Thursday, 16 July 2020

Healthcare players call for legislative rethink to encourage investment

TL;DR

What We’re Tracking Today

Good morning, ladies and gents, and welcome to what will probably be the final Thursday this month that we arrive in your inbox. Next week we’re being treated to a four-day week courtesy of the 23 July Revolution, with Eid Al Adha likely starting the following Thursday on 30 July.

Looking at the pages of the US press this morning, we’re glad we’re not on the other side of the Atlantic right now. Already comfortably leading the world with 3.5 mn cases, officials in the US are freaking out as cases rise in 41 states. Policymakers are finally getting with the program and beginning to make mask-wearing mandatory while local authorities across the country look to restore lockdown restrictions. Yikes.

Also on the front pages as we woke up this morning: Twitter is in crisis mode after hundreds of verified accounts were hacked in an apparent Bitcoin scam. Some of the platform’s most followed personalities — including Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Kanye West — became inadvertent promoters for a scam that urged users to send USD 1k to a Bitcoin address. The Verge is calling it the “most catastrophic security breach in company history,” and potentially a “global security crisis.”


COVID-19 IN EGYPT-

The Health Ministry confirmed 59 new deaths from covid-19 yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 4,067. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 84,843 confirmed cases of covid-19, after the ministry reported 913 new infections yesterday. We now have a total of 26,135 cases who have fully recovered.

The push continues to keep restaurants open until later: The restaurants division of the Giza Chamber of Commerce is lobbying authorities to have diners and cafeterias in touristic cities stay open until 2am, division head Mohamed Embaby said. The division’s push is adding to the chorus of voices from the industry that want the government to reverse its plans to permanently impose a 10pm closing time for restaurants and coffee shops.

enterprise

ON THE GLOBAL FRONT-

Barcelona could follow other parts of Catalonia back into lockdown in the coming days, as covid-19 cases rise again in the region, just weeks after the government lifted lockdown restrictions, the Guardian reports.

India has also reimposed lockdown measures after the number of confirmed cases crossed the 1 mn mark, the Associated Press reports.

Israel’s economy is now facing “tremendous damage” after a too-hasty reopening in May caused covid-19 cases to jump, and has since had to reimpose lockdown measures. Israeli-American political analyst Joel Rosenberg points a finger of blame at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for being “distracted” by his West Bank annexation plans and leaving the virus to spread again, CNBC reports.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, saw a mad rush to stores late last month before the tripling of the country’s VAT rate, a measure taken to stabilize public finances wracked by coronavirus lockdown and low oil prices, says the Financial Times.

EGYPT BEYOND COVID-

The Education Ministry will resolve complaints from private school parents over school fees after the end of the ongoing Thanaweya Amma exam period, Masrawy reports, quoting a ministry source. School parents have complained that they were made to pay bus fees for the second term of last academic year despite schools moving to online learning. Parents and guardians are also complaining over schools continuing to charge them for canceled on-campus activities, and not providing the option to pay the upcoming year’s tuition fees in installments. Read our Blackboard features (here and here) for more on the back-and-forth.

Five new metro stations to open before Eid Al Adha: Authorities will test run five new stations on Metro Line 3 on Saturday ahead of opening before the Eid Al Adha holiday, Al Shorouk reports, citing unnamed sources at the Egyptian Co. For Metro Management & Operation. The opening of the stations — El Nozha, Hisham Barakat, Qobaa, Omar Bin Al Khattab, and El Hekestep stations — was supposed to happen in April but was delayed after the onset of the coronavirus.

Google has an AI-driven Hieroglyphics translation tool, Fabricus, which is now available to the public. The platform allows you to decipher and translate hieroglyphs into Arabic or English and vice versa.

AND THE REST OF THE WORLD-

Tunisia is facing political turmoil after Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh resigned yesterday, Reuters reports. Coming at a time when the government is battling an economic downturn caused by covid-19 and a divided parliament, the need to appoint a new prime minister will further postpone urgently needed economic reforms and make it harder for the country to cope with a potential surge in covid-19 infections.

WTO needs to pick new leader ASAP, say candidates: Nominees to head the World Trade Organization have called on members to reach a decision quickly so the next leader can quickly address what one described as a “deep crisis” in the international agency, Reuters reports. Eight candidates are in the running to succeed Brazil’s Roberto Azevedo, who will step down a year early at the end of August.

Apple to hang onto EUR 13 bn after appeal in tax battle with the EU: EU judges have ruled in favor of Apple in an appeal by the tech giant against an order by the European Commission to pay back EUR 13 bn in unpaid taxes and interest to Ireland, Sky News reports. In 2016, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager ruled that Dublin had given the tech giant “sweetheart” tax treatment for over 10 years, breaching the bloc’s rules on state aid. But in a blow to the commission’s efforts to rein in US tech companies, the EU’s second-highest court said yesterday blocked its order, ruling that it had failed to prove that Apple had been given an economic edge by Irish tax policies.

The global population may finally start shrinking after 2050, by which time global birth control access and education will reach critical mass, a new study published in the Lancet Journal suggests, according to Bloomberg. While fewer humans would be positive for the climate, a shrinking population would actually pose a major challenge to developed countries as production and tax collection would dwindle.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was again topic du jour on the airwaves last night. Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan covered the Foreign Ministry’s announcement that it had reached out to Ethiopian for clarification over whether it had started filling the reservoir of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), after the Ethiopian Water and Irrigation Minister made comments to that effect but then retracted them (watch, runtime: 5:07) (watch, runtime: 2:58). Head of Alexandria Library, Mostafa El Feky, told Yahduth Fi Misr's Sherif Amer that the minister’s contradictory statements demonstrated that Ethiopia had no qualms about acting unilaterally (watch, runtime: 3:44). Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 13:04) also covered the report. We have more details in this morning’s Speed Round, below.

Prosecutor’s statement on pipeline explosion: Radwan covered the public prosecutor’s statement about Tuesday’s pipeline accident, which said the investigation is ongoing (watch, runtime: 5:30). Amer (watch, runtime: 1:55) and Moussa (watch, runtime: 12:41) also covered the statement.

Higher Education Ministry empowered to adjust to covid-19: Radwan also covered the cabinet’s approval to amend the law regulating universities to allow the Higher Education Ministry to alter or amend the teaching system over the academic year when exceptional circumstances — such as the covid-19 pandemic — arise (watch, runtime: 4:02).

Day laborers to receive 3rd stipend this month: Al Tasea Masaan’s Wael El Ibrashy spoke with Manpower Minister Mohamed Saafan, who said that they would start disbursing the third round of EGP 500 stipends to day laborers after July salaries have been paid out. He said that the first two batches came at a cost of EGP 800 mn each. Saafan added that the ministry is working on a gradual return to work for laborers soon (watch, runtime: 13:42).

Speed Round

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Egypt’s healthcare investors want to see legislation encouraging investments: Legislative complexities is one of the biggest challenges for the healthcare sector, investors and industry players said in a webinar yesterday hosted by the British Egyptian Business Association (BEBA). Former deputy prime minister Ziad Bahaa Eldin pointed to how difficult the current legislative framework makes it for an investor who is not a physician or medical practitioner to invest in the industry, which is discouraging some investors at a time when the sector needs to be attractive.

Another major hurdle for the industry? Slim profit margins, said EFG Hermes’ Private Equity Managing Director, Samer Yassa. Private sector investors in the healthcare industry are after a 20% profit margin, but the average margin in Egypt runs at around 18%, he noted, which discourages some from incurring the risk of fresh investments. Egypt’s private healthcare providers had complained last month that a mandatory pricing scheme the Health Ministry had set out for covid-19 treatment across hospitals would cause them to run at a loss. The ministry eventually agreed to raise the prices by 20%.

The pandemic has shifted investment priorities, including a move towards providing medical services virtually, Cleopatra Hospitals Group CEO Ahmed Ezzeldine said. This shift entails more than just connecting virtually with a physician, he noted: Investments are piling in to better handle and organize big data, and otherwise provide complementary services and infrastructure.

There is no need to fear mergers: Participants called on the government to encourage the integration of companies in the health care sector to open the door to more sector-specific investments. "There is a fear of the emergence of conglomerates in the health sector,” said Sameh Gabra, head of the investment at Samcrete. “We must encourage integration and direct investment and not be afraid to acquire a number of beds," he said, pointing out that the number of beds in private hospitals is small compared to the total number in the country.

A second wave of covid-19 cases is all but certain — but we’ll be better prepared when it hits, considering the country’s health infrastructure has improved significantly over the past four months and is now equipped to handle cases, Ezzeldin said. According to Ezzeldin, presidential health adviser, Mohamed Awad Tag Eldin, and head of the Health Ministry’s covid-19 committee, Hossam Hosny, have suggested that the second wave could also be less infectious.

enterprise

Foreign portfolio investment in May sees smallest monthly dip since the start of the pandemic: Foreign holdings of Egyptian sovereign debt stood at USD 7 bn by the end of last May, falling only slightly from USD 7.4 mn in April, Central Bank of Egypt data (pdf) showed. This m-o-m decrease was the smallest in the past three months. Foreigners sold USD 10.4 bn of their holdings in March, and USD 2.4 bn in April, as investors dumped bns of EM assets in a global risk off at the onset of the pandemic.

Inflows start to pick up in June, July: A banking source said this week that portfolio inflows totaled around USD 3 bn in June. Foreign investment has further accelerated this month, with last Thursday alone seeing some USD 592 mn in new portfolio investment — the largest amount in a single day since the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic in March. Sunday saw some USD 367 mn in new portfolio inflows, according to the source.

M&A WATCH- Private equity firm Carlyle Group and a consortium backed by Cairn Energy are in the running to acquire Shell’s onshore assets in Egypt, Reuters reports, citing two sources with knowledge of the matter. Previous reports had indicated that Cairn Energy was part of a consortium that initially included Cheiron and Pharos Energy, until Pharos withdrew from the consortium in April.

It also appears that Dragon Oil has thrown its hat in the ring: The newswire notes that Dragon Oil is also still moving through the bidding process, but this appears to be the first mention of the Dubai-based company’s interest in the asset sale. There are also other unnamed Asian investors that are still moving through the bidding process, the sources say.

Bidding process moving slowly, price likely to drop due to covid-19: The Dutch oil giant had been looking to sell the assets for as much as USD 1 bn, but the bids being submitted are expected to be “sharply lower” as the sector comes under increasing pressure from an unprecedented demand slump, according to the sources.

Background: Shell said last year it plans to exit its onshore upstream assets in the Western Desert and focus on expanding its Egyptian offshore gas exploration efforts. Cheiron and Pharos Energy reportedly had submitted bids for the assets in February, as did Egypt’ Apex Energy, US oil and gas producer Apache, and other undisclosed companies. Shell’s Western Desert portfolio includes stakes in 19 oil and gas assets, including the Badr El Din and Obaiyed area, as well as the North East Abu El Gharadig, West Sitra, Bed 1 gas, and West Alam El Shawish concessions.

DEBT WATCH- Sarwa submits prospectus for Egypt’s second corporate sukuk issuance: Consumer- and structured- finance player Sarwa Capital is preparing a single-tranche EGP 2.5 bn corporate sukuk issuance, Ayman El Sawy, managing director of Sarwa Promotion & Underwriting, told Hapi Journal. Sarwa has already submitted the prospectus for the issuance to the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) for approval and is working on the rest of the paperwork.

About the issuance: The sukuk carry a seven-year tenor, maturing in 2027. Sarwa plans to take the shariah-compliant bonds to market a month or six weeks after the Eid Al Adha holiday at the end of July.

Advisors: Sarwa has tapped our friends at ALC Alieldean Weshahi & Partners as legal counsel for the issuance, while KPMG Hazem Hassan is acting as financial auditor, and Middle East Ratings and Investor Services (MERIS) will issue a rating on the offering. The firm is still in talks with promoters and underwriters for the issuance, according to El Sawy.

Background: Sarwa’s offering will be the second sukuk issuance to hit the Egyptian market since the FRA published regulations for the bonds last year. Talaat Moustafa Group issued Egypt’s first corporate sukuk in April with a EGP 2 bn offering. The FRA’s head of central financing Sayed Abdelfadil said at the time that five other sukuk offerings worth a combined EGP 5 bn — including Sarwa’s — were in the pipeline for this year.

DEBT WATCH- FRA green-lights NUCA bond offering: The Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) has approved the New Urban Communities Authority’s EGP 10 bn securitized bond issuance, Hapi Journal reports, citing unnamed authority sources. The three-tranche issuance will be comprised of a EGP 2.6 bn, three-year offering, a EGP 6.2 bn, five-year offering, and a EGP 1.2 bn, seven-year offering. The National Bank of Egypt (NBE), CIB, the Arab African International Bank and the Housing and Development Bank will manage the issuance, with NBE acting as the lead arranger. Dreny & Partners is providing legal counsel on the issuance.

Correction: 19 July 2020

A previous version of this story incorrectly named EFG Hermes among the issuance’s managers, and omitted the Housing and Development Bank. Dreny & Partners has also been included as legal counsel.

 The board of Egypt Kuwait Holding (EKH) approved resuming its USD 20 mn buyback program  to purchase 14.85 mn of its shares from the EGX, equivalent to 1.45% of the company’s total share capital, according to a regulatory filing (pdf). The company began its program to purchase treasury stock earlier this year, when the Financial Regulatory Authority eased rules in March allowing companies to complete same-day buybacks in a bid to support share prices. EKH’s buyback program, which is expected to continue until January 2021, has so far seen the company buyback around 2.7 mn shares. The relaxed regs pushed a handful of other businesses to engage in an unprecedented wave of buybacks over the past four months in response to the market turbulence that came in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic. “The mechanics that allow program is to reflect long term support of the share price according to market dynamics taking into account the high level of uncertainty that the capital markets are facing,” the company said in a statement to Enterprise.

 

CLARIFICATION – 16 July 2020

Added context to the story to clarify that the announcement was on the resumption of the program, and that so far 2.7 mn shares had been purchased. The clarification also includes quotes from the company on the buyback program. 

CABINET WATCH- Cabinet approves EBRD, IBRD facilities, amendments to harassment law, others: The cabinet approved amendments to a draft law governing harassment, to further clarify the term as an abuse of power, intimidation and/or ridicule over gender, race, religion, physical conditions, mental health, or social status, a statement said on Tuesday. Offenders will face six months in jail and a fine of EGP 10-30k, or EGP 20-100k if the perpetrator abuses a dependent.

Other bills and measures approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday:

  • A USD 95 mn facility from the Opec Fund for International Development to support SMEs.
  • A EUR 150k grant from Spain to finance creating job opportunities for young people.
  • A USD 50 mn facility from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to support the state’s efforts to combat the covid-19 pandemic.
  • Amendments to taxation policy, regarding transferring revenue and preventing the erosion of the tax base, based on the 2016 Paris Agreement, which Egypt acceded to the following year.
  • Amendments to a draft law governing higher learning institutions allowing the Education Ministry to modify teaching systems in exceptional circumstances such as the covid-19 pandemic.

Egypt demands answers amid confusion over whether Ethiopia has started filling GERD: Egypt is seeking urgent clarification from Ethiopia over reports that it has started filling the reservoir of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. The filling of the reservoir has been a key sticking point preventing Ethiopia and downstream Egypt and Sudan from reaching an agreement over the dam.

Conflicting reports over dam’s filling: Ethiopian state TV apologised for what it said was a misinterpretation of comments by Water and Irrigation Minister Seleshi Bekele saying that Ethiopia had already started filling the dam, in response to media outlets publishing satellite images showing water levels rising in the reservoir. Bekele took to Twitter to explain that this was mere “natural pooling” as the dam was constructed, coupled with a period of heavy rainfall, rather than the government restricting the flow of water.

Next stop UNSC? Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry hinted earlier this week that the government may turn to the UN Security Council for a resolution on GERD after the AU-led talks failed to break the impasse, saying the organization is “well placed to arbitrate on disputes that involve international security and stability.” Egypt had pushed for a UNSC resolution last month.

Some sections of the media wasted no time raising the spectre of war: The UK Independent argued that Egypt was “running out of options” and may have “no choice” but to turn to an armed conflict. All Africa pondered whether a countdown to a bitter battle over Nile waters had already begun.

Background: The latest round of negotiations, sponsored by the African Union, ended on Monday with no resolution. Egypt has repeatedly warned that it would consider any unilateral move to fill the dam’s reservoir before reaching an agreement a breach of international law, adding that it’s prepared to use “all available means” to ensure its Nile water interests are protected. Ethiopia blamed the “unchanged stances… and excessive demands” by Egypt and Sudan for the lack of a breakthrough in the negotiations, adding that it’s open to further talks to resolve the dispute.

The story is dominating the conversation on Egypt in the foreign press: Associated Press | AFP | Financial Times | Bloomberg | BBC | Arab News | The Guardian.

EARNINGS WATCH- CIRA net profits, revenues jump in 9M2019-2020: Private sector education outfit CIRA reported a 32% y-o-y increase in net profit to EGP 330.4 mn in the first nine months of its fiscal year, which ends on 31 August, according to the company’s earnings release (pdf). Net revenues soared 54% y-o-y during the period, coming in at EGP 991.9 mn, and gross profits were also up 49% y-o-y to EGP 630.9 mn. The strong growth in revenues, which came despite the challenging climate, is “the direct result of [the company’s] multi-pronged approach to tackling this unprecedented crisis,” including a quick and seamless transition to an online learning framework in March, CEO Mohamed El Kalla said. The pandemic has also not slowed down CIRA’s expansion plans, El Kalla noted, with construction at the Regent British School now 78% complete.

Looking ahead: CIRA expects to close out the final quarter of its fiscal year and enter the new academic year in September with momentum to continue delivering growth, particularly with the company’s “proactive approach to the crisis, our robust business model, and the favorable fundamentals underpinning the Egyptian education sector,” El Kalla said.

Arafa Holding posted a net loss of USD 144k in 1Q2020 (the company’s fiscal year begins in February) after reporting USD 1.6 mn in profits in 1Q2019, according to an EGX disclosure (pdf). Revenues declined 18% y-o-y to record USD 40.28 mn, down from USD 49.27 mn during the same quarter last year. The company attributed the drop to the covid-19 lockdown measures, which saw retail outlets shortening their work hours.

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Egypt in the News

The confusion about whether Ethiopia has started filling the reservoir of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is dominating the conversation in the foreign press this morning. We have more in this morning’s Speed Round, above.

Also getting attention in the foreign press:

  • Mohamed Ali extradition: The Financial Times picks up the news reported by the New York Times earlier this week that the Egyptian government is attempting to extradite military contractor-cum-revolutionary Mohamed Ali from Spain.
  • The Guardian is the latest outlet to look at doctors’ complaints about working conditions during the covid-19 pandemic.
  • The plight of homeless children in Cairo has intensified since the pandemic took hold, reducing footfall on the city’s streets and stripping them of much needed change on which they used to rely, AFP reports.

Worth Watching

How our brains constantly look for distractions: Spotlight consciousness is a classic idea that we can only lend attention to bits and pieces of reality based on importance at any given moment. This type of attention has been thought to be consistent, leading many to think that when they decide something is important, they can be fully in tune with it. Scientists from Princeton University and the University of California, however, have shown that this isn’t the case after finding that our brains attempt to refocus attention four times in a single second, speaking much to our distractibility, explains this Bloomberg video (watch, runtime: 8:20).

Diplomacy + Foreign Trade

US military chief in Cairo for talks with defence minister: Egyptian Defence Minister Mohamed Zaki met with US Central Command chief Kenneth McKenzie to discuss US-Egypt military ties, a ministry statement said on Wednesday. The statement was light on details, saying that the two officials discussed combatting terrorism and maintaining security and stability.

Egypt’s agricultural exports dip slightly in value in 9M2019-2020: The value of Egypt’s agricultural exports fell 3% y-o-y to USD 1.82 bn in the first nine months of the ongoing marketing year, the Agriculture Export Council said in its monthly report. Exports dropped to 3.542 mn tonnes during the period, which runs between September 2019 and May 2020, and compared to 3.818 mn tonnes in the same period of last marketing year. Citrus exports made over a third of the total amount sold abroad, with nearly 1.5 mn tonnes worth USD 695 mn leaving our ports between September and May. Disclaimer: The figures for the 2018-2019 marketing year cited in the latest report are slightly different from those the local press picked up earlier this year for the same period.

Energy

Nile Delta’s Bashrush gas well reserves estimated to be 250 bn cubic feet

Reserves at the Bashrush exploration well in the Nile Delta have been estimated to be around 250 bn cubic feet of natural gas, Masrawy reports, citing an unnamed official at the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS). Italy’s Eni began production tests at the well earlier this month with partners BP and Total.

WEPCO to add 2 new drilling wells to production line for USD 12 mn

The Western Desert Operating Petroleum Co. (WEPCO) will add two new drilling wells to its production line which includes the Badr-1 and EDC 9 natural gas wells at a cost of USD 12 mn, Chairman Ibrahim Masoud announced during a tour of the site on Monday, Youm7 reports. The report did not include a timeframe for drilling the new wells.

Infrastructure

CPC invests EGP 300 mn into Sadat City industrial zone infrastructure

Saudi Arabia’s Construction Products Holding Company (CPC) has invested EGP 300 mn into its infrastructure development project for the Sadat City industrial zone, according to Hapi Journal. The Industrial Development Authority signed an agreement in 2018 with CPC to construct the infrastructure for the EGP 900 mn project.

Real Estate + Housing

El Gouna property sales up almost 25% in 2Q2020

Property sales in El Gouna have increased by 22% y-o-y to hit EGP 891.5 mn in the second quarter of 2020, Orascom Development Egypt (ODE) said in a press release (pdf). Contracts and reservations reached EGP 891.5 mn during the quarter, up from EGP 729.9 mn last year. The pace of construction in the resort town will be sped up by deploying 100% of the company’s workforce at the sites, the developer said. Hotels in the resort town have also received safety, sanitation and hygiene audit confirmation from Germany-based TÜV Nord.

Automotive + Transportation

Toyota agrees to transition its microbus fleet in Egypt to natural gas

Toyota has reportedly agreed to switch the engines on all 100k Toyota-branded microbuses currently on Egypt’s streets to run on natural gas instead of diesel fuel, the local press reports, citing an unnamed government source familiar with the matter. The company expects to complete the process in four to six years. The decision comes as part of the government’s efforts encouraging citizens to install dual-fuel engines to increase fuel efficiency and protect the environment.

Other Business News of Note

Alfa Market to invest EGP 60 mn into new and existing branches this year

Supermarket chain Alfa Market is planning to invest EGP 60 mn by the end of 2020 to add two new branches to its network and upgrade some of its seven existing locations, CEO Salah Farouk tells Al Mal. This is a slight reduction from the EGP 80 mn the company was said in January to be investing during the second half of the year.

The expansion will be self-financed, but Farouk says the company has also been approached by outside investors. The supermarket chain has seen a 46% y-o-y jump in sales during 1H2020 thanks to the pandemic and a turnaround strategy implemented earlier this year, Farouk says.

Alexandria Portland Cement removes shares from EGX

Alexandria Portland Cement’s board of directors agreed to voluntarily delist its shares from the EGX in accordance with the mandatory tender offer submitted by Titan Cement late last year, according to an EGX filing (pdf).

Legislation + Policy

El Sisi ratifies Egypt’s two-year suspension of agricultural land tax

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has ratified a two-year suspension of the 14% agricultural land tax, extending a three-year suspension that began in 2017 until 2022, according to Al Mal.

Egypt Politics + Economics

Cairo court upholds acquittal of Mubarak-era interior minister on illicit gains charges

The Court of Cassation has upheld the acquittal of Habib El Adly, former president Hosni Mubarak’s longest-serving interior minister, on charges of illicit gains, Ahram Gate reports.

My Morning Routine

Francis Ricciardone, former diplomat and current president of the American University in Cairo: My Morning / WFH 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 Francis Ricciardone, who is currently the president of the American University in Cairo (AUC).

I’m Francis Ricciardone and I’m the president of AUC. I’m someone who is very excited to be where I am, when I am — my career brought me to Egypt in the past and was largely focused on the region, and I have a profound appreciation for the country and the massive potential I see in its people everyday. On the personal front, I’m the father of two daughters, one of whom is an AUC alumna and currently lives in Jordan, and the other currently lives on the US’ east coast. In my family, I am the member with the fewest degrees — I hold a BA, while my wife and one of my daughters have each earned a PhD and my other daughter earned her MA here at AUC.

My day usually begins by 7am, but the exact time depends on when I get to bed because I’m making a more conscious effort to get a solid seven hours of sleep. With everything happening now, I’m beginning to place a lot more emphasis on my physical health. I start my day with a quick peek at my email but I don’t let myself get sucked into that vortex at this point in the day, and then move on to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity; I usually speed-walk between 3 and 6 km in the morning. Then, I like to have a light breakfast and some coffee and get the day rolling.

Enterprise is one of the emails I read early on in the day. My staff knows that in the early morning, I’ll usually forward stories and clips from Enterprise that are of interest to different people. Back when I was US Ambassador to Egypt in the early 2000s, we had our own internal system to keep on top of the news and local media, so Enterprise serves the same purpose to me now, with a much higher degree of curation.

Once I get the emails out of the way, my day is usually filled with meetings. Most of these are on Zoom, but every once in a while my staff and I have physical meetings on campus, which is a great place to do that while safely adhering to social distancing and precautionary measures. We have plenty of outdoor spaces on campus, and we have access to conference rooms designed for large gatherings that can now be used for smaller meetings to ensure social distancing. A lot of our conversations now are centered on preparing for what’s next. We were able to move our spring semester classes online after five or six weeks of in-person instruction, and now we’re considering what our fall semester will look like. All we know now is that it’s going to be between 0 and 100% of regular physical interaction — but there’s no telling where we’ll fall in that range.

As much as we appreciate how far technology has come, there’s something to be said about the organic and spontaneous interactions that happen when you’re physically in the same space as others. I’m also nostalgic for the massive amount of student activity that always kept the AUC campus vibrant and active everyday. The president’s residence, Watson House, being on campus afforded me access to student-led activities on campus, such as charitable events, hosting weddings for orphans, organizing conferences and talks, and all the concerts that happened on campus. These all gave me a chance to talk and interact with our student body.

I have a lot of books in my TBR pile, and a lot of them are about Egypt and Cairo, which is one of my preferred ways of learning about them. The most recent addition to the list is Awlad El Nass, which is the latest book by Reem Bassiouney, one of our professors at the Department of Applied Linguistics here at AUC. I can read Arabic, but it does take me a bit more effort and the help of a dictionary at times, and this is a book I intend to read soon. Some of my other favorites include Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and Homo Deus, and AUC’s centennial book, which I like to flip through sometimes for interesting and quick stories about the university.

Once life goes back to some semblance of normalcy, the one thing I look forward to going back to most is in-person human interaction — and being able to hop on a plane to see my daughter in Jordan and the rest of my family in the US.

The Market Yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 15.91 | Sell 16.01
EGP / USD at CIB: Buy 15.92 | Sell 16.02
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 15.89 | Sell 15.99

EGX30 (Wednesday): 10,617 (-2.4%)
Turnover: EGP 1.5 bn (66% above the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: -24.0%

THE MARKET ON WEDNESDAY: The EGX30 ended Wednesday’s session down 2.4%. CIB, the index’s heaviest constituent, ended down 1.9%. The EGX30’s top performing constituent was Dice up 0.7%. Yesterday’s worst performing stocks were Egyptian Resorts down 7.7%, Porto Group down 7.1% and AMOC down 7.1%. The market turnover was EGP 1.5 bn, and regional investors were the sole net buyers.

Foreigners: Net short | EGP -6.2 mn
Regional: Net long | EGP +62.0 mn
Domestic: Net short | EGP -55.8 mn

Retail: 74.9% of total trades | 69.3% of buyers | 80.6% of sellers
Institutions: 25.1% of total trades | 30.7% of buyers | 19.4% of sellers

WTI: USD 40.99 (+1.74%)
Brent: USD 43.63 (+1.70%)

Natural Gas: (Nymex, futures prices) USD 1.78 MMBtu, (+2.18%, August 2020 contract)
Gold: USD 1,812.90 / troy ounce (-0.03%)

TASI: 7,418 (+0.51%) (YTD: -11.58%)
ADX: 4,221 (-1.56%) (YTD: -16.84%)
DFM: 2,048 (-0.22%) (YTD: -25.92%)
KSE Premier Market: 5,553 (+0.02%)
QE: 9,394 (+0.81%) (YTD: -9.89%)
MSM: 3,461 (-1.22%) (YTD: -13.06%)
BB: 1,304 (-0.25%) (YTD: -19.00%)

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20-21 July (Sunday-Monday): Creative Industry Summit virtual edition.

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

26 July (Sunday): Postponed court session for the lawsuit against Amer Group and Porto Group filed by Syria’s Antaradous for Touristic Development

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.

5 August (Wednesday): IHS Markit PMI for Egypt released.

11-12 August (Tuesday-Wednesday): Senate elections take place.

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

13-15 August (Thursday-Saturday): RiseUp from Home digital event. Pre-registration available here.

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

8-9 September (Tuesday-Wednesday): Run-off Senate elections.

12 September (Saturday): Court session for Egyptian Resorts Company lawsuit against The Tourism Development Authority

15 September (Tuesday): 2019-2020 academic year ends for Egyptian universities.

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.

8 October (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Armed Forces Day.

23-31 October (Friday-Saturday): El Gouna Film Festival, El Gouna, Egypt.

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.

25 January 2021 (Monday): 25 January revolution anniversary / Police Day.

28 January 2021 (Thursday): National holiday in observance of 25 January revolution anniversary / Police Day.

4 February 2021 (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

18 March 2021 (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

12 April 2021 (Monday): First day of Ramadan (TBC).

25 April 2021 (Sunday): Sinai Liberation Day.

29 April 2021 (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Sinai Liberation Day.

29 April 2021 (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

3 May (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

6 May (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Sham El Nessim.

12-15 May (Wednesday-Saturday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

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

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

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.