Thursday, 1 February 2018

Crackdown on retailers who don’t put price tags on their wares begins this morning

TL;DR

What We’re Tracking Today

Retailers beware: The crackdown on pricing display begins this morning as the Supply Ministry launches a “sweeping inspection campaign” to see whether shops are complying with a requirement that they clearly display the prices of their wares. Industry representatives tell us most food producers are in compliance with the new regulations already and do not expect the campaign to have a significant direct effect on them. Previous amendments to the decree changed the requirement from having producers print manufacturer-suggested retail prices (MSRPs) on their goods’ packaging to just providing the figure in their invoices to retailers. The requirement is now for retailers to display the prices of products on sale.

…What you should keep an eye on here is how this “sweeping campaign” will affect smaller retailers and corner shops. Larger supermarkets already display prices fairly prominently in their outlets, but smaller shops and kiosks often don’t. So the question now is whether the campaign will result in wide-scale closures and penalties. If this is the case, then the campaign could also impact producers as they would see their sales channels limited — at least temporarily. Still, the market does not seem too concerned, with one industry insider telling us “there are more than 400,000 sales points across Egypt … the government does not have the power to effectively monitor all that.” He expects to see an intensified, and very public, crackdown on a limited number of shops that will fade away soon after and for business to return shortly to normal. We’ll be touching base with friends in the industry and will report back at the end of next week.

The crackdown traces its roots to a drive by the Consumer Protection Agency to clamp down on what it sees as price gouging by retailers during a period of spiraling inflation following the float of the EGP in late 2016.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s warning to the opposition yesterday is dominating international media coverage of Egypt this morning. The Associated Press writes that a “visibly furious” president sent a “sharp warning” as a “signal that authorities will tolerate no questioning of the legitimacy of the March 26-28 vote.” The president, speaking at the official opening of the Zohr supergiant gas field, “said he would not allow a repeat of the 2011 uprising.” We have more coverage in Egypt in the News, below, or you can go check out highlights from the speech now on the Associated Press, Reuters or Bloomberg

Where, oh where, has my investment map gone? Oh where, oh where could it be? There’s still no word from the Investment Ministry on when its long-awaited investment map will launch. Last we heard, it was due to have been unveiled at December’s Africa Investment Conference in Sharm. Repeated delays have prompted others around the cabinet table, including the Agriculture Ministry and even the Higher Education Ministry, to release their own investment maps, and the Trade and Industry Ministry released its own document last fall. Investment Ministger Sahar Nasr caught flak from Parliament over the delay in the map. In the meantime, we’re hearing that 65 of the proposed 600 projects will take place in Qena, according to Al Borsa.

The US Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged at the last meeting of the Yellen era yesterday, but said that inflation would continue to rise this year, according to an official Fed statement. The Fed had projected three rate rises this year to match last year, which almost guarantees a bump at their next meeting in March. Inflation numbers came in below the Fed’s expectations despite solid employment numbers, Reuters reports. Expectations are that Jerome Powell, who takes the helm in a couple of days’ time, will largely maintain outgoing boss Janet Yellen’s policy line.

CI Capital’s 2018 MENA Investor Conference wraps up today. We have more in Speed Round, below.

Also this morning: A Saudi-Egyptian business forum gets underway today two days after a Saudi-Egyptian joint committee convened in Cairo to prepare for a Riyadh meeting in April that will focus on finding ways to boost trade relations, Youm 7 reports.

The rich are fleeing London: London is neck-to-neck with Lagos and Istanbul in terms of “net outflows of rich people,” according to a Global Wealth Migration Review picked up by Bloomberg. The report says that 5,000 HNWI left London in 2017, compared to only 1,000 coming in “as new taxes make it expensive to inherit and invest, and as Brexit prompts rich Europeans living in the UK capital to return home.”

Also worth a moment of your time this morning:

Big data could revolutionize economic and other policy making in government, the Financial Times suggests in its Big Read.

Are you a CEO? Get off social media. Bruce Nolop, former CFO of E*Trade and Pitney Bowes, speaks for all of us here when he writes for the Wall Street Journal that CEOs should staff off social media.

Speaking of social media: People are spending less time browsing Facebook, and the slowdown began before its recent changes to its new feed and saw it “lose daily users for the first time ever in the US and Canada,” Recode reports in coverage of the social media giant’s earnings. Shares whipsawed in after hours trading, rebounding after dropping sharply, CNBC notes.

The much touted Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More is now out. We are ashamed to admit that our business-book self-help jag sees it at the top of our TBR pile for the weekend, even though what we really should be reading is King of Capital: The Remarkable Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Steve Schwarzman and Blackstone.

On The Horizon

Egypt’s Emirates NBI PMI reading for January will be announced on Monday, 5 February.

A delegation of 22 British companies led by UK trade envoy Jeffrey Donaldson is visiting Egypt on 10 February to discuss a tripartite trade agreement between the UK, Egypt, and China centered on exports to African markets.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

Finally, we are back on economic coverage on the airwaves courtesy of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s visit to the Zohr gas field. The notable exception was, of course, Amr Adib, and we’re totally fine with that. As a matter of fact, we actively encourage it.

Eni looking at more offshore exploration opportunities? Oil Minister Tarek El Molla went on Masaa DMC to remind Osama Kamal of benefits of Zohr (we have more in the Speed Round below). He also said Eni has been encouraged launch new exploration campaigns in Egypt in areas adjacent to the Zohr field. Eni and others are interesting in doing business here because of policies that have spurred investment in the sector, the minister said (watch, runtime 17:37).

Wait, did the EGX just endorses Bitcoin as a means of e-payment? EGX deputy head Mohsen Adel phoned in to Masaa to say that it is acceptable to use it as a means of electronic payment, but strongly urged against using it as means of “speculative investment” and warned of its risk. He also warned of the cryptocurrency’s use in terrorism financing. Adel also pointed out that no central bank has yet banned the use of cryptocurrency. That won’t stop members of the House (paragons of economic thinking that they are) from falling back on simple stereotypes regarding cryptocurrencies. House Economics Committee-member Mohamed Al Badrawy echoed the central bank’s warning, saying the use of cryptocurrency is a new type of “fraud”. He also urged the CBE to take measures to protect people from getting to deep into crypto (watch, runtime 9:07).

Lamees Al Hadidi’ absence from Hona Al Asema did not temper the econ discussions, which focused on Zohr. Lama Gebril, who filled in, spoke with former Oil Minister Osama Kamal, who said that when production of Zohr reaches 1 bcf/d by June 2018, Egypt would be saving USD 200 mn per month and around USD 2.5 bn annually (watch, runtime 7:14).

Al Hayah Al Youm hosted former EGPC deputy chief Medhat Youssef, who stressed the importance of the maritime border demarcation agreement with Cyprus in bringing Zohr to life. He noted that Egypt has signed 83 oil agreements since the last quarter of 2013, luring investment of some USD 18 bn. He reminded viewers that Egypt’s oil sector made up 43% of foreign direct investments in 2017, adding that Egypt will be producing a total of 6.4 bcf by June 2018 (watch: runtime 26:27).

The show also brought on Deputy Social Solidarity Minister Nevine El Kabbaj to discuss the Takaful and Karama program. El Kabbaj said the program now covered 5,630 villages spanning all governorates since its launch two and a half years ago. Al-Kabbag said around 5.1 mn Egyptian families signed up for the program but only 2.25 mn families were eligible for the funding (watch, runtime 32:20).

Over on Kol Youm, Amr Adib defended El Sisi’s response to opposition calls for boycott the presidential elections (more in the Speed Round). Adib supported El Sisi’s reasoning and said the country shouldn’t be allowed to replicate what happened seven years ago. Adib warned that if similar protests took place, even the local investors would begin moving their wealth abroad, which would slam prospects of economic development (watch, runtime 5:41).

Speed Round

Speed Round is presented in association with

Bye-bye, days of easy shareholder ID as FRA issues tighter KYC regs? The Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) issued new information protection protocols yesterday that seek to tighten know-your-client regulations for capital market transactions by tightening companies’ access to investor data. Listed companies will have limited access to data about their shareholders under the new regulations, which will only make the data available once a month and for specific purposes — and after obtaining regulatory approval. Companies will only be allowed access to the data if it is needed for events such as general assembly meetings, dividend distribution, reviewing delisting or acquisition offers, and issuing GDRs in a foreign market, the FRA said in a statement (pdf). The government has been working to improve transparency and security in Egypt’s capital market to attract new investments and improve the country’s overall standing on international indices. A new Capital Markets Act is also under review and should be out soon, paving the way for new products including futures trading, short-selling, and a commodities exchange, as well as setting penalties for financial crimes and new rules to govern sector fees and taxes in the sector.

Finance Minister Amr El Garhy is reportedly days aways from signing off on an agreement that would exempt banks from paying a stamp tax on letters of credit that are being newly-issued or are up for renewal. The Federation of Egyptian Banks (FEB), headed by CIB Chairman Hisham Ezz Al Arab, has been pushing to bring the 2016 agreement with the Tax Authority into effect, sources close to the matter tell Al Mal.

Egypt’s M2 Money Supply climbed 20.9% y-o-y at the end of December to stand at EGP 3.2 tn (USD 181.33 bn), central bank data showed yesterday, according to Reuters.

INVESTMENT WATCH- Polish group to build EGP 1.5 bn baby formula plant: Poland’s Polva Group plans to build what it’s billing as Egypt’s first industrial-scale infant formula plant in 10 Ramadan City at a total investment cost of c. EGP 1.5 bn, Trade and Industry Ministry Tarek Kabil announced yesterday. Development of the first phase will cost around EGP 600 mn, Kabil said, adding that the project will be financed by Poland’s National Development Bank. Polish businesses are also eyeing new investments in Egypt’s pharma sector, according to the minister.

M&A WATCH- CI Capital is looking to acquire a brokerage firm in the UAE as part of its regional expansion plan, Managing Director and Head of Brokerage Karim Khadr tells Al Mal in an interview. Speaking on the sidelines of the firm’s second annual MENA Investor Conference, Khadr said that CI Capital is hoping to finalize the transaction and obtain its operating licenses before the end of 2018. Khadr did not provide additional details, but CI Capital CEO Mahmoud Atallah had said on Tuesday that his company was still planning an initial public offering on the EGX but has yet to decide on the timeline and size of the transaction, the proceeds from which it plans to use to fund future acquisition in the non-banking financial sector.

EGX had reportedly been investigating trade in El Nozha shares prior to complaint: The EGX is currently investigating transactions on shares of El Nozha International Hospital from January 2017 until the 18 January 2017, when Cleopatra Hospitals Group filed for a mandatory tender offer to acquire 100% of the 110-bed Heliopolis hospital, an EGX source tells Al Borsa. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the bourse had been investigating the transactions prior to El Nozha’s board raising concerns about alleged stock market manipulation of its shares in months preceding Cleopatra Hospitals MTO. They added that the volume of transactions was not large and that the EGX will conclude its investigation shortly. As we noted yesterday, El Nozha’s board had brought the allegations and their relation to Cleo’s hostile takeover bid to the Financial Regulatory Authority.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde praised the Egyptian government’s commitment to the economic reform program in an interview with Al Shorouk yesterday. Lagarde said that reforms are already beginning to bear fruit, with inflation levels expected to cool to around 12% in 2018 and FDI projections looking up thanks to improvements on the security front. New investments translate to higher tax revenues and income for the state, she also said, adding that Egypt’s current GDP growth rate of over 5% is higher than the regional average.

New cement plant to open with market already in state of oversupply. The Armed Forces-owned El-Areesh Company for Cement, will inaugurate a USD 1.1 bn cement plant in Beni Suef in the coming few days, officials tell Reuters. The plant, whose Chinese builders say is the biggest plant to be built all at one time, comes at a time when the market in a state of oversupply: Last year, the country had an annual capacity of 79 mn tonnes despite consumption being only 53 mn tonnes, an official at a rival firm, who asked not to be named, said. At least three cement firms reported losses in 3Q2017 and national inventory is now 5 mn tonnes, the official said.

Urban planning authority now competes in sector it is supposed to regulate: The New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) and the Housing and Development Bank (HDB) have joined forces to launch a EGP 1.3 bn real estate development outfit, Housing Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced yesterday, Al Shorouk reports NUCA holds 60% of City Edge, while HDB holds 38%, and the Holding Company for Development holds 2%. The company will launch operations with two developments in Six October City and neighboring Sheikh Zayed worth a combined EGP 5.5 bn. Construction is set to start in the first or second quarters of 2018. No conflict of interest to see here, folks. Move along.

Another day, another delay in the return of Russian flights? Moscow appears to have pushed plans to resume direct air travel with Cairo to a later date in February. Sources tell Youm7 that Cairo Airport received word of the delay from Russian national flag carrier Aeroflot yesterday, adding that tickets for the flights are not officially on sale yet. The delay has been reflected on the Domodedovo Airport’s website, which now has flights to Cairo scheduled for 20 February instead of 6 February as had been originally planned. Russian officials had said earlier this week that Egypt and Russia must sign an aviation security agreement before direct flights can be restored. Direct flights to Cairo have been on hiatus since late 2015, when a Russian airliner crashed shortly after taking off from Sharm El Sheikh, killing all 224 passengers.

But that’s not stopping the folks at state-owned Sputnik from throwing a bone our way now and again. The images of Cairo they put out yesterday were quite beautiful (if we do say so ourselves).

EARNINGS WATCH- CIB posts record full-year earnings. Our friends at Egypt’s largest private-sector bank delivered a 25% rise in net income to EGP 7.5 bn in FY2017 on revenues of EGP 14.9 bn (up 32% y-o-y). In comment on the results, management noted that the bank delivered “strong growth across its different revenue lines … and improved efficiency, as evident in a decrease in its cost-to-income ratio” despite sharp pressure from inflation. Net interest income rose “despite intense market competition, which pushed all banks to raise their cost of deposits in order to compete efficiently with the rates offered by public sector banks,” it added. CIB, which took home Euromoney’s nod as world’s best bank in the emerging markets in 2017, saw funding to businesses and individuals grow 5% during the year, while deposits were up 8%. The bank had a 7.2% share of the nation’s loan market as of September 2017, the most recent period for which market data is available.

What’s the outlook? CIB notes that “the road ahead remains challenging, especially after the CBE’s latest decision to increase the Required Reserve Ratio back to its historical 14%, which is expected to impact Banks’ interest margins in the short run, after which pressure would start to ease off as Banks gradually adjust their cost of deposits, thereby placing downward pressure on interest rates and helping bring inflation down.” You can read the bank’s full earnings filing here (pdf).

Leading dairy products maker Juhayna Food Industries reported a 269% y-o-y net profit increase in FY2017, according to a company earnings release (pdf). Consolidated net revenues for the year grew 21% over the same period last year. Top contributors to revenue growth for the year were the dairy and yogurt segments, representing 48% and 22% of revenues, respectively. This comes despite a challenging market environment for consumer goods in 2017 on the back of high inflation which peaked in July at 35%. Juhayna says it focused last year on “freezing CAPEX, closure of uneconomical distribution centers, delisting non-profitable SKUs, localization of input materials, cutting down the workforce, divesting from unproductive assets, focusing on reducing the inventory level to the minimum and shrinking debts.”

Sign of a recovery in the consumer food market: Juhayna’s results come days after cheese maker Domty, which also had a rough first nine months of the year, said its unaudited results suggested it would flip to a profit in 4Q2017 from a loss in the same quarter last year.

Gold miner Centamin reported a 13% y-o-y drop in core profit in 2017, which came in at USD 326 mn, according to a company statement (pdf). The Sukari gold mine produced 544,658 ounces of gold over the year at a cost of USD 554/oz, generating USD 676 mn in revenue and USD 224 mn in pre-tax profit.

Egypt ranked 130 of 165 on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2017 Democracy Index, which saw the average global score drop to 5.48 in 2017 from 5.52 in 2016, as 89 countries “experienced a decline in their total score compared with 2016.” While Egypt’s score improved slightly to 3.36 in 2017 from 3.31 in 2016, the report says that the Middle East and North Africa is “the world’s worst region for press freedom,” citing arrests of journalists in Egypt and Bahrain, as well as “censorship practices” as reasons behind MENA’s 3.6 average score and 116.2 ranking. You can view the full report here (pdf).

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi reaffirmed Egypt’s plans to achieve natural gas self sufficiency this year during the official inaugural ceremony of the supergiant Zohr gas field yesterday, according to an Ittihadiya statement. Oil Minister Tarek El Molla had said last week that Zohr, which began production in December ahead of schedule, could help Egypt halt all LNG imports by July this year, instead of late 2018 or early 2019, saving the state as much as USD 250 mn a month. The offshore Mediterranean field, which holds an estimated 30 tcf of reserves and currently pumps a daily 350 mcf, is expected to reach a target 2.7 bcf/d by the end of 2019, helping “restore the nation as a gas supplier for the eastern Mediterranean region,” Bloomberg notes. Egypt Today has put together a neat list of all Zohr-related facts and figures.

Work completed in record time, despite Regeni case: Work on the Zohr gas field, which was discovered by Italy’s Eni in 2015, was completed in record time despite the diplomatic rift between Cairo and Rome over the murder of Italian graduate student Giulio Regeni in Cairo. During the ceremony, “El Sisi repeated his pledge that Egypt would help bring the killers of the 28 year-old researcher to justice,” thanking Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi and Italian authorities for “‘standing alongside [Egypt] despite the Regeni case.’” Xinhua also has coverage.

This comes as Amnesty International UK proselytizes on behalf of campaigners calling for demonstration at the Egyptian embassy in London tomorrow to mark the second anniversary of Regeni’s killing.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi issued a stern warning yesterday against calls to boycott the upcoming presidential poll, threatening “to take strong action against anyone trying to disrupt the country’s stability,” the Associated Press reports. “In a thinly veiled warning to critics, [El Sisi] vowed there won’t be another uprising against the government on his watch,” according to Bloomberg, saying that “the things that happened seven or eight years ago won’t be repeated in Egypt.” Reuters also has coverage. El Sisi’s statements come one day after opposition parties and figures called on voters to snub the March election to protest the two-man candidate lineup. Dar Al Iftaa had issued an edict yesterday declaring the boycott a sin for Muslims.

El Sisi calls for a second “Tafweed”? El Sisi said he might call on Egyptians to take to the streets once again to give him a second mandate (or “Tafweed”) if it becomes evident that “the forces of evil” are directly threatening the nation. El Sisi last called for mandate in 2013 which preceded security forces breaking up Ikhwani protests in support of deposed President Mohamed Morsi (watch, runtime 7:29). El Sisi said that a second mandate is necessary as it would require “new procedures” to combat these forces.

State Department designates Hasm, Lewa El Thowra, Ismail Haneya as terrorist: The US State Department has designated the Hasm and Lewa El Thowra gorups as as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, the US Embassy in Cairo said in a statement on Wednesday. The State Department also designated Hamas political leader Ismail Haneya as a terrorist, a move that could have consequences for the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation talks sponsored by Egypt. “These designations seek to deny Ismail Haniyeh, Harakat al-Sabireen, Liwa al Thawra, and HASM the resources they need to plan and carry out further terrorist attacks. Among other consequences, all of their property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them,” read the statement.

The Donald is again threatening aid cuts to those unsupportive of his Jerusalem move: In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, US President Donald Trump once again used the threat of cutting US to countries that do not back US foreign policies, USA Today notes. Trump said he will ask Congress to pass a law that would only give foreign aid to nations that “serve American interests, and only go to America’s friends.” His previous threat of aid cuts came ahead of a UN General Assembly vote following an Egypt-drafted resolution in the Security Council condemning Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Arab League plans to hold an emergency meeting today to discuss the situation. Foreign ministers of members will meet to discuss the next course of action regional countries will take to reaffirm their objection to the Jerusalem decision, diplomatic sources tell Al Ahram.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry had been discussing the very same issue at an emergency meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, an international policy coordination body for development assistance to the Palestinian people, according to an official ministry statement. The meeting, which came in response to the Trump administration announcing it would cut development aid to the Palestinians, also saw EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warn the US that attempts to push the peace process as a sole broker would end in failure, reports the NYT. The EU announced new funding packages for Palestine from the meeting of USD 53 mn.

MAF still pursuing growth plans despite revenue slowdown in 2017: Despite a drop in earnings in 2017, the UAE’s Majid Al Futtaim Group (MAF) is still pursuing regional expansion plans that should see it double in size by 2020, CEO Alain Bejjani said yesterday, The National reports. The company is planning to open new “cinemas in Saudi Arabia and more Carrefour stories in Sub-Saharan Africa,” he added. Preliminary results show that MAF grew its earnings 1% y-o-y in 2017, compared to an 8% growth rate a year before, weighed down by factors such as the currency float in Egypt.

Things are expected to look up in 2018, especially as the tourist market begins to recover. The company is engaged in talks for several acquisitions and has “plans to open 10 new City Centre malls, six hotels, 28 cinemas, 40 Carrefour supermarkets, and a 740k sqm master- planned community over the next 10 years” in the UAE. MAF will also launch a mall project with a indoor ski slope in Saudi Arabia and will invest AED 5 bn in Oman by 2020.

NBK Capital Partners announced yesterday (pdf) that it has “successfully exited its inaugural USD 157 mn private debt vehicle,” the Mezzanine Fund I, divesting stakes in eight portfolio investments. “I am delighted with this milestone, which demonstrates the superior returns we continue to generate for investors and validates the tremendous opportunity for private debt strategies in the region,” NBK Capital Senior Managing Director Yaser Moustafa said. “It builds on our track record that now totals 17 realizations from 29 investments, the highest number of profitable exits by an alternative investments firm in the region over the past decade.” Mezzanine II held a diverse debt portfolio that included investments in various UAE- and Turkey-based businesses. LPs included HNWIs, pension funds, regional endowments, and family offices. “We remain focused on maintaining this level of success for investors across our private equity, private debt, and real estate interests,” Moustafa said.

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Image of the Day

The Israeli politician who refused to stay in Alexandria’s Palestine Hotel: Israeli journalist Danny Rubinstein recounts to Middle East Eye her experience as a journalist on a delegation accompanying ex-Israeli interior minister Yosef Burg to Alexandria, shortly after Egypt and Israel signed their peace treaty in 1979. Burg refused to stay at a luxury seaside hotel in Alexandria by the name of Palestine.

Egypt in the News

Politics, the elections and human rights once again dominated coverage of Egypt in the foreign press this morning. Pickups of wire coverage of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s warning to those calling for an election boycott led coverage, with most paying particular attention to El Sisi’s reference to the 2011 protests which toppled Hosni Mubarak. Tying in with El Sisi’s statements were additional pickups of the call by the opposition figures to boycott the elections.

On the human rights front, the Financial Times is noting calls to the Egyptian government from civil society groups and human rights activist to suspend the death penalty after an “unprecedented” rise in the number of state executions last year. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a civil society group, said activists had confirmed at least 49 executions in 2017, double the number the year before and a sevenfold increase over 2015. The cases related to sentences handed down by both military and civilian courts, writes Heba Saleh (paywall). “We are calling for an immediate suspension of executions and for the launch of a public debate about the death penalty,” said Amira Mahmoud, researcher at the civil society group.

This comes as a Giza court upheld yesterday 10 death sentences against individuals convicted on terror charges, judicial sources tell Reuters’ Arabic service. Meanwhile, a Cairo court has issued one-year suspended sentences and EGP 500 fine to each of the 15 people involved in a December attack on a Coptic Church in a village south of Cairo.

The Trump administration is wisely designating violent affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists, but not the umbrella organization, writes Eli Lake for Bloomberg following its designation of Hamas leader Ismail Haneya, Hasm and Lewa El Thowra as terrorist organizations. Lake notes that those named in Wednesday’s new designation had been directly responsible for deaths in their respective countries as well as those of US citizens. He calls the strategy of avoiding labeling the entire global Ikhwan movement as “a refined” approach. “America must draw a distinction between nonviolent Islamists and those who turn to terror. The designations announced Wednesday are important in this respect. But it’s no substitute for a coherent policy on the Muslim Brotherhood,” he concludes.

Stop us if you’ve heard this tired old line before: The waning dominance of Egyptian Arabic is reflective of Egypt’s declining influence on the regional political stage, according to the Economist Prospero Blog. From the 1940s, people all over the Arab world grew used to Egyptian. Generously funded by the state, the Egyptian cinema industry was the third biggest on earth in the 1950s. The cultural importance of Egypt coincided with the emergence of Pan-Arabism and the rise of its most dynamic figure, Gamal Abdel NAsser. A number of factors have led to the decline of this prominence. The internet has allowed other dialects and influences to rise, leading to a cultural competition. The political instability of Egypt’s transitional period and the souring of its reputation abroad, also played a significant role in its declining cultural exports, says the Economist.

The British Embassy in Cairo denied reports it told Laura Plummer’s family that her release was imminent, Ruth Michaelson and Jamie Grierson write for The Guardian. This followed reports that Plummer, who was caught trying to smuggle illegal medications into Egypt, was set to receive a presidential pardon. “At no point did Foreign Office staff, including the British embassy staff in Cairo, advise Laura’s family that she would be released imminently,” a British Embassy spokeswoman said.

Also worth a quick skim today:

  • Fear of the Sudanese intelligence service has dissuaded thousands of Sudanese refugees in Egypt from returning to their villages in Darfur, according to a report by Al-Monitor.
  • Tariq Ramadan, the academic and grandson of Ikhwan founder Hassan Al Banna, has been taken into custody by French police following accusations of rape, according to the Guardian.
  • Indian packaged goods firm Dabur reported a 13% increase in net profit partly driven by a 46% growth in their Egyptian business, Live Mint reports.
  • African ride-hailing app Mondo closed another USD 2 mn in funding from investors in Egypt and the UAE, according to My Startup World.

Worth Watching

The Mars Curiosity Rover snapped a series of great photos from a ridge it climbed on a rare clear weather day back in October, according to Engadget. NASA collated the images into a panorama shot that shows some of the landmarks both in and outside of the crater it has been exploring as well as the route that the rover has take over the last five years. (watch, runtime 1:53)

Diplomacy + Foreign Trade

Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia to establish joint rail and road network: The presidents of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan have agreed to create a joint fund to raise capital for a network of railway lines and roads connecting the three countries, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said on Tuesday, according to Middle East Monitor. The three heads of state, had possibly reached an end to the stalemate over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam as they agreed during a meeting to set a one-month deadline for each country to present solutions for “pending technical issues” over the dam.

Energy

Finance Ministry issues letters of guarantee to 30 solar power companies under FiT phase two

The Finance Ministry issued financial guarantees to 30 solar power companies implementing projects under phase two of the feed in-tariff (FiT) program, government sources told Al Borsa. The projects are being funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and International Finance Corporation, they said. Companies are now waiting to receive their permits to begin construction, which is expected to wrap up within six months. The Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company had reportedly accepted financial models for the planned power plants in Benban earlier this month.

Government to approve Al Nowais power station’s technical plans “within days”

The Electricity Ministry is expected to present the Ismail cabinet with the technical plans for Al Nowais’ Oyoun Mousa “clean coal” power station within days, a ministry source tells Al Mal. Negotiations over the project’s feed-in tariff rate should begin once the government signs off on the plans. The company’s proposed tariff ranges from USD 0.058-0.067 per kWh, officials told Al Borsa at the time. The cabinet had allocated land to the USD 4 bn project in December.

Basic Materials + Commodities

Egypt is now the third largest exporter of citrus to China

Egypt is now the third largest exporter of citrus products to China, Xinhua reports. Citrus exports started out with 23,000 tonnes in 2015 and reached 101k tonnes last year, chairman of Egypt’s Horticultural Export Improvement Association (HEIA) Mohsen Al Beltagy told the Chinese newswire. Only the US and South Africa are ahead of Egypt as exporters to China. Egyptian citrus products have been outperforming global peers with recent projections seeing our oranges taking the lead in global exports.

Tourism

Egypt sees 66.5% surge in 2017 group travel

Group travel to Egypt saw a 66.5% y-o-y surge in 2017, according to research by ForwardKeys, which also finds that travel to the Middle East and Africa grew by 10.5% in 2017. The report says that tourist arrivals are up thanks to a “recovery from terror attacks that hit North Africa in 2015.” It also attributes a general rise in travel around the world to more relaxed visa regulations that mean to attract more visitors. Tap or click here for the full report.

Diyar El Medina setting up Cairo branch next week

Saudi Arabia’s Diyar El Medina plans on opening a branch in Cairo next week, company head Saeed Makki said, according to Al Shorouk. The hospitality group owns hotels in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and would like to work with local tour companies to facilitate visas and travel for pilgrims.

Automotive + Transportation

Construction for Salam City-New Capital electric railway line delayed to mid-2018

Work on the USD 1.2 bn electric railway line connecting Salam City with the New Administrative Capital has been delayed until mid-2018, Transport Ministry Aide Amr Shaath tells Al Mal. The project was initially set to break ground in late 2017, before being delayed until February 2018. Shaath said the project has been delayed to accommodate the delay in acquiring the first USD 500 mn tranche of a loan from China, the negotiations for which are still ongoing.

Armed Forces launch new smart, double-decker buses in Cairo

The Armed Forces Engineering Authority has introduced 40 Wi-Fi and AC- equipped double-decker buses to Cairo’s streets, authority chief Kamel El Wazir announced on Wednesday. The made-in-Egypt buses, which have a total capacity of 68 passengers each, will begin operating commercially within the next few days.

Banking + Finance

EBRD-led consortium agrees to renew and increase value of NBE loan to USD 750 mn

A global banking consortium led by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has agreed to renew and increase the value of a loan agreement with the National Bank of Egypt to USD 750 mn, sources close to the matter told Al Mal. The new agreement will be signed soon, once the pending paperwork is finalized, they added. The original loan of USD 390 mn had been extended three years ago and was due to mature in May 2018. NBE is seeking the loan to improve its USD liquidity and a third of it will be used for domestic credit and SME financing. NBE is also expected to ink another EUR 500-750 mn loan agreement with the EBRD during 1H2018, sources told the newspaper.

Western Union looking to break into fintech in Egypt

Western Union is in talks with the central bank to obtain approval to begin offering mobile cash transfer and bill payment services through its local outlets, Al Borsa reports.

Other Business News of Note

Ahmed Bahgat to disclose details of settlement agreement with the Gov’t

CEO of Bahgat Group and owner of Dream TV Network Ahmed Bahgat will disclose within days the details of a settlement agreement he has reached with the government and some banks, according to a statement carried by Al Masry Al Youm.

Egypt Politics + Economics

Interior Ministry assigning human rights officers to police stations

The Interior Ministry is placing “human rights officers” in all police stations to handle with grievances citizens have with the police, the ministry announced in a video (watch, runtime 0:21)

On Your Way Out

Is the sibling of the “boisterous one” leaving Al Hayat? Emad El Din Adib is reportedly leaving Al Hayat following a series of controversial interviews, sources close to the situation told Youm7. Youm7 received no comment when they reached out to Adib but have learned that he has several offers on the table from other media outlets.

The Market Yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 17.63 | Sell 17.73
EGP / USD at CIB: Buy 17.6 | Sell 17.7
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 17.63 | Sell 17.73

EGX30 (Wednesday): 15,042 (-1.8%)
Turnover: EGP 1.2 bn (7% ABOVE the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: +0.2%

THE MARKET ON WEDNESDAY: The EGX30 ended Wednesday’s session down 1.8%. CIB, the index heaviest constituent closed down 2.6%. EGX30’s top performing constituents were AMOC up 1.7%; Eastern Co up 0.9%; and Telecom Egypt up 0.8%. Today’s worst performing stocks were Ezz Steel down 4.3%; Emaar Misr down 4.3%; and Orascom Telecom Media & Technology down 4.0%. The market turnover was EGP 1.2 bn, and foreign investors were the sole net buyers.

Foreigners: Net Long | EGP +14.8 mn
Regional: Net Short | EGP -8.5 mn
Domestic: Net Short | EGP -6.3 mn

Retail: 62.3% of total trades | 65.6% of buyers | 59.1% of sellers
Institutions: 37.7% of total trades | 34.4% of buyers | 40.9% of sellers

Foreign: 19.9% of total | 20.6% of buyers | 19.3% of sellers
Regional: 11.1% of total | 10.7% of buyers | 11.5% of sellers
Domestic: 69.0% of total | 68.7% of buyers | 69.3% of sellers

WTI: USD 64.77 (+0.42%)
Brent: USD 69.05 (+0.04%)

Natural Gas (Nymex, futures prices) USD 2.97 MMBtu, (-7.07%, MAR 2018 contract)
Gold: USD 1,346.7 / troy ounce (+0.5%)

TASI: 7,650.12 (+0.25%) (YTD: +5.86%)
ADX: 4,602.23 (-0.79%) (YTD: +4.63%)
DFM: 3,394.36 (-1.32%) (YTD: +0.72%)
KSE Weighted Index: 411.98 (-0.68%) (YTD: +2.63%)
QE: 9,204.62 (-1.33%) (YTD: +7.99%)
MSM: 4,999.96 (-0.15%) (YTD: -1.95%)
BB: 1,350.67 (-0.12%) (YTD: +1.42%)

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Calendar

30 January-01 February (Tuesday-Thursday): CI Capital’s MENA Investor Conference, Four Seasons Nile Plaza, Cairo.

3-4 February (Saturday-Sunday): Egypt Investment Forum, Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel, Cairo.

05 February (Monday): Egypt’s Emirates NBI PMI reading for January announced.

08-11 February (Thursday-Sunday): Furnex & the Home international trade fair, Cairo International Convention Center.

12-14 February 2018 (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show 2018 (EGYPS), New Cairo Exhibition Center.

19-20 February 2018 (Monday-Tuesday): The Banking Tech North Africa, The Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo

17-21 February 2018 (Saturday-Wednesday): Women For Success – Women SME’s “World of Possibilities” Conference, Cairo/Luxor.

05-07 March (Monday-Wednesday): EFG Hermes’ One on One Conference 2018, Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai, UAE.

28-31 March 2018 (Thursday-Sunday): Cityscape Egypt, Cairo International Convention Centre, Cairo

08 April (Sunday): Easter Sunday, national holiday.

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

24-25 April (Tuesday-Wednesday): Renaissance Capital’s 3rd Annual Egypt Investor Conference, Cape Town, South Africa.

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

01 May (Tuesday): Labour Day, national holiday.

4-6 May 2018 (Friday-Sunday): International Conference on Network Technology (ICNT 2018), venue TBD, Cairo.

15 May (Tuesday): Expected date for the start of Ramadan begins (TBC).

15-17 June (Friday-Sunday): Eid Al Fitr (TBC), national holiday. (Look for possible Monday off given the first day falls on a Friday.)

21-25 August (Tuesday-Saturday): Eid Al Adha (TBC), national holiday

11 September (Tuesday): Islamic New Year (TBC), national holiday.

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

20 November (Tuesday): Prophet’s Birthday (TBC), national holiday.

22 November (Thursday): US Thanksgiving.

25 December (Tuesday): Western Christmas.

01 January 2019 (Tuesday): New Year’s Day, national holiday.

07 January 2019 (Monday): Coptic Christmas

25 January 2019 (Friday): Police Day, national holiday.

25 April 2019 (Thursday): Sinai Liberation day, national holiday.

28 April 2019 (Sunday): Easter Sunday, national holiday.

29 April 2019 (Monday): Easter Monday, national holiday.

01 May 2019 (Wednesday): Labor Day, national holiday.

06 May 2019 (Monday): First day of Ramadan (TBC)

05-06 June 2019 (Wednesday-Thursday): Eid El Fitr (TBC)

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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