Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Global equities selloff deepens after US stocks suffer their worst fall in six years

TL;DR

What We’re Tracking Today

The only global business story that matters this morning: The global correction in the equities market is gaining steam, and the selloff continues this morning in Asia. The EGX30 was the only regional index to buck the trend yesterday, closing the day up 0.6% in moderate trading.

Wall Street has now erased its 2018 gains after US stocks suffered their worst fall in six years: The Dow Jones Industrial Index and S&P 500 both took hits yesterday, dropping by more than 4%, “the biggest single-day percentage drops since August 2011, a period of stock-market volatility [that was] marked by the downgrade of the US’ credit rating and the eurozone debt crisis,” Reuters says. The Dow alone dropped a record 1,600 points, “its biggest intraday decline in history.” What investors need to think about now is “whether this is the long-awaited pullback that paves the way for stocks to again keep rising after finding some value, or the start of a decline that leads to a bear market,” the newswire says. The Wall Street Journal’s narrative on yesterday is also solid, as is the New York Times’.

Asian shares are down sharply this morning, with “MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan shedding 2.8% to a one-month low, which would be its biggest fall in more than a year and a half, a day after it had fallen 1.6%,” Reuters reports.

Need to follow the correction as it unfolds? Bloomberg is love-blogging it and streaming TV on its website.

Other stories we think you might want to read as you shape your thinking on what’s going on:

The big question as the the Financial Times sees it: “Whether the economic outlook in the US and around the world has changed sufficiently to justify weaker financial prices, or whether the correction has come without a definitive trigger, as professor Bob Shiller of Yale University says happens most often when markets turn.”

The selloff “feeds two narratives,” the Wall Street Journal notes, “one involving a brief correction, the other a tale of woe for stock and bond investors.”

Whatever is happening, it may not be good for the global M&A market, where “the most aggressive start to a year of dealmaking” is now in question, the Financial Times writes.

Did that wager on VIX pay off? We noted in the summer of 2017 that someone out there had expected a very volatile fall for US markets, taking a position that could have paid out USD 265 mn if the FIX rose to 25 by October. That didn’t happen, but now? The market rout has shattered the lull in volatility, the WSJ reports, noting that the VIX was at 37 by the close of Monday’s trading session, “shattering a lull in volatility.”

The market sell-off overshadowed Jay Powell’s first day as chairman of the US Federal Reserve and has wiped USD 114 bn from the fortunes of the world’s wealthiest people, Bloomberg reports.

Here at home: The central bank is hosting the fintech and digital economy conference “Seamless North Africa” (pdf) today. The two-day conference will allow local and global fintech companies to showcase their offerings in the region’s largest potential market.

One question on our minds this morning: What, exactly, is going on with Mona Zobaa and GAFI? General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI) Managing Director Mona Zobaa appears to be fully immersed in her duties, despite announcing her resignation last month. Most recently, she met with Mongolia’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Davaasuren Damdinsuren yesterday. The resignation came less than a year after her appointment.

A glitch in the iPhone X is preventing some users from taking calls: Hundreds of iPhone X users are complaining of an alleged system bug that’s preventing them from taking calls, according to the Financial Times (paywall). “When it rings, the iPhone’s touch screen appears to be delayed from turning on for up to 10 seconds, preventing the user from tapping the virtual button required to answer a call.” Apple said its investigating reports that, as the FT puts it, its “pocket supercomputer cannot accomplish the most basic task that even a USD 10 phone can manage.”

What We’re Tracking This Week

We’re expecting an announcement sometime this week on the USD 4-5 bn eurobond issuance. Finance Minister Amr El Garhy said that the issuance, which will take place on the London and Luxembourg stock exchanges, is due any day now.

Sudan and Egypt’s foreign ministers and intelligence service chiefs will meet in Cairo on Thursday to resolve “outstanding issues” between Cairo and Khartoum.

On The Horizon

The London Business School is holding its annual Middle East Conference on 2 March. The theme for this year’s forum, which brings together 200 students= and business leaders, will be “Roads Less Travelled”, and will aim to explore the new routes business leaders in the Middle East can pursue to create more innovative, open, inclusive, and successful industries. Speakers this year will include Qalaa Holdings Chairman Ahmed Heikal and founding partner for Zulficar & Partners Mona Zulficar.

The central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet on 15 February to decide on interest rates.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

Amr Adib was the only one of the nation’s talking heads to bless the airwaves with a business-related discussion last night, with everyone else shifting between politics and miscellany.

Adib sat sat down with Samih Sawiris on last night’s Kol Yom for a prolonged chat about the economy, which the businessman said is on the mend and primed for fresh investment. Sawiris reserved particular praise for the EGP float, saying that currency stability is key to an attractive business climate. Political and security issues continue to be the thorn in the country’s side, especially when it comes to the recovery of tourism, he noted.

For what remained of his air time, Sawiris spoke about the EGP 4 bn Zewail City for Science and Technology, where he sits on the board of trustees. He urged viewers to contribute to the project, which is being developed by the Armed Forces due to lack of sufficient funding from donors (watch the full interview here, runtime 1:00:35).

Adib also spoke to Samir Sami Anan, the son of the former Armed Forces chief of staff, about his suspension from the Arab Academy for Science and Technology over alleged social media posts against the state (we have the full story in Politics + Economics). Anan Jr maintains that the account that posted the content in question is not his (watch, runtime 7:33).

Meningitis at Choueifat? On Hona Al Asema, Education Minister Tarek Shawki told host Lamees Al Hadidi that the International School of Choueifat has been temporarily shut down for three days over fears of a meningitis outbreak. His ministry will hold a joint presser on Saturday with the Health Ministry to announce the final results of their ongoing investigation into the issue (watch, runtime 4:13).The Health Ministry has already concluded that it has found no reason to believe that any student has contracted the disease, according to ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed (watch, runtime 4:00).

Lamees also sat down with Lawyers’ Syndicate head Sameh Ashour to discuss his views on the political scene in Egypt (watch, runtime 5:25), while Al Hayah Al Youm’s Tamer Amin did the same with political analyst Abdel Moneim Said (watch, runtime 45:17).

Over on Masaa DMC, Eman El Hosary followed up on President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s visit to Oman, which wraps up today with meetings with Omani investors, Ittihadiya spokesman Bassam Rady told her (watch, runtime 4:12).

El Hosary also hosted South Sinai Governor Khaled Fouda, who said that tourism flows are still low. According to Fouda, occupancy rates during peak seasons reached 40-45%, while off seasons see occupancy dipping to as low as 25%. Egypt has begun working to attract tourists from alternative markets, including Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia, to make up for lower arrival rates from other regions, Fouda said (watch, runtime 4:07).

Speed Round

Speed Round is presented in association with

Business conditions in Egypt’s non-oil private sector broadly stabilized in January, according the Emirates NBD PMI reading for January compiled by Markit. The reading came at 49.9, up from December’s reading of 48.3 — just shy of the 50.0 neutral mark — and above the long run average of 48.3. January’s performance mainly reflected stabilization in both output and new orders, with new export orders rises amid reports of greater demand from international markets. Companies’ input buying grew at its fastest rate since August 2014, the report noted. “The signs are encouraging as we begin 2018. A pick-up in new export orders in particular stands as an indication that the difficult economic reforms enacted in late 2016 are starting to pay off,” commented Daniel Richards, MENA Economist at Emirates NBD. The report also noted that companies retained optimism towards the 12-month outlook for output with a stronger degree of positive sentiment compared to the series average.

EXCLUSIVE- Tim Collins’ Ripplewood is looking to acquire another 10% of SODIC. The play was recently disclosed to select shareholders under an arcane rule of Egyptian securities law that required Ripplewood to disclose its plans to MCDR, the central clearinghouse and share depository. Enterprise has reviewed copies of the documentation, which notifies shareholders holding more than 1% of SODIC of Ripplewood’s intention to add substantially to its position.

Ripplewood already holds 9.35% of the leading real estate developer and has representation on the company’s board. The firm is a vehicle of prominent US investor Tim Collins, well-known in Egyptian circles for his previous investment in CIB and a four-year shareholder at SODIC who controls a seat on the company’s board. SODIC’s other lead shareholders include Olayan (12.60%) and the Abanumay family (11.47%), according to SODIC’s IR website. Officials at both SODIC and Ripplewood declined overnight opportunities to comment on the story.

Egypt won over investors with currency liberalization. Now it must fight to keep them: Egypt, Angola, Nigeria and Morocco present interesting examples of emerging markets whose adoption of currency liberalization measures was largely driven by investors as they tapped international markets. The question now remains if they have done enough, writes Paul Wallace for Bloomberg. Egypt has come the furthest in implementing full currency liberalization, and it saw its currency plummet further than the Kwanza and Naira, which were partially floated. Increased inflows have demonstrated that Egypt has become more attractive to investors. But this could be a double edged sword, Societe Generale SA warned last week, as those flows are a could reverse if the government slows down its macroeconomic reforms.

M&A WATCH- BNP Paribas said yesterday that it acted as the sell-side advisor to EFG Hermes Private Equity on its placement of a 45% stake in Vortex UK Solar in December 2017. The stake was sold to Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (KWAP) in a GBP 67.5 mn transaction. BNP Paribas was appointed by EFG Hermes to run a competitive sale process for the 45% stake among Asian investors and the transaction is BNP Paribas’ third for EFG Hermes.

Just how much do Egyptians love their cigarettes? A whole lot. The Eastern Tobacco Co. has seen its share price climb around 373% since the EGP was floated in November 2016, hitting “successive record highs, in both USD and local-currency terms,” after it posted a 161% y-o-y increase in its profits for 1H2017-18. “The increase in profits is mainly due to pricing,” CI Capital’s head of consumer and healthcare research, Khaled Sadek, tells Bloomberg. “They raised their ex-factory prices by about 40% compared to last year and they still have a big part of their inventory of raw tobacco from before the currency float which makes the cost low for them and the margins higher.” Eastern Co. is valued at USD 2.7 bn, making it Egypt’s second-largest listed company.

The surge in cigarette prices has had a muted impact on demand. “People don’t stop smoking,” explain HC Brokerage’s Ahmed Hafez. “What happens usually is that they cut the number of cigarettes they smoke per day, and then they usually divert to the normal habits again.”

WHO data shows that around 50% of Egyptian males over 15 years old are smokers. Projections put the figure at 63% by 2020, which is higher than other regional estimates, including those for Lebanon, Saudi, and Morocco.

Electricity prices to rise in July, all consumption / income tiers to be hit; no imminent fuel price hikes -Oil Ministry. The Electricity Ministry is actively working on new electricity prices set to come into effect in July, said minister Mohamed Shaker, according to Al Borsa. He appeared to imply that the new price hikes will impact all consumption tiers, including those on the lower end of the income / consumption spectrum. He also noted that an appreciating EGP would help blunt the price hike. Shaker said that the Egyptian Electric Utility and Consumer Protection Agency (Egyptera) is currently studying its pricing formula. Electricity ministry sources had said last week that the hikes for the lowest tier of consumers will be limited to 15%, after it had initially been planned to increase 25%. They say the reduction comes as the government pushed back eliminated subsidies on electricity to 2020, instead of 2019.

Gov’t downplays rumors of an imminent hike in fuel prices: The fear of price hikes in the FY2018-19 fiscal year has been driving speculation in the press of a hike in fuel prices coming ahead of schedule. A number of news outlets had been reporting rumors on social media over the past week that fuel hikes were imminent, prompting dismissals from the Oil Ministry and the Ismail cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center, Ahram Online reports.

LEGISLATION WATCH- House completes review of Labor Act, to pass it into law soon: The House of Representatives has completed its review of the Labor Act and should be passing it into law soon, Manpower Minister Mohamed Saafan said yesterday, according to Al Ahram. The amended legislation is expected to encourage youth to seek employment in the private sector, and would establish specialized courts to deal with labor-related cases, Saafan said.

The House’s Local Administration Committee also approved amendments to the Public Roads Act yesterday that would impose a licensing fee of EGP 500-20,000 on food trucks and carts, Al Shorouk reports. The amendments will allow these businesses to receive a renewable one-year license from local administration bodies, which will determine the licensing fee based on the type of cart and its location.

Naguib calls on domestic businesses to double-down on Egypt: Highprofile businessman Naguib Sawiris urged his domestic peers to invest at home, saying “now is the best time” to put their money in the country, which enjoys some of the highest returns on investment in the world. In a promotional video for the Investment Ministry, Naguib said that foreign investors look to see how the locals are faring, and that increased domestic investment will aid in luring foreigners. He lauded recent legislation such as the Investment Act for cutting red tape for businesses, as well as development to road infrastructure and increases in energy production for improving the country’s business climate. You can watch the full video here (runtime 1:34).

The Egyptian economy is on the right track and economic conditions will eventually improve, Qalaa Holdings founder and Chairman Ahmed Heikal told talk show host Mahmoud Saad during an appearance on Akher Al Nahar. “It will take time, but things will get better,” he said, explaining that despite the pressure created by the various economic reform measures adopted in the last two years, decisions such as the EGP float and the gradual phase-out of subsidies had been necessary to ease the strain on the state budget and allow the government to pursue legislative reform and work on improving the overall economic climate. Looking ahead, the government should continue to focus on attracting new investments, according to Heikal, who emphasized that encouraging healthy competition is necessary to allowing the rules of supply and demand to naturally regulate the market. He stressed as well that educational reform is key to economic advancement (watch here, runtime 44:12).

You have an unstable Erdogan to thank for Israel playing ball with our ambitions to become a regional export hub for natural gas: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s escalation of his anti-Israel rhetoric over the past year has been a major driver for Israel to turn away from a US-backed initiative to build an undersea natural gas pipeline between Israel and Turkey, sources close to the matter tell Bloomberg. As a result, Israel is increasingly looking to Egypt and other markets to export its gas. Efforts to reach governmental understandings with Turkey continue but the pace of talks has fallen off sharply. Israel is now studying several options, including exporting through Cyprus. Egypt, though, is a better option at this point “because there’s a lot to be done with the existing LNG plants there,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, a director at Leviathan stakeholder Delek Drilling.

That little matter of that arbitration: The piece does note, however, that that path is blocked by a USD 1.76 bn international arbitration award won by Israel Electric against Egyptian state petroleum companies EGPC and EGAS and pipeline operator EMG. Prime Minister Sherif Ismail has said there will be no open discussion of gas imports from Israel until the arbitration award is cleared.

In other news on Turkey, the Netherlands decided yesterday to recall its ambassador to Ankara after talks failed to bring an end to the diplomatic rift that began in March last year, “when days before general elections, the Dutch denied entry to Turkish ministers, who wanted to campaign in the Netherlands to expand [Erdogan’s] powers.” Bloomberg and the Financial Times both have the story.

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Image of the Day

A forensic project is attempting to reconstruct the face of Queen Nefertiti, according to PR Newswire. The team, whose work will be featured in a two-part special of the Travel Channel’s Expedition Unknown, received the Antiquities Ministry’s blessing to use 3D imaging technology to reconstruct the face of King Tut’s mother from a mummified skull that is widely believed to be hers. The episodes will air on 7 and 14 February.

Egypt in the News

The New York Times’ report on security cooperation between Egypt and Israel in Sinai continues to dominate the narrative on Egypt in the international press. The Egyptian military has denied the report, which is being rehashed by folks with nothing to add, including the Washington Times’ Ihsaan Tharoor, who regurgitates David Kirkpatrick’s piece without adding a single original opinion. The Jerusalem Post really just wants you to know that it knew all of this before and had reported on it. Welcome to a slow news day, folks.

Gaza’s electricity crisis ultimately falls on Hamas: While Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority bear a measure of responsibility over the insufficient supplies of electricity to the Gaza strip, a long-term solution to Gaza’s energy crisis can only come if Gaza has a government that is acceptable to all three of them, researcher Diana B. Greenwald writes in the Washington Post.

East African ride-hailing apps looking to compete with the likes of Uber are increasingly turning to more customized offerings that meet local challenges, Abdi Latif Dahir writes for Quartz Africa. Kenya’s Mondo Ride is bringing tuk tuks and boda boda motorcycle taxis to the ride-hailing apps-space, while in Egypt, Swvl is helping solve Egypt’s unique transportation issues by providing bus-hailing services. This strategy of localization and adaptation to market needs has prompted companies like Uber to change its products for the sake of affordability, safety, and convenience. In Kenya, the company launched a service that allows riders to go on short trips and run errands around the city center for just 100 shillings (USD 1).

Egyptian virtual assistant platform Elves still appears to be getting glowing press coverage, this time from Entrepreneur Magazine, which interviewed founders and couple Karim Elsahy and Abeer Elsisi. The startup, which raised USD 2 mn in seed funding last year from investors including Emaar Group, the Kauffman Fellows Syndicate, Dubai Angel Investors, was invited to Facebook’s F8 developer conference, as well as the World Economic Forum, where it was listed as one of the 100 most influential startups. Elves also won a shout-out from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on a Facebook post.

Other headlines worth noting in brief includes:

  • Facebook announced on Monday that it will be launching Marketplace in the Middle East, starting with Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco, according to Arab News.
  • Benny Ziffer writes a glowing book review on Alaa Al Aswany’s “The Automobile Club” for Israel’s Haaretz, where he notes the book’s take on women’s lib.
  • Turkey’s Anadolu Agency claims its twitter account was hacked on Thursday, during which tweets against political dissidents Ayman Nour were posted.

On Deadline

Today’s selection of columns is rather insipid, with the nation’s ink-stained wretches remaining fixated for the most part on lower poultry prices and the upcoming presidential elections. Al Masry Al Youm’s Hamdy Rizk discusses the necessity for dialogue between the state and opposition, Mohamed Aboul Ghar recaps the state’s shortcomings in engineering the elections in a piece for the same newspaper, and Mohamed Esmat wonders in Al Shorouk whether the series of events is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, Al Masry Al Youm’s Abbas El Tarabily recycles previously discussed thoughts on the poultry issue and potential health risks.

Worth Watching

Han Solo is getting his own movie. Lucasfilm is coming out with another Star Wars film in May, this time telling the story of Han Solo. Alden Ehrenreich takes on Harrison Ford’s iconic role, alongside Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke as Qi’Ra and Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett. We agree with Forbes that it’s not going to be possible watching someone new “portray a young Han Solo without it being weird,” because “unlike say Batman or Spider-Man and the various actors who portray them, [Solo] is always Harrison Ford.” The film debuts on 25 May in the US. (Watch the trailer here, runtime: 1:43).

Diplomacy + Foreign Trade

Gov’t to ink loan contracts with EIB, EU for Fayoum wastewater project by month’s end: The government is expecting to sign a loan agreement by month’s end with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Union Neighborhood Investment Facility to help upgrade sewage and wastewater systems in Fayoum, Al Borsa reports. The contracts are part of a EUR 448 mn package from the EIB, EU, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The government had already signed a contract with the EBRD for its EUR 186 mn portion of the facility last year.

Energy

Electricity Ministry receives four offers for USD 400 mn-worth of new solar power projects

The Electricity Ministry is reviewing offers from four global and regional energy firms for USD 400 mn-worth of new solar power projects with a total generation capacity of 400 MW, ministry sources reveal to Al Borsa. The companies offered tariffs ranging from USD 0.031-0.038 per kWh, the sources add, explaining that the ministry will not be signing anymore contracts under the feed-in tariff program, but setting the price per kWh on a case-by-case basis. The Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company had issued global tenders for solar power projects in Aswan and West Nile in December and reportedly received offers from 20 interested companies.

Empower awarded contract for 1 MW WtE power plant in New Nubaria

Energy group Empower won a contract to establish a 1 MW waste-to-energy (WtE) plant in Behera’s New Nubaria City with initial investments of EGP 94 mn, CEO Hatem El Gamal tells Al Mal. The company will sell power to the Behera Electricity Distribution Company at a feed-in tariff of EGP 1.45 per kWh for 20 years, he adds. Work on the project, which is 80% funded by a loan from an unnamed local bank, is set to begin in April, and should be completed in 1H2019. Empower is also developing two 1 MW WtE plants in New Salhiya with initial investments of up to EGP 143 mn.

EGAS to issue natural gas exploration tender in 11 blocks before June

The Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) is planning on issuing natural gas exploration tenders in 11 offshore and onshore blocks before June, an unnamed EGAS source tells Al Shorouk. EGAS Chairman Osama El Bakly had previously announced the company’s plans to have a bid round for oil and gas exploration in east Mediterranean and onshore Delta blocks in 1H2018, but had not disclosed the number of areas up for exploration.

Basic Materials + Commodities

Egypt imports 30,000 tonnes of Australian faba beans in 2018

Egypt is returning to bulk faba bean imports from Australia with 30,000 tonnes in this year’s first shipment following a slowdown caused by the 2016 currency float, according to Grain Central.

Manufacturing

Announcement of three electronics-related factories coming soon

The ICT Ministry is gearing up to announce three new industrial projects at the Assiut and Beni Suef tech zones, Minister Yasser El Kady said yesterday, according to Al Borsa. The minister didn’t provide additional detail, saying only that the projects would serve the localization of the electronics industry.

L’azurde Jewelry completes construction of SAR 12.6 mn production unit in Egypt

Saudi Arabia’s L’azurde Jewelry has completed the construction of its new SAR 12.6 mn production unit in Egypt, Reuters reports. The new plant is expected to be fully operational by the end of the month.

Health + Education

Qasr El Teb to invest EGP 310 mn in developing in Alexandria

Qasr El Teb Medical Group is planning to invest EGP 310 mn in five healthcare projects in Alexandria, Al Mal reports. The newly-founded medical services group aims to build three specialized hospitals and two medical centers with a total capacity of 250 beds. The company hopes to open the first medical center in March, as well as a plastic surgery center in 4Q2018.

Applications for Japanese schools will be accepted as of 15 February

The government’s new Japanese-style schools will begin accepting applications for the 2018-19 school year as of 15 February, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said yesterday, according to Youm7. The schools, which will follow the Japanese educational model, had pushed their inaugural semester for a year from last fall. 22 out of a planned 45 schools are expected to be ready for September.

Real Estate + Housing

OC adds USD 650 mn in project backlog in 4Q2017

Orascom Construction (OC) announced adding USD 650 mn in new contracts to its backlog in 4Q2017. “New projects in Egypt accounted for the largest share, comprising approximately USD 580 mn across a wide range of sectors including renewable energy, marine and commercial buildings. In addition, the Group’s subsidiaries in the US added new projects amounting to approximately USD 70 mn mainly in the private sector,” OC says.

Cleopatra Group to invest EGP 4 bn in real estate and tourism projects in the next two years

Real estate and industrial holding group Cleopatra Group plans to invest EGP 4 bn over the next two years, said group chairman Mohamed Aboul Enein at the Egypt Investment Forum. The investments will go into real estate development and tourism projects in Al Alamein, Ain Sokhna and 6 October City, according to Al Mal. Separately, Aboul Enein also said that he plans to lobby the Ismail cabinet to reduce the price of gas to ceramics factories to USD 4 per mmbtu from USD 7, saying that the prices industry pays for gas is higher than the global market price.

Tourism

Egyptian tour operators filed complaint against online booking websites for unfair competition

A number of Egyptian tour operators look like they want to get websites like Expedia and SkyScanner to pay Egyptian taxes. Members of the Tourism Chambers of Commerce tell Al Shorouk that they’ve lodged a complaint to the Competition Protection Authority against foreign online booking companies, saying they have an unfair competitive advantage since they are not subject to the 14% value-added tax and other costs incurred by their local counterparts, whose market share has declined as a result. There are no words.

Alexandria and France agree to establish cruise ship line

The Alexandria governorate and the French embassy in Egypt have agreed to launch a cruise ship line to Marseille by way of the Greek island Paphos, governor Mohamed Sultan said yesterday, Al Mal reports. A French delegation headed by Marseille’s mayor will visit Alexandria in March to explore further cooperation.

Italian delegation to inspect Holy Family Trail

An Italian delegation arrived in Egypt last night to inspect the Holy Family Trail, Tourism Promotion Authority Head Hisham El Demery said, according to Al Shorouk. A delegation of Vatican officials had also inspected the trail two months ago. The first wave of pilgrims is due to arrive in May of this year.

Automotive + Transportation

Transport Minister discusses cooperation with China International Contractors Association

Transport Minister Hisham Arafat met yesterday with a delegation from China’s International Contractors Association to talk potential cooperation on transportation projects in Egypt, Al Mal reports. The two sides discussed investing in railway projects, establishing dry docks and logistical zones to improve marine services, and upgrading roads and bridges.

Other Business News of Note

Falcon Group to supply customs authority with 166 X-ray machines

The Customs Authority signed an agreement with Falcon Group International to purchase 166 x-ray machines that will be installed in sea and airports across the country, Al Masry Al Youm reports. The Customs Authority will receive the devices in two batches of 100 and 66 respectively. The value of the contract and timeline of delivery were not disclosed.

Egypt Politics + Economics

Sami Anan’s son under investigation for criticizing the state

The Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport has suspended and is investigating Sami Anan’s son, Samir, for allegedly posting tweets critical of the state, Al Shorouk reports. A lawyer had filed a report to the Prosecutor General against Samir, who is a professor at the academy, for “inciting public opinion” against the state. Samir claimed in several tweets that a fake account using his name had been posting provocative statements against the state, and that he had reported the account, which now appears to have been deactivated.

Prosecutor General orders investigation into opposition bloc calling for elections boycott

Prosecutor General Nabil Sadek has ordered an investigation into members of the opposition bloc that called for a boycott of the presidential elections, Al Shorouk reports. Two separate legal complaints accuse the bloc, which includes former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, of inciting the public against the state, undermining national security, and attempting to overthrow the regime.

NEC sets up search engine to determine constituency

The National Elections Commission (NEC) has set up an online platform to help voters find their respective polling stations for the March presidential election using their national ID numbers, according to Ahram Online. The page for it can be found here.

Sports

Egypt through to the second round of the Davis Cup

Egypt is through to the second round of the Europe/Africa zone of the Davis Cup for the first time since 1996, according to King Fut. The team dispatched opponents Norway 4-0 in Sharm El Sheikh on Sunday and will now face Denmark away from home.

On Your Way Out

Egypt has blocked the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project, Google’s open source website publishing tool which counts the Guardian and Washington Post among its users, Mada Masr reports. AMP now joins at least 496 platforms blocked on Egyptian service providers since May 2017.

Egypt topped the medal table at the youth Arab Championships in boxing, bringing in five gold and four silver, according to Youm7. The event was held at home in the olympic stadium, then in Algeria, and then Tunisia.

The Market Yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 17.6205 | Sell 17.7205
EGP / USD at CIB:
Buy 17.60 | Sell 17.70
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 17.59 | Sell 17.69

EGX30 (Monday): 14,962 (+0.6%)
Turnover: EGP 1.0 bn (11% BELOW the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: +0.6%

THE MARKET ON MONDAY: The Egyptian benchmark index ended Monday’s session up 0.6%. CIB, the index heaviest constituent closed down 0.2%. EGX30’s top performing constituents were Qalaa Holdings up 4.8%; Amer Group up 3.3%; and Porto Group up 2.9%. Yesterday’s worst performing stocks were Sodic down 1.8% down; Orascom Telecom down 1.4%; and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank down 1.3%. The market turnover was EGP 1.0 bn, and local investors were the sole net buyers.

Foreigners: Net Short | EGP -58.1 mn
Regional: Net Short | EGP -57.4 mn
Domestic: Net Long | EGP +115.5 mn

Retail: 57.3% of total trades | 56.8% of buyers | 57.8% of sellers
Institutions: 42.7% of total trades | 43.2% of buyers | 42.2% of sellers

Foreign: 20.7% of total | 17.8% of buyers | 23.6% of sellers
Regional: 12.2% of total | 9.3% of buyers | 15.0% of sellers
Domestic: 67.2% of total | 72.9% of buyers | 61.4% of sellers

WTI: USD 63.61 (-0.84%)
Brent: USD 67.62 (-1.4%)

Natural Gas (Nymex, futures prices) USD 2.77 MMBtu, (+0.84%, March 2018 contract)
Gold: USD 1,342.5 / troy ounce (+0.45%)

TASI: 7,587.39 (-0.28%) (YTD: +5.00%)
ADX: 4,581.94 (-0.06%) (YTD: +4.17%)
DFM: 3,378.14 (-0.23%) (YTD: +0.24%)
KSE Weighted Index: 410.47 (-0.26%) (YTD: +2.25%)
QE: 8,837.65 (-1.36%) (YTD: +3.69%)
MSM: 5,051.37 (-0.12%) (YTD: -0.94%)
BB: 1,344.31 (-0.78%) (YTD: +0.95%)

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Calendar

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

10-12 February 2018 (Saturday-Monday): Third Africa STI Forum, Cairo.

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 March (Monday): Egypt’s PMI reading for February released.

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): Labor 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 (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)

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