Thursday, 27 August 2020

Cabinet warns of second wave of covid-19, says to take precautions seriously

TL;DR

What We’re Tracking Today

Good morning, wonderful people — we have another packed issue this morning as we prepare to head into the weekend.

The big story of the day: Cabinet is warning that we all need to take seriously the prospect of a second wave of covid-19. The warning comes as the Health Ministry reported 206 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 141 the day before. New cases had hit a low of 89 this past Sunday. The ministry also reported 19 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 5,317.

Both Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly and Health Minister Hala Zayed sounded the warning bell again yesterday, saying we’re at risk of another wave as citizens ignore social distancing measures, according to a government statement. The PM warned of strict punishments for people who violate measures designed to prevent the spread of covid, including mandatory masking public transportation and inside most buildings. Zayed — who earlier this month ordered isolation facilities to reopen in anticipation of a second wave — warned against a false sense of security.

What will education look like against that backdrop? A number of association-owned schools are already back in session, with a blend of on-campus and remote learning on the menu, but that’s still an open question for schools regulated by the Education Ministry. Families with kids in private and public schools will get a sense in the next week or so of what the academic year will look like as Education Minister Tarek Shawki said yesterday that he’ll be releasing a comprehensive plan in the first week of September.

Don’t trust what’s been reported so far, Shawki says: There’s been plenty of speculation about how online platforms, private tutoring, continuing education, private schools and tuitions will pan out this coming year; much of what you’ve heard is wrong, he suggested.


Chinese will play a role in Egypt’s tourism revival -UNWTO head: Once covid-19 safety precautions are eased, tourists from China will pour back into the country and help boost Egypt’s tourism sector, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili told Xinhua. Safety measures are weighing down tourism from both sides as Chinese visitors are required to quarantine for two weeks upon their return to China while Egypt recently required inbound tourists to present a PCR test on arrival. Hospitals in Beijing are currently clear of covid-19 cases after the last two patients left care on Tuesday, Xinhua reports.

Tourism has been staging a comeback, with 126k tourists visiting the country since inbound tourism was allowed on 1 July and both charter and scheduled flights are back. We’re apparently getting a steady stream of inquiries from tourists from Japan, Italy, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands on visiting Luxor and Aswan, who will reopen for tourism on 1 September.


COVID-19 AROUND THE WORLD-

Even though new covid-19 cases are at a four-month high, Spain is unlikely to go into lockdown again, with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez saying doing so would “cripple the economy” again, according to Bloomberg. Evidence is now suggesting that lockdowns may be an “overly blunt and economically costly tool” that causes more damage than it’s worth with the better approach being imposing strict precautionary measures.

After being largely covid-free for months, Gaza is in lockdown after the detection of multiple virus cases across the territory, according to Reuters. Health authorities in the blockaded territory are concerned that the combination of poverty, a large population, and limited health facilities could prove disastrous in the case of a wide scale covid-19 outbreak.

The developing world’s bootstrap covid-19 vaccine dash: Developing countries concerned they will be at the tail-end of recipients of an internationally developed covid-19 vaccine are working on developing their own vaccines, according to Bloomberg. These countries were stung before during the 2009 swine flu outbreak and the 2006 rotavirus spread, when vaccines were mostly distributed to wealthy countries and those that managed to reach developing nations were less effective. WHO data suggests that 170 countries are currently working on a vaccine.

Egypt is among those developing an inhouse vaccine, while also keeping an eye on international shots. Our vaccine, which has been in development since March, is now in the third stage of clinical trials. Authorities are also in talks with six international manufacturers, and could manufacture Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine locally.

enterpriseFor the first time in the Red Sea, Somabay launches the newest destination app which provides fully fledged integrated services (available here for iOS users and here for Android) in line with supporting the company’s plans for digitizing hotel guests’ experiences using trending technologies.

SIGN OF THE TIMES #1- The annual gathering of central bankers at Jackson Hole kicks off today “in a completely virtual format” for the first time in its near-30-year history. Policymakers are expected to discuss what more they can do to stimulate the global economy, even as most have exhausted much of their arsenals of monetary tools, the Financial Times notes. All eyes will be on US Fed Chair Jerome Powell in particular, who is expected to lay out today a plan to reverse the Fed’s policies in a bid to drive up inflation and allow unemployment to fall as low as possible, MarketWatch says.

SIGN OF THE TIMES #2- The 2021 World Economic Forum in Davos has been postponed from late January to some time “early next summer,” the WEF said in a statement yesterday. The dates have yet to be announced. On 25 January 2021, the group will instead hold a digital-only “Davos Dialogue” in which “key global leaders will share their views on the state of the world in 2021.”

Planet Finance is growing weary of commercial real estate: Brookfield Property Partners, Starwood Capital Group, Colony Capital, and Blackstone Group are just a few names of investors that have recently been leaving behind major commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS), or conduit loans they had taken out from lenders. Despite walking away from their obligations, these players are still managing to raise bns from investors for future prospects, an opening that Bloomberg’s John Gittelsohn says was made possible by the pandemic. It seems the crisis has allowed investors to dump losing prospects with reputations largely intact. They can simply give the underlying properties back to lenders with little or no pain.

Nothing suffered from the crisis more than hotels and malls, according to Gittelsohn. The amount of hotel and retail debt turned over to so-called special servicers — third parties that handles payments and is a go-between the lender and borrower — is at the highest level since 2010, according to industry tracker Trepp.

MUST READ FOR FINANCE NERDS- Hedgies are making a killing shorting malls in what’s being called The Big Short 2.0. Among those in on the action: The icon known as Carl Icahn.


Beware that bargain-basement phone: Low-cost Chinese phones with pre-installed malware were sold in Egypt and other African countries, secretly signing up users to costly subscription services without their permission, according to Athens-based anti-fraud firm Upstream, a portfolio company of our friends at EM-focused private equity giant Actis. Tecno-branded smartphones, manufactured by Transsion, retailed at roughly USD 30 and have proved popular in low-income households across the continent, according to the BBC. Transsion told Buzzfeed the malware was installed in the supply chain without its knowledge.

You know who’s selling a lot of phones? Tim Cook. Apple’s iPhone sales were down just 0.4% in 2Q2020 despite the pandemic, CNBC reports. The wider industry was down 20%, according to research provider Gartner, while rival Samsung saw sales collapse by 27.1% y-o-y.


BRIEFLY NOTED-

Our friends at CIB took home an award from African Banker magazine for the Best Regional Bank in North Africa, according to the magazine’s full list of 2020 winners.

Giles Baynham, a non-executive director at Egypt-focused gold miner Aton Resources, has passed away “due to unexpectedly severe complications from a recent illness,” Aton said in a statement yesterday (pdf). Baynham joined the company’s board in 2010.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

It was a mixed bag of nuts on the airwaves last night, with Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa covering everything from potential fines to those who didn’t vote in this month’s Senate elections to the recent uptick in covid-19 infections.

Covid-19 warning signal: Cabinet spokesman Nader Saad repeated Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly and Health Minister Hala Zayed’s warnings yesterday that the country’s accelerating daily covid-19 case count is a warning signal and should remind people that the pandemic hasn’t ended. An earlier slowdown in daily infection rates lulled people into a false sense of safety, but it is imperative that everyone continue to adhere to social distancing measures, Saad stressed (watch, runtime: 42:44).

Saad also debriefed Moussa on a decision to impose fines on public university students who retake exams or repeat an academic term (which we recap in this morning’s Speed Round, below). The fees will be directed towards government investments in education, Saad noted. The government will look at individual cases that may be unable to pay the fees, and will agree to partially or fully waive the fee if students prove they are financially unable to pay. Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar also explained the reasoning behind the decision (watch, runtime: 22:58).

The National Elections Authority has referred a list of all citizens who failed to vote in the Senate elections earlier this month to the public prosecutor’s office, authority head Lasheen Ibrahim told Moussa. Abstainers, who number over 50 mn, can be liable to pay a fine of up to EGP 500, Ibrahim said (watch, runtime: 9:33). The NEA had previously tried to fine those who did not show up at the ballots in the 2018 presidential elections, claiming the Elections Act grants it the right to do so. The story got some attention in the foreign press: AlKhaleej Today | the Associated Press.

Seven suspects involved in the intoxication and [redacted] of an 18-year-old woman at the Fairmont hotel in Cairo fled Egypt last month, the public prosecutor’s office said in a statement. The men boarded flights from Cairo Airport between 27 and 29 July, shortly after allegations revealing their identities emerged on social media, the statement said without identifying their current whereabouts. Two other men currently in Egypt will be brought in, including one involved in the Fairmont case and another involved in “a similar incident,” the prosecutor’s office said. Moussa also took note (watch, runtime: 13:58).

Speed Round

IPO WATCH- BdC IPO isn’t happening before 2021, Fayed confirms, while Giza Spinning looks at 2020 listing: State-owned Banque du Caire’s (BdC) won’t make its EGX debut this year, Chairman Tarek Fayed confirmed in an interview with Reuters Arabic on Wednesday. The bank had planned to float 20-30% of its shares on the exchange in April, but the listing was postponed in the wake of covid-induced market turmoil, sources told the local press earlier this month. The bank, which has been attempting to get the IPO underway since at least 2016, had already started the offering process, but was forced to slam on the brakes as covid hit, Fayed said. “It is difficult for the offering to take place during the current year … It depends on the improvement of global conditions,” he said.

The IPO might only go ahead once a covid-19 vaccine is commercially available, which isn’t expected to happen before the first half of next year, Al Masry Al Youm reports, citing an unnamed source.

Background: BdC, Egypt’s third largest state-owned bank, was hoping to raise some USD 500 mn via its IPO on the EGX in what was expected to be the country’s biggest sale of state assets since 2006. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Sovereign Fund of Egypt, and Abu Dhabi Development Holding were reportedly considering purchasing a stake.

How likely is it that we will see an IPO in 2020? Not very when you consider EGX Chairman Mohamed Farid’s comments on Tuesday. Farid indicated that it was unlikely we would see a listing this year, pointing out that listing paperwork has been filed so far in 2020, he tells Al Mal.

And yet we get announcements like this: Giza Spinning & Weaving says it wants to list this year, according to remarks from Managing Director Fadel Marzouk to Al Mal. The company is still uncertain how much it’s going to offer, Marzouk said, without providing additional details. The company is close to raising its capital by EGP 160 mn to reach EGP 710 mn, 80% of which will go toward financing its expansion plans and increasing its production capacities, Marzouk added.

Advisors: Beltone Financial is serving as global coordinator and bookrunner and Matouk Bassiouny is legal counsel to the issuer.

Background: Giza Spinning has repeatedly delayed the IPO, last saying in August of last year that it was pushing for the sale of up to 40% of its shares on the EGX in November. It marked the second time the company had delayed the IPO, having previously announced that it was looking to list in 3Q2019. The company had initially planned to IPO last November 2018, but news reports later postponed the listing date. Proceeds from the garment exporter’s IPO will be used to finance an EGP 250 mn project to expand its yarn and garment production capacities.

State grain buyer GASC made a near-record wheat purchase from Russia on Tuesday, picking up 530k tonnes in a tender — the most it has bought from Russia since the 2012-2013 season, Bloomberg reports. Russia’s near-record harvest has allowed it to sweep the competition and provide 80% of Egypt’s purchases this season, nearly twice as much as the same time last year, the report adds. “It’s great to have such a big buyer, especially when demand elsewhere has been rather low,” said Dmitry Rylko, director general at the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies (IKAR).

“Russia first” for seasons to come? Egypt hasn’t booked wheat from anyone but Russia all month, a trend likely to continue for a while, according to the Russian Grain Union. Russia’s harvest this season has placed it atop the world’s exporters, as Ukraine, France, and Romania have seen their hauls decline this season. This, coupled with the ruble’s decline against the USD, has allowed Russia to dominate the market.

enterprise

M&A WATCH- Energy trading company IMEX International is planning to acquire at least 50% of Nile Cotton Ginning, according to a letter to the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA). IMEX told the market regulator it will submit a mandatory tender offer for EGP 50 per share. The company has appointed EgyTrend as its financial advisor. A group of unnamed investors with stakes in Nile Cotton are looking to buy a 7% stake held by the company’s workers’ union. The offer has already received a sign off from the FRA earlier this month, we noted recently. The company has been the subject of a drawn out dispute that arose after a court ruling in 2011 to reverse the company’s Mubarak-era sale to private investors.

Could a sale resolve the decade-long dispute? Nile Cotton’s shareholders — which include a large number of private individuals and companies as well as the company’s workers’ union — have been seeking settlement with the government over the ownership dispute. The shareholders also want to use a portion of the company’s land bank to develop residential projects. A sale to IMEX could give the company much-needed liquidity to complete the settlement agreement. The government’s investment dispute resolution committee had reached a settlement agreement with the company that will see Nile Cotton pay EGP 231.1 mn to the Holding Company for Construction and Development. The agreement came as Nile Cotton’s shareholders had been looking to reach a settlement in hopes of resuming trading on the company’s shares on the EGX after an eight-year pause. Public Enterprises Minister Hisham Tawfik had said negotiations on the settlement would resume this week, according to Mubasher.

Sales of medical supplies — masks in particular — dropped in August, and are returning to pre-covid levels, said Mohamed Ismail Abdo, head of the Medical Supplies Division at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, according to the local press. This has translated into a slump in utilization rates and production at factories that produce masks and other disposable medical supplies, he added. People are buying fewer masks in recent weeks as the daily covid-19 case count falls, and many people had earlier stocked up on supplies. “Supply has simply outpaced demand,” he noted, forecasting that the decline could continue through year’s end.

Nowhere to put the excess stock: It is very difficult to export excess production, as traditional export markets have also ramped up production, he noted.

Newcomers to the field will be given a swift exit: With numbers being what they are, a number of newcomers who have come in since the crisis are likely to close down, says Sherif Ezzat, head of the medical industries division. He expects older, more established players to weather the drop in sales.

The same could not be said of pharma sales, in July at least: Sales of meds have reportedly seen a 4.5% y-o-y rise in July to EGP 6.7 bn, Souq Al Dawaa reports, citing unnamed industry sources. Sales have been growing m-o-m as well, rising 4.9% from June. 7M2020 sales grew just 0.04% y-o-y.

INVESTMENT WATCH- Covid’s effects on the wider economy continue, however, with talks over a USD 100 mn Thai paper factory in Alexandria having broken down, reportedly due to covid, Sherif Yehia, assistant attaché at the Commercial Affairs Office at the Thai embassy in Egypt, told Al Mal yesterday. The as of yet unnamed Thai company had reportedly begun constructing the facility and was planning on beginning production the following year after receiving regulatory approvals and licensing back in 2018.

EARNINGS WATCH- Orascom Construction (OC) profits dropped to USD 9.8 mn 2Q2020, down from USD 31.3 mn in 2Q2019, the company said in its earnings release (pdf). Revenues for the quarter were up 0.1% y-o-y to USD 791.2 mn.

Stable 2Q2020 revenues indicate a “healthy rate of execution” in the company’s projects despite “operational challenges related to the current environment,” said OC CEO Osama Bishai. While gross margins came under some pressure in May due to the “nationwide slowdown in Egypt,” the company remains focused on “project controls, cost optimization and cash flow” in the coming period he added. OC also made good on its dividend commitment over 1H2020 by distributing “USD 0.21 per share earlier this month.”

MOVES- Also from OC, Nada Shousha (Linkedin) has been nominated as a non-executive independent board member with shareholders set to confirm her appointment on 17 September, according to a press release (pdf). Shousha was previously regional manager for Egypt, Libya and Yemen for the International Finance Corporation. Her other board memberships include current appointments to the Egyptian American Enterprise Fund, the Bank of Palestine, and AXA Egypt.

CABINET WATCH- Could we finally be getting the VAT lottery? The Madbouly Cabinet gave a preliminary sign off on a package of incentives that they hope will encourage people and businesses to toe the line on tracking and paying VAT. The program — dubbed “Your taxes are for you” — may include “financial or non-financial” rewards, and may even include a lottery. The program is meant to help the Finance Ministry with collecting data and cutting down on VAT evaders, cabinet statement said on Wednesday. A committee that will include the finance, ICT, and planning ministries will be set up to study the program. No other details were given on the program.

Did you say lottery? That’s right: Back when they were first announced, articles 35 and 74 of the VAT Act’s executive regulations — which deal with incentives and rebates — charge the Finance Ministry with outlining the conditions and rules for a potential lottery.

Public university students will now pay (monetarily) for failing: The cabinet also approved amendments to the Public Universities Act which impose exam fees for students at public universities who are retaking the exam, repeating an academic term, those sitting examinations from abroad, and those enrolled on the hourly credits system. Medicine and dentistry students would be required to pay EGP 6-12k, while engineering, computer science, pharmacy and physical therapy students would pay EGP 5-10k. Veterinary medicine, nursing, agriculture and natural sciences students would pay EGP 3-6k. The fees could also vary depending on the number of times students sit the examinations.

Prepaid electricity meter users are complaining that they are being overcharged for their consumption, according to the local press. Consumers allege that they were charged additional “installment” fees when topping up their cards, despite paying the full meter balance. According to Electricity Ministry spokesperson Ayman Hamza, these “extra” fees are just deducting an overdraft in cases where a meter’s balance had fallen below zero before being topped up again. Electricity subsidies were partially lifted in June, seeing a 16-30% increase in electricity bills while the government has a plan in place to wipe all subsidies by 2025. Electricity distribution companies have faced consumer complaints after the price hike.

Greece’s parliament to cast final vote on EastMed accord with Egypt today: The Greek parliament will be casting votes on two separate maritime border acts today including the EastMed accord signed with Egypt, Greek City Times reports. The maritime border delineation is an exercise of an “inalienable sovereign right” in line with Article 3 of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis argued to the parliament yesterday. Mitsotakis hinted at a potential legislative effort to expand Greek jurisdiction in other neighboring maritime zones during a government debate on the bills that could potentially ratchet up already intensifying relations between Greece and Turkey.

Diplomatic efforts have started to break down however as Turkish Foriegn Minister Melvut Vavusoglu accused Germany of siding with Greece and said following a meeting with German Foriegn Minister Heiko Maas in Ankara that Turkey “will do what is necessary without hesitation,” to stake its claim in Eastern Mediteranean, the National Herald reports. The change in tone came after Germany, which has been trying to mediate between Turkey and Greece, said “Greece’s voice will have special weight” and said Turkey should recall naval forces and halt drilling operations in the Eastern Med lest its state-run petroleum company face sanctions.

Military drills continue, with reinforcements: The UAE is reportedly sending between two and four warplanes to join Greek military drills off the island of Crete following French deployment of two Dassault Rafale jets in a show of support to Greece, according to Forbes’ contributor network. The two Mediterranean countries locked in dispute on Sunday issued an advisory that they’d be conducting naval drills off the Greek island of Crete and denounced each other’s moves as an illegal show of force.

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Egypt in the News

It’s a quiet morning for Egypt in the international press, which is not a bad way to start the weekend, friends.

Diplomacy + Foreign Trade

Egypt is getting a USD 2.73 mn grant to expand a development support program for MSMEs operating in the retail and handcraft sectors, according to a UNDP statement.

Infrastructure

Egypt’s NRA to tender phase two of EGP 4.7 bn Bashtil central station in January

The National Railways Authority (NRA) plans to issue a tender to construct the second phase of the EGP 4.7 bn central railway station in Giza’s Bashtil in January, NRA head Ashraf Raslan told the local press. The second phase will include a large passenger station, commercial center, administrative buildings and a residential complex, with construction expected to wrap in three years. Separately, the NRA is also planning a similar fully-serviced central station in Qalyub, Al Mal reports, citing an unnamed Transport Ministry source. The projects come as the ministry is working on major transport infrastructure projects, including Egypt’s first major transit hub, the final stop of the Cairo Metro Line 3. You can take a deeper dive into the groundbreaking project with our latest Hardhat feature.

Health + Education

CIRA has already accounted for the cost of 25% bus fee rebate

EGX-listed schools operator CIRA had already accounted for a 21% rebate of the last academic year’s transport fees before the Consumer Protection Authority order earlier this week telling schools to refund 25% of bus fees from the 2019-2020 academic year, according to a statement (odf). The refund, which will be credited to the upcoming academic year for returning students, amounted to EGP 9.5 mn, and the leading private sector education outfit will earmark an additional EGP 2 mn to meet the CPA’s directives.

Orange Egypt, Education Ministry to develop and operate educational platform

The Education Ministry signed a three-year cooperation protocol with Orange Egypt to develop an e-learning platform for the ministry and provide the hosting services and cloud infrastructure needed to operate and manage the educational platform, according to a press release (pdf). The agreement comes as the government is working on developing distance learning infrastructure, Minister Tarek Shawki said.

Real Estate + Housing

Amer Tourism Development denies scrapping plans New Sohag City land

Amer Group subsidiary Amer Tourism Development denied in an EGX disclosure (pdf) that the company lost interest in buying a 50 acre land plot in New Sohag City to construct an urban real estate project.

Banking + Finance

GASCO in talks to obtain USD 300 mn loan for expansions

The Egyptian Natural Gas Company (GASCO) is in talks with three unnamed local banks for a loan of up to USD 300 mn to finance the expansion and maintenance of the natural gas grid, Al Mal reports, citing unnamed sources in the know. The loan is expected to carry a tenor of 5-7 years.

Attijariwafa subsidiary gets approval to sell life insurance in Egypt

Attijariwafa Bank Group subsidiary Wafa Assurance has earned a license from the Financial Regulatory Authority to set up a EGP 150 mn life insurance services arm in Egypt, the local press reports. Wafa already operates in Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Tunisia and Cameroon.

EFG’s valU, Al Futtaim to provide no-interest payments to Egypt’s shoppers

EFG Hermes’ fintech arm valU has signed an agreement with Al Futtaim Group to offer six-month no-interest installment plans to shoppers, reports Zawya. Al Futtaim (not to be confused with Majid Al Futtaim) owns the Cairo Festival City Mall and holds the regional franchise for global retail outlets including Ted Baker, Marks & Spencer, Toys R Us, and Guess.

My Morning Routine

Laila Hassan, principal at 500 Falcons, 500 Startups: 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 Laila Hassan (LinkedIn), principal at VC fund 500 Falcons.

My name is Laila Hassan and I’m a principal at 500 Falcons, 500 Startups’ Dubai-based MENA fund. 500 Startups is the most active global venture capital firm headquartered in San Francisco. Our global flagship funds include a series of five funds that invest across regions and industries. Aside from the global funds, we provide early-stage investment through our regional investment vehicles in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), South Korea, Latin America, Turkey, Vietnam and Thailand. Aside from our international flagship accelerator programs, we have two hybrid investment programs in the Middle East; the MENA Dojo Pre-series A Program and the pre-seed Misk500 Accelerator Program in Riyadh, KSA.

500 Falcons, which was set up in 2017, is one of these region-specific funds that specifically invests in the Middle East or in Middle Eastern diaspora founders all over the world. Our mandate includes tech-enabled companies operating in the region and in any other country with a base in the MENA region. The Falcons Fund deploys capital into direct investments, investments via our accelerator programs and follow-ons.

Egypt is our biggest market and comprises the largest chunk of our portfolio. We’ve invested a greater amount of capital in the UAE, but it’s not really a fair comparison because you can do a lot more in Egypt with a lot less money. Egypt is really a booming market and we see a lot of value there. A lot of investors are specifically interested in and asking about Egypt, partially because of the demographics of the market, like the large population, but also because Egyptian founders have a reputation for being resilient and resourceful.

My days usually start off by getting my five-year-old daughter logged into her online classes. My husband and I have implemented a shift system for supervision and support that caters to her e-learning schedule, and I typically handle the morning “shift” (which runs from 8am-11am). Once my shift ends, I try to squeeze in an online workout class, and only then do I get started on work — that means my workday typically starts and ends much later than most. Whenever I can, I factor in 30 minutes to catch up on the news, including reading Enterprise.

The lockdown period has actually been quite enjoyable for me. I loved being completely relieved of social obligations, and I was grateful to not be on flights all the time — prior to covid, my job required me to travel at least once a month. Most of all, I’m grateful for the chance I got to be together with my family to bond and learn more about each other. My five-year-old is apparently a math whiz — and my two-year-old is a world-class actress.

We don’t have an office in Dubai, where I was based up until recently, so I’ve been working from home for a long time. The only difference over the past few months is that I have had company — my husband and two daughters — while working at home. One of the biggest perks of the lockdown is that my husband resurrected his passion for cooking, so my meals are generally taken care of — and are Michelin star-quality.

I found that the best way to improve productivity is to have a daily routine and stick to it. For me, that includes my morning workout, taking a shower, and getting dressed in work-appropriate clothes. I even put on shoes — it really helps to make me feel like I’ve stepped out of the parameters of my home space. I have a designated work desk with a big screen in a quiet room. I also think it’s very important to make the work area cozy and inviting, which helps get you in the mood to work. I have a nice vase of flowers and some accessories on my desk for that effect.

Since the lockdown began, I’ve definitely had a lot more Zoom meetings, which has been great for me. I love the fact that I don’t need to factor in any commute time and just have much more productive conversations. It’s also an easy way to catch up with people who I have been meaning to talk to, whether socially or professionally.

Our team is spread out across Dubai, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and now Egypt since I’ve relocated, so we are very accustomed to interacting via Zoom. The one change over the past few months is that we’ve all “met” each other’s kids — it’s now expected that we’ll hear their voices in the background of a call, or even chime in with a “hello” every now and then.

I have plenty of entertainment at home, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it “relaxing.” I play with my daughters — we do a lot of baking, hide and seek, arts and crafts and put on talent shows for my husband. Once we manage to put the kids to bed, we typically have friends over/visit neighbors or catch up on Netflix series.

I really enjoyed watching Unorthodox on Netflix. Unfortunately, by the time I finish work, keeping up with the e-learning needs of the day, and putting the kids to bed, I hardly have any time to read. This is unfortunate, as in a previous life I used to be quite the bookworm. I get most of my reading from keeping up with the news, but also recently started Secrets of Sand Hill Road.

When life returns to normal, the one thing I’m eager to do again is give lots of hugs and kisses to my family and friends. I’m naturally a very emotional person with lots of hugs to share and the pandemic has really put on an end to this emotional side. I recently relocated from Dubai to Egypt, so I’ve been catching up with a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time but our hellos were waves and fist bumps.

The Market Yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 15.83 | Sell 15.93
EGP / USD at CIB: Buy 15.83 | Sell 15.93
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 15.84 | Sell 15.94

EGX30 (Wednesday): 11,453 (-0.1%)
Turnover: EGP 1.6 bn (50% above the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: -17.96%

THE MARKET ON WEDNESDAY: The EGX30 ended Wednesday’s session down 0.1%. CIB, the index’s heaviest constituent, ended down 0.01%. EGX30’s top performing constituents were Orascom Construction up 6.1%, Orascom Development Egypt up 2.8%, and GB Auto up 2.5%. Yesterday’s worst performing stocks were EFG Hermes down 2.2%, Credit Agricole down 1.6% and AMOC down 1.4%. The market turnover was EGP 1.6 bn, and domestic investors were the sole net buyers.

Foreigners: Net Short | EGP -31.5 mn
Regional: Net Short | EGP -7.4 mn
Domestic: Net Long | EGP +38.8 mn

Retail: 70.5% of total trades | 70.9% of buyers | 70.2% of sellers
Institutions: 29.5% of total trades | 29.1% of buyers | 29.8% of sellers

WTI: USD 43.41 (+0.05%)
Brent: USD 45.64 (-0.48%)

Natural Gas (Nymex, futures prices) USD 2.42 MMBtu, (-1.83%, September 2020 contract)
Gold: USD 1,960.00 / troy ounce (+0.38%)

TASI: 7,955.04 (+0.21%) (YTD: -5.18%)
ADX: 4,529.79 (-0.63%) (YTD: -10.76%)
DFM: 2,288.93 (-0.68%) (YTD: -17.21%)
KSE Premier Market: 5,828.34 (+0.38%)
QE: 9,898.93 (-0.10%) (YTD: -5.05%)
MSM: 3,747.96 (+0.48%) (YTD: -5.86%)
BB: 1,373.11 (-0.05%) (YTD: -14.72%)

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Calendar

26-27 August (Wednesday- Thursday) "Tutankhamun … Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" exhibition will arrive back in Egypt from it’s latest tour stop in London

28 August (Friday): Friday prayers at all major mosques will resume with safety measures in place.

28 August (Friday): Tripartite technical committee on GERD will complete technical report and submit it to the African Union for discussion.

September: The Egyptian Federation for Securities will hold elections for its board of directors after they were postponed in March due to the lockdown.

1 September (Tuesday): Tourist activities will resume in Luxor and Aswan.

1 September (Tuesday): All tourists flying to Egypt must show PCR tests.

1-7 September (Tuesday-Tuesday): Possible announcement from the Education Ministry on what the new academic year will look like,

September (date TBD): The General Authority for Investment (GAFI) will host a virtual meeting with the Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry and some 120 German companies to discuss investment prospects in Egypt.

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

9 September-25 October: KLM to run passenger flights to Cairo for the first time since 2017.

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

14-15 September (Monday-Tuesday) The Chemical Industries Export Council will organize a virtual conference to discuss export options for Egyptian chemical exporters in Kenya and Uganda

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.

16 September (Wednesday): The last day for the final results of the senate elections to be announced.

20 September (Sunday): A Cairo administrative court is due to issue a ruling in a third-party lawsuit demanding the government block YouTube in Egypt for carrying an allegedly sacreligious video. The case is an infamous 2012-vintage lawsuit still wending its way through the courts.

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

Late October or November: Voters head to the polls to elect a new House of Representatives. Election dates still TBD.

1 October (Thursday): House of Representatives reconvenes for its sixth and final legislative session before elections for the house later in October or November.

4 October (Sunday): Senate convenes for its first session.

6 October (Tuesday): Armed Forces Day.

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

17 October (Saturday): 2020-2021 academic year begins for K-12 students at state schools and students in public universities

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.

4-7 November (Wednesday-Saturday): Cityscape Egypt Expo, International Exhibition Center, Cairo

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

1 December (Tuesday): The IMF will conduct a first review of targets set under the USD 5.2 bn standby loan approved in June (proposed date).

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 2021 (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

6 May 2021 (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Sham El Nessim.

12-15 May 2021 (Wednesday-Saturday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

1 June 2021 (Tuesday): The IMF will conduct a second review of targets set under the USD 5.2 bn standby loan approved in June 2020 (proposed date).

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

26-29 June 2021 (Saturday-Tuesday): The Big 5 Construct Egypt, Cairo International Convention Center

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

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