Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Covid recession will be worst since Great Depression, IMF says, but Egypt will still eke out growth.

TL;DR

What We’re Tracking Today

A gun battle with alleged terrorists in the capital city and the IMF’s warning that we’re heading into the worst thing since the Great Depression. That’s how we start this next-to-last business day of the week, friends.

One good thing: Egypt will be the only MENA economy to (just barely) grow this year, lender predicts. We have chapter and verse in this morning’s Speed Round, below.

Not enough for you? Scientists are pouring cold water on the notion of “immunity passports,” saying it’s still an open question whether survivors of covid-19 are really immune. The two key things that need to be sorted out: “How long do antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 remain in the body, and for how long do they prevent reinfection, if at all?”

Oh, and the nice people at the New York Times’ editorial board think the global crisis is going to get “much, much worse— a piece that isn’t off-base in its worries, and that includes the board’s first gratuitous swipe at Egypt in a while (you know, just to round things out).

That four-day long weekend? Can’t come fast enough.

(Frivolous, momentary antidote to the stuff above: The night shift here at Enterprise is solidly Team Dog. But after we posted to our Slack this , the day shift (which is apparently Team Cat) insists you should all know about the superiority of cats at navigating obstacles.)


The outlook for markets today: Shares in Japan, China and Hong Kong opened the day in the red, with only South Korea bucking the trend. Futures point to a lower opening in the United States as well as in most European markets.

The EGX30 closed up 1% yesterday in heavy trading, with shares worth EGP 1.5 bn changing hands, about 137% above the trailing 90-day average. The benchmark index is now down 25.1% for the year.

COVID-19 IN EGYPT-

Egypt now has 2,350 confirmed cases of covid-19 after the Health Ministry reported 160 new infections yesterday, the highest daily report of new cases here since the outbreak began. The ministry also said that another 14 people had died from the virus, taking the death toll to 178. We now have a total of 683 cases that have since tested negative for the virus after being hospitalized, of whom 514 have fully recovered. Statistics show that we have 21 positive cases for each 1 mn Egyptians, while the death rate is two per 1 mn, which is a lower ratio than most European countries, Health Minister Hala Zayed said.

The Health Ministry has launched its Health of Egypt app for Android. The app can alert users if they are approaching a location where there was previously a covid-19 patient, according to a cabinet statement. You can download the app here.

Authorities have sealed off a second village in Gharbia after 18 residents tested positive for covid-19 and one died. Saft Torab is just across the street from Al Hayatim, which was sealed off for two weeks last month, according to El Watan.

Egyptian research shows Avigan could be effective treatment for covid-19: Research conducted by Egypt’s National Research Center is confirming suggestions that Japanese influenza med Avigan could be an effective treatment for the virus, director Mohamed Hashim said, according to Al Shoruouk. Avigan is one of 70 meds the center has been testing for their impact on covid-19. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recently promoted Avigan, which was produced by the conglomerate Fujifilm, as a treatment for the virus.

Two workers tested positive for covid-19 at Lecico Egypt’s ceramic factory in Borg Al Arab, prompting the company to close the facility for two weeks, according to a disclosure (pdf). The company has also asked staff employed at the facility to self-isolate at home for the two-week period until operations resume.

Mwasalat Misr, the provider of higher end mass transport, is seeking financial support from the Public Transport Authority, saying that the nighttime curfew has pushed down demand for the company’s bus services by 95%, CEO Hisham Taha said, according to the local press. The company has also scaled back its operations to one shift per day instead of two, Taha said.

Car dealerships have proposed that newly sold cars be issued with temporary commercial plates as the suspension on issuing licenses hits the sector hard, Al Mal reports.

Work on the Grand Egyptian Museum is ongoing despite the covid-19 restrictions, cabinet said. The museum was due to open at the end of this year, but President Abdel Fattah El Sisi earlier this month postponed its inauguration to 2021 due to the pandemic.

Hotel management companies chasing down receivables owed by local tour operators, having not received any payments since the end of December. Outstanding dues have by some estimates reached between EUR 500k and EUR 4 mn, according to sources operating in the Red Sea hospitality industry who spoke with the local press.

Falak Startups is offering EGP 1 mn in direct investments and technical support to help startups survive the crisis, according to Disrupt Africa. The Egypt-based accelerator is prioritizing startups in the fields of e-health, fintech, logistics, 3D printing, remote work and ed-tech by providing advice on running their businesses, raising finance and marketing, in addition to the funding.

DONATIONS-

State raising funds to support day laborers: The government has launched a new platform, Ahalena, through which businesses and individuals can donate to support day laborers, according to a cabinet statement. Donors will have the option of contributing funds online or via text.

Orange Egypt set up full connectivity including 4G services to support patients and staff at a new 600-bed quarantine facility in cooperation with Ahl Misr Development Foundation, the company said in an emailed statement (pdf). The facility will be inaugurated in the coming days; Orange set up the entire connectivity project in less than 24 hours. Separately, Orange Egypt has enhanced connectivity at other covid-19 facilities to ensure that patients and medical staff can stay in contact with their families.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested Orange Egypt had converted one of its own buildings into a facility. It has in fact worked with Ahl Misr on an entirely separate building, not one owned by Orange Egypt. We regret the error.

The Federation of Egyptian Industries’ cereals division has donated EGP 1 mn to the Tahya Misr Fund, according to Ahram Gate.

Bank Audi Egypt has donated EGP 20 mn as part of the Federation of Egyptian Banks initiative to raise EGP 150 mn, according to Hapi Journal.

ON THE GLOBAL FRONT-

To re-open or not to re-open, that is the question: As some countries extend their lockdowns into May, others are (very) tentatively reopening their economies:

  • Spain has begun to lift its draconian restrictions on movement, allowing some 300k non-key workers to return to their jobs. (CNN)
  • Austria has allowed thousands of small shops to reopen, and a limited number of businesses have reopened in Italy outside of the north, which remains on full lockdown. (BBC)
  • France will remain in lockdown until 11 May after President Emmanuel Macron extended restrictions for another month. (France24)
  • All 1.3 bn citizens of India will remain confined to their homes until 3 May after the government lengthened its initial 21-day lockdown. (Sky News)

Saudi Arabia is scrambling to contain the virus in Mecca, where a large number of cases have cropped up as the infection spread among workers in dense labor camps, Bloomberg reports.

The White House has suspended American funding to the World Health Organization while the US conducts a review of how the institution has responded to the coronavirus. The Donald says the WHO made mistakes that “caused so much death.”

GLOBAL BUSINESS + ECON FALLOUT-

MUST-READ- The always-on-point Mohamed El Erian suggests economists and markets are still too bullish. In a piece for the Financial Times, the markets sage suggests that while consensus is shifting from the early, optimistic view that we could see a V-shaped recovery to the more reasonable expectation of a big second quarter contraction followed by a gradual recovery, that’s still too bullish. Optimists are underestimating the severity of the shutdown and the “inherently messy” recovery process. Unfortunately, that sounds just about right to us.

US markets (surprisingly) were in the green by closing bell yesterday, despite dismal earnings reports from big banks. The uptick was buoyed by investor optimism that the economy reopening is on the horizon — and traders already knew banks would not be turning in handsome earnings reports, the Wall Street Journal says. The Dow Jones was up 2.4%, the S&P 500 closed up 3.1%, and the Nasdaq was up 3.9%.

The first three big outfits to report their 1Q2020 earnings and essentially quantify the economic fallout from the covid-19 pandemic:

  • Wells Fargo (pdf) reported its first-quarter profits freefalling 89% to USD 653 mn, compared to USD 5.86 bn for the period last year. The bank has set aside bns to cover potential losses on loans to covid-hit borrowers.
  • JPMorgan Chase (pdf) saw its 1Q2020 profits dropping 69%, which Bloomberg notes is its lowest in six years, citing surging credit costs. The decline in profits was offset to a certain degree by its trading business.
  • Johnson & Johnson (pdf) had a much better showing than banks, with profits shooting up on the back of over-the-counter sales spurred by covid-19. The healthcare company still adjusted its outlook for the rest of the year as its medical device sales took a hit.

Is venture capital bucking the trend of the economic downturn? 62 venture capital funds raised USD 21 bn in the US in 1Q2020 alone, according to a report by PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association carried by Bloomberg. Success is uneven, however, with established funds faring much better than those new to the scene, and so-called megafunds making up about half of the total raised. VC investments in health related companies — including pharmaceuticals and biotech — are up at nearly USD 5.7 bn this year, and indicate the sector’s growth as an investment area. They still fall behind total investments in software companies, however, which stand at USD 9.9 bn.

US hedgies think they should qualify for small-business bailouts. We’ll leave it to Bloomberg: “Ironically, hedge funds are designed to employ as few people as possible so star traders don’t have to share millions of dollars in fees. The industry gets its name from the premise it can generate gains even when markets fall.”

The Kuwait Stock Exchange’s share listing has been postponed due to government restrictions on work hours, according to Kuwait News Agency. Shares were initially scheduled to be listed on 19 April but have been postponed due to the “extraordinary circumstances” caused by the coronavirus.

Airline passenger revenues will plunge 55% in 2020 if domestic flight restrictions are maintained for three months and some international flights are suspended beyond this period, according to figures released yesterday by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This equates to USD 314 bn in lost revenue for airlines around the world. The IATA warned that Egypt’s airlines could lose USD 1.6 bn in revenues earlier this month.


The Saudis are keeping their taps open until the OPEC agreement kicks in next month, swelling stockpiles for at least two more weeks, according to Bloomberg. The kingdom exported 9.3 mn barrels a day in April so far and still has 10 supertankers with 20 mn barrels in pre-loading at a Saudi port signalling they were not bluffing when Aramco pledged to bring crude production to 12.3 mn barrels a day. Saudi should, however, cut production to 8.5 mn barrels in May and June as per an OPEC+ agreement signed earlier this week.

enterprise

*** It’s Hardhat day — your weekly briefing of all things infrastructure in Egypt: Enterprise’s industry vertical focuses each Wednesday on infrastructure, covering everything from energy, water, transportation, urban development and even social infrastructure such as health and education.

In today’s issue: We look at why Egypt’s ports haven’t seen a decline in activity despite the drop in global trade brought on by covid-19.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

The airwaves followed the printed press yesterday in leading with coverage of a police raid in Al Amiriya that left one policeman and seven terrorists dead.

The raid lasted around four hours and came after security forces said they had gathered intelligence that the terrorists were plotting attacks on Christian worshippers gathering for Coptic Easter this weekend, Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan said.

Radwan aired footage of the shootout that appears to have been recorded by civilians living in the area (watch, runtime: 8:14). Al Hayah Al Youm’s Lobna Assal (watch, runtime: 2:12), Min Masr’s Reham Ibrahim (watch, runtime: 0:25) and Min Masr’s Sherif Amer (watch, runtime: 2:38) all had coverage.

Easter, Ramadan could make or break Egypt’s covid-19 curve: The curve of covid-19 infections is beginning to flatten out in the Middle East as a whole, but some countries were able to contain the virus’ spread before reaching staggering infection numbers by sticking to physical distancing and isolation measures, World Health Organization Regional Adviser Maha Talaat told Amer. With that in mind, Talaat urged viewers to resist the urge to attend large social gatherings during Easter, Sham El Nessim, and Ramadan, which she noted could completely change the trajectory of infections in Egypt (watch, runtime: 9:26).

Look at weekly, not daily figures for a better sense of what our curve currently looks like, Talaat told Amer. Speaking of which: Assal and Radwan each recapped the Health Ministry’s daily tally of new cases (watch, runtime: 1:11 and runtime: 15:54).

The Great Purge of Kramers from the country’s subsidy rolls has saved state coffers some EGP 5 bn after having removed 10 mn alleged welfare cheats from total of 80 mn subsidy recipients, Supply Minister Ali El Moselhy told ‘Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa. The subsidy rolls are now “the most precise” they have ever been and have become properly centralized to avoid duplicate data in the future, El Moselhy said (watch, runtime: 5:05).

Speed Round

Speed Round is presented in association with

The coronavirus will trigger the worst global recession since the Great Depression, the IMF predicts: The world is facing its greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression as output plummets at a record pace in response to the “Great Lockdown” put in place to contain covid-19, the IMF warned yesterday.

Tap / click here for the full report (pdf).

The global economy will contract by 3% this year as the loss of output “dwarfs” that seen during the 2007-08 financial crisis, the lender said in its first World Economic Outlook since the onset of the pandemic. In the report published ahead of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings this weekend, IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath described the situation as “a crisis like no other,” and said that the outlook had changed “dramatically” since January, when the fund had forecast 3.3% growth this year.

Advanced economies will bear the brunt of the downturn: Growth in advanced economies will contract by a stunning 6.1% this year before recovering to 4.5% growth next year. Emerging economies will see a milder 1% contraction — with India and China both remaining in positive territory — before growth surges at a 6.6% clip in 2021.

A sharp recovery clouded by uncertainty: The IMF sees the global economy returning to growth in 2021 and expanding by 2.4% but warns that there is “extreme uncertainty” about the forecast, likening the situation to a “war or a political crisis” that is almost impossible to predict.

How does Egypt fare in all this?

GDP growth will slow, but Egypt will be the only country in the region to see its economy expand: The fund now projects GDP to grow at a 2% clip this year before accelerating slightly to 2.8% in 2021. The IMF’s projections for 2020 represent a 64% decline in growth compared to 2019, when the economy expanded by 5.6%. The government has left unchanged (for now) its expectations for 4.5% growth in the upcoming 2020-2021 fiscal year, saying in the draft of its upcoming budget earlier this week that it will revisit projections as the impact of covid-19 on the domestic economy becomes clear.

Inflation will remain under control: Annual price growth will continue to remain within the Central Bank of Egypt’s 9% (+/-3%) target range until the end of 2021. Inflation will average 5.9% in 2020 before creeping up to 8.2% through 2021, according to the lender’s estimates.

Current account deficit to widen: Egypt’s current account deficit is expected to widen further over the coming two years, reaching 4.3% of GDP in 2020 and 4.5% the year after. Egypt recorded a 3.6% deficit in 2019.

The unemployment rate is projected to rise from 8.6% last year to 10.3% in 2020 and 11.6% the year after.

enterprise

Police raid in Cairo’s Al Amiriya leaves seven alleged terrorists, one member of the police service dead: Security forces killed seven terrorists in a gun battle during a raid in Cairo’s Al Amiriya neighborhood yesterday, according to an Interior Ministry statement. One policeman was also killed in the shootout, and another three were injured. Investigators say they were moving to round up a cell that was planning attacks on Christians during Coptic Easter during the coming long weekend. Easter has in the past seen deadly terrorist attacks against worshippers. Prosecutor General Hamada El Sawy has ordered an investigation of the incident, according to Al Masry Al Youm. We have more in Last Night’s Talk Shows, above.

M&A WATCH- Samih Sawiris ups his stake in Germany’s FTI to become majority shareholder: Orascom Development Holding Chairman Samih Sawiris has raised his stake in German tourism agency FTI Group to 51% from 33%, making him the company's majority shareholder, he told Al Arabiya yesterday (watch, runtime: 5:51). The German government had suggested that Sawiris raise its capital in Europe’s third largest travel company, he said. The bn’aire did not disclose the value of the capital increase.

A risky move or buying the dip? Sawiris sees the move as getting ahead of the anticipated rebound of tourism in Switzerland and Europe after the covid-19 pandemic abates, which he thinks will happen come summertime.

Background: Sawiris was reportedly mulling the acquisition of the company earlier this month. He has been a major stakeholder with over 30% stake since 2014 through SOSTNT, his Luxembourg-based investment company.

DEBT WATCH- Premium Int’l closes EGP 172 mn securitized bond sale: Premium International for Credit Services has completed a EGP 172 mn short-term securitized bond offering, the second round of a EGP 2 bn securitization program it launched last year, Chairman Paul Antaki said. The nine-month bonds carry a fixed yield of 10.77% and will mature in January 2021. Premium, a consumer finance firm whose only product is Premium Card, sold EGP 169 mn of the asset-backed securities in the first round last October.

Advisors: EFG Hermes acted as sole financial adviser and lead manager; it was also co-underwriter along with the AAIB. KPMG Hazem Hassan was financial auditor and Dreny & Partners Law Firm acted as legal counsel.

M&A WATCH- Market regulator accepts Alexandria Development’s MTO for 1.28% of Alexandria Portland Cement: The Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) has approved Alexandria Development’s offer to purchase 1.28% or 5.84 mn shares of Alexandria Portland Cement at EGP 6 apiece, according to an EGX disclosure (pdf).

An MTO long in the works: The FRA received Alexandria Development Company’s submission of a mandatory tender offer (MTO) for 100% of Alexandria Portland Cement in February after the Greek cement company Titan had acquired Alexandria Development, which is Alexandria Portland Cement’s parent company, making it an indirect majority owner through a related party and therefore triggering an MTO requirement. The FRA had ordered Titan to present an MTO, including a fair value assessment of Alexandria Cement’s shares last year. Alexandria Development’s MTO for 100% of Alexandria Cement offered EGP 6 per share, and would see the company delist Alexandria’s shares from the EGX after the transaction.

FinMin halves down payment requirement to unlock assets, file tax settlements: Businesses will only have to pay a 5% downpayment to unlock assets frozen by the Tax Authority for failure to pay taxes and will be able to repay the remainder in installments, authority head Reda Abdel Kader said yesterday. The authority previously required businesses to pay 10% of the unpaid tax bill to get their assets back and file for a settlement. Taxpayers will still need to pay 1% of the amount owed as part of the application fee.

The rules were set out in the temporary tax dispute resolution bill, ratified on 8 March, which extended the expired Tax Dispute Resolution Act for six months. The bill allows the newly-established dispute settlement committees to handle tax disputes until 30 June this year. Almost 1k businesses have since lodged tax complaints with the committees.

EARNINGS WATCH- Apicorp net profits rise 17% in 2019: Multilateral development bank Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation’s (Apicorp) annual profits rose 17% in 2019 to USD 112 mn, it said in a statement (pdf). Profits were driven by record growth in its corporate banking unit which reported a USD 121 mn profit, up from USD 90 mn in 2018. The corporation’s balance sheet grew by 5.7% to USD 7.35 bn, up from USD 6.95 bn the previous year. Chairman Aabed bin Abdulla Al Saadoun said the figures and the Moodys’ credit upgrade to Aa2 last year “are both significant milestones that stand as a testament to APICORP’s solid fundamentals.” This gives the bank the ability to “support the Arab world’s energy sector during a time when sustainable, impact-driven projects have never been more needed,” he said.

MOVES- Longtime Misr for Central Clearing, Depository and Registry (MCDR) boss Mohamed Abdel Salam has become non-executive chairman of the organization he has led for some fifteen years, according to Youm7. He was previously chairman and managing director. Abdel Salam’s move to non-exec status came after the hiring of former CI Capital brokerage chief Khaled Abdel Rahman, who is now MD and a member of the board. Abdel Rahman was previously an assistant minister of finance responsible for capital markets, debt management and treasury. Lamise Negm has also joined the company’s board.

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The Macro Picture

IMF relieves 25 developing nations from USD 214 mn in debt to repurpose funds for covid-19: The IMF has canceled debt payments for 25 of its most vulnerable sovereign debtors through grants from its catastrophe trust CCRT, the lender said in a statement. This allows the countries — which are located in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean — to use a combined USD 214 mn to combat covid-19, according to calculations by UK charity Jubilee Debt Campaign cited by the Financial Times. This comes ahead of the IMF and World Bank’s Spring Meetings this weekend, where G20 ministers are expected to approve a short-term debt moratorium for emerging economies.

Countries are lining up for bailout money: The IMF has so far signed off on USD 3.4 bn in anti covid-19 facilities to 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and eastern Europe, and there are six other pending requests, including from Nigeria, Pakistan and Columbia, according to the FT. Those funds come from an IMF / World Bank USD 260 bn emergency fund that can be deployed to countries eligible for support from the World Bank’s International Development Association.

The jury is out on what the fund should do: If the IMF promptly lends emerging countries, this risks further driving away foreign portfolio inflows to EMs by crowding out private investors, who would be brought to expect losses in case of sovereign defaults, economist Tobias Krahnke writes in a column for the Centre for Economic Policy Research’s policy portal Vox. Foreign investors have already pulled a record USD 83 bn from emerging markets in March in a global risk-off, leading to a debate on what the IMF should do in case countries go looking for other sources of finance. In effect, it is “not whether the IMF has sufficient resources for large-scale financial assistance to all of its members in need, but that such assistance would ultimately be counterproductive,” says Krahnke.

Egypt in the News

Topping coverage of Egypt in the foreign press this morning is wire pickups of yesterday’s shootout between police forces and suspected terrorists in Cairo’s Al Amiriya. Reuters, AFP, and the Associated Press all had the story.

Other stories to skim:

  • The National looks at how Cairenes are coping with the semi-lockdown, including through charitable acts.
  • Egypt reopened the Rafah Crossing border with the Gaza Strip after nearly three weeks to allow for the return of 2k Palestinians stranded from Egypt, according to The Associated Press.

Worth Watching

Can Africa imitate China’s rapid development? Africa could harness its manpower and natural resources to generate massive economic growth, the Economist reports (watch, runtime: 15:36). Among the options on the table: rapid industrialization (like China) or by investment in services such as IT and “industries without smokestacks,” such as horticulture.

Either way, African countries will need to prioritize technology, improving infrastructure and reducing the impact of climate change, as well as good governance, job creation, and girls’ education. Modernizing farming — an industry that generates only 15% of Africa’s GDP, despite being the source of employment for half the continent — would increase yields, helping to feed rising populations and freeing workers to seek better paying city jobs. Better educated women would have fewer children, stabilizing population growth. And if women entered the workforce at the same rate as men, Africa could add 10% to its GDP over the next five years.

hardhat

Why Egypt’s ports haven’t seen a decline in activity despite the drop in global trade brought on by covid-19: As businesses here and elsewhere brace themselves for the full impact of global trade slowing down as a result of covid-19, shipping and logistics at Egypt’s ports appear to be immune. The crisis we’re currently going through is barely discernible when looking at activity in Egypt’s ports and revenues, which have held steady or even increased in some cases in March and 1Q2020, according to officials at the ports of Alexandria, Damietta and the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) we’ve spoken with. They also report that improvement projects and upgrades at the ports are continuing according to plan. This begs the question: Has logistics joined the ranks of education and healthcare as a defensive sector during the crisis? The short answer: Yes, for now — as these gains have mostly been the result of locking in long term contracts and a backlog of imports.

Port revenues and shipping traffic increase despite covid-19 crisis: Revenues from fees at the port of East Port Said rose 80.5% y-o-y in 1Q2020, SCZone Chairman Yehia Zaki said in a statement on Tuesday (pdf). This came on the back of a 31.8% y-o-y increase in the number of ships docking at the port in 1Q2020, and a 36.4% increase y-o-y in the number of containers being moved at the port. The number of ships docking the port rose 17.6% y-o-y in March alone, despite the lockdown in China and Europe and elsewhere, he noted.

Traffic figures at other ports have remained consistent with previous years and have not reported a decline in traffic. Cargo traffic at the port of Alexandria — which handles 70% of the commercial goods that pass through the nation’s ports — has remained steady, with the port moving an average of 7-10k containers per day in March, a figure that is consistent with last year, the port’s spokesperson Reda Ghandour tells Enterprise. In fact, the port moved a record 11,300 containers in a single day last Monday, he added. Traffic and revenues from port fees at the port of Damietta have also remained consistent with last year’s, officials at the port there tell us. We reached out to the Transport Ministry for more data on shipping traffic and container volumes, but they did not comment.

It is also worth noting that the port of Alexandria saw an increase in customs duties to EGP 3 bn last month (bearing in mind that this isn’t necessarily an indicator of cargo traffic), according to customs officials we’ve spoken with. Customs revenues from Damietta are also on the up, while revenues from passengers themselves have declined.

And while all ports have instituted safety precautions, many are still pushing ahead with planned upgrades and improvements. The port of Alexandria is in the final stages of completing an EGP 840 mn cargo truck overpass and is proceeding with work on a EGP 460 mn multi-storey garage that can hold 3,400 cars. This comes as the Suez Canal Container Terminal signed an agreement on Monday with the SCZone to invest USD 50 mn to expand its mooring and docking facilities and terminals to accommodate larger cargo vessels, Zaki said yesterday (watch, runtime: 7:47). The SCZone and SCCT also decided to reduce fees at the port to attract even more shipping traffic.

Plans for future investments are still in the works: Talks between the SCZone and DP World over the development of a 10k sqm automotive, pharma, and textiles industrial zone in the port of Ain Sokhna are progressing and an announcement on an agreement is expected to be made soon, Zaki told us. He added that the SCZone remains in active discussion with a number of Chinese companies on planned investments.

Could some projects be at risk of delay? When asked on the likelihood that the USD 7 bn Russian Industrial Zone (RIZ) will be completed on schedule in 2020, Zaki said that the situation remains fluid and they would need to assess the full impact of covid-19 on ongoing projects at the SCZone.

So why has the slowdown in trade not impacted activity at Egypt’s ports?

You can thank backlog and long-term contracts: All officials we spoke with primarily attributed the continued activity at Egypt’s ports to a backlog of shipping from long-term contracts. These contracts usually cover a period much longer than three months, Ghandour tells us. This activity is primarily a result of these contracts, he noted.

Ports are too important to slow down: The importance of keeping trade goods flowing, especially during a crisis, cannot be overstated, which is why policymakers all over the world can keep passenger infrastructure (such as airports) closed, but the same doesn’t apply to ports, says Zaki. Egypt’s ports are currently operating at maximum possible capacity, he noted. The Egyptian government has recognized this, with Transportation Minister Kamel El Wazir ordering all ports to stay open and active 24 hours a day, Ghandour added. Shipping companies have recognized the effort, writing letters (which we’ve seen) praising efforts by port authorities to keep ports open.

Exports have been helping keep activities up: It also helps that we are in the midst of the agriculture export season, which is why we’re seeing an uptick this past month in the number of ships carrying exports, says Ghandour. The number of export-bound containers from the port of East Port Said has risen 78.7% y-o-y in March 2020, while the number of containers imported increased only 7% y-o-y last month, said Zaki in an earlier statement.

So, will this activity continue in April and beyond? None of the officials we spoke with can really tell. “We hope that this level of activity continues in April, but the situation is unpredictable and we would need to observe and gather more data to reassess our projections,” Zaki tells us. Long-term contracts have been sustaining this traffic so far, but for how long, asks one official, who wished to remain nameless. Are we seeing new shipping contracts being signed at this time, he asks. Some, including Ghandour, suggest that we won’t see the true impact of covid-19 on activity in Egypt’s ports until September, because of these long-term contracts. Even then, the situation may not be as dire considering that manufacturing activity is slowly restarting in places like China.

Meanwhile, the SCZone is not taking chances and plans to move ahead with incentives that would keep ships active in the area, says Zaki. The zone has prepared a package of incentives, which the government is considering. These will mostly be incentives that simplify procedures and make docking and loading easier for ships, but could possibly include tax incentives, he added. The SCZone was scheduled to hold a conference on 21 March to announce the incentives, but that was pushed back as the crisis intensified.

Your top 5 infrastructure news of the week:

  • Foreign investment: Russian companies are planning to invest a combined USD 1.5 bn in railway infrastructure, agriculture, automobile manufacturing and shipbuilding in Egypt this year.
  • Gas: Power Transmission & Distribution, a subsidiary of Indian energy company Larsen & Toubro, was awarded a contract to construct and commission a 220 kV gas insulated substation.
  • Railways: A consortium of Elsewedy Electric and Italy’s Saipem and Salce have been awarded a tender issued by El Wady for Phosphate Industries and Fertilizers’ (WAPHCO) to rebuild the Abu Tartour-Qena freight railway line.
  • Solar power: The New and Renewable Energy Authority started trial operations at the EGP 350 mn 26 MW solar power plant built by TSK in Kom Ombo.
  • Electricity: Elsewedy Electric delivered the USD 364 mn 500 kV electric line feeding Borg El Arab Entertainment City, the North Coast, Marsa Matrouh, and Saloum.

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): 10,458 (+1.0%)
Turnover: EGP 1.5 bn (137% above the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: -25.1%

THE MARKET ON TUESDAY: The EGX30 ended Tuesday’s session up 1.0%. CIB, the index’s heaviest constituent, ended flat. EGX30’s top performing constituents were Dice up 7.5%, Heliopolis Housing up 6.8%, and Orascom Development Egypt up 5.2%. Yesterday’s worst performing stock was Egyptian Resorts down 1.8%. The market turnover was EGP 1.5 bn, and domestic investors were the sole net buyers.

Foreigners: Net Short | EGP -717.7 mn
Regional: Net Short | EGP -4.70 mn
Domestic: Net Long | EGP +722.4 mn

Retail: 40.1% of total trades | 41.3% of buyers | 38.9% of sellers
Institutions: 59.9% of total trades | 48.7% of buyers | 61.1% of sellers

WTI: USD 20.86 (+3.73%)
Brent: USD 29.60 (-6.74%)

Natural Gas (Nymex, futures prices) USD 1.64 MMBtu, (-0.67%, May 2020 contract)
Gold: USD 1,749.90 / troy ounce (-1.70%)

TASI: 6,874.64 (+1.03%) (YTD: -18.05%)
ADX: 4,178.70 (+1.05%) (YTD: -17.67%)
DFM: 1,939.72 (+2.89%) (YTD: -29.84%)
KSE Premier Market: 5,236.59 (+4.15%)
QE: 8,929.66 (+1.09%) (YTD: -14.35%)
MSM: 3,602.54 (+1.70%) (YTD: -9.51%)
BB: 1,307.58 (+1.76%) (YTD: -18.79%)

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Calendar

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).

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

23 April (Thursday): Suspension of international flights to / from Egypt expires.

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

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.

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

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.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2020 Enterprise Ventures LLC.