Thursday, 9 May 2019

In a low-growth world, we’re out-growing our peers

TL;DR

What We’re Tracking Today

And so it ended. You have (nearly) survived the first business week of Ramadan.

An unpopular truth: Ramadan weekends are wonderful. Daylight hours marked by zero pressure to interact civilly with other people, leaving us to laze on the couch as we catch up on reading, hit Netflix and Prime Video, and nap whenever we want. Oh, and no 2:30am alarm, so we get to sleep in.

Monthly inflation figures for April are due out today. Annual headline urban inflation eased slightly in March to 14.2%, down from 14.4% the previous month. Inflation in 9M2018-19 averaged 14%, according to remarks yesterday by Planning Ministry Hala El-Said, down from an average of 25.6% during the same period last year.


The key message heading into the weekend: The economy continues to grow at well north of 5%, even if the appreciation of the EGP and inflation remain corrosive.

In a low-growth world, we’re growing faster than our peer group: EBRD sees Egypt’s economy expanding at the fastest pace in the southern and eastern Mediterranean, while Moody’s predicts Egypt will continue to grow faster than other countries that share its B credit rating.

What’s driving that growth? Per separate statements from Cabinet and the EBRD:

  • Tourism
  • Energy / hydrocarbons
  • Construction
  • Retail
  • Communications
  • Mining

We have chapter and verse on all three statements in this morning’s Speed Round, below.


Further afield:

“Abbreviated” trade talks between the US and China kick off today in Washington, DC, ahead of a Friday deadline (imposed by The Donald via Twitter) for an agreement. The S&P 500 fell for the third session in a row yesterday as investors “remained cautious about the latest development on US-China trade talks even after hopeful comments from the White House regarding an eventual agreement,” according to Reuters. The FT’s Mike Mackenzie has a nuanced look at how the showdown is affecting markets.

Uber is going public tomorrow. Strikes by Uber drivers yesterday in London and a number of major US cities aimed to “protest the disparity between gig-economy conditions and the sums that investors are likely to make in Friday’s blockbuster” IPO, Reuters reports. The walkouts were “sparsely attended.” Uber is expected to price at or below the midpoint of the USD 44-50 per share range on which it had guided, CNBC adds.

Egypt makes an appearance in Uber’s prospectus: “Proposed ridesharing regulations in Egypt may require us to share certain personal data with government authorities to operate our app, which we may not be willing to provide. Our failure to share such data in accordance with these regulations may result in government authorities assessing significant fines or penalties against us or shutting down our or (after the acquisition) Careem’s app in Egypt on either a temporary or indefinite basis.”

Bahrain plans to return to the bond market this year for the first time since its Gulf allies committed USD 10 bn to shore up its economy, Bloomberg reports. Government officials are said to have met global investors in a non-deal roadshow, with a view to a possible bond issuance in the second half of the year.


Egyptian actress Mohsena Tawfik died on Tuesday at age 79, Gulf News reports. Tawfik gave notable performances in Youssef Shaheen films “The Swallow,” Why Alexandria” and “Adieu Bonaparte,” as well as soap opera “Um Kulthum.”

We at Enterprise love a good museum and are therefore pleased to bring you the news that Egyptians and foreigners with residency will be able to access all of Egypt’s museums without charge on International Museum Day, which falls on Saturday 18 May, according to a cabinet statement.

SIGN OF THE TIMES: Jean-Claude Van Damme loves Mohamed Ramadan. The one-time Hollywood star appeared in a video posted on Ramadan’s Instagram page, praising the Egyptian actor after having worked together on a telecom ad.

What we’re tracking today, the Ramadan Edition:

MUST READ: Former New Yorker correspondent Peter Hessler writes lovingly of Cairo and of the nation’s Jewish diaspora, using as his vehicle the Zamalek apartment building in which he lived during his time here. Hessler’s memoir of his life in Cairo during the events of 2011 onward is out this week: The Buried: An Archaeology of the Egyptian Revolution gets a glowing review from John Freeman in the Wall Street Journal.

A pre-iftar reading list to kill time between your post-workout shower and the breaking of the fast:

  • The failure taboo: Entrepreneurs admit what happens when it all goes wrong, in the Financial Times sums up life for even those of us who have had success in creating a company: “Building a business isn’t a three-year sprint where then Google comes along and buys you for USD 5 mn. It really takes 10 years to build anything of value and that’s a long time — a really long time when you [the founder] are basically the punch bag for everything that goes wrong.”
  • The new rules of middle age, written by women, wherein the Wall Street Journal writes that “as a new wave of women step into their mid-centuries, books reimagining female midlife are striking a chord. ‘We’re not going to do our 50s the way everyone’s telling us we’re supposed to,’ author Candace Bushnell says.”
  • Ever wondered who Um Ali is named after? The FT of all places has you covered with a backstory of feminism, betrayal, and murder (and also a recipe). ** Shout-out to Patricia Niven for the photo used above.

RAMADAN PSA #1- Bank hours are at 9am-2pm for employees; doors are open from 9:30am until 1:30pm for customers. The trading day at the EGX runs 10:00am until 1:30pm.

RAMADAN PSA #2- The mild weather is coming to an end. Look for a high today of 26°C today and 28°C tomorrow before the mercury rises to the 35-39°C range this coming week, according to our favorite weather app. So, when can we eat? Maghrib is at 6:37 pm CLT today in Cairo. You’ll have until 3:28 am tomorrow morning to caffeinate / finish your sohour.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

Nothing to see here — our daily roundup of last night’s talk shows is on hold for Ramadan.

Speed Round

Speed Round is presented in association with

Egypt’s GDP growth accelerated to 5.6% in 3Q2018-19, up from 5.5% in 2Q2018-19 and 5.4% in 3Q2017-18, Planning Minister Hala El Said said in a statement yesterday. GDP growth in the first half of the 2018-19 fiscal year reached 5.4%, she added. The government anticipates a GDP growth rate of 5.8% in 4Q2018-19. Notably absent from the figures presented was GDP growth for 9M2018-19, which El Said usually provides. She had previously noted that an overall GDP growth rate of 5.8% was anticipated for the full fiscal year, up from 5.3% in FY2017-18. As we noted yesterday, Egypt’s budget deficit for 9M2018-19 shrank to 5.3% of GDP, compared to 6.2% in the same period a year earlier, according to Finance Minister Mohamed Maait.

Growth is being driven by energy, mining, retail and construction: Energy and mining (labeled together as “extraction”) contributed 30% of total growth in 3Q2018-19, followed by wholesale and retail (9.6%), construction (9.5%), real estate (8.5%), and telecoms (6.7%).

Tax revenues were up by EGP 65 bn in 9M2018-19, according to Finance Ministry figures cited byAl Mal, coming in at just north of EGP 468 bn. Tax revenues on commodities and services were up to EGP 247.4 bn from EGP 208.6 bn during the same period last year. Income tax also increased to EGP 164 bn from EGP 116 bn while Suez Canal tax revenues reached EGP 26.2 bn.

Stalling foreign investment, high inflation are key risks to Egyptian economic growth- EBRD: A lack of foreign investment, persistent high inflation and the recent appreciation of the EGP are key risks to the Egyptian economy, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has said. The strengthening currency and current inflation rate is making the economy less competitive, the bank says, adding that the government’s economic reforms go some way to mitigate the negative effects.

Key drivers of growth: The bank identifies tourism, hydrocarbons, communications, construction and revenues from the Suez Canal as being the key sectors underpinning Egypt’s growth. Economic output is likely to rise to 5.5% in the current fiscal year, increasing to 5.9% in FY2019-20.

Growth among the southern and eastern Mediterranean countries to rise to 4.6% in 2019 from 4.4% last year, before picking up to 5.1% in 2020.

And Egypt is leading the pack: Moroccan GDP will grow 3.2% in 2019, Tunisia 2.5%, Jordan 2.2% and Lebanon 1.3%.

Moody’s sees Egypt’s long-term economic growth outperforming B-rated peers: Egypt’s commitment to and progress on reforms since 2016 will help the economy reach a growth rate of 6% of GDP by 2021, Moody’s said in an issuer comment yesterday (pdf). The ratings agency sees Egypt’s growth surpassing the median for B-rated sovereigns over the next two years, “based on the assumption that the government will build on the initial boost in price competitiveness” from the EGP float. Moody’s also says it expects Egypt to stick to its “fiscal discipline” after the expiry of the IMF program this year, considering the shocks the economy has withstood during the emerging markets sell-off in 2H2018 and “the adopted measures to safeguard fiscal discipline during that period.”

Creating jobs, especially for women, is integral for Egypt to sustain more inclusive growth and to allow the country to “absorb the large number of new labour market entrants.”

The ratings agency also says renewed social upheaval or instability is unlikely in the short term, largely due to the heavy burden incurred by the 2011 upheaval, but notes that it could be an issue undermining growth potential in the medium and long terms.

On the flipside, Egypt’s debt service burden is expected to weigh heavily as a source of liquidity risk, Moody’s says. “Egypt high interest bill at about 9% of GDP and the short average maturity of its domestic debt stock (two to three years) result in annual gross financing needs worth 30%-40% of GDP over the next few years. These elevated financing requirements expose the governments to shocks in borrowing costs which would rapidly feed adverse debt dynamics.”

The capital gains tax on stock market transactions isn’t coming back (yet). The government doesn't intend to reintroduce the capital gains tax on gains made on the stock market anytime soon despite deciding earlier this week to keep the stamp tax on EGX trades unchanged at 0.150%, government sources told the press. The decision to call off the scheduled stamp tax increase (which should have brought the levy to 0.175%) was prompted by requests from the Egyptian Capital Markets Association. Also a factor, the domestic press claims: revenues from the tax have fallen short of initial targets. The Finance Ministry had expected to net EGP 1 bn from the stamp tax, but collected only EGP 3 mn, according to figures cited by the newspaper. The ministry is studying alternatives to the levy, including either introducing a new tax similar to the stamp tax, or bringing back the capital gains tax somewhere down the line.

Background: The capital gains tax was temporarily shelved in 2017 and replaced by a provisional stamp tax until a planned reintroduction in three years. The reintroduction is a recommendation of the IMF.

Unpopular truth: It is unjust that day traders and portfolio investors should be exempt from capital gains taxes, but that folks who build real businesses are subject to capital gains taxes and taxes on dividends. Just sayin’.

EXCLUSIVE- Egypt could take to market its maiden issuance of sovereign sukuks in early 2020, a senior government official tells us. Finance Ministry officials have met with executives from Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and other GCC-based institutions to learn more about the process and the target markets. The ministry will tap banks to manage the issuance — which could be worth up to USD 1.5 bn — by September, although the move cannot proceed before a legislative framework for sukuks is in place. The government plans to issue both medium and long-term sukuks, the source said, adding that there are already indicators of significant investor interest.

Background: The sovereign sukuk issuance was planned to take place during this fiscal year, but Finance Minister Mohamed Maait told Bloomberg in a recent interview that the government needed more time to comply with Euroclear requirements. The ministry had also said a few days earlier that Egypt would not tap the international debt market again this fiscal year after successfully issuing EUR 2 bn-worth of eurobonds on the London Stock Exchange. Appetite for Egyptian debt instruments is particularly high in Asia, where the ministry went on a series of roadshows to drum up interest in Egypt’s debt issuances.

Raising the cap on Egypt’s eurobond issuances to USD 42 bn until end-FY2021-2022: Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry has amended the cap it placed on planned eurobond issuances in its medium-term debt management strategy to USD 42 bn by the end of FY2021-2022, up from USD 22 bn, according to a document seen by Enterprise. The issuances include USD 30 bn of USD-denominated bonds and USD 12 bn-worth of EUR-denominated notes.

Putting this in context: The ministry had rolled out earlier this year a “more realistic” version of its comprehensive debt strategy, in which it said Egypt would be allowed to take to market USD 12 bn of USD-denominated eurobonds and another USD 10 bn-worth of bonds in currencies other than USD. The strategy, which the ministry began implementing in March, “aims at issuing gradually larger volumes of longer-dated treasury bonds by means of constant issuance and re-openings to lengthen the average life of the debt stock, to consolidate the government securities yield curve, and to reduce refinancing risk.”

UAE-based investor intends to acquire USD 37 mn stake in Maridive: Najjad Zeenni, the UAE-based investor, has announced his intention to acquire a stake in Maridive & Oil Services worth USD 37 mn, according to a company press release (pdf). Zeenni is also chairman of, and a minority shareholder in, Maridive subsidiary Valentine in Abu Dhabi

Transaction is at a premium to Maridive’s current share price: The move would see Zeenni, who currently owns a 25% stake in Valentine, agree to an effective share swap with Maridive, subscribing to a USD 37 mn capital increase at a price of USD 0.61 per share. Maridive’s closing share price on 7 May was USD 0.363 apiece. Maridive, a 75% shareholder in Valentine, would then use the proceeds to purchase an equivalent value of shares newly issued by the subsidiary. Zeenni would hold a total of 60,665,000 shares in Maridive, while Valentine would become 100% owned by the parent company. Zeenni’s Maridive shares would be subject to a lockup period.

Why the premium? Zeenni, a business partner of Maridive since 1990, says he wants exposure to the wider Maridive story at the same time as third-party research “points to a recovery in global offshore exploration and production spending,” the impact of which could be sharply felt in Maridive’s MENA home waters.

What’s next: The agreement is pending approval by Maridive’s management and shareholders as well as the usual CPs.

CABINET WATCH- Cabinet approves EGP 10 bn securitization issuance and new investment zone in New Aswan: The cabinet of Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly approved a EGP 10 bn securitized bond issuance by the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) yesterday to help fund the agency’s projects, according to a cabinet statement on Wednesday. The issuance will take place in two EGP 5 bn tranches. Cabinet also approved the establishment of a 187 feddan freezone south of New Aswan. The new zone would be dedicated to a combination of both tech, agriculture and agrifood projects. The zone is expected to draw USD 2.3 bn in private sector investment and create as many as 15k jobs. Other decisions taken by Cabinet included:

  • Approving setting up a social welfare fund for the disabled;
  • Approving a USD 600,000 grant from South Korea for a feasibility study on the Abu Rawash wastewater treatment plant;
  • Approving a USD 14 mn contract with US firm Progress Rail to upgrade locomotives and import spare parts;
  • Approving information-sharing agreements between Agadir Pact countries (Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Jordan);
  • Approving amendments to the penal code that would enforce child support and alimony payments by convicts.

EARNINGS WATCH- Edita net profit increases 87.8% y-o-y in 1Q2019: High-profile snack food maker Edita recorded an 87.8% y-o-y increase in net profit for 1Q2019 to EGP 114.3 mn, according to the company’s earnings release (pdf). Revenues from the quarter reached EGP 982.2 mn, up 10.8% y-o-y, while net profit margins hit 11.6% versus 6.9% in the same quarter last year. “Top-line growth was both volume- and price-driven, while increased stability in commodity and raw material prices has allowed us to maintain tight cost-control measures and extract higher value from sales,” Edita Chairman Hani Berzi noted.

Cakes continued to be the largest share of total revenues in 1Q2019 at 46.4%, followed by croissants, which made up 28.3%. Rusks grew to 10.7% versus 7.9% in 1Q2018. Edita’s candy segment made up 4.4% share of 1Q2019 total revenues as the company introduced the BonBon line of juice-filled stick candies to strengthen their position in the fast-growing candy market. Gross exports were up 33.8% y-o-y to EGP 85.7 mn, comprising an 8.7% share of total gross revenues compared to 7.2% in 1Q2018, reflecting the importance of regional expansion for the company’s long-term growth.

Madinet Nasr Housing & Development (MNHD) reported consolidated net profit after tax of EGP 332.3 mn in 1Q2019, up 6% y-o-y from EGP 313 mn during the same period last year, according to the company’s earnings release (pdf). Consolidated revenues were up to EGP 634.22 mn, a 3.8% increase y-o-y from EGP 610.8 mn during the same period last year.

MOVES- Elsewedy Electric has appointed Ahmed Nabil Abdelmeguid (LinkedIn) as the company’s new head of mergers and acquisitions. Abdelmeguid was previously executive director of investment banking at HC Securities and Investment and was earlier commercial and shared services manager at PICO Energy. He began his career as an investment banker with HSBC in Cairo.

MOVES- Suez Canal Container Terminal (SCCT) has appointed Mahmoud Ayoub as COO,the company said in a statement picked up by the local press.

CORRECTIONS: We seem to have a problem with the consonants “b” and “m” (though mercifully not “b” and “p”). Yesterday, we mistakenly wrote that Investment Minister Sahar Nasr and World Bank President David Malpass signed a USD 200 bn SME loan. The value of the loan is actually USD 200 mn. On Sunday, we incorrectly wrote that Abraaj managing partner Mustafa Abdel-Wadood was released on bail of USD 10 bn. His bail was actually USD 10 mn. Both stories have been corrected on our website.

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Spotlight

EXCLUSIVE- Thales’ new country director wants a piece of Egypt’s investment in digital infrastructure: Global transportation and defense giant Thales yesterday announced the appointment of Sherif Barakat as its new country director for Egypt. The company has a long history here, providing solutions in the defense, space, transportation, aerospace, and security sectors. Barakat takes on the role as the company looks to expand its footprint in Egypt, especially in the digital sector. We spoke this week about the company’s history in Egypt and what its future plans look like.

Enterprise: How does it feel to be made Thales’ country director?

Sherif Barakat: I feel good. It’s a challenging position because we are very diversified across a lot of sectors, all of which touch the lives of ordinary Egyptians. This means we need to deliver in time with the right level of technology, safety, and security. Decision makers in a country rely on Thales. This position also makes me proud because I see that my work and the work of my team is reflected in the improved quality of living of Egyptians.

E: What’s the background on your presence in Egypt?

SB: Thales has been operating in Egypt since 1973, for over 40 years. Historically, we have had a lot of projects in defense solutions with the Defense Ministry. We also have lots of projects in the civil domain, particularly in transportation. We are very proud to cooperate with the Transport Ministry to operate infrastructure for many railway lines in Egypt, especially the Cairo-Alexandria line. This is one of the busiest in the world, carrying around 25-30 mn passengers per year. On that line, our project is to upgrade the signaling system, which reduces accidents and saves lives.

We’re also proud to have been involved since the beginning of the Cairo metro in the 1980s. Our current project is Line 3, which will take passengers directly to Cairo International Airport. Speaking of airports, we’re proud to be a historical partner of the Civil Aviation Ministry and air traffic control and management. A lot of the control towers, runways, and course simulation and training facilities in Egyptian airports use or are based on Thales technology and equipment.

We also have a historical partnership with Nilesat. Since the beginning, Nilesat has used satellites built by Thales, which makes us the main provider of media broadcasting in Egypt and across the Middle East and Africa.

This could not have been possible without the talented young Egyptians who built these projects in Egypt using tech from around the world. We have around 400 young employees, engineers, technicians, and workers involved in all our projects in Egypt.

Tap or click here to continue reading our chat with Sherif Barakat, which covers everything from AI to railways and other infrastructure.

Egypt in the News

Egypt played a key role in supporting the removal of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from power, the Associated Press reports. Along with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Egypt reportedly provided “quiet support” to Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, who now leads Sudan’s ruling military council. It was in Egypt’s interests to counter the influence of Islamists to whom al-Bashir was closely tied, the piece argues.

Former convict Yassin Mohamed has produced a collection of art that paints a picture of his experience in an Egyptian prison, Reuters reports. Mohamed, who spent five years in and out of prison for involvement in anti-government protests, found comfort in drawing to pass the time and avoid being dragged into dangerous circles during his incarceration, the newswire notes.

Also making the rounds:

  • Saved from the fire: Two hundred pieces from the Egypt collection have been recovered from the Brazil national museum after the building suffered a fire last September, the AP says.
  • Breaking taboos: Attitudes towards menstruation and reproductive health are changing among the younger generation of Egyptian women, reports the Jerusalem Post.

On The Front Pages

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi reaffirming Egypt’s commitment to promoting development to fight poverty in Africa and the region leads the front pages of Egypt’s main dailies this morning (Al Ahram | Al Gomhuria | Al Akhbar). In a meeting with New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) chief Ibrahim Mayaki yesterday, El Sisi also stressed the importance of cooperation between states to achieve growth.

Energy

Apicorp signs USD 75 mn Islamic loan agreement with Alfanar for renewable energy projects

The Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (Apicorp) has signed a five-year Islamic financing facility with Saudi-based Alfanar Company worth USD 75 mn, according to a press release (pdf). The loan from the development bank will support Alfanar’s renewable energy projects, including its 300 MW wind project in Spain. “With an existing portfolio exceeding 1.5 GW of renewable development projects around the globe, Alfanar is committed to further double its portfolio in the next few years,” said Alfanar CEO Jamil Wadi.

Infrastructure

Orascom in the running to construct Saudi sewage treatment plant

Orascom has been prequalified to bid for the construction of an independent sewage treatment plant in Saudi Arabia, TradeArabia reports. The plant, close to Taif in Mecca, will boast a total treatment capacity of up to 270,000 cbm per day once completed, officials from Saudi Arabia’s Water & Electricity Company (WEC) have said. Nine other global industry heavyweights, including France's Suez and Korea's Samsung Engineering, have also been prequalified for the project.

Banking + Finance

Maait excludes several bodies from Egypt’s new mandatory e-payments system

Finance Minister Mohamed Maait has exempted some government bodies from complying with the e-payments system introduced on 1 May, the ministry said in a statement. The new rules make it mandatory for all government transactions exceeding EGP 500 to be done electronically. The exclusion applies to economic bodies, the Social Housing and Mortgage Finance Fund, public hospitals, educational institutions, medical centers, and the central Cairo and a North Sinai gold tax collection offices.

Egypt’s FRA mulls licensing companies and intermediaries to act as SME lenders

The Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) is studying issuing licenses to allow companies and financial intermediaries to extend loans to SMEs, FRA boss Mohamed Omran told MENA, according to AMAY. The move comes as part of the authority’s 2018-2022 strategy to promote financial inclusion through offering more diversified non-banking financial services. We noted earlier this year that the Central Bank of Egypt is also studying a similar move to issue licenses for new institutions specialized in SME financing.

Empower seeks USD 154 mn in funding from banks

Renewable energy company Empower is currently in talks with local and international banks for a USD 154 mn loan to finance the construction of 32 waste-to-energy electricity stations, Chairman Hatem El Gamal said, according to the local press.

Egypt Politics + Economics

Investment Minister Sahar Nasr has issued new regulations for investment zones outlining general stipulations and clarifying procedures to establish these zones, according to a ministry statement (pdf). The regs also specify the roles and responsibilities for zone boards and administrators, and include a mechanism to ensure contractors do not violate their contracts with the developers. They prioritize setting up investment zones in remote and impoverished areas, especially in Upper Egypt, where cabinet has recently mapped out target areas in most need of development.

My Morning Routine

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 Jose Maria Magrina, managing director of Suez Cement, the largest private supplier of cement and concrete in Egypt

My name is Jose Maria Magrina. I’m 47 years old and I’m from Barcelona (and yes, still mourning Tuesday’s defeat). My wife, Gemma Miralles, and I have three kids: Ignasi (13), Irene (10), and Marc (7). I am energetic and passionate in almost everything I do, with an inexhaustible curiosity about virtually everything.

I’m the managing director of Suez Cement, which is part of HeidelbergCement Group and the largest private supplier of cement and concrete in Egypt. We have four large cement factories in Suez, Kattameya / New Capital, Helwan and Tora, as well as 21 smaller concrete batch plants throughout Egypt. We have 1,600 direct and around 1,000 indirect employees. We also have a port terminal and a ready mix business in Kuwait.

My core responsibility is to make sure that all the wheels move in the same direction and at the same pace. This entails a bit of everything, from making and executing plans to ensuring our operations are of the size required by the market, helping to introduce our products to our customers, communicating with different departments or inspecting our plants to make sure that work is being conducted safely.

Interfacing between our shareholders and the company is another important part of what I do. Being part of a multinational, listed in Germany, while representing two locally listed companies involves a lot of reporting and explaining. In the last two years, we have really been emphasizing cost reduction and we have significantly trimmed our workforce.

Any parent of relatively young children will tell you that they dictate a large part of our schedule. The family wakes up at 6:30am, since the children leave for school at 7:10am. After checking my phone and helping to push the kids out the door (I must admit the majority of this work is done by my great wife), I either go to the gym or go for a run.

If I’m at the gym, I bring my iPad and read Enterprise, then answer emails or read other things. If I go running, I always have an audiobook and so listen to almost 20-30 audiobooks yearly this way. By 8am I’m back home, and after a quick shower I head to the office, where I clock in around 9am.

If I don’t have to travel (which I frequently do), I try to keep my schedule consistent. Sunday, for example, is meeting day. I try to have all my operational meetings on Sundays, starting with our Excom and finishing by 4pm. So yes, that sometimes means seven straight hours of meetings. It helps me to understand where we will prioritize our efforts that week. Tuesdays are for plant visits or offsite days, where all meetings outside the office or works visited are held. Monday and Wednesday are office work days, which is where most of the real work is done. I catch up with internal projects, hold other ad-hoc meetings, review finance projections and complete other similar tasks. Thursday is the swing day, so I leave it to be decided by the events of the week.

It’s about being flexible: Despite all my best intentions, however, the needs of work and our industry mean that I have to be ready to modify my schedule constantly, so I always try to remain flexible. I usually leave the office around 7pm and arrive home around 7:30pm. There, I spend around an hour catching up with my family over dinner and before my kids go to sleep. This is my favorite time of the day. They use this time to reflect on their day’s experiences and we have a few laughs together. After that, I usually spend a couple more hours working, say from 9pm till 11:30pm. This is the time of the day where I answer the majority of my emails. Shortly after this I go to bed, where I read some Quora questions or a book for 10-20 minutes and go to sleep.

I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones in spite of Season 8, which is not — in my humble opinion — living up to expectations. The last book I read was Bill Clinton / James Patterson’s The President is Missing, which is light but interesting in terms of the insights revealed through the main character, which obviously comes from Clinton’s experience. I also really enjoyed the audiobook of The Three Body Problem book series, by Liu Cixin.

Our industry has changed dramatically in the last five years as a result of oversupply, which led to intense, savage competition and meant that all companies experienced losses. The government has to design policies to support the industry or it will disappear. Our industry is a cornerstone of economic development; without cement it’s difficult to imagine industry. New foreign investors understand this and look at both performance and the impact of government policies on our sector when taking investment decisions.

Suez Cement is a large entity with a lot of history, mirroring the Egyptian history of the 20th and 21st centuries. The majority of post-1920 buildings were built thanks to our cement. It’s rare to find a product that you can see in so many places.

Our products are commodities, so we constantly work to decommoditize by improving our services, bringing new products and working with retailers and traders on brand recognition, so the end customer chooses us instead of our competition. We do provide a complete service to our customers, from supplying cement to pouring concrete. We maintain a close, direct connection with the market and our brand is widely recognized in the areas we serve, particularly Cairo and the Delta.

People often don’t understand that we are a big depolluter. Approximately 25% of our energy comes from 600k tons of household and municipal waste, as well as biomass. This is waste that will not be landfilled and that will not contaminate our direct environment. We are leaders in energy efficiency, engaged in a number of renewable energy initiatives that aim to fulfil a large part of our electricity needs through solar power.

Demographics and the growth of Africa as a powerhouse will create a huge change in our industry, which used to be dominated by a few European multinationals focused mainly on mature or nearly mature markets. This is not the case anymore. Both a lot of regional champions and Chinese players have taken the marketplace, creating a much more challenging environment.

CO2 emissions will also affect the industry. We have made a large improvement this century but we still have to do more to lower our CO2 footprint by reducing the clinker content in our products and using byproducts of other industries as active ingredients or fillers. Also, we need to educate the markets we serve to demand this new, cleaner product.

Unfortunately, the most important business lessons I learned were with the best teacher in life: Failure. One is that the key to business success is to be pragmatic and stay flexible. It’s good to plan and strategize, but you have to remain close to circumstances on the ground and be ready to completely change your plans if conditions change. The other is summarized in a quote I heard a while ago: “If you think that education is expensive, try ignorance.” Great truth.

The Market Yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 17.10 | Sell 17.20
EGP / USD at CIB:
Buy 17.08 | Sell 17.18
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 17.10 | Sell 17.20

EGX30 (Wednesday): 14,027 (-2.5%)
Turnover: EGP 585 mn (30% below the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: +7.6%

THE MARKET ON WEDNESDAY: The EGX30 ended Wednesday’s session down 2.5%. CIB, the index heaviest constituent ended down 0.9%. Yesterday’s worst performing stocks were Egyptian Iron & Steel down 8.2%, ACAMD down 8.1% and AMOC down 7.8%. The market turnover was EGP 585 mn, and foreign investors were the sole net buyers.

Foreigners: Net Long | EGP +111.6 mn
Regional: Net Short | EGP -28.2 mn
Domestic: Net Short | EGP -83.4 mn

Retail: 45.5% of total trades | 34.3% of buyers | 56.7% of sellers
Institutions: 54.5% of total trades | 65.7% of buyers | 43.3% of sellers

WTI: USD 61.98 (+0.94%)
Brent: USD 70.25 (+0.53%)

Natural Gas (Nymex, futures prices) USD 2.60 MMBtu, (+2.64%, Jun 2019)
Gold: USD 1,281.50 / troy ounce (-0.32%)

TASI: 8,899.80 (-0.77%) (YTD: +13.71%)
ADX: 5,123.94 (-0.01%) (YTD: +4.25%)
DFM: 2,712.87 (-0.48%) (YTD: +7.24%)
KSE Premier Market: 6,365.43 (+0.88%)
QE: 10,123.40 (-1.25%) (YTD: -1.71%)
MSM: 3,874.97 (-0.67%) (YTD: -10.38%)
BB: 1,441.06 (-0.05%) (YTD: +7.76%)

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Calendar

May: 50 Egyptian companies are set to visit Libya to discuss trade, investment and reconstruction.

May: An IMF delegation will be in town to conduct its final review of the reform program ahead of the disbursement of the sixth and final tranche of Egypt’s USD 12 bn IMF loan.

14 May (Tuesday): Egyptian Private Equity Association annual sohour. Four Seasons Hotel, Cairo.

23 May (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s monetary policy committee will meet to review interest rates.

1H2019 (date TBD): Investment Minister Sahar Nasr will head a delegation of businessmen into Mexico City to explore cooperation avenues with the Latin American country.

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

June: Egypt will host the first economic forum for Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) countries to promote trade and investment in the 43 member states.

June: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to attend US-Africa Business summit in Mozambique.

4-5 June (Tuesday-Wednesday): Global Entrepreneurship Summit, The Hague, the Netherlands

5-6 June (Wednesday-Thursday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

11-12 June (Tuesday-Wednesday): Offshore Congress MENA, InterContinental Semiramis, Cairo.

16-17 June (Sunday-Monday): Mega Projects Conference, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

16-18 June (Sunday-Tuesday): Middle East & Africa Rail Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

17-18 June (Monday-Tuesday): Seamless North Africa, Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo.

17-19 June (Monday-Wednesday): Cairo Technology Week, Hilton Heliopolis, Cairo.

18-19 June (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate.

19-20 June (Wednesday-Thursday): Pharos Holding Annual Investor Conference, El Gouna, Egypt.

23 June (Sunday): Cairo Arbitration Court hearing for Amer Group vs. Antaradous for Touristic Development.

28-29 June (Friday-Saturday): G20 Global Economic Summit, Osaka, Japan.

30 June (Sunday): June 2013 protests anniversary, national holiday.

July: Customs officials from Egypt and the US will sit down to discuss “procedural and administrative matters” as part of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFA).

11 July (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s monetary policy committee will meet to review interest rates.

19-21 July (Friday-Sunday): LED Middle East Expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

23 July (Tuesday): 23 July revolution anniversary, national holiday.

30-31 July (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its 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 will meet to review interest rates.

29 August (Thursday): Islamic New Year (TBC), national holiday.

2-4 September (Monday-Wednesday): The Big 5 Construct Egypt, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

8-11 September (Sunday-Wednesday): Sahara Expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

9-12 September (Monday-Thursday): The 9th Annual EFG Hermes London Conference, Arsenal Emirates Stadium, London.

17-18 September (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate.

26 September (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s monetary policy committee will meet to review interest rates.

6 October (Sunday): Armed Forces Day, national holiday.

10-13 October (Tuesday-Sunday): Big Industrial Week Arabia 2019, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

23-24 October (Wednesday-Thursday): Intelligent Cities Exhibition & Conference, Hilton Heliopolis, Cairo.

23 October-1 November (Wednesday-Friday): CIB PSA Women’s World Championship, Great Pyramid of Giza, Cairo.

28 October-22 November (Monday-Friday): World Radiocommunication Conference 2019, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

29-30 October (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate.

3-5 November (Sunday-Tuesday): Electrix 2019, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

9 November (Saturday): Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, national holiday.

10-14 November (Sunday-Thursday): GeoMEast International Congress and Exhibition, Marriott, Cairo.

14-17 November (Thursday-Sunday): Machtech Expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

14-17 November (Thursday-Sunday): Transpotech Expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

14-17 November (Thursday-Sunday): Airtech Expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

December: Egypt will host for the first time the Pack Process trade expo for the Middle East and African region.

3-6 December (Tuesday-Friday): Cairo WoodShow, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

9-11 December (Monday-Wednesday): Pacprocess Middle East Africa, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

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

10-11 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate.

26 December (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s monetary policy committee will meet to review interest rates.

9-12 January 2020 (Tuesday-Sunday): PLASTEX, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

25 January 2020 (Saturday): 25 January revolution anniversary / Police Day, national holiday.

11-13 February 2020 (Tuesday-Thursday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International

Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

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