and finalizing the Gazprom LNG deal). Putin’s assistant and former ambassador to the USA, Yuri Ushakov, reportedly said Russia will proposebuilding the complete necessary infrastructure for nuclear reactors. Also being discussed is the possibility of establishing a free trade agreement between Egypt and the Eurasian Economic Union.

On Egypt’s part, the Minister of Industry and Trade said that, among proposed joint projects and enhanced cooperation in many fields, the government has already allocated land for a Russian industrial zone in Attaqah. However, the Minister noted that Russia refused an Egyptian request to exempt its Russian wheat purchases from the export duty that came into effect in February.

Dina Ezzat, who handles the diplomatic beat for Ahram Online, notes that Egypt and Russia see eye-to-eye on the position that any future resolution of Syria’s civil war may see Assad still in power, especially in light of diminishing enthusiasm in Saudi for regime change in Damascus. Ezzat notes that discussions on a political solution in Syria will be high on the agenda between President El Sisi and Putin during the latter’s visit. (Read)

WORTH READING

Why Do Many Seemingly Reasonable People Doubt Science? In less-polite words, National Geographic asks why are we burdened with so many stupid people: Holocaust deniers, climate change deniers, anti-vaccination people, people who mistakenly think they are part of the tiny minority of the population who cannot properly digest gluten, people who believe the Freemasons control the world, people who watch broadcast television in general (and Ahmed Moussa in particular) for leisure, Creationists, people who think Neil Armstrong heard the idan on the moon and became a Muslim, people who think Henry became a Muslim, people who think that Michael Jackson became a Muslim (it was Jermaine, but not to this conversation), people who don’t live in capitals or coastal cities, the members of your family that you avoid — the list is nearly-infinite. The article attempts to explain just what, exactly, is at work that leaves the minds of so many as junk, pure junk: “We’re all in high school. We’ve never left high school,” says Marcia McNutt. “People still have a need to fit in, and that need to fit in is so strong that local values and local opinions are always trumping science. And they will continue to trump science, especially when there is no clear downside to ignoring science.” (Read)

WORTH WATCHING

Even simply thinking about people who reject science in the passage above raises our blood pressure; a good way to cleanse the palate is to watch the indelible Gillian Anderson from the X-Files pledge her allegiance to science, repeatedly. (Watch Scully likes science, running time: 1:49)

Saeedi WOD. “Can’t you get out of my mind – I can’t lie – ‘cause a girl like you is so hard to find.” (Watch, running time: 3:21)

DIPLOMACY

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met with the Norwegian Foreign Minister Beorge Brende met on Thursday, according to an MOFA statement. Reuters reported that both ministers urged donors who raised USD 5.4 bn for Gaza reconstruction to meet their commitments.

Egypt condemns Turkish provocations; summons Turkish charge d’affaires in Cairo over repeated violations: Following Turkey’s criticism of the Kerdasa mass death sentence verdict, and in light of the country hosting satellite television channels that call for the murder of security forces in Egypt, the MOFA issued a rebuttal. A particular passage will be reproduced here at length: “The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been refraining from commenting on statements issued by the Turkish side, especially since the least that can be said about these statements is that they constitute a source of disgust and condemnation for the lies and fabrications that they contain. Such statements are also issued by a country accused by the international community of repeatedly and systematically violating human rights, while censoring social media sites, arresting journalists without trial, breaking into press offices, and attacking peaceful protesters. In addition to that, Turkey’s fraud and influence on its judiciary has repeatedly been exposed to the world. In this context, the Turkish Foreign Ministry should have noted its country’s own internal ills and attempted to fix them instead of sticking its nose where it does not belong. The Turkish government, with its current human rights record, is no position to be lecturing others.” (Read)

Not to be outdone, the Turkish Foreign Ministry of course responded, saying that the statement was “just another tragicomic effort by coup leaders.” (Read)

Final score: The MOFA statement gets the first point for hitting all the key notes on Turkey’s descent into authoritarianism. Turkey is allotted ½ point for use of the word “tragicomic.” However, the entire round obviously goes to Egypt as these diplomatic episodes are completely driven by Turkey in general and Erdogan in particular, who for a world leader seems to have enough time to make daily declarations on Egypt to the point of exhibiting a pathological obsession with the country.

‘Moroccan-Egyptian crisis provides opportunity for better bilateral ties’: Moroccan media quotes the Moroccan Foreign Minister reiterating that Egypt supports Morocco’s territorial integrity. “Hostile parties to Morocco were seeking to exacerbate the Moroccan-Egyptian crisis,” Salaheddine Mezouar said. (Read)

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

Amal Clooney realized she’s accidentally been out of the news for a few days, issues statement remedying that right away: Amal Clooney wants to visit Egypt soon to meet with her client (jailed Al Jazeera English bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy) as well as President Abdelfattah El Sisi or some other official. Because anyone can just announce they want to meet a head of state to talk about a case in front of that country’s judiciary, right? (Read, or choose not to opt out of the insatiable publicity machine.)

Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated, Turkey-based satellite channel mekameleen.tv aired much-hyped leaks regarding President Abdelfattah El Sisi and aides discussing Gulf Arab countries. We won’t comment on the veracity of the recordings, but the content itself was underwhelming and just basically nothing. People online who live and die for this sort of thing were sorely disappointed. Meanwhile, Wagdy Ghoneim — that paragon of decency and restraint — appeared on Mekameleen over the weekend to express his hope that there will be another Khaled Islamboly (watch, if your blood pressure can take it).

The Guardian’s Patrick Kingsley is back with a long take on how social pressure in favor of FGM likely means it will take a generation to eradicate the abhorrent (and illegal) practice.

Israeli thinktank the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) finds in its latest piece on North Sinai terrorism: “any intelligence, operational, or political assistance that Israel can provide to the el-Sisi regime,including support for improving its ties with the United States and a willingness to favorably consider requests by Egypt to expand its military presence in the Sinai, will serve Israel’s security interests, the overall relationship between Israel and Egypt, and the necessary international campaign to block the spread of IS and its partners.”

The report was noted by all-purpose Islamist mouthpiece Middle East Monitor.

SELF-AWARENESS ALERT: “In a statement read by a masked gunman, 10 armed Palestinian factions jointly condemned on Thursday an Egyptian decision to list the military wing of the Islamist group Hamas as a terrorist organization.” (Read ‘Gaza militants condemn Egypt’s branding of Hamas as terror group‘ in Reuters)

WHAT YOU CLICKED ON LAST WEEK

The five most-clicked stories in Enterprise in the week of 1 February 2015 included:

  • An only-in-Egypt approach to the challenge of parking (YouTube)
  • Your very-own Emir of Qatar screensaver (JPG)
  • Why terrorists will never break Egypt’s spirit (YouTube)
  • Calls for violence, assassinations on Ikhwani TV channels based in Turkey (YouTube)
  • Egypt’s Sisi is selling delusions of stability (FT editorial) (tie)
  • The Pound’s Inevitable Devaluation Arrives (Atlantic Council) (tie)

ENERGY, RENEWABLE ENERGY & SUBSIDY REFORM

EDEPCO tests the first unit of El Ain El Sokhna power station
Al Mal | 05 Feb 2015
The East Delta Electricity Production Company began successfully trial runs for one of the units at the El Ain El Sokhna power station. The stations has two steam units running on natural gas and fuel oil with a total capacity of 1,300 MW. The second unit will begin running in March, pushing the station to being production. (Read in Arabic)

Onera Systems in negotiations to get financing for solar power station
Al Borsa | 05 Feb 2015
Onera Systems is currently in negotiations to secure USD 100 mn to finance a 50 MW solar power station. Onera is currently in talks with CIB, SAIB, and Al Baraka to set the loan agreement. The managing director of Onera Systems in Egypt is concerned about the agreement signed with Ministry of Electricity for the power station does not include explicit state safeguards of investors’ rights; the minister believes the terms of the agreement are adequate. (Read in Arabic)

OIL & GAS

Shell Helix to sponsor Al Ahly Club’s football team
MENAFN | 04 Feb 2015
Shell Lubricants Egypt signed a contract with Al Ahly Club to sponsor the club’s first football team. “We are very delighted of such a crucial step… Shell Lubricants was keen to sign this sponsorship contract, as a way to acclaim the prestigious team and to share football passion with fellow Egyptians, who support their beloved team,” said Mr. Saher Hashem, Managing Director of Shell Lubricants Egypt. (Read)

Dana Gas blames oil prices, Egypt for 4Q14 loss
Reuters | 05 Feb 2015
Dana Gas recorded a net loss of approximately USD 4 mn in 4Q14, which was blamed on lower oil prices and a fall in the value of oil and gas assets in Egypt. CEO Patrick Allman-Ward tried to calm investors down by noting Dana could reverse a USD 22 mn impairment charge the company booked and a gas production enhancement agreement in Egypt should drive production up by 10%. Allman-Ward also said that the short-term focus was increasing production and the long-term one was on “three new onshore and offshore blocks in Egypt and developing our Khor Mor and Chemchemal gas fields in Kurdistan.” (Read in Arabic)

EGAS signs deal with Trafigura to import 33 LNG shipments
Amwal Al Ghad | 05 Jan 2015
EGAS signed the first agreement following its international LNG tender with Trafigura. Trafigura is contracted to supply 33 LNG shipments in 2015 and 2016. Khaled Abdel Badie, the head of EGAS, said the rest of the LNG agreements agreed upon with three other companies will be signed soon. (Read in Arabic)

IPR Energy acquires 45% of a Sea Dragon concession
Al Mal | 05 Feb 2015
IPR Energy acquired 45% of Sea Dragon’s Southern Dessouk concession after paying USD 14 mn. The acquisition comes at the cost of having IPR bear 45% of all the investment costs, with Sea Dragon retaining the operating rights. Sea Dragon outlined the reason behind the inclusion of IPR in the concession was to spread the risks of operating at the previously unexplored site. Sea Dragon was contracted to dig three new wells at the site. (Read in Arabic)

BASIC MATERIALS & COMMODITIES

Egypt to buy Black Sea wheat and pay for it in EGP, separately seeks an American USD 100 mn credit line
Al Shorouk | 05 Feb 2015
Following the cabinet’s approval of issuing a tender to buy wheat that will be paid for in EGP, GASC said it might seek Black Sea wheat purchased privately by domestic producers. GASC also said it is seeking a USD 100 mn from the USA to buy American wheat on international tenders. (Read in Arabic)

MANUFACTURING

Egyptian Competition Authority refuses to fix cement prices
Al Borsa | 05 Feb 2015
The Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA) refused a request by cement retailers to fix the price they pay to cement producers. The head of the ECA reiterated that producers should be allowed to set their own prices as long as they are not colluding. Retailers refused the decision and said they were not aiming for a general fixing of the price, but rather a hold that would protect them from the weekly volatility of market prices. (Read in Arabic)

REAL ESTATE

Engineering Consultants Group awarded contract to design Al Zamil and Al Andalus towers in KSA
Al Borsa | 05 Feb 2015
The Engineering Consultants Group SA (ECG) was awarded the rights to design two towers in Saudi Arabia. ECG will design Al Zamil and Al Andalus towers on a total area of 10.7 thousand sqm in Riyadh with the former being a residential building and the latter including a hotel and commercial spaces. (Read in Arabic)

Golden Pyramids Plaza required to pay OCI and CCC EGP 260.9 mn
Al Ahram, OTC Markets | 05 Feb 2015
The Cairo Regional Centre for International Commercial Arbitration ordered City Stars mall operator Golden Pyramids Plaza to pay OCI and Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) EGP 260.9 mn. The OCI / CCC joint venture was awarded the ruling after Golden Pyramids refused to pay for additional work performed. Both companies said they will take all necessary steps in order to enforce the decision. (Read in OTCMarkets and in Arabic)

Holding Company for Cinema and Tourism in multiple land / development deals
Al-Masry Al-Youm | 8 February 2015
The Holding Company for Cinema And Tourism has been very active as of late. Its president Mervat Hataba, announced that the company is planning an EGP 450 mn project around the Tahrir Square area which will include a hotel and an office building. Hataba also added that the company intends to be done with its Luxor hotel project, in which it is partnering with the Endowment Association, should be finished by 2016. The company announced also that it expected to be done with the renovation project of the Mena House Hotel in Giza by March. Hataba revealed to AMAY that employees across the board have been given a 13% raise; the Company’s own investment account has grown by 41% in 2014/2014 to EGP 473 mn.

BANKING & FINANCE

CBE limit the ability to deposit Dollars in cash to USD 10k a day, USD 50k a month
Amwal Al Ghad, Reuters, Al Masry Al Youm | 04-07 Feb 2015
The CBE now requires banks to refuse cash deposits of over USD 10k a day and USD 50k per month from individual and corporate clients. This follows Hisham Ramez’s drive to curb the foreign currency black market and limit currency speculation. Ramez said that people coming from abroad and having declared the cash amounts they are holding would be exempted from the restriction. “The cap on deposits should discourage use of the black market by depriving those who want to exchange dollars outside official channels of a place to keep their funds,” according to Reuters. Mohamed Taha, Banque du Caire’s executive vice chairman, told Al Masry Al Youm the move will curb money laundering activities and limit the financing of terrorism domestically. (Read in Arabic, here, here, and in English)

OTHER BUSINESS NEWS OF NOTE

Carrefour to open new branches in Egypt, use more Egyptian products
Al Masry Al Youm, Al Shorouk | 06 Feb 2015
Following a meeting with PM Mehleb, the executive regional director for Carrefour in Egypt, Herve Majidier, announced that Carrefour is expanding its operations in Egypt. Carrefour will open an undisclosed number of branches across Egyptian cities. Majidier also noted that Carrefour Egypt will begin selling a larger number of Egyptian-sourced products. Egyptian products will also be exported to other Carrefour stores internationally. (Read in Arabic and here)

EGYPT POLITICS + ECONOMICS

Suez Canal reduces fee allowance for gas tankers by 10%, leaves other tolls unchanged
Al Borsa, Al Shorouk | 04-05 Feb 2015
Suez Canal passage tolls will remain unchanged for 2015, as announced by the Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority Vice Admiral Mohab Mamish. The significant drop in oil prices made it unreasonable to increase tolls, Mamish said. However, the Suez Canal reduced the allowance waiving the tolls partly for natural gas tankers from 35% to 25%. (Read in Arabic and here)

e-Finance working with GAFI to finish one-stop-shop for investors before Sharm summit
Al Mal | 05 Jan 2015
GAFI is working closely with e-Finance to finalize setting up the IT infrastructure for the one-stop-shop for investors. They aim to have it running before the Egypt Economic Development Conference next month in Sharm El Sheikh. e-Finance is also trying to expand its current Corporate Payment Service infrastructure. (Read in Arabic)

Egypt in talks to buy 24 Dassault Rafale fighter jets from France -Al Borsa
Al Borsa, France25, DefenseNews | 06 Feb 2015
Egypt is about to finalize an agreement with France to buy 24 Dassault Rafale fighter jets as reported by Al Borsa. The deal is estimated to cost somewhere around EUR 5-6 bn. Eric Trappier, the CEO of Dassault Aviation, was reportedly in Egypt finalizing the technical details of the deal. DefenseNews reports that Cairo is seeking financing to purchase the weapons. (Read in Arabic or on France24 and or news about possible financing on DefenseNews)

REGIONAL

Morocco fined USD 1 mn, sued for EUR 8 mn in damages, banned from 2017, 2019 African Nations Cup
CAF press release | 06 Feb 2015
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced on Friday it would fine Morocco and ban it from participating in the 2017 and 2019 African Nations Cup for withdrawing from its commitment to host the 2015 tournament due to Ebola fears. (Read)

Tunisian parliament approves secular-led coalition cabinet
AFP | 05 Feb 2015
On Thursday the Tunisian parliament voted 166-30 in favor of the formation of a national unity government, with the anti-Islamist Nidaa Tounes party taking the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Economy and Finance, Tourism, Education, Health and Transport. The Islamist Ennahda party took the Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training, with the rest of the posts largely going to independents. (Read)

Islamist rebels in Libya seek weapons from Ukraine; U.S. and European allies issue joint statement on financial risk faced by Libya
Libya Herald, Sputnik, UNSMIL, U.S. State Department | 02-06 Feb 2015
Islamist rebel group Libya Dawn is reportedly meeting with the Ukrainian government to secure weapons, as reported by the Libya Herald. Meanwhile, Russian state-owned media outlet Sputnik reported that the internationally-recognized government in Tobruk is meeting with Russian officials. “Libya wants its military personnel to be trained by Russian specialists and to receive modern Russian weaponry” and that the Libyan House of Representatives government “met understanding of this issue from Russia.” The United States, UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain issued a joint statement deploring recent violence in Libya, calling for renewed efforts for diplomacy while stressing that “in light of low oil production and prices” that “Libya faces a budget deficit that has the potential to consume all of its financial assets if the situation does not stabilize.” The statement is a remarkable departure from most statements of these kind which seek to create equivocation by attempting to spread blame equally among warring parties in Libya, in that it singles out the “Alshuruq Operation in the Oil Crescent area” for condemnation. This is likely due to the fact that sections of the statement were lifted verbatim from a UNSMIL statement issued two days prior, without mentioning as the UNSMIL does that the attack led to “many casualties,” and neither statement clarifies that this attack was carried out by Islamist rebel movement Libya Dawn. (Read about possible arms deals in Libya Herald [there is a 5-second check after clicking before the site will allow you access to prevent their website from being attacked] and Sputnik, the U.S.-European joint statement and or the UNSMIL statement)

ON YOUR WAY OUT

President Abdelfattah El-Sisi praised GCC support for Egypt in an interview with TASS, the Russian news agency, ahead Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit tomorrow, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

Lion attack in Tanta: A lion trainer in the Egyptian-European circus was mauled by a lion during a show in Tanta on Thursday, but was seen walking away from the attack and is reportedly in stable condition. (Watch, running time 40 seconds). The video was posted on Facebook, with Ahram reporting on it and the story eventually being picked by the NY Daily News. We link to the video for two reasons: first, the use of animals for entertainment purposes is inherently dangerous, evidenced in no small part by the fact that the husband of the woman mauled in the video was also killed by circus lions. The danger posed by wild animals kept in circuses, zoos and as pets — despite any claims to the contrary — is ever-present and not unique to Egypt. A recent case which stands out is that of Charla Nash in Boston, who had her face and arms chewed off by a pet chimpanzee, and who had to undergo a face transplant (we’re not linking to any stories on Nash as the images are incredibly graphic). The global trend has been to ban the use of animals for entertainment purposes, (see a list of countries which have instituted a ban on animals in circuses here).

The second reason this story is being given prominence is that Egypt really does not need another scandal — we’ve reached maximum capacity. This is not simply a random public safety story; as with nearly every story in Egypt, this incident has taken on political dimensions. The attack captured on video takes place while the nationalist song “Bushreit Kheir” is playing in the background, and the video was first published on the Facebook page of a pro-Ikhwan individual based in Jeddah. It is in the opinion of this writer that it would behoove Egypt to pursue, as a growing international norm, a general ban on the use of animals for entertainment purposes. This move would not impact tourism, as no one is coming to Egypt to visit the Giza Zoo in the hopes of seeing a giraffe commit suicide. Since 1984, Cirque du Soleil has become the world’s premier modern circus, and it’s managed to do it without a single animal act. This is a public safety issue as well as one of national prestige. We shouldn’t have to wait to be the last country on Earth to institute a ban on the use of animals in entertainment, if we take Egypt’s international standing seriously.

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