Wednesday, 8 April 2020

El Sisi is against a full lockdown, asks businesses not to cut staff


What We’re Tracking Today

The 7pm-6am curfew to slow the spread of covid-19 technically expires today. We say “technically” because it was imposed on 25 March for a two-week period. We expect an announcement later today that it is being extended, but have no inkling of how long it will remain in place or whether conditions will be tightened.

And to keep us all on the same page: We’re still a week or more away from decisions on extensions of school closures (expires 13 April) or of the ban on flights (15 April) or the closure of restaurants, gyms and museums (also 15 April).

Two pieces of good news to get us underway this morning:

We never thought we’d say this, but Egyptian internet service providers are making us smile. Head down and read today’s Hardhat for more on why we think ISPs — not a category of businesses that engender warm feelings, not here and not anywhere in the world — are the unsung heroes of covid-19 in Egypt. Amid all the WFH / e-learning / Netflix and YouTube binges, the nation’s internet has been pleasantly solid (by Egyptian standards). We dive deeper in this morning’s Hardhat.

You know what’s also making us smile this morning? The prospect of Tim Hortons coming to town. We risk the umbrage of other folks with ties to Canada when we say we’d prefer Shake Shack, to be honest. But Timmy’s? We’ll take it. The non-covid good news comes from the good people at Reuters, who note that UAE private equity firm Gateway Partners bought a 40% stake in the Gulf franchise of the company for USD 50 mn. The wire service confirmed the news with Nilesh Ved, the chairman of the franchise’s owner, who announced plans to enter the Egyptian and Indian markets. Tim’s currently has 141 stores across the Gulf region. We’ve moved beyond double-doubles, but those Boston creams…

(Yes, you will need cranes to remove us from the sides of our flats when this very long period of WFH is finally ended.)

The EGX30 surged 4.2% yesterday, dragged upward by index heavyweight CIB, which rose 5.2%. The bourse saw heavy trading yesterday with shares worth EGP 1.2 bn changing hands, about 96% above the trailing 90-day average. The EGX30 is now down 29.5% since the start of the year

The Dow and S&P lost steam yesterday, with each closing lower after posting stong gains earlier in the day coming off Monday’s surge. The WSJ’s best guess on why? Investors are slowly getting their heads around the fact that the recovery from covid will not exactly be short.

The markets today: Asian shares are mixed, with the Nikkei weakly up and shares in China, Hong Kong and Korea down less than 1% as we headed toward deadline. Futures point to a mixed open in the United States and for European equities. Brent crude is up 2.4% this morning ahead of tomorrow’s pivotal Opec+ meeting.



Egypt now has 1,450 confirmed cases of covid-19 after the Health Ministry reported 128 new infections yesterday. The ministry also said nine more people had died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 94. We now have a total of 427 cases that have tested negative for the virus after being hospitalized or isolated, of whom 276 have fully recovered.

Mild cases to be quarantined in dorms to relieve pressure on hospitals: Health Minister Hala Zayed said that confirmed cases with mild clinical symptoms who are under the age of 50 will be quarantined in university dorms under the supervision of the ministry and after spending five days at hospitals.

El Sisi is against a full lockdown, calls on private sector to not cut jobs: Egypt is faring well in its battle against covid-19, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said yesterday in televised remarks (watch, runtime: 50:05), describing the situation as “reassuring and under control” and saying he is not in favor of “suspending work,” alluding the fears of some in the business community that a full lockdown could be economically ruinous.

Highlights of the speech:

  • El Sisi called on the private sector to avoid layoffs. Finance Minister Mohamed Maait later suggested that government help including bailouts and tax holidays will be contingent on companies holding the line on both employment and salaries.
  • El Sisi noted that governments the world over are facing challenges from covid. It’s not Egypt’s fault, he said, directly addressing those who have expressed “skepticism” about the government’s “transparency regarding the outbreak”;
  • Distributing masks at half-price or even without charge is an option on the table if the situation worsens;
  • The Supply Ministry has been directed to double stocks of subsidy packages to reach 3 mn boxes to be distributed to low-income citizens;
  • Egypt’s current strategic wheat stockpile is sufficient, and if necessary they would be ready to conduct agreements to make sure it stays that way;
  • Don’t try to get away with shenanigans under the cover of covid: The president condemned people who are “taking advantage of the situation” to try and get away with unlicensed construction work or building on state-owned land.

El Sisi made no mention of the government’s plans to extend or expand the two-week curfew, which expires today.

The government has banned all gatherings, mass iftars and other collective social activities this Ramadan, according to a cabinet statement. The ban also applies to Itikaf in the last 10 days of the holy month.

Outsourcing companies and call centers have seen a 70% drop in demand among real estate, food and auto companies since the beginning of the outbreak, reports the local press. Some of the lost business has been recouped by heightened demand from healthcare providers and medical services but numbers are still hard to come by.

Eva Pharma will partner with local players to manufacture ventilators in Egypt that would be less expensive than imported models, CEO Riad Armanious told the local press. The company expects to test a prototype within days.

Lab and diagnostics company Speed Medical is buying 4 mn lab tests and disease and virus test kits through its newly established arm, Prime Speed, according to a regulatory filing (pdf). Prime Speed was established at the end of March with a capital of USD 4 mn. Speed Medical owns and operates Speed Lab and Speed Clinic.

The government has provided the healthcare sector with EGP 3.8 bn in additional funding over the past month, Planning Minister Hala El Said reported in an interview (watch, runtime: 22:44) on Sada El Balad TV on Monday evening.

Egypt continues to hand out fines to covidiots: Egyptian authorities have closed down and fined 6.7k private tutoring centers, 4.9k commercial stores, and 2.5k wedding halls for violating the ban on mass gatherings or violating curfew, as well as more than 7k restaurants and cafes for offering shisha after it was banned, Assistant Local Development Minister Khaled Qasim said on Min Masr (watch runtime, 10:08). Qasim also told Ten TV that 416 nurseries, 239 sport fields, and 2k markets have been fined for continuing to operate (watch, runtime: 03:44).

Civil Aviation Minister Mohamed Manar has promised to lobby the Finance Ministry to lift a 20% levy imposed on airlines that source maintenance, aircraft leasing, or other services from service providers abroad, said Al Masria Universal Airlines President Ahmed Ismail to Al Mal. Manar will also look into exempting local airlines from paying rent for offices in Egyptian airports, accommodation for its crew members, and any other fees collected by the ministry. The industry has been lobbying the ministry for a bailout package. International industry body IATA warned earlier this week that Egypt’s airlines could lose USD 1.6 bn in revenues, endangering 205k direct and indirect jobs.

The Trade Ministry’s SMEs Development Agency is launching an exceptional loan program for small businesses struggling during the economic downturn, Minister Nevine Gamea said yesterday, according to a ministry statement. Labor-intensive and industrial businesses will be given priority to apply for one-year loans of up to EGP 1 mn and can apply at the agency’s branches nationwide or by calling 16733.

The Egyptian Competition Authority is now offering legal and economic consultations without charge to companies and advisors on the extent to which their covid-19 policies are in line with the Competition Protection Act, .


BP Egypt has donated medical supplies worth EGP 2 mn to the Abbassia, Imbaba, and Alexandria fever hospitals, according to a BP statement. The equipment will be delivered to hospitals this week and includes an ultrasound machine, a digital radiography machine, and an undisclosed number of ventilators.

NBE, Banque Misr, EDB donate under Federation of Egyptian Banks initiative: The National Bank of Egypt and Banque Misr are each doling out EGP 80 mn in donations under the Federation of Egyptian Banks initiative to raise EGP 150 mn, according to Al Masry Al Youm. The Export Development Bank has also donated EGP 20 mn.

MPs are giving up a portion of their bonuses to donate EGP 20 mn, according to Ahram Gate.

South Korea has allocated USD 200k in emergency aid to Egypt to help it tackle the virus, South Korean Ambassador to Egypt Yoon Yeocheol said, according to Al Masry Al Youm.


China reported no covid-19 deaths on Tuesday for the first time since the start of the pandemic, along with a fall in new cases of the virus, Reuters reports. This marks the first time since late January that Wuhan, previously the epicenter of the virus, has seen no new deaths. The city will allow residents to leave the city today for the first time since going into lockdown in January.

Several emerging market central banks could start tapping FX reserves to protect their currencies as investors continue to buy USD to hedge against covid-19, says Bloomberg Quint, quoting expectations from head of Asia research at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Khoon Goh.

Covid-19 is only adding to Lebanon’s FX crisis where banks have limited withdrawals in USD, stopped dispensing foreign currencies, and forced customers to accept LBP instead of USD at an official exchange rate that is almost half of the “market rate,” according to Bloomberg.

March saw USD 90 bn of corporate bonds downgraded to junk, including “fallen angels” Ford, Occidental Petroleum, and American department store chain Macy’s, the Financial Times reports. Bank of America strategist Hans Mikkelsen says the rapid downgrades are “shocking,” seeing as they usually take months rather than a few short weeks.

…but the continued ability of troubled companies to raise equity and debt marks a big difference between this the “covid recession” and the last financial crisis, CNBC screamer Jim Cramer noted yesterday. “This time the companies that really need money can actually get it. This time there’s no financial crisis, at least not yet,” the Mad Money host said. “Even genuinely troubled companies can raise capital here, a good sign for the economy, at least for now.”


Using coronabonds to fund stimulus programs is gaining traction: The White House could soon issue covid-19 treasury bonds to raise funds to help the country fight the pandemic, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said, according to Reuters. The US is not alone — at least nine eurozone countries have been mulling the idea and the African Development Bank has already issued USD 3 bn-worth of three-year coronabonds.

Dubai is considering bond issuances and loans to help shore up its economy: The emirate is in early talks with banks to issue its first eurobond since 2016 and acquire multi-bn USD loans for its troubled flag carrier, according to Bloomberg who cite a source familiar with the matter.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

Business and economics were the topic du jour (albeit with covid-19 undertones) on the airwaves for the first time in as long as we can remember. Finance Minister Mohamed Maait phoned in to several talk shows to discuss President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s decree earlier this week to extend tax payment deadlines and support key industries.

The Finance Ministry is working on getting its ducks in a row to cover the expenses from the state’s economic support packages, including a three-month stipend for irregular workers and providing loans for the aviation industry, Maait told Yahduth fi Masr’s Sherif Amer (watch, runtime: 5:19).

Egypt is committed to meeting its foreign debt obligations, Maait added.

EGP 2 bn payout for export subsidies on the way: The government has already earmarked EGP 2 bn it will dole out in export subsidy arrears to exporters, Maait said on Al Tasea Masa’an (watch, runtime: 20:08). El Sisi had ordered the Export Subsidy Fund to dole out at least 30% of the arrears it owes to exporters, with each company receiving at least EGP 5 mn apiece.

Legislation for tax postponements, exemptions coming soon: The ministry has coordinated with the House of Representatives to approve as soon as possible a bill that would allow Cabinet to either postpone tax deadlines or exempt specific industries from tax payments, Maait told Al Hayah Al Youm’s Lobna Assal.

Factories will likely get a real estate tax holiday: Cabinet and the House have preliminarily agreed to exempt factories from the real estate tax, Maait said, without delving into the details on how long the tax holiday would be. Tourism industry establishments will also be exempt from real estate taxes, but have yet to decide whether factories will also get the same treatment. Any tax relief will be contingent on businesses retaining all of their employees, Maait stressed (watch, runtime: 9:53).

On that note: El Sisi’s calls for the private sector to refrain from layoffs or salary cuts was a focal point for Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan, who noted that the president promised the government will help businesses do just that (watch, runtime: 3:56).

Qalaa Holding’s investments are still going according to plan this year despite current conditions, Chairman Ahmed Heikal told Sherif Amer (watch, runtime: 4:56 and watch, runtime: 5:53). Heikal said he expects the crisis to last around a year, during which time the food and beverage and pharma industries are expected to be the best performers. The Qalaa boss also lauded the government’s response to the covid-19 outbreak, saying it was measured and well-delivered.

The Health Ministry’s daily report on covid-19 infections and deaths was also recapped by Min Masr’s Reham Ibrahim (watch, runtime: 3:57) and Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan (watch, runtime: 2:55. We have the roundup in What We’re Tracking Today, above.

Speed Round

Speed Round is presented in association with

EXCLUSIVE- FinMin working on specifics of corporate income tax relief program: Businesses looking to pay their income taxes in installments under a tax relief program ordered by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi earlier this week will most likely be required to make three equal payments by set dates, with the final installment due by the extended deadline of 30 June, two senior government officials tell us. According to the sources, the first payment will be due on 30 April, the second on 30 May, and the third and final installment must be made on or before 30 June.

There will be no interest, fines, or late fees for anyone choosing to pay their taxes in installments by the extended deadline, as we reported yesterday. The move is a form of stimulus that will provide support to cashflows of businesses affected by the economic impact of covid-19, which so far includes a 7pm-6am curfew and the full shutdown of retail businesses on weekends.

You’re going to have to remit VAT, wage taxes and withholding taxes on time — there is no plan to extend deadlines for payments here, the sources said.

Details are still in the works: The Finance Ministry is currently drawing up regulations outlining the fine print of the directives to give businesses a helping hand amid the covid-19 fallout, the sources tell us. The regulations will determine criteria that would make businesses ineligible for the deadline extension and installment system, but it is expected that all businesses will be eligible since the slowdown has touched most industries, one source says.

Finance Minister Mohamed Maait has already finished drafting a bill that will allow Cabinet to implement El Sisi’s directives and economic support measures, according to a cabinet statement.

The state isn’t going to collect less in corporate income tax, it’s just going to have lumpier cashflow through June, the sources noted. The open question is how much the state’s take from the VAT will be depressed. Companies today are paying VAT for their sales in January and February — the authority will only be able to gauge the effect of the crisis once they begin collecting VAT on March and April sales starting next month.


FX reserves dip in March for the time in 14 months: Foreign reserves dipped USD 5.4 bn in March to USD 40.1 bn from USD 45.5 bn in February, marking the first month in over a year that reserves have declined m-o-m, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) said in a statement (pdf). The drop came as the CBE dipped into its savings to cover portfolio outflows and fund imports of basic commodities, according to the statement.

Despite the hit, reserves are still good to cover Egypt's import bill for at least eight months, which is higher than the international standard of three month, the CBE said.

Falling remittances from Egyptians abroad and the hit to the tourism trade could put more pressure on foreign reserves in the coming months, Ehsan Khoman, head of Middle Eastern research at MUFG Bank said, according to Bloomberg. Remittances currently account for 8.8% of Egypt’s GDP. Our remittances rose 13.5% y-o-y in 1H2019-2020, helping to narrow our current account deficit during the first six months of the fiscal year.

Short selling in Egypt has remained anemic since the mechanism was launched on the EGX in December, Misr for Central Clearing, Depository, and Registry (MCDR) Managing Director Tarek Abdel Bari said, according to the local press. Over the past four months, the bourse has only seen “a handful” of short selling transactions worth EGP 100k, which is so low it might as well be considered “non-existent,” Abdel Bari said.

The mechanism doesn’t appear to have picked up during the equity sell-off that gripped the EGX (and global markets), even though the market decline was a golden chance for investors to pocket some quick profits, according to Abdel Bari. Prime Holding Managing Director Mohamed Maher thinks the window for short selling the sell-off has already closed at this point, as markets are beginning to recoup losses and are likely to continue on an upwards trajectory, the local press reports.

You can chalk up the low popularity shorting to its still being the new kid on the block, Bari said. Analysts had previously speculated that many brokerages don’t know how the short selling system operates after the mechanism had a lackluster first few weeks on the bourse.

How does short selling work, again? If you think a certain stock is overvalued and that its price will fall, you short its stock. You borrow the shares (for a fee and usually for a set period of time) from someone who holds them for the long-term and immediately sell them on the open market. Pray the share price goes down (or release a report on why you think the share is a dog, as Muddy Waters did with NMC in Dubai last year). The idea is that the share tanks and you can then buy it back on the open market to return what you borrowed to the original owner of the stock (known as “closing out” your position). The problem is if you’re forced (by, say, a margin call) to close out your position while the share is up — and you’re suddenly buying back at a price higher than you paid, with theoretically unlimited losses.

M&A WATCH- Samih Sawiris mulls takeover of Germany’s FTI Group: Orascom Development Holding Chairman Samih Sawiris is considering the acquisition of the remaining two-thirds of German tourism agency FTI’s shares, according to German newspaper Die Welt. Sawiris purchased a 30% stake in the company from founder and sole shareholder Dietmar Gunz in 2014 through his Luxembourg-based investment company SOSTNT, according to the report. FTI Group is the third-largest travel company in Europe in terms of market share, with EUR 4.1 bn in revenue during FY2018-2019.

The potential sale comes as the travel industry reels from government imposed travel restrictions worldwide in place to curb the spread of covid-19. FTI earlier this year was required to send back home 65k travelers on orders of impending border closures and emergency health measures and has since seen business come to a halt.

CBE clears 8k companies, 100k individuals from i-Score blacklists: The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has decided to scrub individuals and businesses with bad credit from a blacklist it maintains and lift restrictions on their access to the banking system, according to a CBE circular (pdf). The decision is expected to benefit 100k individuals and 8k businesses. The decision also includes a reduction in disclosure periods that will now be mandated to fall within a 6 to 12 month limit.

Background: The credit forgiveness initiative comes after the CBE launched a debt relief plan announced last month that would see marginal interest on debt under EGP 1 mn waived for individuals at risk of default. Eligible customers would also be required to make a 50% payment of the original debt in cash or in-kind accompanied with an arranged payment plan with the creditor bank.

REGULATION WATCH- FRA allows traditional insurers to own stakes in ‘takaful’ companies: Mainstream insurance companies are now allowed to be shareholders in their mutual guarantee or sharia-compliant “takaful” insurance counterparts, according to a decision by the Financial Regulatory Authority carried by Al Mal. The decision exempts takaful insurance companies from a stipulation in the 1981 Insurance Act that prevents insurers operating in Egypt from owning shares in their competitors.

The authority said that since the nature and process of takaful insurance is distinct, it should be treated as such. This will, on one hand, close a legal loophole stifling the sector’s growth and, on another, better equip takaful insurance players, who — having only appeared less than two decades ago — are relative newcomers to the industry, according to the FRA.

Move to support state-owned MIHC: The decision comes after state-owned Misr Insurance Holding Company (MIHC) set up a EGP 150 mn takaful insurance arm in partnership with the National Bank of Egypt. MIHC and two of its subsidiaries, Misr Insurance and Misr Life Insurance, hold a 52% stake in the new company.

CORRECTION- Businessman Naguib Sawiris said on Monday that tourism businesses have cut their employees’ salaries by 50%, which we and others incorrectly understood was at reference to those under his Orascom Investment Holding. Sawiris has since clarified on Twitter that he was not referring to any of his own businesses, and that this statement was in reference to the tourism industry at large. We have since removed the story from our web edition.


Enterprise is available without charge — just visit our English or Arabic subscription page, depending on which edition you would like to receive. We give you just about everything you need to know about Egypt, in your inbox Sunday through Thursday before 7am CLT (8am for Arabic), and all we ask for is your name, email address and where you hang your hat during business hours.

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Sharp downturn in business sentiment shows economic impact of covid-19 in MENA: IHS Markit’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for March saw a steep drop in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Lebanon, Turkey and Qatar, Bloomberg reports, indicating that the costs of covid-19 in the region have already been heavy. Cases are still increasing, and doubled in the last week. The PMI gauge in Egypt fell to 44.2 in March from 47.1 in February, we reported earlier this week.

Egypt in the News

We have another quiet morning for Egypt in the foreign press, save for a few stories on covid-19:

  • Egypt will find it harder to contain the spread of covid-19 now that it’s moved to the community transmission stage of the outbreak, with confirmed cases topping 1000, Xinhua reports.
  • Many Egyptians are being hit hard by the economic fallout from the virus, as the vast number of people working in the informal sector cannot afford to stay home and face challenges accessing government support programs, Reuters reports.

How Egypt’s ICT and telecoms sectors have kept us all up and running during the lockdown: So far, Egypt’s telecommunications infrastructure has been able to withstand the added pressures of working from home, curfew, and an increased reliance on e-learning, e-payments and finance, voice-over IP applications and other online services. We sat down with the leaders of the sector in both the public and private sector, who told us how a combination of capacity building, customer relief efforts and a focus on online platforms has helped keep our heads above water. They also discussed what more could be done and how, moving forward, we can maintain the technology leap we’ve gained during the crisis and benefit from this experience.

In Egypt, we’re seeing a 40% year-to-date increase in traffic, Orange Egypt’s Chief Enterprise Line of Business Officer Hisham Mahran tells Enterprise. And this pressure in Egypt is compounded by global pressure, as traffic around the world has increased fourfold during the covid crisis, he added. While all mobile network operators (MNOs) are reporting an increase in traffic across the board, Orange is noticing a spike when it comes to education in particular. Social media and entertainment is also seeing especially high traffic during curfew hours, which begin at 7 pm.

That’s why we can see a lag during those times, CIT Minister Amr Talaat tells us. It’s not only that we’re all at home at those hours, but global traffic to social media, entertainment and other major sites is causing a slowdown from their end.

Usage data is reflecting our changing habits and compliance with policy. We’re seeing a 50% increase in mobile internet usage at home, said Vodafone Egypt CEO Alexandre Froment-Curtil. On the other side, we’re seeing a significant decrease in usage at offices, he added. We’re also noticing a decline in internet traffic on major highways, which fall to non-existent when we get to curfew hours.

So with this surge in demand, how has the sector been able to keep up?

Step 1 — industry and gov’t have worked together to boost capacity: The CIT Ministry is focusing on enhancing the capacity of international gateways, which route data from global websites to our offices and homes, Talaat said. “The major bottleneck we’re seeing is in getting the equipment that will enhance international gateways.” But the ministry has been working on it, resulting in an increase of 50% in capacity for the inflow and outflow of data through international gateways, he added.

The government is also ramping up its fiber optic installment with an eye towards increasing internet access to 75% of the population in 2020 for both mobile and fixed internet, said Talaat. The ministry hopes to add 1 mn new homes to the fiber optic network this year.

Scaling up operational capacity in the private sector: For its part, Vodafone Egypt has been working for the past few weeks on boosting indoor capacity and reach of signals in Cairo and Giza to ensure proper connectivity indoors, said Froment-Curtil. Meanwhile, Orange Egypt has had teams on standby 24/7 to attend to sites and towers to accommodate the increase in traffic, said Mahran. The company has also been developing digital tools and applications that will help business customers manage their internet consumption more efficiently, he added.

The challenge for the private sector has been to adapt to this increase in demand while maintaining safety procedures for their staff. From the onset of the crisis, MNOs have been dowing whatever they can to allow their people to work from home. Vodafone has had 100% of its workforce (8k employees) working from home for the past 12 days, including customer care employees, according to Froment-Curtil. Orange Egypt currently has 90% of its workforce from the head office and its customer care teams working from home. Equipment and software have been set up at their homes and services are fully operational, Mahran tells us. The company has also been implementing a “smart queuing” system that has allowed its retail employees to work from home, Mahran said.

Legacy capacity building and operational experience has been helping: Everyone we’ve spoken with credits past plans to boost capacity with giving them the ability to keep up with current demand. Egypt’s internet speeds have quadrupled over the past year, with the average rising to 27.09 MB/s in February 2020, up from 6.63 MB/s in February 2019, Telecom Egypt told us. The company had earmarked EGP 17 bn towards building up capacity in 2019 and 2020, the statement read. Operational experience has also kept companies prepared. Vodafone, for instance, routinely does an upgrade to its network during the spring, ahead of the Ramadan season, Froment-Curtil said.

What can we do to boost our capacity further? Allocate more spectrum to operators right now, says Froment-Curtil. “This is a policy we’ve seen the US, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia adopt, with Jordan expected to follow suit. Once these countries realized that we are in emergency territory, they handed out more spectrum overnight,” he added. The benefits of such a policy can be felt almost immediately by the citizens. Other steps to boost capacity include expanding Telecom Egypt’s international gateway. The benefits of this, while important, won’t be immediate and will need months to implement, he says. Then it’s up to operators to upgrade Egypt’s 9k telecom towers.

Don’t expect 5G to play a major role in capacity building in the near future: When it comes to B2C, 5G is not particularly useful at this time, said Talaat. Few phones on the market now are 5G-ready and those that are cost over USD 1k — a price point that isn’t accessible to most consumers, Talaat noted. The government, however, is moving forward with introducing 5G for manufacturing and infrastructure.

Step 2 — initiatives and consumer outreach: This is particularly obvious when looking at certain key sectors. From the onset of mandatory e-learning last month, the industry took a united stand to boost capacity with an initiative led by the CIT Ministry. All four major MNOs and telecom infrastructure owner Telecom Egypt announced that they would increase the internet bundle download quotas by 20% at no charge for all its customers. This initiative came at a cost of EGP 200 mn collectively for the sector, Talaat told Enterprise. Many school operators — who were the target beneficiaries of the initiatives — have been telling us of the successful launch of their online platforms since e-learning was instituted. Talaat also noted the success of the Education Ministry’s mock online exams, ahead of the rollout of online exams nationwide at the end of the academic year.

The sector has mobilized to help healthcare as well, with Vodafone extensively focusing this week with projects for the Health Ministry, Froment-Curtil tells us. These include providing no-charge internet access and data to hospital staff.

But beyond that, MNOs have been working with their business customers to help them on issues with payment. Both Orange and Vodafone had reached out to businesses, particularly in the hardest hit sectors such as tourism, to help them find solutions. Both companies tell us they have also been offering flexible payment terms to customers who are facing difficulties in making payments.

Step 3 — focusing on online platforms, services and content: Concurrent with the launch of the education initiative, the CIT Ministry has been operating online education platforms that are being used by public school students. The use of these services will not count towards the ADSL bill, Talaat had previously said. Content will feature heavily in the ministry’s medium to long term strategy, he tells Enterprise. “We’re currently in serious negotiations with online education providers in order to make their content available here.”

For its part, Orange has also been focusing on providing digital and cloud-based services and solutions and making them available at no charge, said Mahran. These include providing cloud-based video-conferencing app Avaya Spaces without charge for schools. It also launched its Go Taleem service for education. Meanwhile, the Vodafone Egypt Foundation launched its e-learning platform “Ta3limy” in collaboration with Nahdet Misr, alongside its e-learning management system Ready School.

With crisis comes opportunity: By and large, Egypt’s telecommunications infrastructure has held the line during the crisis, which in itself is a success story. But MNOs and the CIT Ministry agree that the crisis could have a lasting people on how workplaces operate — and how students learn. For CIT Minister Talaat, that means more services and content. For Vodafone’s Froment-Curtil, expanding digital inclusion in an under-served market like Egypt is the opportunity. For Orange’s Mahran, cloud-based solutions will play a major role in allowing businesses to be agile and less reliant on geographic limitations.

All agree: The sector cannot rest on its current laurels and get complacent.


CORRECTED on 9 April 2020

Orange is using a smart queuing system and not a smart cube system. 

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The Market Yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 15.69 | Sell 15.79
EGP / USD at CIB: Buy 15.70 | Sell 15.80
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 15.68 | Sell 15.78

EGX30 (Tuesday): 9,841 (+4.2%)
Turnover: EGP 1.2 bn (96% above the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: -29.5%

THE MARKET ON TUESDAY: The EGX30 ended Tuesday’s session up 4.2%. CIB, the index’s heaviest constituent, ended up 5.2%. EGX30’s top performing constituents were EFG Hermes up 9.0%, Heliopolis Housing up 8.6%, and Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals up 7.1%. Yesterday’s worst performing stocks were Madinet Nasr housing down 7.6% and Credit Agricole down 2.3%. The market turnover was EGP 1.2 bn, and domestic investors were the sole net buyers.

Foreigners: Net Short | EGP -155.1 mn
Regional: Net Short | EGP -12.8 mn
Domestic: Net Long | EGP +167.9 mn

Retail: 51.7% of total trades | 50.9% of buyers | 52.4% of sellers
Institutions: 48.3% of total trades | 49.1% of buyers | 47.6% of sellers

WTI: USD 24.89 (+5.33%)
Brent: USD 32.58 (+2.23%)

Natural Gas (Nymex, futures prices) USD 1.89 MMBtu, (+2.21%, May 2020 contract)
Gold: USD 1,683.40 / troy ounce (-0.40%)

TASI: 6,986.40 (+1.83%) (YTD: -16.72%)
ADX: 3,928.23 (+5.51%) (YTD: -22.61%)
DFM: 1,785.45 (+5.54%) (YTD: -35.42%)
KSE Premier Market: 5,093.81 (+0.35%)
QE: 8,979.49 (+3.13%) (YTD: -13.87%)
MSM: 3,397.82 (-0.09%) (YTD: -14.65%)
BB: 1,313.33 (+0.24%) (YTD: -18.44%)

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12 April (Sunday): House of Representatives covid-19 recess ends.

12 April (Sunday): Western Easter Sunday.

13 April (Monday): Earliest date on which suspension K-12 and university instruction is set to be lifted.

15 April (Wednesday): Suspension of international flights to / from Egypt expires.

15 April (Wednesday): Earliest date by which restaurants, gyms, nightclubs, museums and archaeological sites will reopen.

16 April (Thursday): New deadline for individuals to file their tax returns to the Egyptian Tax Authority.

17-19 April (Friday-Sunday): IMF, World Bank will hold virtual Spring Meetings.

19 April (Sunday): Court session for Arabia Investments Holdings’ lawsuit against Peugeot.

19 April (Sunday): Coptic Easter Sunday, national holiday.

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.

12 April (Sunday): Court session for a lawsuit against Amer Group and Porto Group by Syria-based Antaradous for Touristic Development.

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 May (Saturday): An administrative court will look into an appeal by steel rolling mills to overturn a government’s decision to place import tariffs on steel rebar and iron billets. The hearing was postponed from 22 February 2020.

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

June: Circular Economy Summit, Egypt, venue TBA.

4-6 June (Thursday-Saturday): 2020 Africa-France Summit, Bordeaux, France.

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.

24 September- 2 October (Thursday-Friday): El Gouna Film Festival, El Gouna, Egypt.

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.

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.

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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