Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Rami Malek wins Best Actor Oscar


What We’re Tracking Today

It remains a slow news week on the business and economy fronts as the press was still focused yesterday on developments at the EU-Arab League summit in Sharm and as the week got off to a slow start in the west.

Egypt-South Korea meetings continue in Seoul. A forum on Egyptian-South Korean cooperation in financial markets and regulation will take place in Seoul today, the Finance Ministry said. Finance Minister Mohamed Maait, Investment Minister Sahar Nasr and Suez Canal Authority head Mohab Mamish held talks with senior South Korean officials yesterday ahead of the forum as part of their visit to drum up investments. Nothing has come out of the talks so far, but we have more on the discussions in Diplomacy + Foreign Trade, below.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will head to Geneva today to deliver an address to the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council, according to a ministry statement. Shoukry will also deliver a speech to the Conference on Disarmament, and have meetings with several international organizations including the World Health Organization and International Telecommunication Union.

A UN-sponsored talk in Cairo today looks at uses for blockchain outside cryptocurrencies. The discussion is also hosted by the Egypt Technology Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center and IBM Egypt. Tap or click here to learn more or register for the event.

The EU-Arab League summit in Sharm El Sheikh ended yesterday. We have the full rundown in this morning’s Speed Round, below — it should be enough to hold you until the next edition of the summit, which is apparently slated for 2022 in Brussels.

End of an era: Bank of America will stop using the Merrill Lynch name at its trading and investment banking arms, the firm said yesterday in a press release. BofA acquired the storied Merrill Lynch brand during the 2008 financial crisis. The investment bank and capital markets business will “ditch the 104-year old name to become BofA Securities,” Reuters writes, and the firm will also “rebrand the bulk of its wealth-management business as simply Merrill,” the Wall Street Journal adds. The “trademark bull will remain in its logo,” the WSJ says. The news is getting wide play in the global financial press — see the Financial Times, CNBC and Bloomberg, as you prefer. Merrill Lynch has used the bull as part of its brand identity since 1974, Adweek tells us.

Shake Shack, our favourite mass-market burger joint, disappointed Wall Street with a 2019 sales projection that fell short of expectations even as it reported strong top-line growth in the last quarter of 2018, the Financial Times reports.

In international news worth knowing this morning:

  • Donald Trump said that he doesn’t want to rush North Korea into denuclearization, but “as long as there’s no testing, we’re happy,” according to the FT. The American president made the as he prepared to travel to Vietnam to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi for two days of talks.
  • Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif announced his resignation on social media yesterday.
  • Bahrain’s central bank has finalized the regulatory framework for “a range of activities relevant to crypto assets” covering licensing, governance and cyber security, writes Bloomberg. Once the Gulf’s undisputed banking hub, Bahrain is looking for an edge in an increasingly competitive market.

MUST READ of the morning: We all stink at hiring. That’s the takeaway from an opinion piece by Wharton’s Peter Cappelli, who notes that “lengthy, multilayered hiring processes leave vacancies open far longer than necessary and alienate job candidates. … Companies often say people are their most important asset. But, for many, you’d never know it by the way they actually go about hiring those people.” Whether you’re the CHRO, the chief executive or a line manager, you want to read The biggest mistakes companies make with hiringin the Wall Street Journal.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

For the second night in a row, the EU-Arab League summit was essentially the sole topic on the airwaves last night, with Masaa DMC, Al Hayah Al Youm and Hona Al Asema collaborating again on joint coverage and programming for the gathering.

Addressing European interventionism: Arab nations at the summit raised the issue of what they perceive as persistent EU meddling in internal affairs, summit organizer Amb. Raouf Saad told Al Hayah Al Youm (watch, runtime: 02:29). The importance of the forum was that these issues get to be aired out, he added. Other “priority issues” discussed included Palestine, Libya and Syria.

Funding for a Turkey-style migration agreement was discussed: While there was no Turkey-style agreement, the issue of aid-for-migration did get to a level of discussing aid funds from the EU, Saad added (watch, runtime: 02:39).

Beyond a milquetoast interview with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (watch, runtime: 01:10) and praise from El Hekaya’s Amr Adib for the security measures taken for the summit (watch, runtime: 03:11), there was nothing much worth noting.

Adib did take the time to discuss Rami Malek’s Oscar win, patriotically declaring that Malek is an Egyptian despite holding an American passport (watch, runtime: 03:34) — an apparently complete definition of what it means to be an Egyptian-American.

Speed Round

Speed Round is presented in association with

Beltone suspension lifted after it pays EGP 16 mn settlement: Beltone Financial’s investment banking arm resumed operations yesterday after the company paid EGP 16 mn in a settlement with the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA), the authority said in a statement (pdf). The FRA also cut to six months the period of time it is requiring Beltone’s brokerage arm to maintain an EGP 50 mn insurance cover. The regulator had imposed a six-month suspension of Beltone’s IPO unit late last year over alleged irregularities in its management of Sarwa Capital’s IPO, which saw the latter’s shares nosedive 11% in their EGX debut.

The FRA has also dropped a criminal complaint filed against the investment bank, FRA deputy head Khaled El Nashar told Bloomberg. The FRA agreed that “you don’t need to push more than this,” he said, adding: “I don’t think that this will happen again in the Egyptian market.”

Now would be a good time to clarify book building regs: There was no indication in the statement or in remarks from regulators yesterday whether the case will lead to new rules on how book building is run in Egypt. The FRA had alleged that Beltone broke rules on book building in the case, but the ultimate statement of claim by the regulator saw it zero in on aspects that are standard practice in the industry — and ask about book building software that simply doesn’t exit.

Shares of London-listed gold miner Centamin “fell down a mine shaft,” City AM reports. The stock slid c. 28% after the company’s lower than expected forecasts for gold production from its Sukari mine in Egypt, the Financial Times reported. Centamin expects to produce between 490k and 520k ounces of gold at Sukari this year, which would be higher that 2018’s 472k ounces but still lower the more than 544k ounces produced in 2017. The company also said its revenues fell 11% y-o-y in 2018 to USD 603.2 mn.

Operational challenges behind the drop: Centamin cited operational challenges as being behind lower production in 2018. The company invested USD 100 mn in developing the Sukari mine in 2018.

Middle East Oil Refinery (Midor) has reached financial close on what is believed to be a USD 2.2 bn-expansion and upgrade program for its Alexandria refinery. The state-owned company reportedly signed the final contracts for the a USD 1.2 bn financing facility last October with Crédit Agricole, BNP Paribas and Italy’s CDP. The project includes “a series of agreements with an Italian contractor supported by an Italian export credit agency,” legal advisors Zaki Hashem & Partners said in an emailed statement. The ZH&P statement says Midor is now ready to draw down the funds and move to the implementation phase of the project, which it said will position Midor as “major regional hub for producing and exporting petroleum products.”

LEGISLATION WATCH- House committee gives nod to widening the jurisdiction of economic courts: The House of Representatives’ Legislative Committee has approved amendments to the Economic Courts Act that aim to expand the scope of the nation’s economic courts to cover new business and finance activity. The measures will also expedite court proceedings, Al Masry Al Youm reported. The draft amendments give the court jurisdiction over cases arising from microfinance, sukuk, money laundry, and bankruptcy issues. The amendments, if passed, would allow for the electronic filing of cases and the completion of certain court procedures online. The measures will require a vote by the House general assembly and sign-off by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi before becoming law.

LEGISLATION WATCH- FRA finishes Insurance Act draft: The Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) has completed drafting a new Insurance Act and will next put it up for public debate, Al-Ahram reports, citing remarks by FRA boss Mohamed Omran. Insurance companies that caught a glimpse of the draft bill ahead of time had criticized its provisions on minimum capital requirements and reportedly sent comments to the FRA.

EARNINGS WATCH- Egytrans has reported a FY2018 net profits of EGP 42 mn, down nearly 46% on the previous year, according to the company’s earnings release (pdf). Revenues for the year were down 21% to EGP 278 mn.

The Egyptian startup scene looks to Africa: Egyptian startups and venture capital funds are eager to expand into other African countries, Yasmeen Nabil writes for Wamda. Transportation startup Halan has begun operating in Sudan, smartphone manufacturer Silicon Industries Corporation is looking at multiple sub-Saharan countries, and Cairo-based incubator Flat6Labs is looking to expand in the coming years. “I thought it would be a great pilot to test our implementation skills across the border,” Halan CEO Mounir Nakhla said. “Sudan really is an extension of Egypt, so it was a normal progression.”

Technology the enabler: Continental expansion is being driven by technology, which is making it increasingly easy for businesses to adapt their models to different countries and cultures. “Technology is enabling entrepreneurs to develop local solutions for local problems and to quickly grow their presence beyond their initial core market,” Tarek Assaad, managing partner at Algebra Ventures, said.

But diversity still presents challenges: The huge diversity of language and culture on the continent can present considerable challenges for startups expanding south. “[Startups] need to have strategies that can be adjusted to each country,” Sergio Pimenta, VP at the International Finance Corporation, said. “Sometimes they don’t know these countries or sometimes can feel less comfortable because of the diversity of the country.”

EU-AL summit finishes without breakthrough agreement on migration: The EU-Arab League summit closed yesterday without a formal agreement between European and Arab leaders on migration and security coordination, with an Ittihadiya spokesman saying in a statement that delegates had agreed on the need to deepen existing partnerships.

Both the Arab League and the European Union positioned the summit as a success: Both President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and European Council President Donald Tusk struck positive tones about the conference during the final press conference. El Sisi described the summit as a “new milestone for the deepening of historical relations” between the two regions, while Tusk said it will herald a “new chapter of cooperation.”

But there was a moment of tension on human rights: An awkward exchange of words over human rights occurred during the final press conference, the FT writes. “You are not going to lecture us about humanity,” El Sisi said in response to a question about Egypt’s human rights record. “Respect our values and ethics, as we do yours.” El Sisi’s answer generated applause among Egyptian journalists, to which Tusk remarked (with a hint of sarcasm we suspect): “I really appreciate how enthusiastic your media are… Congratulations.”

El Sisi held bilateral talks with European and Arab officials yesterday. The president sat with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who praised Egypt’s efforts to fight extremism and tackle illegal migration and expressed eagerness to increase EU investments in the country. Italian PM Giuseppe Conte, meanwhile, discussed with El Sisi the ongoing investigation into the death of Italian student Giulio Regeni, as well as investment opportunities in the Suez Canal Area Development Project. El Sisi also held meetings with Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah and Lebanese PM Saad Hariri.

The international press is fairly sceptical about the conference’s achievements: The WSJ notes that no formal agreements were reached on the issues discussed, while the FT says that the disagreements on display during the final press conference “underlined the considerable political obstacles to closer cooperation between the regions. Forbes meanwhile writes that any potential for progress was held back by the ongoing Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU.

To keep it all in context, we quote Luxembourg’s prime minister: “If you think that by seeing each other for 24 hours in Sharm El-Sheikh and it’s peace in the world and in the region, then you believe in Father Christmas.”

And in what we hope is the last piece of news out of the Sharm summit, Qatar downgraded its delegation after Egypt sent them a half-hearted invitation, Bloomberg writes. (If this sounds to you like a scene out of Mean Girls, you’re not wrong.) The seaside resort town was also home to informal Brexit talks that failed to deliver much in the way of progress, Reuters reports.

The next summit will be held in Brussels in 2022, according to the official statement.

Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek won Best Actor at the Oscars for his performance as Queen’s Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Reuters reports. Shouting out to his parents in his acceptance speech, Malek said: “We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself. … I am a first-generation American, and my story is being written right now.” The Los Angeles native, who is neither a singer nor dancer, took extensive movement, voice and music lessons to portray the Queen frontman. Malek’s Egyptian relatives were eager to share their excitement with Reuters, which quoted his cousin describing the moment as “like watching Egypt score to win the cup.”

Still a chance for WaPo to troll Egypt: Despite the cheer and pride coming with Malek’s win, The Washington Post used it as an opportunity to pose the question of whether the achievement would have been possible in Egypt, highlighting Malek’s portrayal as the openly gay Freddie Mercury as being potential grounds for persecution in his ancestral homeland.

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Up Next

The EGP 500 mn phase 4A of Cairo Metro Line 3 is due to open “soon,” Cairo Governor Khaled Abdel Aal said, according to Ahram Gate. The 4 km phase will link four stations in Cairo: Harun, Heliopolis, Alf Maskan and Shams Club.

A Russian delegation will visit Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada airports sometime soon to run a final security sweep ahead of a decision on whether to allow the resumption of direct flights, AMAY reported.

A consortium of Russian companies is expected to visit Egypt next month to explore investment and operational logistics in the Russian Industrial Zone area of the Suez Canal Economic Zone, reports the local press.

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.

An Egyptian ministerial delegation will visit France in March to discuss boosting bilateral trade, local press reported.

Egypt-Sudan electricity grid connection project is on track, and is set to begin its first phase trials next month, according to The North Africa Post.

The Macro Picture

The developed world is slowing faster than emerging economies: For all the talk for the EM slowdown over the past year, advanced economies are faring worse, Steve Johnson writes in the FT. While it is true that the IMF’s latest EM forecasts of just 4.5% growth in 2019 weren’t pretty, the slowdown is concentrated in just a handful of emerging economies. “Deceleration in emerging markets is less pronounced than in developed markets, and most of that is in Turkey and Argentina,” Patrick Zweifel, chief economist at Pictet AM, said. What’s more, the gap between headline growth indicators in developed economies and emerging economies is now at levels not seen since 2013.

Good news for EM currencies: All this suggests that EM currencies are currently undervalued in relation to the USD, Johnson writes. Pictet’s data shows that EM currency aggregates have only risen during times of simultaneous slowdown in the advanced and emerging worlds.

Egypt in the News

Topping coverage of Egypt in the foreign press this morning was the closing day of the EU-Arab League summit and Rami Malek’s Oscar win.

Other headlines worth noting in brief include:

  • The magic of Upper Egypt: A piece from CN Traveler tells us “Why you need to visit Egypt this year”, reflecting on the beauty of Egypt’s southern cities of Luxor and Aswan as further evidence of the touristic appeal they continue to hold.
  • President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said that if Jews are willing to return to Egypt, “we’ll build synagogues,” The Jerusalem Post reports.

On The Front Pages

There was nothing in the front pages of Egypt’s top three state-owned papers but the EU-Arab League summit. Both Al Akhbar and Al Ahram are looking at the final declarations from the summit, hailing it as ushering in a new era of international cooperation. The Kumbaya spirit is alive and well in Al Gumhoria, which also looked at President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s response to criticisms over Egypt’s use of the death penalty.

Worth Watching

The wide-ranging effects of China’s slowed economic growth can be hard to conceptualize, but the Wall Street Journal takes apart three separate subplots – oil exports, Chinese university students in Australia and reduced consumer confidence – to show just how far the ripples extend (watch, runtime 02:58). To take that last example, reduced consumer confidence produces reduced retail sales as consumers put off big purchases like smartphones. Manufacturers of semiconductor chips in South Korea, where the industry makes up one-fifth of total exports, then report losses. This, in turn, effects output facilities in China, where less work feeds back into the loop, lowering consumer confidence.

Diplomacy + Foreign Trade

The Export-Import Bank of Korea (Korea Eximbank) will provide financing to Egyptian SMEs as part of the USD 3 bn package pledged during President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s 2016 visit to Seoul, according to an Investment Ministry statement (pdf). News came as Investment Minister Sahar Nasr, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait and Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chairman Mohab Mamish discussed economic and investment reform with Korea Eximbank President Sung-soo Eun. Mamish also brought up cooperation in light and medium-scale industries, as well as auto components manufacturing and shipbuilding in the Suez Canal Economic Zone.

Separately, the ministers discussed investing in domestic automotive manufacturing during a visit to Hyundai’s headquarters,the statement adds.


CSCEC lays groundwork for tallest building in Africa

China State Construction Engineering Company (CSCEC) has begun laying the essential groundwork for the 385-m skyscraper set to be “Africa’s tallest structure” in the new administrative capital, according to a cabinet statement. The process will take three entire days to complete. The building is part of the new capital’s 1.71 mn sqm central business district, in which CSCEC is investing USD 3 bn.


Amer Group revises Porto Said cost estimates upwards to EGP 4 bn

Amer Group has revised its investment cost estimates for its Porto Said residential tourism project upwards to EGP 4 bn, the company said in an EGX disclosure (pdf). The project was previously estimated to cost EGP 3 bn when it was announced last April. The cost revision comes after the company said last week that it expects to inaugurate the project this quarter.

Telecoms + ICT

Telecom Egypt signs agreements with Huawei, Ericsson, Cisco

Telecom Egypt has signed a MoU with China’s Huawei, which would see them cooperate on cloud computing on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress which kicked off in Barcelona yesterday, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said in a statement. The MoU will only target non-government services. TE also signed two MoUs with Ericsson to upgrade its cloud network, which will enable it to provide 5G services and cooperate on developing cloud communications services, the ministry said in a separate statement. TE also signed a cooperation agreement with American hardware giant Cisco Systems, which will allow it to develop its fixed internet capabilities , according to statements from CEO Adel Hamed cited by Al Shorouk.

Banking + Finance

Banque du Caire in talks with Arab lender to secure USD 30 mn loan

Banque du Caire (BdC) is in talks with an unnamed Arab financial institution for a USD 30 mn loan, Chairman Tarek Fayed told the domestic press. The bank is planning to secure USD 100 mn in loans this year as it looks to increase its financing of international trade operations through its African branch. BdC is targeting growing its domestic market share to 6% from 4% over the next five years, Fayed added.

On Your Way Out

Vietnam detains Trump and Kim Jong Un (sort of): Vietnamese authorities detained impersonators of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un last week ahead of the bilateral summit which begins today, the Independent reports. The Donald has been ordered to drop the act by police, but harsher treatment was meted out to the Kim lookalike after he was deported from the country, the WaPo says.

The Market Yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 17.47 | Sell 17.57
Buy 17.47 | Sell 17.57
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 17.46 | Sell 17.56

EGX30 (Monday): 14,946.35 (-0.06%)
Turnover: EGP 912.8 mn (2% above the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: +14.66%

WTI: USD 55.54 (+0.11%)
Brent: USD 64.76 (-3.52%)

Natural Gas (Nymex, futures prices) USD 2.84 MMBtu, (+0.04%, Mar 2019)
Gold: USD 1,329.10 / troy ounce (-0.03%)

TASI: 8,433.09 (-0.94%) (YTD: +7.75%)
ADX: 5,115.75 (-0.47%) (YTD: +4.08%)
DFM: 2,661.25 (-0.28%) (YTD: +5.20%)
KSE Premier Market: 5,502.33 (+0.39%)
QE: 10,226.69 (+0.36%) (YTD: -0.70%)
MSM: 4,067.67 (+0.35%) (YTD: -5.92%)
BB: 1,408.13 (-0.52%) (YTD: +5.30%)

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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.

28 February (Thursday): Scaling-up MENA SME’s Report Launch by Endeavor Egypt, AUC Tahrir, Cairo.

03-06 March (Sunday-Wednesday): EFG Hermes One-on-One Conference, Dubai.

8 March (Friday): SHE CAN women’s entrepreneurship event, Greek Campus, Cairo.

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.

19 March (Tuesday): Portfolio Egypt Conference for non-banking financial services, venue TBD, Cairo, Egypt.

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 rates.

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 250k first phase of Egypt’s national waste management program kicks off.

2-5 April: APPO Cape VII petroleum and energy conference, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

4-6 April: LafargeHolcim Forum for sustainable Construction

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 rates.

June: International Forum for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

04-05 June (Tuesday-Wednesday): Global Entrepreneurship Summit, The Hague, the Netherlands

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 rates.

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.

9-11 December (Monday-Wednesday): Food Africa 2019 Expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

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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