Thursday, 14 February 2019

It’s interest rate day — consensus is that rates will be left on hold


What We’re Tracking Today

It is interest rate day, and the consensus is clear: Expect rates to be left on hold. The central bank’s monetary policy committee meets today to decide on interest rates. Nine of 11 economists we polled on Monday believe that the Central Bank of Egypt will leave rates on hold. Fitch Solutions thinks the same, saying it sees scope for the bank kick off a rate-cutting cycle in 2H2019 as price pressures cool. “That said, the pace of easing will likely be gradual amid more challenging external conditions and persistent risks of capital flight.” Economists polled by Reuters yesterday held the same view.

(Speaking of interest rates: El Erian sees the Fed, too, leaving rates on hold — possibly for the rest of the year. The US Federal Reserve will not raise interest rates this year and may even cut them in 2020, Bloomberg columnist and Allianz chief economic adviser Mohamed El Erian told Bloomberg (watch, runtime: 4:56). “Even though the US economy will continue to do well, the Fed is likely to stay on hold for this year, and the balance of risk is towards a cut for next year,” he said. Why the dramatic policy reversal? The Fed’s hand may be forced by a deteriorating European economy and ineffectual stimulus measures in China, rather than a recession in the US, El Erian said.)

The House of Representatives will vote “in principle” on a motion to amend the constitution today, House Speaker Ali Abdel Aal said. The House began a guided debate yesterday on whether to approve the amendments in principle and, if so, why, Ahram Online suggested. If approved in a roll-call vote (which requires each MP to vote publicly, one-by-one), the amendments will be referred to the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee and then put to a final vote at the House’s general assembly. Abdel Aal suggested the committee may not be allowed to add additional amendments to the package. We have coverage of international reaction to the proposed amendments in this morning’s Egypt in the News section, below.

Two stories dominate the global business press this morning:

  • A former Apple lawyer has been charged with insider trading. Prosecutors allege the former head of Apple’s disclosure committee bought and sold shares ahead of six quarterly earnings announcements. (WSJ | FT | Reuters | NYT)
  • A former US intelligence officer has been indicted after giving secrets to Iran. The woman, Monica Witt, has allegedly defected to Tehran. (NYT | CNBC | WSJ | FT)

It is not a good news day for Saudi Arabia in the global business press (and we’re not even getting into Saudi being sucked into the orbit of the Jeff Bezos-National Enquirer saga):

KSA has made a proposed European Union blacklist of countries seen as being lax on terrorist financing, according to Bloomberg. New measures, if passed by national governments and the EU parliament, would force European banks to do increased due diligence when serving clients from any of the 23 blacklisted countries. All 23 are seen as being soft on money laundering and terrorist financing.

There are mixed opinions about what lies in store for the Saudi IPO market: Bloomberg is out with a piece lamenting the demise of Saudi IPO-focused funds. The funds “didn’t fly because the expected IPOs didn’t happen,” chief economist at the Gulf Research Center John Sfakianakis said, adding that this is unlikely to change “at least over the immediate horizon.” Providing the contrarian opinion, Citi’s head of investment banking in ME, Africa and Portugal, Miguel Azevedo, told Bloomberg this week that Saudi is “top of the list” of MENA countries that will see strong IPO growth this year (watch, runtime: 2:37). “There’s quite a lot happening there. Not necessarily only in the oil sector, but in chemicals, retail, logistics, healthcare. So I think that it’s going to be a main market,” he said.

Finally, two US Senators have introduced a resolution that seek to prohibit Saudi Arabia from developing nuclear weapons, as Energy Secretary Rick Perry holds hush-hush talks about sharing the technology, reports Reuters. It is unclear how much support the non-binding bipartisan resolution will pick up in the Senate.

After hitting bone, Deutsche Bank is reversing course on cost-cutting and once again looking to grow in the Middle East. That’s the takeaway from Bloomberg’s sit-down with Deutsche’s Middle East and Africa CEO, Jamal Al Kishi. The German lender, which has previously helped Egypt tap global debt markets, has hired new staff as it chases “significant financing and M&A and corporate-finance” transaction and hopes “this year will be a better one in terms of both revenue and profitability,” Al Kishi says.

And in miscellany heading into the weekend:

  • No US government shutdown? The Donald seems to be edging toward an agreement that will avoid a shutdown of the US government tomorrow, Reuters reports.
  • On the hypocrisy of consultancies: Consultancies will charge you plenty to tell you how to close the gender gap in your company, but don’t expect them to follow their own advice, the Financial Times argues.
  • US Middle East conference not an epic fail, Pompeo insists: The US Middle East conference (ostensibly a means for the US to build international support for its regime change efforts in Iran) got underway in Warsaw yesterday. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been forced onto the defensive after key European nations announced they would only be sending low-level diplomats — and in EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini’s case, snubbing it entirely, the Washington Post reports.

PSA- Dwellers of the capital city can expect to see dust, wind and a daytime high of 16°C today, according to the national weather service, Egypt Today reports. The ‘unstable’ weather could start as late as this afternoon, our favorite weather app suggests, and there is a chance of showers tomorrow afternoon. Look for mostly sunny skies on Saturday.

Enterprise 💗 all of our readers.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

The airwaves were awash with miscellany last night, but had nothing to offer by way of interesting econ or business news.

Egypt should work to “bridge gaps” with foreign media outlets, State Information Service boss Diaa Rashwan told Masaa DMC’s Osama Kamal (watch, runtime: 02:48).

The Cabinet’s media center has been quashing rumors left, right, and center this week, Al Hayah Al Youm said. The center put to bed 11 “rumors” over the course of six days, including incorrect reporting on the new tax treatment for banks’ income from holdings of government debt (watch, runtime: 02:49).

The talking heads also took note of tomorrow’s vote on proposed constitutional amendments in the House of Representatives (watch, runtime: 03:39 and runtime: 06:51), and the swearing in of Assem El Gazzar as Egypt’s new housing minister (watch, runtime: 05:36 and runtime: 01:12).

Speed Round

Speed Round is presented in association with

Egypt again telegraphs it won’t be signing up for another IMF loan after drawing down the last of the current USD 12 bn facility: IMF Middle East and Central Asia Director Jihad Azour gave Egypt tubtubs as he met yesterday with Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly and Central Bank of Egypt Governor Tarek Amer. Azour spoke positively of Egypt’s commitment to the ongoing reform program and of the government’s coordination in implementing it, according to a Cabinet statement. Amer left the door open to technical cooperation with the IMF after the USD 12 bn extended fund facility is fully drawn down this year. Finance Minister Mohamed Maait had said last year that Egypt will not ask the IMF for further funding once the facility ends, but will keep an open dialogue with the institution to maintain investor confidence.

Egyptian insurance market has “untapped potential,” ratings agency says: Egypt’s insurance market is loaded with “untapped potential,” Moody’s said this week as its PR blitz on Egypt continued. The credit rating agency predicted that the good times will continue to roll for the industry, forecasting revenues to “grow strongly and profitably” over the short to medium terms. This is thanks to the improving economic situation, government plans to enforce mandatory health insurance for all Egyptians, and proposed capital regulations contained in the Insurance Act.

Moody’s thinks the Insurance Act is a good thing. The insurance companies don’t. Moody’s says that the industry will benefit from the improved credit profile that will come with the legislation’s proposal to increase capital requirements. In its current form the legislation would raise the minimum capital requirements for insurance companies by 150% to EGP 150mn, and a huge 733% (EGP 500 mn) for reinsurance companies. This will “support absorption of both underwriting and investment risk, and lead to market consolidation,” they say. Egyptian insurers meanwhile have taken a slightly different view, with the Insurance Federation of Egypt complaining to the Financial Regulatory Authority about the large increases.

The key to all of this is for the industry to try to grow the pie, as Misr Insurance Holding Company boss Basel El Hini told us in the Enterprise 2019 CEO Poll — new entrants are piling into the market and fighting over market share rather than trying to grow the size of the market to everyone’s benefit, he suggested. One of the top obstacles isn’t regulation, but a lack of consumer knowledge about insurance and a fairly deeply rooted social suspicion of the insurance as a class of products.

IPO WATCH- Food manufacturer and distributor Cairo 3A is planning to make its EGX debut by no later than 2020, Al Mal reports, citing sources close to the company. Proceeds from the IPO will be earmarked to finance acquisitions, which include Pyramid Poultry, as well as production capacity expansions. We noted last month that Cairo 3A is in talks with local banks for a EGP 3.4 bn loan to finance growth. The offering will see both existing shareholders exiting and new shares on offer. Reports have given no indication of how large the transaction could be or how much of the company will be on offer.

CABINET WATCH- Cabinet gives nod to autonomy for the Financial Regulatory Authority: The Madbouly Cabinet approved yesterday a draft act that would grant the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) technical, financial and administrative autonomy from the government, according to a statement. The proposed law would require the FRA to submit an annual report on its activities and the performance of the non-banking financial services industry to the president, prime minister, and House speaker. The bill also outlines the structure of the authority and the procedures for appointing its head and board members, but provides few other details on how the FRA’s role would change. The regulator was established in 2009 as an independent entity but is still subject to oversight from (and reports to) cabinet.

We have a new housing minister: Assem El Gazzar was sworn in yesterday as our new housing minister. Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly had been serving as both PM and housing minister since being named prime minister in 2018, Ittihadiya said in a statement. El-Gazzar, an academic, previously served as deputy housing minister and has served in government as head of the General Authority for Urban Planning, among other posts.

REGULATION WATCH- Could taxes on freezone products be going away? The General Authority for Investment (GAFI) could look at giving companies based in free zones a break, says Moatasem Rashed, the head of the Private Free Zones Investors Association, an industry association. Rashed is nudging GAFI to cut taxes and a fee imposed in 2017. The 2017 Investment Act imposed a 1% tax on goods exported from free zones, a 2% fee on all goods sold in Egypt out of free zones and a 1% fee on the operating costs of industrial projects in the zones.

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Up Next

The EGP 500 mn first part of the fourth phase of Cairo Metro Line 3 will open between tomorrow and Sunday, Al Mal reports.

Suez Canal Authority boss Mohab Mamish will be in Moscow on Sunday to move forward an agreement on a USD 7 bn Russian Industrial Zone, Al Mal reports.

Antitrust ruling: The Cairo Economic Court is due to deliver a decision on an appeal by pharma distributors of an antitrust fine on Tuesday.

UN, IBM, Egypt tech innovation center to host blockchain-focused talk: The UN Technology Innovation Lab Egypt, Egypt Technology Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center, UNDP, and IBM Egypt are hosting on Tuesday, 26 February a TechNovation Talk to initiate the uninitiated on blockchain and its uses outside the realm of cryptocurrencies. You can find more details and register for the event here.

Pension funds’ investment mechanisms on the PM’s desk within days, sources told local press. A new entity will be established to invest the pensions money as part of the new pensions but no further details were provided.

A Russian delegation will visit Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada airports in the second half of February to run a final security sweep ahead of a decision on whether to allow the resumption of direct flights, AMAY reports.

The gov’t will begin rolling out its debt control strategy next month, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait told Al Mal. The four-year strategy aims to bring down Egypt’s public debt to 80-85% of GDP by the end of FY2021-22. Maait had previously said the strategy would be presented to President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in March.

Execs from 50 Japanese companies will be in Cairo in March to discuss potential investment opportunities, Youm7 reports.

The Macro Picture

Global credit conditions set to weaken, says Moody’s, but Egypt is gonna be okay: Global credit conditions will weaken as growth slows and risk rises, according to Moody’s. The credit ratings agency said this week that the global economy is facing headwinds from multiple fronts: geopolitical tensions, liquidity issues in the financial markets, the Chinese economic slowdown, and rising trade friction are all contributing to declining credit conditions.

Slower global growth will remain supportive of advanced economies, but Moody’s warns that developing economies might experience weaker growth. Normalizing monetary policy will raise funding costs and widen spreads, keeping debt levels high and expensive. Credit risk will rise on the back of tighter liquidity, higher market volatility, and higher funding costs.

Despite the doom-and-gloom, Moody’s did have some good news: Egypt falls in the 9% of countries whose forecasts are positive, along with Iceland, France, Israel, Montenegro, and Greece among others. We reported this week that Moody’s pointed to Egypt’s growth and reforms as credit-positive factors and their positive outlook on Egypt’s banking system.

Image of the Day

Lake Nasser from space: The International Space Station captured this splendid photo of Lake Nasser from 251 miles above the Earth, according to OnOrbit.

Egypt in the News

The anticipated impact of proposed constitutional amendments is leading the conversation about Egypt in the foreign press this morning, with the AP, Washington Post and Transparency International all expressing concern that the changes will “undermine the rule of law and oversight over executive authority.” They note that the 2014 constitution contained checks and balances designed to limit the concentration of presidential power, many of which are now poised to be undone.

Also getting pickup in the foreign press:

  • Dana Gas CEO Patrick Allman-Ward had nice things to say about us in an interview with The National, a day after the company was awarded exploration rights to a potential mega-gasfield in the Mediterranean.
  • Egypt is embarrassing itself on the international football scene, The National argues, in this round-up of recent EFA-related dramas.
  • There is a “prevalence of Russian disinformation in Egypt,” Nathaniel Greenberg writes in an opinion piece on Egyptian media’s reliance on Russian news sources in the International Business Times.
  • Egypt’s execution tally in the past two weeks reached six people after authorities executed yesterday three convicted of killing a policeman, according to Amnesty International.

On The Front Pages

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s sit-down with AUC’s president and board of trustees is the top story in state-owned Al Ahram and Al Akhbar this morning. Also featured on Al Ahram’s front page is Assem El Gazzar being sworn in as housing minister.

Worth Reading

Why Egypt should pay attention to Dubai’s new solar powered desalination plants: Fears of water scarcity in Egypt are an increasingly urgent topic of conversation, with the government stepping up its efforts to safeguard our supply of Nile water after the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, as well as promoting water conservation and improving our irrigation infrastructure. Now, a new development in the UAE may hold the key to easing our water woes. The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority has unveiled plans to build Dubai’s first solar-powered desalination plant, with the capacity of producing 120 mn gallons (approximately 454,250 cubic meters) a day of potable water by 2024. The plant will be able to store energy to operate at night, Bloomberg reports. The move is part of a plan to reduce power use and reliance on fossil fuels — notably natural gas — to produce electricity.

The UAE, like Egypt, is facing a looming water crisis. Population growth has put a particular strain on water supplies in both cases, but the urgency of our situation is further heightened by the construction of the GERD, which will inevitably reduce our water supplies from the Nile. Ambitious projects, such as the construction of a man-made river to go with the new administrative capital, will add additional strain, though the project has been widely praised. Our water deficiency of 54 bn cubic meters annually was a driving force in the government last year pledging USD 51 bn for water projects in the coming twenty years.

An industry boom? By the beginning of 2018, Egypt was producing approximately 250,000 cubic meters per day of water from desalination, but with plans for new plants to be built in Matrouh, North and South Sinai, that amount should increase to 700,000 cubic meters per day by 2021, according to Egypt’s Desalination Research Centre. An increasing number of companies — one of the latest being Elsewedy Electric — are now showing interest in getting into desalination. Now with our Emirati neighbors using renewable energy to power their new desalination plant, we hope this could this be the start of a regional industry trend.

Worth Watching

We don’t mean to be self-deprecating here, but isn’t it a little amusing that the ‘Egyptian’ pound is yet to be 100% Egyptian? The quarter, half and whole EGP coins are minted using only a “little over” 50% domestic content, Egyptian Mint Authority head Abdel Raouf Ahmady told Hona Al Asema’s Lama Gebril (watch, runtime: 02:51). Coins are made by minting metal discs made of copper, nickel and zinc. Ahmady said the authority currently imports the discs, but there is a plan to “very soon” have local factories supply them. And speaking of our coins: The Egyptian Mint Authority is rolling out machines that allow citizens to change their EGP 5, 10, and 20 paper notes into EGP 0.5 and 1 coins (akin to those found in laundromats abroad), the Finance Ministry said in a statement. According to the ministry, there is “high demand” on coins among the general population.

Diplomacy + Foreign Trade

Egyptian Dar Al Shorouk publishing house and Chinese Xinhua Winshare Publishing and Media Company signed a publishing cooperation contract yesterday at the Chinese Cultural Center in Cairo, Xinhua reports.


EETC signs PPA for Lekela’s 250 MW Suez wind farm

The Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC) and Lekela Power signed yesterday the power purchase agreement for Lekela’s USD 325 mn, 250 MW wind farm in the Gulf of Suez, Lekela, said in a statement (pdf). Lekela, which is majority owned by Actis, is preparing to begin construction on the project, and will reach financial close for funding it secured in December 2018 by no later than August.

EETC delegation in Khartoum to set dates for Egypt-Sudan electricity linkage trials

A delegation from the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company is currently in Sudan to decide on when to begin trial operations on the first 100 MW phase of the USD 60-70 bn Egypt-Sudan power interconnection project, an Electricity Ministry source tells Al Shorouk. The trial operations were scheduled to begin this month, but were pushed back to March due to delays from India’s Larsen & Toubro in completing construction. The Indian company has now completed 90% of the construction work, according to the ministry source.

Basic Materials + Commodities

Agriculture Ministry announces 40.5% reduction in cotton acreage

The Agriculture Ministry reduced its planned cotton cultivation area for 2019 by 40.5% y-o-y to 200k feddans, down from 336k feddans last year, according to the local press. According to Minister Ezzedin Abu Steit, the reduction comes as Egypt has yet to clear last year’s supply.

Serbia open for Egyptian citrus exports

Serbia has agreed to allow Egyptian exports of citrus, potatoes and onion into its market, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement. Egypt has also accredited Serbian wheat, paving the way to begin importing it in the future.


Evergrow agrees EGP 1.2 bn loan with three banks

Evergrow for Speciality Fertilizers has reached an EGP 1.2 bn financing agreement with the National Bank of Egypt, the Arab African International Bank and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Chairman Mohamed Al Kheshen told the domestic press. The financing will be used to fund new investments and covers 60% of the company’s total investment plans of EGP 2 bn. The company aims to produce 190k tonnes of fertilizers after its planned expansion.

Health + Education

El Sisi meets with president and board of the American University in Cairo

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi met yesterday with the American University in Cairo’s Board of Trustees and President Francis J. Ricciardone, congratulating them on a century since the founding of the university, according to an Ittihadiya statement. El Sisi emphasized during the meeting the necessity of continuing to develop friendly strategic relations between Egypt and the US, and the critical role education plays in Egypt’s development.

Automotive + Transportation

Brilliance Auto to assemble China-origin cars in Egypt by early 2020

Brilliance Bavarian Auto is planning to begin assembling its China-origin H330 and V3 models in Egypt by early 2020, general manager Khaled Saad said. The company will use the existing facilities of its parent company — BMW’s Bavarian Auto Group (BAG) — in 6 October, and is targeting an output of 10k vehicles in the first year. The automotive group had announced in 2016 it is planning to invest USD 80 mn to build a separate facility. However, plans were derailed following the EGP float, which forced the company to use BAG’s grounds instead.

Banking + Finance

Global Lease in talks to increase financing portfolio by EGP 500 mn

Global Lease is in talks with four local banks, including Attijariwafa and United Bank, to increase its financing portfolio by EGP 500 mn over the next two months to reach a total of EGP 3.5 bn, said CEO Hatem Samir. The company has already secured a total of EGP 3 bn in loans from 14 banks to fund projects in various sectors, Samir said. The company also aims to tap international lenders to fund operations that require foreign currency, Samir said without specifying a timeframe. Global Lease is active in the real estate, construction, food and beverage and renewable energy sectors, among others.

FRA sets a minimum quota for SME leasing and insurance

Microinsurance and financial leasing firms will be required to create designated accounts of a minimum EGP 10 mn to support small businesses, the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) head Mohamed Omran said in a statement. No more details were provided on the move, which comes amid government efforts to push for greater financial inclusion.

Tax Authority, banks meet to discuss implementation of new tax treatment

The Tax Authority met with a committee from the Federation Of Egyptian Banks yesterday to discuss the best way to implement proposed amendments to the Income Tax Act, according to a Finance Ministry statement. The new treatment, which would change how banks and corporations account for income from investments in government debt, will come into play as soon as they’re ratified by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Vice Minister of Finance Ahmed Kouchouk said.

Other Business News of Note

Egypt’s GAFI requires companies to digitally submit registries and registration files

The General Authority for Investment (GAFI) has made it mandatory for private businesses to build digital versions of their registries and company registration files, according to a statement.

Egyptian Iron and Steel Company to be developed under PPP agreements

The Public Enterprises Ministry will be entering public-private partnerships to execute the proposed development plan for the Egyptian Iron and Steel Company, Minister Hisham Tawfik said during a meeting with Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly yesterday, according to a Cabinet statement.

Houston-based SPEC sues Egyptian Maintenance Company for USD 4.5 mn

Houston-based energy infrastructure manufacturer Specialty Process Equipment Corp. (SPEC) is suing the Egyptian Maintenance Company for allegedly failing to pay for USD 4.5 mn worth of work and materials, despite receiving invoices for more than two years, according to LexisNexis’ Law 360. SPEC is now seeking USD 10 mn in actual and punitive damages from Egyptian Maintenance for breach of contract, common law representation, and unjust enrichment.

Egypt Politics + Economics

Public Prosecutor moves to ban explicit online content

Public Prosecutor Nabil Sadek has directed the CIT Ministry to ban all websites that publish [redacted] explicit content, the domestic press reports. The announcement comes after an explicit video of two Egyptian actresses and (allegedly) opposition MP Khaled Youssef began making the rounds. Youssef, who is not identifiable in the video, contends that the video is part of a ‘moral assassination campaign’ in response to his opposition to the constitutional amendments.

Egyptian court dissolves pharmacists syndicate council

The Egyptian Court of Urgent Affairs issued a ruling yesterday to dissolve the Pharmacists Syndicate council, taking operational custody of the syndicate pending new elections, reports Ahram Online. The fallout came after internal disputes last year resulted in two separate assemblies that took concurrent and contradictory decisions.

My Morning Routine

Chris Khalifa, Founder and CEO of Zooba: My Morning Routine looks each week at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Chris Khalifa, Founder and CEO of Zooba, the restaurant that plays a big part in the morning routines of so many of us here at the Enterprise office.

My name is Chris Khalifa and I’m 35 years old. My wife, Salma Sabry, and I have been married for 10 years and have two beautiful children: Malek, who's six, and Jylan, who just turned one.

I'm the founder and CEO of Zooba, a position I've now held for seven years. Over that period, my day job has included everything from changing light bulbs in our Zamalek store and obsessing about how dim or bright they were to making sure the stickers on our off-the-shelf items were all facing the right direction — and explaining to my team why I thought that was important. Then there were the meetings with investors to make sure we didn't run out of money before we had actually built our dream company (something that has almost happened a couple times too many)…

I've been waking up pretty early since we had kids, and it’s been even earlier since we moved to Manhattan and no longer have a live-in nanny. Our whole house is up between 6:30am and 7am. Sadly, I start the morning by checking my phone. I check the Zooba WhatsApp group and quickly scroll through my emails to make sure there's nothing urgent that can't wait a couple of hours to get to. There usually isn't. My wife and I will spend the next hour getting ourselves and our kids a quick breakfast, and then I walk my son to school every morning at 8:15 am. Our house is two blocks from his school, but we're still somehow 2-5 minutes late every day. After I drop him off, I walk to a coffee shop down the street that I like working from (still don't have an office here), order a green tea, and spend the next couple of hours getting caught up on emails and news (usually the NYT, Enterprise, Morning Brew, and the Apple News App). This is also the time for me to make any calls that I need to have with the team back home.

I don't really have a routine for the rest of my work day. I'm in the process of opening Zooba in NY. It’s a dream and a new world for me. Every day is different. From design and branding meetings, which I love, to technology meetings, which have become my new obsession, to legal and tax meetings, which I could do with a little less of. I try as much as possible to schedule my meetings around my son's school pickup time. So at 3:10 pm on most days I pick Malek up and then either work from home for the rest of the day or continue my meeting rounds. Salma and I have been experimenting with cooking lately. We're both average at best, but we make it a point to all have dinner together most days of the week. I squeeze in a run or workout as often as possible, either very early in the morning — at 6 am — midday between meetings, or right before dinner.

I don't watch very much TV, so when I do it’s usually something light and happy, and usually while I’m doing something else on my laptop. I recently watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which was great. My reading lately has been very entrepreneurship focused. I just finished reading Onward by Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, which is also great. I should be reading more books, but I find myself reading many more articles than books. I read Wait but Why quite religiously.

What's the origin story of Zooba? As street food as a concept was becoming a central food theme around the world, and authentic global cuisines with unique flavor profiles started to become a culinary trend, Egyptian food wasn't on the global map and was barely even present in Egypt. Recognizing the unique, wholesome nature of Egyptian street food — but also aware that there were often quality issues on the street —I approached Moustafa El Refaey — my partner and Zooba's executive chef — and pitched him the idea of Zooba. The aim was to challenge the prevailing mindset that Egyptian street food meant compromised quality and a lack of innovation, and to create a brand that we could be proud of. Zooba launched its first branch in Zamalek, Cairo, in March 2012. The Zooba brand became an immediate success, based on the simple idea that traditional Egyptian street food could be offered using only the freshest natural local ingredients, with attention paid to cleanliness, safety and hygiene. We wanted our clients to engage with their food, and to take pride in the wholesome, nutritious, unique tastes of the Egyptian street.

What's Zooba's niche? Our culture.

People think we're in the food business. We're not. We're in the hospitality business. We're in the business of experiences and culture building. The great companies in our industry create value by building brands that have a culture of hospitality. Food is just a part of that culture; it has to be great, as a prerequisite, but it's ultimately not just about the food.

What one internal or external force will create the most change in this industry? In the short / medium term, delivery. In the longer term, robotics. The rapid growth in delivery as a contributor to total restaurant revenues is changing the way people experience food and changing the economics of restaurants. The addition of rapidly growing and heavily funded third-party delivery aggregator platforms — like Uber Eats, Otlob and Grubhub — are making this dynamic even more complex and forcing restaurant companies to invest in their own technology to stay relevant. In the long term, the transition to robotic labor in an industry that employs a substantial percentage of the labor force around the world will transform the industry and general labor force. You can argue that this is not unique to the restaurant business, but it will nonetheless be transformative.

I spend most of my free time with my family. Food is a central theme in our planning. We seem to plan our free time around new restaurants to try. I mostly spend my "free time" doing more work for Zooba. I'm not very good at disconnecting. If I have time, I spend most of it researching something or reading something related to Zooba somehow. I do run at least three times a week and recently started playing soccer again for an amateur team in NY.

The best piece of business advice I’ve ever been given? Employees first. Brands are emotional. Make sure you have the right cash, and enough cash.

How do I stay organized? Very difficult. I need a personal assistant. My mission is to grow Zooba enough to fit that into our budget. For the time being I rely on iCal, Asana and my mother, who's Zooba's chief people officer and continues to keep me in check.

The Market Yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 17.56 | Sell 17.66
Buy 17.51 | Sell 17.61
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 17.51 | Sell 17.61

EGX30 (Wednesday): 14,949 (+0.1%)
Turnover: EGP 1.3 bn (47% above the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: +14.7%

THE MARKET ON WEDNESDAY: The EGX30 ended Wednesday’s session up 0.1%. CIB, the index heaviest constituent ended up 0.5%. The EGX30’s top performers were Arab Cotton Ginning (up 5.7%), Orascom Investment Holding (+3.6%) and Arabia Investments (+3.4%). Yesterday’s worst performing stocks were Cairo Investment & Real Estate Development down 4.6%, SODIC down 2.2% and Heliopolis Housing down 2.1%. The market turnover was EGP 1.3 bn, and local investors were the sole net sellers.

Foreigners: Net Long | EGP +8.8 mn
Regional: Net Long | EGP +85.1 mn
Domestic: Net Short | EGP -93.9 mn

Retail: 54.0% of total trades | 51.9% of buyers | 56.2% of sellers
Institutions: 46.0% of total trades | 48.1% of buyers | 43.8% of sellers

WTI: USD 53.90 (+1.51%)
Brent: USD 63.63 (+1.94%)

Natural Gas (Nymex, futures prices) USD 2.58 MMBtu, (-4.50%, Mar 2019)
Gold: USD 1,315.10 / troy ounce (+0.08%)

TASI: 8,617.22 (+0.20%) (YTD: +10.10%)
ADX: 5,026.66 (+0.04%) (YTD: +2.27%)
DFM: 2,492.58 (+0.31%) (YTD: -1.47%)
KSE Premier Market: 5,468.50 (-0.65%)
QE: 10,180.69 (-1.18%) (YTD: -1.15%)
MSM: 4,114.80 (-0.24%) (YTD: -4.83%)
BB: 1,374.06 (-1.11%) (YTD: +2.75%)

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14 February (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s monetary policy committee meets to review interest rates. 19 February (Tuesday): Cairo Economic Court to deliver decision on pharma distributors appeal, Egypt. 19-20 February (Tuesday-Wednesday): The Solar Show MENA 2019, Nile Ritz Carlton Hotel, Cairo, Egypt. 23 February (Saturday): The Supreme Administrative Court will rule in an appeal by Uber and its competitor Careem against a lower court ruling ordering the suspension of their operations. 24-25 February (Sunday-Monday): EU-Arab League summit, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. 26 February (Tuesday): BLOCKCHAIN: What is it? Potential Applications Beyond Cryptocurrencies, TIEC Smart Village Building (B5), Cairo, Egypt. 26-28 February (Tuesday-Thursday): 22nd International Conference on Petroleum Mineral Resources and Development, Egyptian Petroleum Research Institute, Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt. 03-06 March (Sunday-Wednesday): EFG Hermes One-on-One Conference, Dubai. 10 March (Sunday): CIB to hold EGM meeting to look into planned capital increase. March (date TBD): Traders Fair, Nile Ritz Carlton, Cairo, Egypt. 17 March (Sunday): A court will look into a lawsuit by a subsidiary of Arabian Investments, Development and Financial Investment Holding Co. (AIND) against Peugeot Citroen, seeking EUR 150 mn in damages. 17-18 March (Sunday-Monday): OPEC Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee meeting, Baku (Bloomberg) 18-19 March (Monday-Tuesday): US Federal Open Market Committee holds two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate. 27-30 March (Wednesday-Saturday): Cityscape Egypt 2019, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City Cairo. 28 March (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s monetary policy committee meets to review interest rate. April: The African Tripartite Trade Area (TFTA) agreement is set to take effect in April after a majority from the participating governments ratified it, COMESA Secretary General Chileshe Kapwepwe according to Al Shorouk. April: The EUR 250 mn first phase of Egypt’s national waste management program kicks off. 17-18 April (Wednesday-Thursday): OPEC+ meeting, Vienna (Bloomberg) 20-22 April (Friday-Sunday): Spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Washington, DC. 25 April (Thursday): Sinai Liberation day, national holiday. 28 April (Sunday): Easter Sunday, national holiday. 29 April (Monday): Easter Monday, national holiday. 30 April-1 March (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee holds two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate. 01 May (Wednesday): Labor Day, national holiday. 06 May (Monday): First day of Ramadan (TBC). 23 May (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s monetary policy committee meets to review interest rate. June: International Forum for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). 05-06 June (Wednesday-Thursday): Eid El Fitr (TBC). 18-19 June (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee holds two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate. 30 June (Sunday): June 2013 protests, national holiday. 11 July (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s monetary policy committee meets to review interest rate. 23 July (Tuesday): 23 July revolution, national holiday. 30-31 July (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee holds two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate. 7-11 August (Wednesday-Sunday) Eid El Adha (TBC). 22 August (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s monetary policy committee meets to review interest rate. 29 August (Thursday): Islamic New Year (TBC), national holiday. 17-18 September (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee holds two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate. 26 September (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s monetary policy committee meets to review interest rate. 6 October (Sunday): Armed Forces Day, national holiday. 10-13 October (Tuesday-Sunday): Big Industrial Week Arabia 2019, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt. 29-30 October (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee holds two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate. 9 November (Saturday): Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, national holiday. December: Egypt will host for the first time the Pack Process trade expo for the Middle East and African region. 10-11 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee holds two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate. 26 December (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s monetary policy committee meets to review interest rate.

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