Monday, 7 September 2020

FAB wants to restart talks on Bank Audi’s Egypt arm –report

TL;DR

What We’re Tracking Today

The EGX30 closed yesterday in the red in the first session since last week’s selloff on Wall Street: The index lost 1% during trading yesterday, continuing a poor run of form that has seen it finishing in the red for six consecutive sessions. Trading was moderate, with EGP 1 bn-worth of shares changing hands (about 8% below the trailing 90-day average). The EGX is now one of the worst performing indexes in the region this year, currently down 20.7% year-to-date.

Emerging markets have been feeling the heat of last week’s selloff, with the MSCI emerging markets index falling 2%, the biggest weekly decline since April, reports Bloomberg. Exchanges in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries weren’t helped by Friday’s slide in oil prices — the biggest weekly fall since June — as Dubai’s key index fell 1.1%, Qatar’s index lost 1.2%, shares in Abu Dhabi dropped 0.6%, and the Saudi Tadawul ended marginally down 0.3%. The US’s biggest indices fell at the tail end of last week, with Nasdaq closing down 3.3% for the week on Friday — its worst single-week performance since March. Tech shares led the selloff in the US.

Asian markets were marginally in the green at the time of dispatch this morning, while futures suggested a mixed open in Europe when the opening bell rings. US markets are closed today for Labor Day.

The US tech industry’s 10 wealthiest people have seen their collective net worth drop USD 44 bn since Thursday as stocks plunged, according to Bloomberg. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Tesla’s Elon Musk — two people who have seen their net worth balloon during the pandemic — were the biggest losers, seeing their fortunes fall by USD 9 bn and USD 8.5 bn respectively.


Be on the lookout for foreign reserves figures today and inflation data on Thursday.

We’re heading back to the polls tomorrow to elect 26 seats in a runoff for the Senate.


The Health Ministry reported 151 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 130 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 99,863 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 19 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 5,530. We now have a total of 78,108 confirmed cases that have fully recovered.

Flights to Cairo from Moscow will restart in mid-September following a six-month hiatus, flag carrier EgyptAir said in a statement carried by the local press (Al Mal | Masrawy). The statement follows an agreement signed with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin last week that will see the three weekly trips between Cairo and Russia. Flights will be operated by EgyptAir and Russian flag carrier Aeroflot.

Direct flights to Malta could also resume soon: The restoration of flights between Egypt and Malta was high on the agenda in a meeting between Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Maltese counterpart Evarist Bartolo yesterday, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a statement. Shoukry and Bartolo also discussed the situation in Libya and migration across the Mediterranean, the statement said.

The pandemic has seen Europe experience its worst summer tourism season in recent history, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better this fall, the Associated Press reports. “Revenue losses during the first half of 2020 for hotels, restaurants, tour operators, long distance train operators and airlines were roughly 85-90%,” the European Commission said, adding that bookings for September and October are “abnormally low.”


KUDOS- Our friends at CIB have won the most nominations of any issuer in Institutional Investor’s 2020 Middle East Investor Relations Awards presented with the Middle East Investor Relations Society. CIB is nominated for the best overall IR program in the Middle East and got a nod in the same category for Egypt. Meanwhile, CEO Hussein Abaza is in the running for best investor relations by a CEO in the region, while IRO Yasmine Hemeda snagged a nomination for best IR professional in Egypt.

Two other CEOs served by our parent company, Inktank, also received nominations in the top IR by a CEO category, including Cleopatra Hospital’s Ahmed Ezz El-Din and, in Saudi Arabia, Olivier Nougarou from Arabian Centres.

Other Inktank clients in Egypt earning nominations this year include Cleopatra Hospital’s Hassan Fikry, EK Holding’s Haitham Abdel Moneim, and Elsewedy Electric’s Tarek Yehia, all of whom have been nominated as finalists for best IR professional in Egypt. Rayan Alkarawi is a nominee in the same category in Saudi Arabia.

Inktank clients in the category of “leading corporate for IR” in Egypt include our friends at Edita Food Industries, Cleopatra Hospitals and EK Holding. In the GCC, we’re pleased to note nominations going to United Electronics (Extra) and Arabian Centers in Saudi Arabia and SICO Bank in Bahrain.

Egyptian companies and professionals took home the most nominations of any national contingent in this year’s ranking.

You can check out the full list of nominees here (pdf). The finalists will be announced 22 and 23 September at a virtual event.


enterprise

MORE KUDOS- Vezeeta’s founder and CEO Amir Barsoum has made Fortunes’ 40 under 40 leaders in Healthcare list for 2020, recognizing “influential game-changers” worldwide. The healthcare platform for researching, rating, and booking appointments with medical professionals is currently available in 50 cities across six countries and is still expanding.

STILL MORE KUDOS- Three Egyptians made it to Forbes’ Middle East 30 under 30 list of Young Innovators Working to Change the Region. First up was founder and CEO of Prime Hospitality Khaled El Sayyad (Linkedin), who made it to the list for his contributions in the retail and F&B industries. The other two mentions came from the sports and entertainment industry for swimmer Farida Osman (Bio) and Eksab CEO and co-founder Aly Mahmoud (Linkedin).


US ELECTION WATCH- President Donald Trump continues to fuel hopes of a potential vaccine release before November, according to the Washington Post, which suggests his bid to speed up the process is a way of swaying voter sentiment ahead of the election. Medical experts have been wary of making guarantees with many voicing concerns at the idea of pushing out a vaccine that hasn’t been fully tested.

Biden is maintaining a solid lead over Trump in recent polling: A CBS News poll puts the former VP 10 points clear of the Orange Incumbent at 52% to 42%, Bloomberg reports.

enterprise

*** It’s Blackboard day: We have our weekly look at the business of education in Egypt, from pre-K through the highest reaches of higher ed. Blackboard appears every Monday in Enterprise in the place of our traditional industry news roundups.

In today’s issue: We look at the future of the IGCSE system in Egypt following this year’s exam fiasco which resulted in thousands of students being unfairly penalized by an algorithm used to mark papers.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

Business and econ didn’t get much love on the airwaves last night:

Initiative to develop rural communities: Ala Mas'ouleety's Ahmed Moussa spoke with Planning and Economic Development Minister Hala El Saeed, who discussed a presidential initiative to boost living standards for rural communities. The program will see the government invest EGP 13.5 bn by the end of 2020, to improve the lives of some 12.5 mn citizens in these communities, which includes fishermen as well as farmers, El Saeed said, without specifying how the money will be spent. The Tahya Masr Fund will participate in the initiative, which will span 3-4 years. El Saeed also touched on the work of the Sovereign Fund of Egypt (SFE), which she said aims to repurpose national assets to maximize their value, such as the Tahrir Complex, with any unused assets or funds returned to the treasury (watch, runtime: 29:14). El Said yesterday announced the formation of the SFE’s financial services sub-fund, which we recap in detail in this morning’s Speed Round, below.

The case of the missing trophy: Moussa also spoke with Youth and Sports Minister Ashraf Sobhi who discussed the “loss” of one the Africa Cup of Nations trophies. He said the ministry has formed a committee to look into the incident, and it is believed that the trophy, won in 2010, went missing some time around 2012/2013 (watch, runtime: 3:20). El Hekaya’s Amr Adib announced an (unspecified) reward for anyone who leads authorities to its whereabouts (watch, runtime: 3:36).

Legacy of former agriculture minister: Adib phoned former Agriculture Minister Ahmed El Laithi to talk about the legacy of recently deceased former agriculture minister Youssef Waly. El Laithi said that Waly was unfairly caught up in a case involving 10k tonnes of fertilizers being contaminated with carcinogenic materials. He said the nine true culprits were convicted in 2004. Waly, who served for two decades as the country’s agriculture minister, came in for heavy criticism for allowing carcinogenic pesticides to be imported into Egypt and was briefly detained in 2011 (watch, runtime: 12:01).

Speed Round

M&A WATCH- FAB revives talks to acquire Bank Audi Egypt: First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) is reportedly planning to re-enter talks to acquire Bank Audi’s Egypt assets, Reuters reported, citing two sources familiar with the matter. FAB executives are due to hold an internal meeting soon to decide on a mechanism to resume the negotiations and submit a final bid, one of the sources said. The revived talks could begin within as little as two weeks, the other source added.

Background: Initial negotiations between FAB and Bank Audi broke down in May due to the pandemic. The local press claimed last month that the Emirati bank was planning to restart the talks, but Bank Audi denied the report a day later. Chatter had previously put the value of the transaction in the neighborhood of USD 700 mn. Unconfirmed reports in the local press last month suggested that Emirates NBD may also be interested in Audi’s Egypt arm.

Amer sees slight uptick in inflation in the final quarter of the year: Egypt’s annual inflation rate is expected to average around 6.2% during the fourth quarter of 2020, CBE Governor Tarek Amer said at a cabinet meeting, according to a statement. Amer noted that inflation has held steady within the single-digit range since June 2019 and has remained below 6% since February, well within the bank’s target range of 9% (+/- 3%). Annual inflation decelerated to a seven-month low of 4.2% in July from 5.6% in June.

T-bill yields rose by 64 bps during the three weeks following the Monetary Policy Committee meeting in June, Amer said. They witnessed a brief decline from 14-21 July, before rising again to “fair levels” as a result of the committee’s policy measures, Amer added. The central bank has left interest rates on hold since its record 300 bps rate cut in March, in part to support bond yields and stimulate foreign inflows into Egyptian securities. Foreign holdings of Egyptian t-bills rebounded in June following four straight months of declines, rising slightly to USD 7.71 bn during the month from USD 7 bn in May. Egypt, like other emerging markets, witnessed sharp capital outflows at the height of the covid-induced global financial panic, which saw t-bill holdings plummet 64% from a peak of USD 19.5 bn in February.

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M&A WATCH- Egypt Kuwait Holding (EKH) has raised its stake in Delta Insurance to 61.5% from 56.5% in a EGP 36.2 mn transaction, according to an EGX filing (pdf). EKH received the go-ahead from the Financial Regulatory Authority in 2018 to take Delta private through a mandatory tender offer that would have valued the company at close to EGP 500 mn, but didn’t go ahead with the plan. Other shareholders in Delta currently include individuals from the El Gohary family, which together hold c.28%. Around 8.5% of shares are traded on the EGX, and the remaining 2% is held by minority shareholders.

INVESTMENT WATCH- SFE officially launches its first sub-fund dedicated to financial services: Planning minister and chairperson of the Sovereign Fund of Egypt (SFE) Hala El Said issued a ministerial decree formally establishing the fund’s EGP 30 bn sub-fund dedicated to investing in the non-banking financial services sector, according to a cabinet statement. The sub-fund, which was announced by El Said last week, will focus on insurance, microlending, real estate finance and securitization. It will also be able to establish other funds and companies to develop, offer, and sell e-payment apps and services. The sub-fund will be managed by a five-member board of directors appointed by the SFE's board to serve for a renewable three-year term.

The SFE has been signalling interest in the sector for the past few months: The fund has been in talks with investors interested in fintech and services that further financial inclusion since at least May. It announced a joint bid with EFG Hermes to take a 76% stake in the Arab Investment Bank.

This isn’t the only sub-fund recently set up by the SFE: The fund announced last week that it has also set up funds covering healthcare, tourism and real estate, and infrastructure.

DEBT WATCH- Amer Group to issue EGP 2 bn corporate sukuk: Amer Group will issue its first corporate sukuk offering to the tune of EGP 2 bn and is currently finalizing procedures with the Financial Regulatory Authority, the local press reports, citing an unnamed source. The timing of the issuance has yet to be announced but the source noted that Amer Group will be submitting the paperwork this month.

Advisers: Amer Group signed consumer- and structure-finance player Sarwa Capital and Misr Capital Investments, Banque Misr’s investment arm, as advisors on the corporate sukuk issuance in July.

DEBT WATCH- Premium Int’l to issue a third securitized bond offering this week: Consumer finance firm Premium International for Credit Services plans to issue a third tranche of its EGP 2 bn short-term securitized bond program this week, Al Mal reports, citing an unnamed source. The size of the offering has not yet been decided but the source expects it to be worth EGP 200-250 mn, which would make it the company's largest securitized bond sale, having issued EGP 172 mn in April and EGP 169 mn in October 2019.

Advisors: EFG Hermes will act as sole financial adviser and lead manager. Dreny & Partners Law Firm would serve as legal counsel.

The Industrial Development Authority (IDA) is gearing up to repossess industrial land from companies that “aren’t serious” about meeting construction deadlines, IDA chairman Mohamed El Zalat told Hapi Journal. The campaign could begin “very soon,” he said.

Taking land back from businesses that have failed to develop plots is nothing new, but it appears to be picking up pace since covid. Companies looking to set up shop in state-run industrial zones have voiced concerns about the government taking the land back from them, chairman of the Sixth of October Investors Association Mohamed Khamis Shaaban told Enterprise back in June. While the government argues the repossessions are justified as industrialists were not meeting the 24-month timeline to build their factories, companies there say they’ve been stalled due to lack of utilities. Other investors said that the government struggled to issue permits factories need if they’re going to start operations, with the IDA putting tens of factories on waiting lists.

The IDA is not slowing down land sales, with reports suggesting the authority plans to offer 10 mn sqm of industrial land in FY2020-2021.

Meanwhile, the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) is warning North Coast real estate developers to complete their projects in a timely fashion, Nasser Fawzy, head of the Madbouly cabinet’s national center for land planning told Al Mal. Developers who are not interested “should leave this land to the state,” he adds. Surveys of the North Coast have shown that only 35k feddans have been developed, about a tenth of the size of the strip. The government has shifted from a decades-old policy of making land available for vacation home development to instead pushing a development strategy that pushes new, integrated cities.

Fawzy has also suggested that some North Coast developers will face “infrastructure development payments” related to plots of undeveloped land the plan to keep. He provided no additional detail about the toll.

Manufacturers are pushing ahead with an aggressive lobbying campaign that aims to convince the state to cut natural gas prices. Manufacturers surveyed by Hapi Journal estimated the fair price for gas at between USD 2.50–3.50 / mmbtu against the current USD 4.50 / mmbtu

Among the suggestions being offered was a gas pricing committee, similar to the fuel pricing mechanism that reviews domestic oil prices every three months. Magd El Din El Manzalawi, head of the industry committee at the Egyptian Businessmen Association, suggested to Hapi that factories could pay the market price for gas, which would be determined by a committee that meets on a monthly or quarterly basis to review prices and keep them in line with the international markets.

This comes after the heads of export councils last week pushed for lowering gas prices to USD 3.50 / mmbtu at a meeting with Trade and Industry ministry officials, who promised to raise the issue with the cabinet. The government has cut gas prices twice in the past year: once in October and six months later as part of its stimulus measures to protect the economy from the fallout of the covid-19 pandemic.

EARNINGS WATCH- Cleopatra Hospitals Group reports a 67% y-o-y decline in 2Q2020 net profits to EGP 14 mn, down from EGP 42.6 mn in the previous year according to the company’s earnings release (pdf). Revenues fell 17% y-o-y to EGP 340.2 mn over the quarter, down from EGP 409.1 mn. 2Q2020 performance setbacks were attributable to “a worsening economic situation resulting from the outbreak of covid-19 coincid[ing] with the holy month of Ramadan,” which caused “significant operational challenges for the group,” Cleopatra CEO Ahmed Ezzeldin said. The March-April lockdown also facilitated a “sharp decline in patient volumes” who likely chose to delay non-urgent hospital visits, Ezzeldin added.

Net profit in 1H2020 came in at EGP 102 mn (up 4% on the same period in 2020) on revenues of EGP 843.1 mn (a 2% increase over 1H2019).

Looking ahead: “We enter the second half of the year with optimistic expectations for the group’s operational and financial performance in the coming quarters” as government figures indicate “a sustained decline in the number of daily new cases,” and the company approaches finalizing an acquisition of a leading IVF center in the coming weeks, the Group’s CEO concluded.

Pioneers Holding’s net profits fell to EGP 529.7 mn in 2Q2020, down from EGP 638.1 mn in 2Q2019, according to the company’s financials (pdf). Pioneers also reported 2Q2020 revenues reaching EGP 1.8 bn down from EGP 4.4 bn in the previous year.

Alexandria Mineral Oils Company (AMOC) reported a net loss of EGP 477 mn in FY2019-20, from a profit of EGP 574.2 mn in FY2018-19, according to the company’s financials (pdf). The company reported revenues of EGP 9 bn in FY2019-20, down from EGP 14.86 bn in the previous year.

Sidi Kerir for Petrochemicals (SIDPEC) reported EGP 60.7 mn in losses during 2Q2020, down from a net profit of EGP 260 mn in 2Q2019, according to a company earnings release (pdf). Sidi Kerir reported revenues of EGP 719.6 mn in 2Q2020 down from EGP 1.3 bn in the previous year.

Suez Cement’s losses widened to EGP 435 mn in 2Q2020 down from EGP 454.8 mn in 2Q2019, according to the company’s financials (pdf). Sales revenues for the quarter reached EGP 1.4 bn in 2Q2020 down from EGP 1.5 bn in the previous year.

Tourah Cement losses narrowed in 2Q2020 to EGP 87 mn from EGP 410.4 mn in 2Q2019, according to the company’s financial statements (pdf). The company’s sales revenues inched down to EGP 33.8 mn in 2Q2020 from EGP 182.4 mn the previous year.

The Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation’s (Apicorp) net profits fell 22% to USD 54.8 mn during 1H2020, from USD 70.4 mn a year earlier, according to a company earnings release (pdf). Apicorp reported revenues of USD 82.9 mn in 1H2020, down 12% from 2019.

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The Macro Picture

The US is trying to untether itself from China — and pressure others to do the same: US officials urged Western countries and their allies to begin reorienting supply chains away from China as momentum builds towards a so-called decoupling of the world’s two largest economies. The Financial Times reports that officials from the US, Taiwan, Japan and the EU met last week to discuss ways to reduce their reliance on Chinese supply chains, and while the view in Washington tends towards a radical separation of economic ties with Beijing, others are less convinced. The Trump administration’s development finance arm is ready to start offering financial incentives for companies doing business in China to relocate elsewhere, but the EU is more circumspect. “Supply chain reorganization is something business is very focused on, but clearly there is a political push going on from the US government here,” an EU official said.

The view in Europe: diversify, not decouple. Recognition in European capitals of the necessity to cooperate with Beijing on global issues is leading the EU to prefer a diversification of supply chains, rather than outright decoupling, Andreas Kluth writes for Bloomberg. Huawei is a case-in-point, with Germany still undecided over whether to allow the Chinese telecoms giant to supply the gear for upcoming 5G networks.

Decoupling isn’t a one-way street: Beijing’s trying to thwart US pressure on Chinese tech company ByteDance to sell its US operations proves that Washington isn’t the only one that wants to decouple its tech industry, Rana Faroohar writes in the FT. China is visibly attempting to separate itself from the traditional centers of tech power in Silicon Valley and establish itself as a power in its own right through its vast export market, the Belt and Road Initiative and the soon-to-be-launched digital renminbi. Attempts by the US to suppress the growing power of Chinese tech, such as blocking Huawei from using US-made chips, is likely only to stimulate more domestic innovation, she says.

And this is why the Trump administration is mulling placing export restrictions on China’s burgeoning chip industry, in a move that the Wall Street Journal says could weaken Beijing’s push for tech self-sufficiency.

Image of the Day

Passengers on the first EasyJet flight to Hurghada since the pandemic began were given a grand reception on Wednesday after arriving from London Gatwick. Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry celebrated the arrival, having previously said that Hurghada will receive four weekly flights from London while two weekly flights will be operated to Sharm El Sheikh from Manchester. All incoming travelers (including Egyptians) are required to show a negative PCR test, with the tests offered for USD 30 each at Hurghada, Sharm El Sheikh, Marsa Alam and Taba Airports. Other airports require a PCR test to be taken no earlier than 72 hours prior to arrival. It has been reported that the requirement has been negatively affecting tourist bookings in the country.

Egypt in the News

It’s a super slow morning in the foreign press as far as Egypt is concerned: The lone piece worth a glimpse comes courtesy of the National, which argues that the recent flooding in Sudan serves as a reminder of the potential catastrophe should the walls of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) fail.

Diplomacy + Foreign Trade

It’s a relatively quiet morning on the diplomatic front: Two planes carrying humanitarian supplies from Egypt landed in Khartoum yesterday to help Sudanese families and individuals affected by recent flooding, with more planeloads of aid to follow, Sudan’s state news agency SUNA reported. Sudan declared a three-month state of emergency on Saturday after heavy rains resulted in the deaths of 99 people and the damage of more than 100k homes.

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The IGCSE fiasco: How are universities responding? Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) will hold its November 2020 IGCSE exam sessions where it’s permitted and safe, without using predicted grades for assessment, it announced in a statement (pdf). Other UK exam bodies will also hold exams. The British Council plans to deliver these exams in Egypt, making sure students and staff are safe, it said in a statement (pdf). This follows weeks of anger at CAIE, which replaced its June 2020 exam session with algorithm-generated, then teacher-predicted, grades as a covid-19 safety measure, we reported last week.

Exam boards may have learned from their mistakes, but are pre-university students and the IGCSE system paying the price? In many ways, yes. Students with lower IGCSE and A-level grades than expected may miss out on university places, despite universities working to adapt to an uncertain situation. Even high grades from the 2020 cohort may carry less weight for employers, potentially undermining long-term faith in the IGCSE system globally, says CEO of the UK’s Independent Schools Association Neil Roskilly. It costs between EGP 80k and EGP 200k for Egyptian students to take IGCSEs.

IGCSEs are particularly important to enter Egyptian private universities, according to El Alsson Executive Director Karim Rogers and British School Principal Matthew Topliss. Good public universities require A2s (pdf) as well as IGCSEs from students in the British system, especially in subjects like medicine and engineering. But many private universities accept eight, or even five, O-levels (the IGCSE qualification), they say.

Universities have had to shift admissions criteria to cope: Foreign branch campuses follow the entry requirements of their parent universities, even when admissions processes take place in Egypt, say representatives.

The Universities of Canada in Egypt — a collective of Canadian universities in the new administrative capital — had to amend their admissions criteria to keep numbers steady. They have had to change how they convert grades to a percentage to make it easier to admit students, says UofCanada admissions supervisor Sara Younis. UofCanada usually requires five O-levels at grade C or above for entry. “This year we’re accepting some D grades,” she says.

Applicant numbers at Coventry University’s branch campus in the new administrative capital were impacted, so it amended its entry requirements. Some 50% of this year’s applicants couldn’t meet the criteria set by its parent university in the UK and would have lost their seats had the university not lowered its entry criteria for O-levels to allow for grades less than a C, says admissions supervisor Nahla Rawash. These would obviously be on a case-by-case basis, she adds. It has also had to change its process to conduct interviews with students to check their academic eligibility for entry. Some 30 interviews have been held this year, and they may see 50 by the end of the admissions process, says Rawash. Usually, there would be none.

The gov’t has had to mandate seats be reserved at its universities for victims of the fiasco: The Higher Education Ministry has stipulated that private and international universities it regulates reserve a number of places for IGCSE students still awaiting their final results, says Sadeek Abd El Salam, head of the ministry’s Supreme Council of Universities. A special system is being established to coordinate applications from these students, he adds. For Higher Education Ministry-regulated private universities, IGCSE student grades are being reviewed and approved by the Education Ministry as part of their application process, in coordination with international qualifying bodies, says Higher Education Ministry spokesperson Hossam Abdel Ghaffar.

But certain private universities report no major impact from the grading situation. Future University has already received a large number of applications from IGCSE students, says President Ebada Sarhan. These are currently being reviewed, and any problems will be addressed to the Supreme Council of Universities. Students who couldn’t yet apply for September entry will be able to apply in November. The slight delay to the start of the academic year eased application challenges, he adds. And neither the admissions process nor application numbers of IGCSE students to Badr University have been impacted this year, says admissions head Hossam Abdelfatah. Around 400 IGCSE students usually apply to Badr University every year, with 150 typically accepted.

Even universities facing disruption still see IGCSEs as very valuable, because they’re more academically rigorous than systems like the American Diploma. For Coventry, UofCanada and Badr University, high school diplomas count for 50-90% of their entry requirements, while the IELTS score is also important, and considerations like extracurricular activities purely supplementary. But among high school diplomas, the IGCSE and IB systems carry particular weight. Everyone knows getting a score of 75% in the IGCSE system and 75% in the American Diploma isn’t the same, says one admissions representative, who prefers not to be named. These universities still have faith in the IGCSE system and the institutions that administer it, representatives say.

And while the value of June 2020 IGCSE grades has been questioned, rumors that universities see them as invalid are overblown, says Topliss. Universities are seeing fewer applications across the board this year, so will readily take students in, he adds.

So universities and schools don’t plan to move away from IGCSEs in the short-term. But what happens if there’s a second or third covid-19 wave? El Alsson’s British School is highly unlikely ever to move away from the IGCSE system, but it’s still unclear how future covid-19 waves will be handled, says Topliss. Neither CAIE nor UK regulator Ofqual have presented any systemic solution to the problems they faced, says the UK Independent Schools Association’s Roskilly. “Maybe it’s too early. People are incredibly defensive because of all the questions about what this means for the future,” he says.

Unanswered questions include the impact on next year’s IGCSE cohort. Any future emergency move to a teacher assessment system would be much harder with incoming Year 11 students than last year’s, because they won’t have had the same amount of in-person teaching time that lays the groundwork for effective online learning, says Topliss. UK-regulated qualification providers are adjusting their content, because next year’s exams will need to be different for students who missed six months in-person study at school, and IGCSE providers should do the same, says Roskilly.

As well as how 2020 graduates will be judged by future employers: IGCSEs are valued because people know there’s huge integrity in the process of awarding them, says Roskilly. If that’s called into question, future employers could see the 2020 generation as having higher qualifications than they deserve, through no fault of their own.

And what will happen if there is a bigger IGCSE cancellation, as with the SATs in Egypt. No one we spoke to had an answer to what IGCSE providers would do if large-scale exam cancellations happened again, or for a longer period. As we’re seeing this week with the decision to cancel SATs in Egypt indefinitely, universities and high school students are likely to be left scrambling to adjust.

Your top education stories of the week:

  • School reopening protocols will include a hybrid system that will see students going to school no more than twice a week, we were told earlier this week.
  • The American University in Cairo (AUC) started their hybrid semester on Thursday with a mix of 93% online learning and 7% in-person classes, according to a statement (pdf).
  • Two new Japanese schools will open in the New Valley and Sharm El Sheikh during the 2020-2021 academic year, the Education Ministry announced.
  • The Al-Adwaa educational book series is getting an accompanying mobile application that will rely on artificial intelligence to create a “personal experience in education” for students, said Nahdet Misr chairperson Dalia Ibrahim.

The Market Yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 15.75 | Sell 15.85
EGP / USD at CIB: Buy 15.75 | Sell 15.85
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 15.77 | Sell 15.87

EGX30 (Sunday): 11,073(-1.0%)
Turnover: EGP 1 bn (8% below the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: -20.7%

THE MARKET ON SUNDAY: The EGX30 ended Sunday’s session down 1.0%. CIB, the index’s heaviest constituent, ended down 0.5%. EGX30’s top performing constituents were Telecom Egypt up 2.1%, and Ezz Steel up 0.3%. Yesterday’s worst performing stocks were AMOC down 5.6%, Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals down 3.7% and Egyptian Resorts down 3.1%. The market turnover was EGP 1 bn, and local investors were the sole net buyers.

Foreigners: Net short | EGP -74.1 mn
Regional: Net short | EGP -7.4 mn
Domestic: Net long | EGP +81.5 mn

Retail: 79.8% of total trades | 80.8% of buyers | 78.9% of sellers
Institutions: 20.2% of total trades | 19.2% of buyers | 21.1% of sellers

WTI: USD 39.77 (-3.87%)

Brent: USD 42.66 (-3.20%)

Natural Gas: (Nymex, futures prices) USD 2.59 MMBtu, (+4.06%, October 2020 contract)

Gold: USD 1,934 / troy ounce (-0.18%)

TASI: 8,024 (-0.25%) (YTD: -4.35%)
ADX: 4,522 (-0.64%) (YTD: -10.89%)
DFM: 2,258 (-1.06%) (YTD: -18.31%)
KSE Premier Market: 5,815 (-0.84%)
QE: 9,723 (-1.15%) (YTD: -6.73%)
MSM: 3,706 (-1.05%) (YTD: -6.89%)
BB: 1,402 (-0.53%) (YTD: -12.88%)

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Calendar

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

September: 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.

3 September (Thursday): Details on the establishment of Egypt’s commodity exchange to be announced.

5-9 September (Saturday-Wednesday): China International Fair for Trade-In Services (CIFTIS), Beijing National Convention Center, China. Registration can be found here.

8 September (Tuesday): The Education Ministry will announce what the school year will look like for both private and public schools.

8 September (Tuesday): Online Egyptian-Bahraini Businessmen Association meeting to discuss mutual trade and investment opportunities.

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 September (Monday): Postponed EU-China summit in Leipzig to be held as a video conference, focus on trade.

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.

Mid-September: Proposed time slot for UAE-Israel normalization agreement signing ceremony which will be held in Washington, US.

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.

24 September (Thursday): The European Union will discuss imposing sanctions on Turkey to limit the country’s ability to expand its search for oil and gas in contested eastern Mediterranean waters.

27 September (Sunday): Former Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali to be retried on charges he squandered public funds in a case related to the printing of coupons for butane canisters.

End of September: Last chance to settle building code violations for illegal buildings.

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.

2 November: Former Civil Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafik faces retrial at Cairo Court of Appeals in so-called Aviation Ministry corruption case.

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.

15 November (Sunday): Egyptian Tax Authority’s online intro seminar on new electronic invoice system for first tranche of companies transitioning to e-filing program.

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.

13-31 January (Wednesday-Sunday): Egypt will host the 2021 Men’s Handball World Championship at the Giza Pyramids

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

26-28 January (Tuesday-Thursday): Future Investment Initiative, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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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