Thursday, 30 January 2020

Vodafone, STC announce Egypt’s largest-ever M&A

TL;DR

What We’re Tracking Today

It’s a huge morning for the business community with the largest-ever M&A in the country unfolding after Vodafone Egypt announced it was selling its domestic operation to Saudi Arabia’s STC in a transaction worth just under USD 2.4 bn. It’s a vote of confidence in Egypt by a foreign investor with big ambitions to become a regional player — and an endorsement of the digital dreams of thousands of startups and large corporations alike. We sat down with Vodafone Egypt CEO Alexandre Froment-Curtil, who’s staying on to lead the business, to discuss how it unfolded and what it means.

The world is still digesting the Trump administration’s plan to solve the world’s most intractable conflict. Arab states seem to be leaning towards breaking with their traditional support for the Palestinian Authority, offering words of appreciation to the US and urging Israel and Palestine to consider the offer on the table. For his part, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi spoke on the phone yesterday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Charles Michel — both of whose officials offered guarded responses to the proposals. More on this in Last Night’s Talk Shows below.

Two opposing takes: Time’s editor-at-large Ian Bremmer heaps praise on the Trump plan for recognizing the on-the-ground realities and finally offering a road map to end the decades-old conflict. On the flipside, Middle East Institute senior fellow Khaled El Gindy calls it a “piece of political malware” with ambitions to establish permanent military rule over the Palestinian territories.


Fed leaves rates on hold: The US Federal Reserve yesterday maintained its benchmark interest rate at 1.5-1.75%, saying in a statement that the current rate is “appropriate to support sustained expansion of economic activity” and inflation returning to its 2% target rate.

The yield on US 10-year treasuries fell to its lowest level since October in response to the Fed meeting, Bloomberg reports.

US stocks ended the day largely flat on a day of mixed earnings releases and continued concern over the coronavirus. The S&P 500 closed 0.09% in the red, the Dow Jones rose slightly by 0.04% and the Nasdaq finished 0.06% in the green.

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Coronavirus touches down in the Middle East: A Chinese family of four living in the UAE have become the first people in the Middle East to contract the coronavirus, state news agency WAM reported yesterday. The Ministry of Health and Prevention issued a statement breaking the news, adding that the family’s health is stable and the situation under control.

Airliners have begun to suspend flights to China: British Airways and Lufthansa yesterday halted flights to the Chinese mainland as fears of a global contagion grew, the Financial Times says.

There are now more confirmed cases of the virus in China than there were during the SARS outbreak in 2003. Another 1,500 cases were added to the tally between Tuesday and Wednesday alone, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in China to 6,061.

Want to see a global pandemic play out in real-time? Johns Hopkins University has developed an interactive map that updates as cases are confirmed around the world.


In business miscellany:

  • Buffet bails on newspapers: Berkshire Hathaway will sell its BH Media Group to news company Lee Enterprises for USD 140 mn, the Financial Times reports.
  • Italian oil giant Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi is facing criminal charges in Italy for allegedly arranging a USD 1.3 bn payment for drilling rights in Nigeria with the knowledge that most of the money would be used for bribes, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Senate Republicans are trying their hardest to prevent John Bolton from sinking the Trump Presidency: President Trump’s defense team and Senate Republicans are pushing to block witnesses from testifying after ex-national security adviser John Bolton revealed he had evidence that Trump had tried to use aid to Ukraine as a means to force a corruption investigation into political rival Joe Biden. The NYT and Wall Street Journal have more.

The US Democratic primary season officially gets underway next week when the Iowa Caucus is held on 3 February. Progressive senator Bernie Sanders has surged into the lead in recent Iowa polls and is the clear frontrunner in New Hampshire, which is next in line to vote on 11 February. Sanders has also narrowed the gap with national frontrunner Joe Biden’s, and concerns are reportedly growing among both establishment Democrats and the Trump camp about the Sanders winning the nomination.

The first season of Making It has come to an end: As we wrap up our first season of Making It, Enterprise's very first podcast, we thought we'd reach out to everyone who lent us an ear these past few months and thank them for their constant feedback. If you have something you'd like to let us know about this season, or any recommendations for seasons to come, email us at makingit@enterprisemea.com. It’s been quite a journey and we appreciate everyone who took it with us. We’ll be back for season two in the spring.

Listen to the season finale on: Our Website | Apple Podcast | Google Podcast

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

No love for business on the airwaves: The multi-bn acquisition of the country’s largest mobile operator wasn’t enough to get business-econ a slot on the talk shows last night.

Everyone was talking about The Donald’s Middle East peace plan instead: Al Hayah Al Youm's Lobna Assal noted the Foreign Ministry's statement that we picked up yesterday, which called for both sides to carefully study the proposals on the table (watch, runtime: 1:28). Assal’s co-host Hossam Hadad was more up to date and noted President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s chat with European Council President Charles Michel yesterday. Both sides agreed on intensifying efforts in the pursuit of peace, Hadad said (watch, runtime: 2:16).

Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan reviewed the international reactions in a phone call with the political researcher Belal Manzour (watch, runtime: 9:29), noting El Sisi’s phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the developments. The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of resuming the negotiations under American auspices (watch, runtime: 2:18). Min Masr’s Amr Khalil also ran the same segments (watch, runtime: 4:42) and (watch, runtime: 0:59).

Coronavirus update: Lobna Assal reported that 132 people have now died as a result of the Wuhan coronavirus in China and over 6k are now infected. She noted yesterday’s news that the UAE reported its first confirmed case of the virus (watch, runtime: 1:51). Assal added that the Health Minister Hala Zayed met Chinese diplomats in Egypt to discuss the latest updates and the condition of the Egyptian community in China and the Chinese community in Egypt (watch, runtime: 2:21). Several others ran the story, including Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan (watch, runtime: 13:07), Min Masr’s Amr Khalil (watch, runtime: 4:04), and Yahduth Fi Misr’s Sherif Amer, who interviewed an Egyptian-Chinese couple who just returned from China (watch, runtime: 2:56).

There were no updates on GERD negotiations in Washington on the second and final of the meetings between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. Al Hayah Al Youm’s Hossam Hadad phoned political scientist Moataz Bellah Abdel-Fattah who said that the US had weighed in to speed up the process after Ethiopia asked that the deadline be pushed to March. If the latest round of talks again fail, Egypt could take its case to the UN Security Council, he said (watch, runtime: 6:40).

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M&A WATCH- Saudi Telecom to purchase 55% stake in Vodafone Egypt for USD 2.4 bn; Vodafone brand + Egypt team to stay as part of transaction: Saudi Telecom (STC) yesterday signed a non-binding agreement to acquire Vodafone Group's 55% stake in Vodafone Egypt in a USD 2.39 bn all-cash transaction, according to statements from Vodafone (pdf) and STC. The sale values 100% of Vodafone Egypt at USD 4.4 bn. If executed, the transaction would give STC a 42% share of Egypt’s telecoms market and be the largest-ever M&A in Egypt.

The Vodafone brand is here to stay: Vodafone Group has agreed to allow STC to use the Vodafone brand, roaming arrangements and procurement system as well as other services under what it calls a “partner country agreement.”

And Vodafone itself isn't leaving Egypt: Vodafone Group will retain its shared services centers and plans to create jobs for another 1k people over the coming 12-18 months. The centers offer everything from call-center services to application development and support for Vodafone's global operations.

What’s next? STC will kick the tires in a due diligence process and said that the initial agreement will remain valid for 75 days and is extendable by mutual agreement. Vodafone said it expects the transaction to close in June of this year, pending the green light from regulators.

Telecom Egypt is considering its options: Telecom Egypt, which owns the remaining 45% stake in Vodafone Egypt, said in a statement (pdf) that it will “consider all the possible ways” to handle its investment in the company and that it will make a decision after Vodafone and STC reach a final agreement. TE offered no specifics, but said in recent days that it is not looking to join Vodafone Group in exiting VFE.

Shares in Telecom Egypt surged 10% yesterday to close at EGP 11.22, according to EGX data. STC shares dropped 1%, while Vodafone Group saw its London-listed shares fall 0.14%.

Enterprise yesterday sat down for a one-on-one with Vodafone Egypt CEO Alexandre Froment-Curtil to discuss the transaction and what’s next for Vodafone Egypt. Edited excerpts from our conversation:

Enterprise: What would like the Egyptian business community to know this morning about the transaction?

Alexandre Froment-Curtil: We think this transaction is very good news for Egypt — we have a large foreign investor who's interested in entering Egypt, in entering the sector through a stake in the country’s biggest ICT business. We think that's just a very good vote of confidence for Egypt.

It’s also important to know that this transaction includes a commercial agreement that will keep key elements from Vodafone in Egypt. That’s our partner market agreement, and it’s going to have a tangible effect because our brand will remain as it is. Our brand’s shape, form, and color will stay 100% the same, with no alterations whatsoever. We’ve entered a renewable five-year partner market agreement. I think there's a clear realization that Vodafone Egypt is a brand that lives in the heart of Egyptians, and Vodafone Group is very happy to trust the country to handle the brand properly.

As a management team, we're all committed to working with a new shareholder to ensure continuity and we’re also very much committed to the culture. What makes Vodafone Egypt really special at the end of the day is the people and the culture we have, which stands out from competitors in the market. This, coupled with management’s commitment to continuity under a new shareholder, is the secret sauce of Vodafone Egypt.

For enterprise customers, we want them to know we’re delivering stability today, but also continuity and innovation tomorrow. Through our partner market agreement, we’re bringing Vodafone Group technology innovations to Egypt. That includes our internet of things platform, as well as the deployment of our latest network innovations.

E: So you personally are staying on board?

AFC: Yes, absolutely. I'm staying in Egypt with the new shareholder because I like the country and I love this business — and I think we can do great things.

E: How did this unfold?

AFC: Vodafone Group has been here in Egypt for 22 years — and successfully so. The group is present in multiple markets across the world, and this transaction is part of a strategy to simplify our geographical portfolio.

E: Did you shop the transaction around?

AFC: No. STC approached Vodafone Group a couple of months ago with an unsolicited buyout offer. The Group’s chief executive, Nick Read, who was appointed 15 months ago, had made clear that we were really clarifying our geographic portfolio.

E: So there was no competitive process.

AFC: Correct.

E: Had there been any discussion earlier to look at other options like an IPO?

AFC: None. It was very much unsolicited.

E: You’ve recently sold out of New Zealand. Where else have you offloaded stakes?

AFC: We sold out of China Mobile in 2010, we sold out of France in 2010, and the US in 2013 with a sale to Verizon. We sold out of New Zealand very recently. We also sold out of Malta very recently. The vision behind all of this is very straightforward: It’s meant to create two distinct geographic areas in which we lead: Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Egypt has the highest growth rate among all Vodafone markets and is full of digital potential. It’s a land of opportunity. But while remaining a fantastic business for the group, it is slightly the odd one out just from a geographical perspective.

Our message to our shareholder has always been that there's more potential, so invest more in Egypt and you will get more return because we can really grow the business fast. So the group decided that, with all their capital allocations in Europe, where we are investing in 5G, it’s best that we continue our growth outside the group. Vodafone Group doesn’t want to be in a situation where they are holding us back from the pace of growth we want.

And now here we are, with another shareholder we believe can fund us properly and propel faster growth. That's very straightforward because, even though it's a very tough decision when you've had a great business and great attachment to the country, the business upside is very clear.

E: Has there been any discussion about the remaining stake held by Telecom Egypt?

AFC: Of course. Because we get along very well with Telecom Egypt and also out of respect, we have informed them of what we’re doing. It’s important to note here that STC has made it very clear that they're not interested in acquiring TE’s 45% stake in Vodafone Egypt. They only want Vodafone Group’s share. They’re very happy with the way the current shareholders cooperate and want to continue that relationship. TE has a shareholder agreement with Vodafone Group, and they have a right of first refusal, and we will have the discussion in due course.

E: Who’s advising on the transaction?

AFC: We haven’t appointed anyone yet, but we'll be doing so next week.

E: Let’s talk about STC. Around 90% of their revenue is from KSA right now, correct?

AFC: It’s a heavy part of their business, but they have an ambition to really build their regional presence and be a regional leader. What's interesting for our team is that we have a reputation that Vodafone Egypt's staff and management team are probably one of the best in the Middle East. Our Saudi colleagues are really looking forward to having that on board. They actually want to make us a regional hub. This will all create a very different, interesting dynamic. We were previously a standalone entity between Africa and Europe, but now we have the chance to be at the heart of a region.

STC is a good partner for us for many reasons. First and foremost, it continues the FDI story in Egypt, which is very important for the private sector market. Secondly, as you can imagine, STC is a well-funded organization. It actually has zero debt, compared to Vodafone, which currently has high levels of debt. So STC will be able to fund our growth story. Finally, STC has a very clear regional leadership vision. Today, they’re present in five countries, but they have a goal to be the leading operator in the Middle East.

E: How would you be a regional hub here? What does that mean?

AFC: Well, I think there are many opportunities. I don’t want to talk on behalf of STC, but for example we’ve built here in Egypt a shared service center. We have 7,800 employees who are serving the rest of the globe. Whereas originally we were serving them in terms of call center services, now the vast majority of the work we do is in robotics, AI, and app development. That means highly technical and skilled individuals, and I think that is extremely appealing to a group like STC to have that high-quality IT tech capability like we have in Egypt. Our network, the way we develop our apps, the fact that it’s all in-house — I think that's very exciting. It has evolved from being a straightforward call center service, although we still do have call center and contact center capabilities. For example, 100% of our vote from Ireland's contact center is here. But now it’s developed a lot and is much more focused on high-tech solutions. One example I like a lot is that all our chatbots are developed here. We’re running smart cities in Spain from here. All these technologies are developed by Egyptians and run out of Egypt. Vodafone Group does not want to let go of that.

E: Where else does Vodafone have these partner market agreements?

AFC: We have them in over 60 countries, but what's special here is how STC decided to go ahead with it. Vodafone has a range of services to offer in this type of situation, and typically some countries pick and choose which ones to take. STC said "I want them all:" The brand, 100% of the roaming agreements, 100% of your purchasing capabilities, 100% of your technology capabilities, 100% of your global enterprise and customer management. They want everything we have to offer, and that’s great news for us as a local operation because it gives us more continuity in getting and giving the best.

E: What's driving growth in the telecom market?

AFC: There's underlying growth, which is of course the population growth. The second driver is demand for data. Only 25% of customers are on 4G today because of the pace at which customers are upgrading to 4G handsets. Can you imagine that growth potential? And that's very exciting for us, and now for STC. The third layer is actually diversification. Then look at products like Vodafone Cash, our peer-to-peer mobile money transfer service. Then consider the work we're doing with the government on the new universal health insurance, where we are a tech partner to the government in this agreement with them. There is no SIM card. We are a tech partner for the digitization of government and the enterprise — with or without mobility.

E: What are your expectations for growth this year?

AFC: We always have double-digit growth expectations. Egypt is really a place where you see potential everyday. And more so for us, we see digital potential everyday. There's not a day when we don’t wake up thinking, “Let’s go after this one today.” That’s the beauty of both the country and the company that we’re in: Not only are there digital opportunities, but they’re within reach.

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IPO WATCH- BdC scraps plans for dual listing: Banque du Caire (BdC) does not have plans to list on a foreign exchange and will only offer a stake on the EGX, Masrawy reported citing unnamed sources. Chairman Tarek Fayed said back in April that the bank could list on both the EGX and the London Stock Exchange to attract more foreign investors, but sources said yesterday that the surge in USD inflows so far this year had persuaded the bank to ditch its plans for a dual listing. The government planned initially to offer 5% of the bank’s shares as global depository receipts on the LSE.

The second leg of the BdC roadshow will begin two weeks, when officials travel to Boston and New York to gauge investor demand. The first leg of the roadshow for the bank’s IPO saw “large” investor appetite from major investment funds in London, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

A final evaluation for the IPO will be ready by the end of March or April, sources said. Grant Thornton Financial Advisors have reportedly been tapped to conduct the fair value assessment.

If everything goes to plan, BdC will offer its 49% stake at the end of the first quarter or early in the second, becoming the first state-owned company to IPO under the state privatization program. Misr Financial Investments, the investment banking arm of lead shareholder Banque Misr, will set the final date for the private placement before the public offering is made.

IPO WATCH- CI Capital says it has 4 EGX IPOs in the pipeline for this year: Investment bank CI Capital says it has as many as four share sales by Egyptian companies on the EGX in the pipeline for execution this year, including minority stakes in two state-owned firms, co-CEO Hazem Badran said yesterday, according to the local press. Speaking on the sidelines of the bank’s MENA investors conference, Badran said the bank would take charge of a secondary stake sale by the state-owned Abu Qir Fertilizers Company and manage Enppi’s initial public offering. Enppi and Abu Qir are among the 23 companies included within the government’s privatization program announced back in 2018. Abu Qir is likely to be up first, Badran said, because the company is already listed on the exchange.

The investment bank also plans to manage the listing of a EGP 1 bn private sector food company, and an unnamed education firm. We’re putting our money on this being Taaleem for Consulting and Educational Services, which Badran said in October would be listed within the coming two years.

In other EGX news: Porto Group, Dice, and GB Auto have been upgraded to the EGX30 index following the bourse’s semiannual review, the EGX said in a statement (pdf). The Oriental Weavers, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, and the Egyptian Iron and Steel Company have all been downgraded.

M&A WATCH- CBE green-lights First Abu Dhabi Bank due diligence on Bank Audi: The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has given the go-ahead to First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) to conduct due diligence on Bank Audi’s Egypt arm ahead of a potential acquisition, unnamed sources were quoted by Masrawy as saying. FAB requested approval to begin its formal evaluation earlier this week.

Background: FAB was one of three banks that expressed interest in buying the unit, after it emerged that Bank Audi was looking to exit the country amid the ongoing banking crisis in Lebanon. The bank initially denied reports that it was looking to sell, but CFO Tamer Ghazaleh later confirmed that the bank was in fact considering pulling out of the country. This came just a few months after the Lebanese bank looked close to acquiring the National Bank of Greece’s (NBG) Egypt arm.

EXCLUSIVE- VAT Act amendments to widen tax base eightfold- Maait: In-the-works amendments to the VAT Act will aim to increase the number of taxpayers to 550k from 70k currently through “tighter governance practices”, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait told Enterprise. This may be done by linking the tax and customs authorities’ databases to better track cases of tax avoidance and close loopholes, he said.

Why? As it stands, businesses with a turnover of less than EGP 500k a year are exempt from VAT. Some businesses deliberately find ways to understate or misrepresent their turnover to benefit from this, leading to a huge discrepancy between the number of registered income tax payers (c. 3 mn) and registered VAT taxpayers (c. 216k). The government then only ends up collecting VAT from 70k taxpayers since many submit nil tax returns, Maait said.

The amendments will be ready in 2-4 weeks, Maait said last week. Aside from VAT-exemption for local paper companies, and the plan to widen the tax base, the ministry has been scant on details about the amendments. The minister reassured taxpayers when he first announced the plans last year that there would be no changes to the headline rate.

Changes to the universal healthcare tithe incoming: Changes to the funding system for the new universal healthcare system should be made clear soon, but the ministry is yet to decide whether it will put a cap on the currently imposed tithe to support the system or base the tax on profits, Maait tells us.

The healthcare system is currently funded by an uncapped 0.25% tithe imposed on the revenues of all companies. The ministry responded to industry pressure and has been working on amending the system. Two government sources told us in September that if the ministry chooses to keep the tithe on revenues, as opposed to making it on profits, it would be capped at EGP 10k per company.

CABINET WATCH- Elsewedy-Schenker-3A consortium awarded Sixth of October dry port tender: A consortium of Elsewedy Electric, Schenker Egypt, and 3A International the contract to build the planned USD 100 mn Sixth of October dry port, Al Mal reports, quoting Transport Minister Kamel El Wazir said. El Wazir’s statements came following an official statement saying cabinet had agreed to award the contract to an unnamed consortium during its weekly meeting. The Elsewedy-led consortium was competing with another comprising Malaysia’s PSA and India’s Concorde.

Background: The 100-feddan dry port will be able to handle 720k cargo containers a year. It will comprise cargo zones, customs clearance offices, and multipurpose storage facilities linked to key seaports, and will be developed under a public-private partnership framework.

Also approved in yesterday’s cabinet meeting:

  • A contract with supplier We Can, which is part-owned by the Tahya Misr fund, to purchase EGP 62.4 mn-worth of medicine used to treat tumors for public health bodies;
  • A settlement agreement signed between the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) and each of DP World, Amiral Egyptian Petroleum Services, and Sonker Bunkering Company. The settlement is related to a 2017 contract to manage a liquid bulk terminal at Ain Sokhna Port;
  • An agreement the SCZone signed last month with a consortium led by Japan’s Toyota Tsusho to build a roll-on roll-off vehicle terminal at East Port Said; and
  • Amending the ownership structure of a company that will be set up to manage the planned monorails to double the Finance Ministry’s stake to 40% and reduce the National Authority For Tunnels’ stake to 5% from 25%.

DISPUTE WATCH- The Damietta plant probably isn’t going to be opening in a few weeks: The dispute between the Egyptian government and Damietta LNG plant operator Union Fenosa Gas (UFG) doesn’t seem close to ending, after the joint venture restated its demands for a USD 2 bn settlement, according to reporting by Law360. UFG reportedly stated during testimony in a Washington DC federal court on Monday that there stands “no conceivable justification for Egypt to continue ignoring” the award.

The development came less than a week after the court re-launched proceedings which had been suspended since January 2019 when Egypt had reportedly attempted to get the multi-bn settlement annulled. UFG is now asking the court to set out a timetable by which Egypt will need to respond to its complaint. All of this is making Oil Minister Tarek El Molla’s claims last week that the plant could open in a few weeks seem a little ambitious.

The Spanish-Italian joint venture has long been in dispute with the Egyptian government over the Damietta LNG award and has been seeking compensation from the government since the latter cut gas supplies to the Damietta plant in 2012. Tensions rose prompting international arbitration that resulted in the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes order the government pay a USD 2 bn settlement to UFG. Talk of resuming the venture and out of court settlements in the form of new gas shipments were floated but none have effectively taken place according to UFG’s prior statements and current testimony.

Madbouly directs officials to speed up overdue export subsidy payments: Larger exporters will receive an additional 10% of their outstanding export subsidy dues and smaller companies owed less than EGP 5 mn will get their dues paid in full, under a decision taken yesterday by Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly. The prime minister also directed the Finance Ministry to start next month paying out export subsidies under the new framework.

Background: Exporters are owed bns of overdue subsidies under the old subsidies framework. Settlements of the overdue payments have reportedly been moving forward since last September, in tandem with the launch of a new EGP 6 bn framework the government had approved in June.

The government has so far settled overdue subsidies worth EGP 790 mn for 75 companies, according to the statement yesterday. Agreements with 67 other companies were also signed to settle another EGP 6 bn over the coming five years. These larger companies will commit to investments and expansions in exchange for the government speeding up their payments.

MOVES- Chairman Ahmed Hegazy has resigned from his position as chairman of October Pharma, sources close to the company told Al Mal. Hegazy is also the chairman of ACDIMA Pharma, which owns a 30% stake in October. ACDIMA shareholders reportedly raised conflict of interest concerns arising from Hegazy simultaneously holding both positions. ACDIMA had initially nominated him to represent the company on the board, but appears to have changed its stance. In response to the shareholders’ concerns, the General Authority for Freezones and Investment restricted Hegazy from becoming a member on the board of any other companies, prompting him to step down from his position. October Pharma has not yet chosen who will replace the former chairman.

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Egypt in the News

Vodafone Group selling its stake in Vodafone Egypt to Saudi Telecom is driving the conversation on Egypt in the foreign press this morning: Bloomberg | Reuters | The Financial Times | AP | Al Arabiya | The National

My Morning Routine

Sherif Kamel, dean of the School of Business at AUC: 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 Sherif Kamel, dean of the School of Business at AUC, a top private business school in Egypt.

I’m Sherif Kamel, dean of the School of Business at the American University in Cairo and president of the board of governors of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt.

I see myself as the CEO of an enterprise that should work hard to always be innovative, competitive, agile and adaptive to local and global changes, to better serve its community both on and off campus. This is how business schools around the world should be operating in this second decade of the 21st century.

My colleagues on campus now call me “SK2.0” because my first spell as dean of the AUC School of Business was from 2009-2014. On a day-to-day basis, I follow up on the execution of school strategy in terms of ongoing academic programs, oversee new projects and initiatives, interact with faculty, students, staff, and alumni, and cultivate the school’s relationships with its corporate partners and business associates in Egypt and globally.

I receive almost 600 emails a day, and much of my daily commute is spent responding to them. I usually go to sleep well after midnight, so I wake up around 8am and usually have breakfast at home before heading to the AUC New Campus. I also read a selection of newspapers, including the FT, the NYT, Enterprise, and Al Masry Al Youm, as well as reviewing work-related documents that require my input.

Days that are New Campus-free are usually the most productive. If I’m attending an AmCham committee meeting or an event, or have other school-related commitments off-campus, I’ll often go to my downtown office afterwards. This enables me to spend at least three more hours in the office rather than commuting back and forth across greater Cairo.

I have never had a mobile phone — although I have lived and breathed technology management for over three decades. Even so, I feel the notion of working hours no longer exists. Interacting for work — whether in person or by responding to messages — is a non-stop process.

Reading has always been an integral element of my daily routine. My library at home has over 3,000 books in areas including history, arts, leadership, architecture, innovation, technology, business and economics, in Arabic, English and French. I’m a passionate collector of books about Egypt, especially sociopolitical and historical aspects of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. But I still find it difficult to enjoy electronic books; the likes of Kindle and Nook are simply not for me.

Recently, I’ve enjoyed reading 21 Letters on Life and its Challenges by Charles Handy, Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab, and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari.

Innovative platforms and experiential learning are set to transform the education space at large. The role of the professor is becoming more that of a facilitator. And learning is increasingly taking place through ongoing conversations in class and online, with the key being how to derive value from the wealth of readily accessible knowledge and move beyond what is already available.

Business schools need to be flexible and embrace disruption. The future of work and the practice of management will be transformed by emerging innovative technologies including AI, VR, robotics, and the Internet of Things. Business and management education will need to focus on critical and design thinking, creativity, discovery, people management, communication and complex problem solving. Increasing digitization will also impact many basic administrative and managerial activities.

I see many complementarities between AUC and AmCham and my roles in each. In many different ways, both organizations are active advocates and promoters of Egypt, and they reflect the voice of the private sector, which I strongly believe is an integral building block for inclusive growth.

Lifelong learning should never stop — no matter one’s age, other commitments, or how much we know (or rather, think we know). Both formal education and everyday experiences are great sources of learning, but remaining open to different ideas is crucial. Some of my most important learning experiences have come from people, and I believe that one should always be ready to learn from the elderly as well as the young. Being able to offer a unique perspective has nothing to do with age.

The Market Yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 15.74 | Sell 15.84
EGP / USD at CIB: Buy 15.74 | Sell 15.84
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 15.75 | Sell 15.85

EGX30 (Wednesday): 13,762 (+1.0%)
Turnover: EGP 624 mn (2% below the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: -1.4%

THE MARKET ON WEDNESDAY: The EGX30 ended Wednesday’s session up 1.0%. CIB, the index’s heaviest constituent, ended up 0.1%. EGX30’s top performing constituents were Telecom Egypt up 10.0%, Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals up 6.2%, and Ezz Steel up 5.9%. Yesterday’s worst performing stocks were Ibnsina Pharma down 1.8%, Egypt Kuwait Holding down 0.5% and Emaar Misr down 0.4%. The market turnover was EGP 624 mn, and foreign investors were the sole net sellers.

Foreigners: Net short | EGP -82.4 mn
Regional: Net long | EGP +42.7 mn
Domestic: Net long | EGP +39.8 mn

Retail: 58.1% of total trades | 61.3% of buyers | 54.9% of sellers
Institutions: 41.9% of total trades | 38.7% of buyers | 45.1% of sellers

WTI: USD 53.09 (-0.7%)
Brent: USD 59.57 (+0.1%)

Natural Gas (Nymex, futures prices) USD 1.88 MMBtu, (-3.0%, February 2020 contract)
Gold: USD 1,581.60 / troy ounce (+0.4%)

TASI: 8,185 (+0.2%) (YTD: -2.4%)
ADX: 5,165 (-0.3%) (YTD: +1.8%)
DFM: 2,805 (+0.5%) (YTD: +1.5%)
KSE Premier Market: 7,059 (+0.5%)
QE: 10,440 (+0.2%) (YTD: +0.2%)
MSM: 4,079 (-0.2%) (YTD: +2.5%)
BB: 1,659 (+0.8%) (YTD: +3.0%)

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Calendar

January: 1,000 artifacts to be displayed when Hurghada Museum opens.

23 January-4 February: Cairo International Book Fair 2020, New Cairo International Exhibition and Convention Center, Egypt

28-30 January (Tuesday-Thursday): CI Capital’s annual MENA Investors Conference, Four Seasons Nile Plaza, Cairo.

29 January (Wednesday): StartEgypt Forum 2020, the Greek Campus, Downtown, Cairo

February: An Italian business delegation will visit Egypt to discuss investments in the Port Said industrial zone.

February: A delegation of Swiss businesses will visit Egypt to discuss investment.

February: Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar will visit Minsk, Belarus.

2 February (Sunday): Cairo Economic Court will issue its verdict on two Americana Egypt lawsuits, one looking into minority shareholder’s lawsuit against Fincorp Investment Holding as Adeptio AD Investments’ financial advisor for its mandatory tender offer (MTO) for Americana Egypt and the other is concerned with an appeal by Adeptio AD Investments against a Financial Regulatory Authority to submit a mandatory tender offer (MTO) for Americana Egypt.

3-5 February: The Arab-African International Forum, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

4 February (Tuesday): Court hearing for PTT Energy Resources’ USD 1 bn lawsuit against Egyptian government.

8 February (Saturday): Midterm break ends. Traffic in Cairo stinks once more.

9-10 February (Sunday-Monday): The the 33rd ordinary African Union (AU) Summit where Egypt will hand over the African Union presidency to South Africa

11-13 February (Tuesday-Thursday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

14-16 February (Friday-Sunday): A Euro-Mediterranean Organization for Economic and Development Cooperation delegation will visit Egypt to discuss cooperating in the field of organic cotton and home textiles

23 February (Sunday): Court session for Arabia Investments Holdings’ lawsuit against Peugeot. It was previously postponed to 24 November 2019 and then to 5 January 2020, and now 23 February.

23 February (Sunday): Court session for Amer Group, Porto Group compensation claim against Antaradous

20 February (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

March: The Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force (MENAFATF) will visit Egypt to assess the progress of actions taken to combat money laundering and terrorist sponsoring activities.

1 March: A conference on “logistics and its impact on the movement of goods and industry,” venue TBD, Alexandria.

3 March (Tuesday): Business Today’s bt100 awards ceremony, Cairo.

4-5 March (Wednesday-Thursday): Women Economic Forum, Cairo.

7 March (Saturday): International Conference for Investment organized by Suez Canal Economic Authority, Al Galala City, Egypt

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

25-26 March (Wednesday-Thursday): Mega Projects Conference, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

7 April (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

12 April (Sunday): Easter Sunday.

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

23 April (Thursday): First day of Ramadan (TBC).

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

28-29 April (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate.

5-7 May (Tuesday-Thursday): AFSIC – Investing in Africa, London, United Kingdom.

14 May (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

23-26 May (Saturday-Tuesday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

9-10 June (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate.

17-20 June (Wednesday-Saturday): 2019 Automech Formula car expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo.

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

25 June (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

28-29 July (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate.

30 July-3 August (Thursday-Monday): Eid El Adha (TBC), national holiday.

13 August (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

20 August (Wednesday-Thursday): Islamic New Year (TBC), national holiday.

15-16 September (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate.

24 September (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

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

29 October (Thursday): Prophet Mohamed’s birthday (TBC), national holiday.

November: Egypt will host simultaneously the International Capital Market Association’s emerging market, and Africa and Middle East meetings.

4-5 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate.

5 November (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

12 November (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

15-16 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): US Federal Open Market Committee will hold its two-day policy meeting to review the interest rate.

17 December (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

24 December (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

25 December (Friday): Western Christmas.

1 January 2021 (Friday): New Year’s Day, national holiday.

7 January 2021 (Thursday): Coptic Christmas, national holiday.

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