Thursday, 2 March 2017

Youssef Boutros Ghali breaks his silence on the Egyptian economy.

TL;DR

What We’re Tracking Today

The EGP weakened c. 37 piasters yesterday to EGP 16.17 to the greenback as importers look to stock up before Ramadan, bankers and economists told Reuters. “The EGP’s weakening today is due to a decline in FX inflows into banks this week and because importers are increasing demand in preparation for Ramadan,” said Beltone head of research Hany Genena. Allen Sandeep, head of research at Naeem, also noted “It’s pre-Ramadan letter of credit opening time. People will start importing now in order for the goods to arrive in two months.”

Meanwhile, the Central bank of Egypt made c. USD 420 mn available to some 20 banks on Tuesday night to back settlement of demand loans to cover pre-float LCs of less than USD 5 mn, as per the terms of its settlement agreement with the Union of Egyptian Investor Associations (UEIA) in February, Al Borsa reports. Banks were offered greenbacks at EGP 15.8841 per USD through subscription to a two-year zero-coupon bonds carrying a 3.65% interest rate, top banking officials tell the newspaper. The central bank had agreed with the UEIA to help some 570 companies caught upside-down with pre-float LCs. Banks will on-lend the greenbacks to the companies in question, who will then repay their debt in EGP over a two-year stretch.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in town today to push her migration agenda in meetings with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and other senior officials. The Financial Times notes that Merkel’s trip comes from a place of desperation, as controversy over her handling of the migration file is likely to be a key issue in this year’s elections to the Bundestag. Today will be her second trip in six months to a continent she had not visited in five years, and the German chancellor is widely expected to try to convince Egypt and Tunisia to open migration camps for asylum seekers, something both countries have adamantly rejected, according to the Associated Press. She is coming with some sugar to help the migration medicine go down, in the form of a 10-company business and trade delegation. Merkel has viewed investment from Europe to the MENA region as a crucial policy initiative to help stem the flow of illegal migration from the region. We should expect to see agreements on technical training and economic cooperation. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is expected to travel to Brussels this month and could be tapped to hash out a migration pact that would give Egypt assistance and easier access to the EU for its nationals. In the meantime, Amnesty International is calling for Merkel to press El Sisi on human rights.

The Dow Jones broke 21,000 yesterday, and the nice people at Planet Money will not be celebrating: Wall Street closed at record highs yesterday, and depending on who you believe, it was because of expectations the US Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this month (Financial Times) or because markets cheered US President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress the night before (CNBC). Either way, one person is going to be really unhappy about all of the focus on Dow 21,000: Planet Money’s Adam Davidson, who loathes the “stupid, stupid Dow.” You can listen to the classic Planet Money podcast on the subject (run time: 17:40, updated for Dow 20,000 in January) or go read Davidson’s “Why Do We Still Care About the Dow?” for the New York Times Magazine. (Reminder: Davidson isn’t against all stock indexes — he just hates the Dow.)

It’s a great day for: That kid who created Snapchat. “Snap Inc., maker of the disappearing photo app dependent upon the fickle favor of the millennial demographic, is going public at a valuation at least twice as expensive as Facebook Inc., and four times more costly than Twitter Inc.,” reports Bloomberg. That for a company that won’t give investors voting rights and whose prospectus is a document from a parallel universe. We’ve never actually prayed for an IPO to tank. There’s always a first time, right?

It’s not likely to be a great day for: Donald Trump. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke twice with the Russian ambassador to Washington, but did not disclose those contacts during his confirmation hearing, the Washington Post reports in an exclusive.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

Mubarak-era Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali wholeheartedly supports the reform agenda. In an interview with DMC’s Osama Kamal, the always brilliant YBG said the EGP float was “100% the right decision to make” despite coming three years too late. Boutros Ghali believes that the budget deficit is the single biggest problem facing the current Finance Ministry, urging the current government to slash spending, particularly on public sector employees.

There’s no way we can do justice to more than hour-long interview with one of the clearest thinkers on the economy ever to serve in cabinet, so we encourage you to watch the full interview with YBG here (runtime: 1:18:15).

YBG believes taxes are too high and says raising them would be slow down the economy. They should be low enough to make it more expensive to try to avoid taxes than to simply pay them, he suggested, pointing at the same time to a culture of distrust between the business community and the Tax Authority, which business owners feel gouges them.

As for investment policy, Boutros Ghali disagrees with the notion that there needs to be a new law. Instead, he thinks the way to go would be to constrain the power of the bureaucracy and cut red tape.

There are three things Egypt must focus on for long-term growth, YBG says:

  • Setting up a detailed database of welfare and subsidy beneficiaries to make the system more efficient;
  • Expand the banking system to cover a vastly wider swathe of the population;
  • Create a mechanism that creates meaningful loans and other financing for SMEs.

Boutros Ghali had great things to say about the current lineup of economic ministers, adding that they routinely consult with him on economic issues.

Meanwhile, Cabinet spokesman Ashraf Sultan said that the Ismail cabinet is now locked indiscussions over the Universal Healthcare Act and plans to complete the feasibility study on the bill in mid-March (more on progress of the bill in the Speed Round), in an interview with Al Hayah Al Youm’s Tamer Amin (watch, runtime: 5:46).

The Administrative Capital for Urban Development Company — the master developer of the New Administrative Capital — will begin selling homes in April, company board member Khaled Abbas tells Kol Youm’s Amr Adib. People can start moving to the new capital in 2Q18 (watch, runtime: 7:50).

Adib continued to rail against the decision to raise entry visas to Egypt to USD 60. Travel agency Blue Sky’s chairman Hussam El Shaer revealed on the show that Prime Minister Sherif Ismail appeared shocked to hear that tourist destinations tend to not charge for tourist visas when they met this week and promised to look into reversing the decision. El Shaer complained that the move would simply drive tourist traffic to Tunisia and Turkey, adding that the move is already attracting negative press in Germany (watch, runtime: 8:35).

Speed Round

Speed Round is presented in association with

Egypt is making further progress with its external rebalancing, Fitch Ratings says, as indicated by “rising foreign exchange reserves, a return of private capital inflows and currency appreciation.” Fitch adds that “further fiscal consolidation alongside external rebalancing would lay the groundwork for a broader-based improvement in sovereign credit metrics in 2018… However, challenges, including the risk of social unrest, are substantial. Even if the envisaged reforms progress smoothly, it would take several years to reduce gross general government debt to more sustainable levels.” It adds that the rebound in CBE reserves has been stronger than expected partly due to the larger-than-expected eurobond issuance. Fitch also believes that Egypt will broadly be able to meet its budget targets. Fitch worries about the prospect of high inflation rates that could “be politically sensitive, adding to the risk that social unrest will prompt the government to row back from some reforms.” The ratings agency projects GDP growth to increase to 4.5% in FY2017-18 from 3.3% a year earlier.

A stamp tax on EGX trades could start at 0.175% on each of the buyer and seller and gradually rise from there, Finance Minister Amr El Garhy told Bloomberg. El Garhy gave no details on the increase, but said the proposal, while yet to be finalised, could be submitted to the cabinet for discussion as early as next week. Al Borsa says, however, that El Garhy has actually proposed an initial tax of 0.125% that would gradually increase to 0.175% over three years.

The House Industry Committee is set to complete its review of the automotive directive and send the bill back to a plenary session of the House of Representatives by mid-March, Al Borsa reports. The committee held discussions with auto industry players this week, with importers continuing to object to the structure of the minimum export quotas necessary to benefit from tax incentives. Under the bill, a car company’s exports must at least equal 25% of the value of their imports to benefit from the incentives. Importers are looking to see that quota reduced to 5-10%. (Under the proposed legislation, car importers — as distinct from assemblers — would have the right to import a quota of fully assembled vehicles under the same preferential tax structure that domestic manufacturers would enjoy only if their exports of automotive components meet a minimum threshold.) The bill, which would provide manufacturing and export incentives along the value chain to promote the development of a domestic auto industry, but has been delayed by a lobbying war pitting auto assemblers and auto importers against each other. We’ll have more on the automotive directive next week.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Amr El Garhy and CBE Governor Tarek Amer will appear before the House Economics Committee on Monday and Tuesday of next week to discuss clauses in the new Investment Act about investment incentives, private free trade zones, and profit repatriation for foreign companies, Al Borsa reports. The committee hopes to understand more about the guidelines regulating the special incentives given to foreign investors and lobby for the return of FZs. The bill is expected to come to a vote by the end of March.

Several members of the Economics Committee are boycotting discussion of the Investment Act in continued protest of the selection of Support Egypt coalition head Amr Ghallab as the new chair of the committee, Al Mal reports. Ghallab replaced Ali El Moselhy, who was tapped to become supply minister. The MPs are claiming that pro-government Support Egypt stacked the deck against them in the committee election. House speaker Ali Abdel Aal has intervened to no avail.

Is the Universal Healthcare Act coming in 2H2017? The House of Representatives will not be seeing the Universal Healthcare Act that Health Minister Ahmed Rady had promised to deliver early in 2017 before June, sources close to the matter tell Al Borsa. Policymakers are delaying the bill because they worry about the cost of implementing the program after the wave of inflation that has gripped the country since the act was first mooted. Government officials are estimating that implementing the act would cost state coffers some EGP 130-140 bn, up from an earlier estimate of EGP 90 bn. The cost would be paid in part through a new tax: Employers would be required to pay the equivalent of 3% of each employee’s salary into a healthcare funds and deduct a further 1% of each staff member’s pay cheque. Instead of raising those rates, the government is reportedly looking at raising taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and automobiles.

Price controls are a thing of the past -El Moselhy. Commodity prices will be set by supply and demand — and price controls are not coming, Supply Minister Ali El Moselhy told reporters yesterday, Al Shorouk reports. The minister stressed that abandoning price controls does not mean that chaos will reign in the market, saying that the ministry will guard against market manipulation. El Moselhy had said on Tuesday that the ministry and the Consumer Protection Agency were looking into building a database of products and market prices to ward against price gouging. The ministry and the CPA have also been working on amendments to the Consumer Protection Act that would force manufacturers to print tags on their products to prevent traders from jacking up prices, which sounds rather like a restraint on commerce to us (however much we loathe the nice folks at various upscale supermarkets who refuse to post the prices of their wares).

The IMF may not be here in March, but World Bank will be: A delegation from the World Bank Group is reportedly coming to town in the first half of March to discuss progress on Egypt’s economic reform agenda, said Investment and International Cooperation Minister Sahar Nasr. The World Bank has yet to send over the second USD 1 bn tranche of its USD 3 bn development loan to Egypt, which CBE Governor Tarek Amer said last weekend would arrive this month. Nasr had also engaged in talks back in January with the World Bank for USD 400 mn in funding for labor-intensive projects and SME development. Nasr’s statements follow a ministerial coordination meeting on raising Egypt’s ranking in the Doing Business report, Ahram Online reports.

This comes as the Trade and Industry Ministry is currently negotiating a new USD 150 mn funding facility with the World Bank for infrastructure development, social services, and training and employment opportunities in the poorest areas, Minister Tarek Kabil said, according to Al Masry Al Youm.

A consortium led by Canada’s Bombardier and Orascom Construction will begin implementing the monorail project connecting Sixth of October to Giza in the second half of this year, Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Egypt Chairman Fayez Ezeldin told Al Mal. The project, which costs USD 1.1 bn, will take two years to complete. Ezeldin said it will include 12 stations in its first phase and another five in the second. The government has not yet made an official announcement of the award, which was expected to have been made public back in November. The consortium, previously said to have included Arab Contractors, was reported to have won the contract back in 2015, but later found it faced competition from a Chinese group.

Eni’s offshore exploration “gamble” looks “set to pay off,” Andrew Ward writes in the Financial Times. Ward covered Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi’s trip to Port Said to oversee the development of a gas processing plant to serve Zohr, which he says “would be the fastest a project of its size has started production in industry history.” Descalzi says his company took a different direction: “the industry has forgotten how to do exploration … Everybody else went looking for tar sands or tight oil or acquisitions. We thought there was still potential in conventional exploration.” An analyst at Goldman Sachs says “among the European majors, only Eni has been able to successfully translate exploration activities into valuable giant oil and gas discoveries.” Next up for Eni is seeing whether Descalzi would be staying at the company’s helm or not as his mandate is up for renewal. Ward’s piece also includes a video report, in which he says, “Egypt remains one of the brightest spots on the horizon for oil and gas companies looking to breathe new life into their traditional fossil fuel businesses” (runtime 04:21).

…The piece came in time for Eni’s announcement of expectations-beating 4Q2016 results as the company recorded its first quarterly profit in 18 months. Eni reported an adjusted net profit of EUR 459 mn for the quarter, according to Reuters.

Saddiq Afifi and Mamdouh Abbass back out of CI Capital sale: Tiba Group’s Saddiq Afifi and former Zamalek football club chairman Mamdouh Abbass have reportedly backed out of a consortium that is looking to acquire investment bank CI Capital, citing “loss of interest” and “personal reasons” as the cause, Al Borsa reports. The two businessmen had joined a roster of prominent names seeking 80% of CI Capital in December. Other bidders include Arafa Group’s Alaa Arafa, construction magnate Mahmoud El Gammal, and Compass Capital’s Shamel Aboulfadl.

Welcome, Comrades: Russian delegation outlines USD 22 bn in investment in new industrial zone. A framework agreement that will set a timeline for the Russian Industrial Zone (RIZ) in East Port Said is set to be signed in June and will include 17 projects with total investment of USD 22 bn, First Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Gleb Nikitin said at a press conference we attended yesterday. Nikitin is heading a Russian business delegation on a two-day visit. On the agenda is a visit today to China’s TEDA Industrial Zone in Ain Sokhna. Key takeaways:

  • A land plot has yet to be allocated contrary to previous reports. “There are still unresolved issues,” Nikitin said, but stressed he is sure both sides will come to an agreement. Project developer Technopolis Moscow is looking for something on the order of 2,000 hectares, company CEO Igor Ischenko said.
  • Priority industries for the Russian Industrial Zone include car manufacturing, shipbuilding, metalworks, agricultural equipment manufacturing, and medical technology.
  • The project will be executed in three phases and is set to be completed over 30 years, Ischenko said.
  • The RIZ will eventually have its own management company.
  • Two-thirds of the zone will be industrial, with the rest consisting of residential areas and amenities, Daniel Dendra from anOtherArchitect told us.
  • Egyptian banks and other financial institutions are welcome to participate in the financing package for the zone, which has yet to reach financial close, said Russian Export Center CEO Petr Fradkov.

Shahid Law Firm is advising the Russian delegation.

Egyptian artichokes still outperforming in Italy: Italian wholesale fresh food distributor Cambo Frutta said this year is the first it has imported artichokes from Egypt. “The company decided to import Egyptian products, in this case Violetto artichokes, because in early 2017 the artichoke crops in the region of Apulia suffered heavy damage as a result of weather conditions. This led to a lack of stock that Italian companies have replaced by turning to other markets,” according to Fresh Plaza. A company representative says, “the Egyptian Violetto artichoke is very similar to the Italian artichoke, with the advantage of having more volume and a much more intense color … [the only difference from the Italian product] is that they don’t follow our custom of harvesting it with a leaf, as they only come with a stem of around 10cm." There were reports last month that Egyptian purple artichokes were already performing well in Italian markets.

** EARNINGS WATCH- Edita announced net profit of EGP 47.4 mn in 2016, down 86.4% y-o-y even though revenues increased by 12.5% y-o-y to EGP 2.5 bn. Edita posted a very strong top line performance in the fourth quarter despite widespread expectation of a pullback in consumer spending on the back of spiraling inflation. Edita chief Hani Berzi noted that “Our strong performance is most directly attributable to the accelerated rollout of the pricing strategy that we began implementing in late 2015,” which was “initially indirect in nature, including the selective upsizing or downsizing of products as well as the launch of new products at higher price points” but that later included direct price increases after the float of the Egyptian pound. Edita notes it recorded FX losses of EGP 298.5 mn in 2016, of which EGP 241.0 mn came as a consequence of the EGP float and “the consequent revaluation of its foreign currency-denominated liabilities.” M&A signal? Speaking to strategy in 2017, Berzi is quoted in part as saying the company may look at “direct expansion both in Egypt and in new markets.”

Egypt Kuwait Holding Company reported a 72% y-o-y increase in 2016 net profit to USD 62.5 mn in 2016 despite the translation into USD from EGP of the underlying financials of the companies in which it invests. EKH reported USD 351.2 mn in revenues, a 24% increase y-o-y. Calling 2016 “a year characterized by extreme volatility and unprecedented macroeconomic challenges,” EKH Chairman Moataz Al-Alfi noted that EKH has “positioned itself as a hedge against market challenges and a vehicle for capitalizing on high-growth industries. As the Egyptian economy undergoes a fundamental restructuring, one that will favour energy plays and manufacturers who use domestic resources to export and produce import substitutes, EKH is poised to capture the upside.”

WEEKLY CABINET ROUNDUP: The Ismail cabinet’s focus at its weekly meeting held yesterday was on a basket of agreements and legislative amendments. Among them: Amendments to the supply law that will impose prison time and fines on anyone involved in buying, selling, or smuggling subsidized food or oil with the intention of reselling at a profit. Amendments to the competition law to introduce harsher penalties for manipulators of basic commodities were also given the greenlight. The cabinet also apparently just got around to approving a 1959 cultural agreement with Germany, the day before Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Cairo. Subtle. Other decisions taken during yesterday’s meeting include:

  • Granting preliminary approval to the executive regulations of the Civil Service Law;
  • Approving joining the Trade Facilitation Agreement — which simplifies export and import processes between signatory countries — signed between World Trade Organization members in 2013;
  • Approving an agreement to build a 200-250 MW wind farm in the Gulf of Suez, financed by the French Development Agency;
  • Sanctioning a USD 332.2 mn compensatory financing arrangement with the Arab Monetary Fund from December 2015;
  • Extending the deadline for hotels to pay overdue electricity, gas, property tax, and water bills until 31 December 2017.
  • Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed also said the cabinet decided to postpone and review hiking tourist visa fees, according to Al Shorouk.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi addressed the targeting of Coptic Christians inNorth Sinai by Islamist terrorists and the growing perception both in and (mostly) out of Egypt that his administration wasn’t doing enough to protect them. He said that this was playing into the hands of the terrorists. Speaking at an event on Tuesday (footage of which aired yesterday on state television), El Sisi stressed the sacrifices of security personnel and the army defending the people of North Sinai in a war which his administration has largely contained. The majority of Egyptians, he said, do not feel the impact of the war. The state’s strategy is to target terrorists without harming the lives and property of civilians in Sinai, the president added, saying he would not evacuate all of Al Arish and transform it into a security zone. He promised that the displacement of Christians was only temporary (watch, runtime: 5:01). This comes as Amnesty International said the government had failed to protect Christians in North Sinai and failed to bring the attackers to justice. The group urged that the government protect them and end discriminatory attacks on Christians nationwide.

How long before we get blamed? Ethiopia claims to have foiled a planned attack on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam by armed members of an Eritrea-backed group, deputy government spokesman Zadig Abraha told a state-affiliated radio station, the Associated Press reports. According to Abraha, “actions were taken” against 13 of the group’s members, and the AP notes that “similar statements have meant people were killed.”

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Image of the Day

The first railway in Egypt, the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East: In 1851, Egyptian ruler Khedive Abbas Pasha commissioned the first-ever railway project in the region, signing a contract with Scottish engineer Robert Stephenson, according to Youm7. The landmark project cost Egypt EGP 56,000 — a rather sizeable sum at the time. Abbas Pasha’s first step laid the groundwork for his successors, including Said Pasha and Ismail Pasha, to expand the country’s rail network.

Egypt in the News

After yesterday’s reprieve, international coverage is once again squarely focused on the wave of attacks by the Daeshbags in North Sinai targeting Coptic Christians. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s comments on developments in the peninsula received widespread pickups from international news outlets, including DW, Anadolu and Al Jazeera, along with Amnesty International’s criticism of the administration’s handling of the affair.

The story has also crossed over into the mainstream business press, with Dahlia Kholaif filing “ISIS Violence, Intimidation Escalates in Egypt’s Sinai” for the Wall Street Journal. The subhed: “Women who don’t comply with the militants’ dress code have been threatened with whipping, acid.”

On a related note, Al Azhar’s regional interfaith conference on tolerance received coverage, but not in a good way. In the ultimate irony, Al Azhar head Grand Sheikh Ahmed El Tayeb used the tolerance conference to accuse many supporters of abortion rights, LGBTQ rights as well as some advocates of “human rights, global peace, coexistence, freedom, equality” of trying to annihilate the Abrahamic religions and fomenting a conspiracy against the region, the Associated Press reports. There are no words…

The Associated Press has picked up on the spat between Al Ahram and the House of Representatives, on which we reported yesterday. “The quarrel — a rare public spat between two of Egypt’s leading institutions — began this week when Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Al criticized the paper’s coverage of the legislature. He said the 141-year-old newspaper was mismanaged and had better remember that ‘we finance it.’” Al Ahram believes the criticism was inappropriate and asked the speaker to “double check his facts.”

The Ahram-Parliament spat is part of a series of articles coming out yesterday and this morning in the foreign press on the long worn out trope of oppression in Egypt, mostly from the New York Times and the Associated Press. Mohamed El Shamy pens an ode to the journalists still in prison in Egypt for NYT, while that pinnacle of unbiased journalism, Al Jazeera, is delving into the hunger strike of Irish citizen Ibrahim Halawa and the deterioration of his health. The Associated Press is covering the arrest of nine Ikhwanis, while the awkwardly named communist publication Equal Times is looking into the disbursing by authorities of a strike at Misr Spinning and Weaving Company demanding higher wages. Read them if you must.

The case for rapprochement between Egypt and Iran: The former head of the foreign affairs committee in Iran’s National Security Council Seyyed Hossein Mousavian co-authored a piece picked by the Asia Times making the case for why a rapprochement between Cairo and Tehran is not only necessary but very doable. Mousavian looks at historical examples where leading Egyptian Sunni scholars formed interfaith pacts and treaties with their Shia counterparts in Iran. The prominence of both countries in the Sunni-Shia divide would help make any future agreement between both countries a major contributor to regional peace. He also points to Egypt’s beef with Saudi Arabia, its half-hearted commitment to the alliance fighting the Houthis in Yemen, and Egypt’s active moves against regime change in Syria as signs that Cairo could be amenable to an agreement.

CIA agent Sabrina de Sousa, who was found guilty of unlawfully kidnapping imam Abu Omar in Milan, got a partial pardon from the Italian president, according to Deutsche Welle. The Italian president took a year off de Sousa’s sentence in light of the fact that the US no longer practices extraordinary rendition.

Worth Watching

Alexandria could be underwater by 2050: Alexandria is apparently one of the five heavily populated cities in the world at risk of major flooding by 2050 if climate change continues to have its way — anyone who has ever lived or been there over the last three to four winters can definitely relate. According to an infomercial by Bayanat Box (based on World Bank data), sea levels rising by only 0.5 m by 2050 would displace 1.5 mn Egyptians living by the Alex coast (watch, runtime: 0:47).

Diplomacy + Foreign Trade

The Spanish Trade Minister will be heading a delegation of 35 companies visiting Cairo on Friday to discuss potential investment opportunities in construction, energy, education, agriculture, and railways with various state officials, including the ministers of Trade and Industry and Agriculture. One of the companies has reportedly expressed interest in the 1.5 mn feddans project, Al Masry Al Youm says.

Energy

Naftogaz considering selling Egyptian assets

Ukrainian oil and gas company Naftogaz Ukrainy is considering selling its Egyptian assets. Naftogaz “intends to attract an investment and banking advisor who will assess how much the company can receive from sale of its assets in Egypt,” Commercial Director Yuriy Vitrenko said, according to Interfax. “He said if the assessment exceeds the company’s expectations Naftogaz would raise the issue of selling its Egyptian assets at the meetings of the supervisory board and government.” Naftogaz has rights to two oil and gas blocks in the Eastern Desert: South Wadi El Mahareeth and Wadi El Mahareeth.

ERC faces delays, to begin production in 2Q2018

Production from Qalaa Holdings subsidiary Egyptian Refining Company (ERC)’s refinery in Mostorod will be postponed to 2Q2018 following construction delays, Al Mal reported. The refinery was initially set to begin production by the end of 2017 and ERC Managing Director Mohamed Saad said the project is 93% ready. ERC has already begun talks with Aramco, Kuwait National Petroleum Company, and Shell to import feedstock needed for operations.

NREA receives six offers for USD 300 mn 350 MW solar power plants in Benban

The New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) has received six offers from Chinese, Saudi, Egyptian, and German companies interested in collectively investing USD 300 mn in 350 MW solar power stations in Benban, Aswan under phase two of the feed-in tariff program. NREA is expecting to finish revising the offers in two weeks’ time, sources tell Al Borsa, and the companies are already in talks with banks, trying to finalize funding agreements before the April deadline. The government is reportedly trying to bring the total number of investors in Benban solar projects up to 39 companies, to relieve some of the costs of infrastructure construction, which have risen considerably since the float.

Basic Materials + Commodities

Philip Morris settles with Eastern Company, future payments to be in EGP equivalent

Eastern Company announced it reached an agreement with Philip Morris International to get it “to pay back outstanding debt and make future payments in the local currency,” Reuters reports. Philip Morris had halted paying dues to Eastern Company in USD in return for its production last year. Philip Morris is expected to pay USD 105 mn in total arrears dating back to July 2016 this month, Eastern Company’s Chairman Mohamed Haroun says, adding that the company will also begin paying for its local production in EGP equivalent at a fixed exchange rate of EGP 18 per USD 1 through 28 February 2018.

GASC buys 120K tonnes of French wheat

GASC bought 120K tonnes of French wheat, amid a 535K tonne tender order on Wednesday. The purchase has apparently driven French wheat future to a seven-month high, Agrimoney reports.

Manufacturing

India’s MB Textiles to invest USD 100 mn in new factory in Egypt

India’s MB Textiles is looking to invest some USD 100 mn to build a new textile production facility in Egypt, Al Borsa reports. MB already has factories in Ismailia, Suez, Port Said, Alexandria, Ain Sokhna, and 10th of Ramadan City. No timeframe was given for when the company plans to make the investment.

Real Estate + Housing

Wadi Degla acquires Mediterranean Contracting Company, delivers 10k units

Wadi Degla Developments acquired Mediterranean Contracting Company Tuesday and is targeting the execution of EGP 14 bn worth of contracting agreements by Wadi Degla Holding contracting subsidiaries in the next seven years, Chairman and CEO Maged Helmy announced in a press conference yesterday. Helmy said the company’s “presence near to the New Administrative Capital [with Neopolis project in Mostakbal City]” makes it less probable that it will acquire large land plots there, but Wadi Degla still hopes “to be part of a consortium of developers to take a large land plot.” He added that the company only increased its prices by 10%, but that it awaits exchange rate stabilisation in order to adjust prices accordingly. “If we settle on EGP 15-16 to the USD, we will raise prices further,” Helmy said.

Tourism

EgyptAir, Etihad sign codeshare agreement

Etihad Airways has signed a new codeshare partnership with EgyptAir, according to Gulf Business. “Under the initial phase of the agreement, Etihad will place its ‘EY’ code on EgyptAir-operated flights between Abu Dhabi and Cairo, while EgyptAir will place its ‘MS’ code on Etihad flights between the two capital cities. In the second phase, Etihad will expand the deal to major cities across Africa on EgyptAir flights while the Egyptian carrier will gain access to Etihad destinations in Australia and the Far East. The third phase will see the EY code placed on domestic flights across Egypt, the statement added.”

Legislation + Policy

House Transport Committee looking to separate National Tunnels Authority from Railways Authority

The House of Representatives’ Transportation Committee is looking into amending legislation on the National Tunnels Authority to separate it from the Railways Authority, Al Mal reports. The head of the Railways Authority is reportedly lobbying against the amendments. The discussions on the amendments were postponed to next week after Transport Minister Hisham Arafat did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

On Your Way Out

There are 1.6 mn children involved in hazardous work in Egypt and poverty continues to prevent their access to education, according to the World Food Program (WFP)’s Egypt country brief. WFP also says it “provides technical support to the Government of Egypt by assisting with the development of a sustainable strategy for the National School Feeding programme. In addition, WFP supports asset creation through its Food Assistance for Assets (FFA) activities to enhance livelihoods and build resilience to the effects of climate change.”

The markets yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 16.0618 | Sell 16.1676
EGP / USD at CIB: Buy 16.10 | Sell 16.20
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 16.00 | Sell 16.10

EGX30 (Wednesday): 11,999 (+0.5%)
Turnover: EGP 762.0 mn (75% ABOVE the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: -2.8%

THE MARKET ON WEDNESDAY: The EGX30 ended Wednesday’s session up 0.5%. CIB, the index heaviest constituent declined by 0.3%. The EGX30’s top performing constituents were: Cairo Oils and Soap up 5.4%, Global Telecom up 4.5%, and Ezz Steel up 4.2%. Yesterday’s worst performing stocks included Egyptian Iron and Steel down 4.4%, Eastern Co down 3.3%, and TMG Holding down 3.0%. The market turnover was EGP762.0 million, and local investors were the sole net sellers.

Foreigners: Net Long | EGP + 17.1 mn
Regional: Net Long | EGP + 31.6 mn
Domestic: Net Short | EGP – 48.7 mn

Retail: 67.5% of total trades | 65.2% of buyers | 69.9% of sellers
Institutions: 32.5% of total trades | 34.8% of buyers | 30.1% of sellers

Foreign: 17.8% of total | 18.9% of buyers | 16.7% of sellers
Regional: 9.7% of total | 11.8% of buyers | 7.6% of sellers
Domestic: 72.5% of total | 69.3% of buyers | 75.7% of sellers

WTI: USD 53.73 (-0.19%)
Brent: USD 56.36 (-0.27%)
Natural Gas (Nymex, futures prices) USD 2.80 MMBtu, (-0.11%, April 2017 contract)
Gold: USD 1,247.80 / troy ounce (-0.18%) TASI: 6,966.5 (-0.1%) (YTD: -3.4%)
ADX: 4,569.5 (+0.4%) (YTD: +0.5%)
DFM: 3,620.7 (-0.3%) (YTD: +2.5%)
KSE Weighted Index: 421.8 (-0.5%) (YTD: +11.0%)
QE: 10,752.1 (+0.5%) (YTD: +3.0%)
MSM: 5,791.1 (+0.2%) (YTD: +0.1%)
BB: 1,344.2 (-0.4%) (YTD: +10.1%)

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Calendar

23 February – 16 March (Thursday-Thursday): Glimpses of Upper Egypt exhibition at Accademia d’Egitto in Rome.

02-03 March (Thursday-Friday): German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Egypt.

06-08 March (Monday-Wednesday): 13th EFG Hermes One on One Conference, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

08 March (Wednesday): Microfinance forum, Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo.

09-11 March (Thursday-Saturday): Egypt Projects Summit, Cairo International Convention Center, Cairo.

14-15 March (Tuesday-Wednesday): The third Builders of Egypt conference, Ritz Carlton Hotel, Cairo.

15 March (Wednesday): Arab Women Organization’s event: Investing in refugee women, UN General Assembly Building, New York City.

18-19 March (Saturday-Sunday): Delegation of Japanese food industries companies visits Egypt.

29-30 March (Wednesday-Thursday): Cityscape Egypt Conference, Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo.

29-31 March (Wednesday-Friday): Balanced Development of Siwa Oasis International Tourism Conference, Siwa Oasis.

30 March (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

31 March – 03 April (Friday-Monday): Cityscape Egypt Exhibition, Cairo International Convention Center, Cairo. Register here.

03-06 April (Monday-Thursday): Agri & Foodex Africa, Khartoum International Fair Ground, Khartoum, Sudan.

08-10 April (Saturday-Monday): Pharmaconex, Cairo International Convention Center, Cairo.

16 April (Sunday): Coptic Easter Sunday.

17 April (Monday): Sham El Nessim, national holiday.

20 April (Thursday): Closing date for the Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority bid round number 1 for 2017 for gold and associated minerals.

24-25 April (Monday-Tuesday): Renaissance Capital’s Egypt Investor Conference, Cape Town, South Africa.

25 April (Tuesday): Sinai Liberation Day, national holiday.

30 April – 03 May (Sunday-Wednesday): Cement & Concrete 2017, Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Center, Saudi Arabia.

01 May (Monday): Labor Day, national holiday.

08-09 May (Monday-Tuesday): Third Egypt CSR Forum, Intercontinental Citystars Hotel, Cairo.

16 May (Tuesday): Official expiry date for the decision to suspend capital gains taxes on stock market transactions.

22-23 May (Monday-Tuesday): North Africa Mobile Network Optimisation Conference, Cairo.

27 May (Saturday): First day of Ramadan (TBC).

26-28 June (Monday-Wednesday): Eid Al-Fitr (TBC).

30 June (Friday): 30 June, national holiday.

23 July (Sunday): Revolution Day, national holiday.

02-05 September (Saturday-Tuesday): Eid Al-Adha, national holiday (TBC).

17-19 September (Sunday-Tuesday): Pipeline-Pipe-Sewer-Technology Conference & Exhibition, Intercontinental Citystars Hotel, Cairo.

22 September (Friday): Islamic New Year, national holiday (TBC).

06 October (Friday): Armed Forces Day, national holiday.

01 December (Friday): Prophet’s Birthday, national holiday.

08-10 December (Friday-Sunday): RiseUp Summit, Downtown Cairo.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2022 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

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