Wednesday, 18 November 2020

New anti-covid measures + why an office space for small businesses is so expensive

TL;DR

What We’re Tracking Today

It’s a pleasantly brisk news morning today — just enough of it to get your brain cells firing, but not so much (or so negative) as to overwhelm. The perfect way to start the day that we have renamed almost-THURSDAY (yep, in shouting all-caps), even if we are warily keeping one eye on the overnight covid case count.

The (relative) quiet extends from the front pages to the airwaves, as you’ll see as you read on.

A few programming notes for you before we get underway:

Remember our note yesterday on declining enrolment at American colleges, which Bloomberg pinned on the Trump administration’s immigration policies? Well, a friend at the US embassy reached out with a note that we think is quite awesome, saying in part that “Egyptian students in the US increased by 5%” in the same reporting period. We poked around in the underlying data overnight and found 3,859 Egyptians studied in the US of A in 2019-2020 — indeed, a 5% jump. May the number increase even further under the forthcoming Biden presidency. You can explore the report’s very cool website here.

A belated happy birthday to Sir Magdy Yacoub, the pioneering heart surgeon who turned 85 yesterday.

Apple’s M1 Macs will blow the lid off just about any other Mac sitting on your desk, including when it comes to processing photos and encoding video. Even apps not yet optimized to run on Apple silicon still perform very snappy indeed. That’s the takehome from the first crop of reviews after Apple’s shift away from Intel processes in its lowest-end machines. Got time for only one review? Nerds who like benchmarks should check out Matthew Panzarino’s take at TechCrunch, while normal iSheep should read Jason Snell’s rundown at Six Colors. Then there’s the option of heading to MacStories for a review of reviews.

*** HOW HAS BLENDED LEARNING BEEN TREATING YOU SO FAR? Tell us what you think. We’ve put together a quick survey asking parents and students how things are going on the blended front. We’ll have the results in an upcoming issue of Blackboard. And as is our custom, we’ll draw the names of three respondents who will receive an Enterprise mug and a bag of our favourite coffee from our friends at 30 North.

Tap or click here to take the survey. It’s quick and painless, we promise.


Customs brokers are holding consultations with the Finance Ministry today to discuss the new Customs Act, which was given the presidential seal of approval last week.

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam talks will resume tomorrow: The foreign ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia will try to agree on a format for a new round of talks at a meeting called by South Africa, the current leader of the African Union, a cabinet statement said.


The Health Ministry reported 275 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 242 the day before and the highest figure since 31 July. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 111,284 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 16 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 6,481. We now have a total of 101,288 confirmed cases that have fully recovered.

Authorities are taking tougher measures as cases slowly tick upwards:

  • Cairo Metro passengers will now be fined up to EGP 4k for not wearing masks, Cairo Metro Spokesman Ahmed Abdel Hady said on Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 08:35). There are no excuses either, as masks are available for sale at every station, he said.
  • Cairo’s municipal authorities will crack down on weekly street markets on the orders of the governor after a crowded market ran for several days in El Marg.

Could we be getting 10-minute PCR tests at airports? As airports around the world explore spot PCR testing, Speed Medical’s sister company Prime Speed Medical (PSM) has been contracted by five regional airlines to conduct tests for travellers and airport staff. The move follows the company’s acquisition of US health tech company Abbott’s PCR testing kit that could generate results in under 10 minutes, Speed Medical said in a statement to the bourse (pdf).

Kuwait is positioning itself as a vaccine distribution hub for emerging markets. Agility Public Warehousing is in talks with vaccine manufacturers and governments to distribute vaccines through the Kuwaiti company’s logistics infrastructure in place in more than 120 countries, CEO Tarek Sultan told Bloomberg. Agility has a cold storage capability that enables it to store and transport vaccines such as Pfizer and BioNTech’s entry, which needs to be stored at -70°C before use, as well as “boots on the ground in places that are difficult to operate in,” he said. This comes a day after Emirates airline said it wanted to help transport the shot.

Don’t want to let a pandemic get in the way of your Silk Road roadtrip? Your life just got easier. Air Cairo will start operating regular flights between Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and Sharm El Sheikh on 25 November, before launching charter flights to Samarkand at the end of the year, Masrawy reports. The airline plans to operate four flights a week to the Uzbek capital by next April.

States all over the US are imposing mask mandates, curfews and bans on indoor businesses ahead of the holiday season which health experts worry could lead to “uncontrollable outbreaks,” according to Bloomberg. The US has reported more than 1 mn cases in the past week alone. US stocks dropped back from the record highs seen Monday as concerns over the pandemic and weakening consumer demand took the wind out of the sails of the recent vaccine announcements, Reuters reports.


IT’S A BIG DAY FOR: M&A. Global companies announced USD 40 bn-worth of M&As on Monday alone in another sign that global M&A activity is recovering on vaccine hopes and more certainty following the Biden win, recounts the Financial Times. This is also a “clear” signal that executives are banking on affordable financing and using liquidity that has been stored away during the pandemic, says the salmon-colored paper. M&A activity is known to have “significant correlation to uncertainty … and that dramatic reduction of uncertainty that we currently have bodes very well,” Anu Aiyengar, co-head of global M&A at JPMorgan Chase, said.

Among the week’s major transactions: PNC Bank’s USD 11.6 bn cash purchase of the US operations of Spanish rival BBVA, Home Depot’s USD 9.1 bn reunification with former subsidiary HD Supply, and Canada-based and Sawiris-backed Endeavour Mining anticipated USD 1.86 bn share-swap acquisition of Teranga Gold.

On the flipside, almost 200 corporations have joined the ranks of the undead since covid-19: Nearly 20% of the US’s 3k largest publicly traded firms have effectively become “zombie companies” — firms that generate enough revenue to pay back interest on their loans but not the loans themselves, a Bloomberg analysis of financial data found. The Federal Reserve’s purchase of corporate bonds earlier this year helped prop up companies that would otherwise have gone bust, but may have inadvertently created a situation where these companies continue to only just survive, but are too illiquid to contribute to economic growth, analysts say. The companies’ collective debt shot up to USD 1.36 tn from USD 378 bn before the pandemic, and stands at more than double what it was at the height of the financial crisis.


Saudi Aramco returned to the bond market yesterday as it looks to scrape together the funds to meet its USD 75 bn dividend payout, Bloomberg reports. The energy giant sold USD 8 bn of bonds in five tranches in the first issuance since its highly subscribed and record-breaking USD 12 bn offering in April last year. The company has been short on liquidity due to this year’s oil price slump, with a 45% drop in revenues in 3Q2020 leaving it struggling to meet its dividend commitments.

Meanwhile, the country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) plans to invest USD 40 bn in the Saudi economy over the coming two years in a bid to pull it out of its worst recession in three decades, Bloomberg reports. The sum is equivalent to more than 10% of the government’s planned expenditure in 2021 and will be spent on projects that diversify the economy away from oil into underdeveloped sectors such as tourism.

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Agent Orange’s schizophrenic isolationist / interventionist foreign policy has been on full display this week as he looks to wind down one war but threatens to start another.

Withdrawing troops with one hand: Thousands of troops will be leaving Iraq and Afghanistan before Joe Biden takes office as Trump tries to fulfil one of his key campaign pledges during the dying light of his presidency, CNN reports.

But threatening to lob a parting grenade into the Middle East with the other: Trump has been talked out of launching a strike against an Iranian nuclear facility by his security advisers, a powerhouse team of reporters writes for the New York Times.

Is King Cheeto going to try to bring Qatar back in from the cold before he settles into a lucrative post-presidency election TV career / meets an inglorious end in a jail cell? National security advisor Robert O’Brien told the Hill on Monday that there is “a possibility” the administration could seal an agreement between Qatar and its foes in the GCC / Egypt before Joe Biden is sworn in next year.

This might be a little optimistic though, coming on the same day that the UAE’s ambassador to the US said welcoming Qatar back into the fold is “not on anyone’s priority list.”

Other international headlines to note:

  • A Brexit trade agreement breakthrough could be announced by Monday, sources close to the talks told Bloomberg. We’ll believe it when we see it.
  • Libya is scrambling to create a government in efforts to bolster the country’s only source of revenue oil, according to Bloomberg. Since the ceasefire, oil production has spiked and a neutral force, the Guard, has been appointed to defend ports and fields, but a government is still needed to determine how the revenue will be split.

enterprise

The Egyptian informing European football decision makers: Arqam FC CEO Ali ElFakharany struggled to find clients in Egypt, where clubs saw his sports data analytics service as a luxury more than a necessity. But today, Ali and his team serve 42 football clubs, including teams from the Premier League, Ligue 1, and Bundesliga, he told us in this week’s episode of Making It.

You already have a podcast player on your iPhone, or you can listen to the episode through our website (no download required). We’re also on Google Podcasts | Anghami | Omny. Making It is on Spotify, but only for non-MENA accounts.

Our next episode of Making It is out tomorrow, and you can get early access if you’re subscribed.

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

In today’s issue: The availability of office space is one of the most crucial elements of infrastructure required for any business, let alone startups and SMEs. And while the law requires that all businesses operate out of commercially zoned buildings, a walk down any residential neighborhood in Cairo turns up a number of SMEs. We look at why that is.

Enterprise+: Last Night’s Talk Shows

It was a night to forget on the airwaves yesterday, with the nation’s talking heads seemingly competing to see which one could send their audience to sleep the soonest. Unfortunately we had to try to stay awake to watch it all. Here are the highlights.

There was football talk: Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi phoned Egypt manager Hossam El Badry to comment on the African Cup of Nations qualifier against Togo yesterday, which Egypt won 3-1 despite losing Mohamed Salah and Mohamed Elneny to covid (watch, runtime: 14:01). Meanwhile, the same roster of EFA officials we heard from earlier this week appeared on Kelma Akhira (watch, runtime: 6:08), Yahduth Fi Misr (watch, runtime: 3:01) and Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 4:44) to talk about things we’re not going to remember tomorrow.

Egypt bypassed the Washington Post paywall thanks to Masaa DMC's Ramy Radwan, who covered the paper’s report on the newly accepted symptoms associated with covid-19, which include both blood sugar and digestive disorders such as diarrhea, as well as feeling fatigued and weak (watch, runtime: 2:03). Adel Khattab, member of the Higher Education Ministry’s virus committee, concurred with the findings in an interview with Yahduth Fi Misr’s Sherif Amer, adding that just 25% covid patients suffer from high fever (watch, runtime: 5:29).

The talking heads allotted some time to El Sisi’s latest media appearance: Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan (watch, runtime: 3:40) and Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 25:01) both covered his visit to the Military Academy.

Speed Round

CBE extends term of USD 3.8 bn repo transaction with int’l banks to six years: The central bank has agreed to extend the four-and-a-half-year repurchase (repo) agreement it signed with international banks in 2018 to six years, it said in a statement (pdf) yesterday. The banks — which include Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, First Abu Dhabi Bank, HSBC, and JP Morgan Securities — approached the CBE asking for the extension and offering better terms, CBE Deputy Governor Ramy Aboul Naga told Al Arabiya. The extension will lengthen the maturity of the bonds purchased by the banks by 18 months, allowing the central bank to repay in October 2024. The agreement demonstrates “a show of confidence by the international market in the continued success of the homegrown economic reform program,” the central bank said.

What exactly is a repo agreement? Repo financing is a form of borrowing which involves the sale of a debt security to a lender with a promise to buy it back at a later date, with other securities acting as collateral. Typically, repo refers to overnight and short-term borrowing, but repurchase agreements can also have longer terms.

Background: Previous repo agreements were aimed at securing financing for longer-term foreign debt repayments. The CBE had secured a USD 2 bn repo financing in November 2016 as part of funding required to secure the USD 12 bn IMF Extended Fund Facility. The agreement was then expanded in the same month of 2017 to USD 3.2 bn.

EXCLUSIVE- In other debt news, don’t expect Egypt’s sovereign debt to be “Euroclearable” for at least another year: Egypt expects to meet the terms and conditions to allow its local debt issuances to be cleared with Euroclear in a year’s time, Mohamed Hegazy, head of the Finance Ministry’s debt management unit, told us. Progress is being made to meet the terms and conditions of the agreement signed with the clearing house in 2019, but the process itself is lengthy and proceedings were slowed down by the covid-19 pandemic, Hegazy said. Hegazy didn’t specify what the terms Egypt needs to meet are, noting only that they span many areas, including “technical, logistical, and administrative.”

BACKGROUND: The move is designed to make Egyptian debt more accessible to foreign investors, who can currently only access the debt market through a few local banks licensed to operate as primary dealers.

Average monthly tourism revenues for 2020 have declined 85-92%, with tourism bringing in between USD 80 mn and USD 150 mn a month compared to an average of USD 1 bn a month last year, our friend Sandra Farid, an economic advisor to Tourism Minister Khaled El Anany told Al Mal. Travel restrictions in Western Europe due to covid-19’s second wave has meant that Egypt now depends mostly on tourists from Eastern Europe, Farid said, with Ukrainian tourists making up the bulk of visitors to Egypt since commercial flights resumed in July.

Tourism arrivals to Egypt had dropped 62.3% y-o-y in 1H2020 according to the World Tourism Organization, which also estimated a 90.4% drop in tourism receipts in 2Q2020. Egypt’s tourist arrivals reached a record 13 mn last year before the covid-19 pandemic brought the industry to a halt. The government extended some measures of its tourism industry support program introduced last April till at least January 2021.

INVESTMENT WATCH- EBRD, CDC, DPI consortium to raise additional USD 500 mn for pan-African investments: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), CDC Group, and Development Partners International (DPI) will raise an additional USD 500 mn to invest in the pharma industry across Africa through their new shared investment platform, according to a joint press release. The funds will go towards the acquisition of African pharma businesses, the development of new meds, and the establishment of new distribution channels. DPI partner Sofiane Lahmar said the platform “will deliver substantial, tangible impact by increasing the availability and affordability of quality [meds] and by developing local production and reducing reliance on imported drugs across Africa.”

Background: The investors said this week they would initially commit USD 250 mn to the fund, which launched with the acquisition of nearly 100% of Adwia pharma in a USD 126 mn transaction last week, as well as Indian oncology specialist Celon Laboratories.

Legal advisors on the transactions were Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (International Counsel), Matouk Bassiouny & Hennawy (Egypt), and Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co (India).

IPO WATCH- Prime Fintech plans to list on the EGX in the next two years, Prime Holding’s deputy CEO, Mohamed Maher, said during parent company Prime Holding’s 25th anniversary event yesterday, according to Al Mal. He provided no further details, but reiterated plans to increase the capital of the company’s fintech subsidiary from EGP 75 mn to EGP 100 mn by the end of the year.

Prime Fintech’s Endorse arm has launched its financial leasing services, and will begin offering factoring services (see our explainer here) within a month, followed by consumer finance the month after that, Prime Fintech’s CEO Mervat Erian said, without disclosing further details, according to Al Mal and Hapi Journal.

M&A WATCH- Bank ABC is pushing forward with Blom Bank Egypt acquisition talks: The Arab Banking Corporation (Bank ABC) has confirmed it’s still in talks with Lebanon’s Blom Bank to acquire its Egypt branch, but added the standard disclaimer that “there is no certainty that any transaction will be completed,” Bank ABC said in a filing to the Bahraini stock exchange (pdf). The Bahraini bank is expected to complete due diligence on Blom Bank Egypt as early as this week, before making an offer, Masrawy reports, quoting banking sources. The bank reportedly has no qualms about how much it ends up spending as it competes with fellow GCC lender Emirates NBD, which said on Monday that it was still in the running to acquire Blom Bank.

Background: Lebanon’s Blom Bank announced in August it was looking to sell its Egypt unit in response to the economic crisis roiling its home country. The sale will allow the bank to raise its capital by some USD 240 mn to comply with higher capital requirements the Lebanese central bank recently introduced to the banking sector.

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STARTUP WATCH- Arabic language website builder Wuilt has raised USD 535k in a seed funding round that included VC Daal in KSA as well as follow-up funding from Flat6Labs, according to Magnitt. “The new capital will be deployed to deepen its capabilities and expand its footprints in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which comprises nearly 30% of its customer base,” Magnitt said. Co-founded by the trio Ahmed Rostom, Mohamed Hegazy, and Mahmoud Metwaly, Wuilt provides a simple interface that folks who can’t code can use to build their own websites. The company joined Flat6Labs’ Cairo accelerator in 2019, where it doubled its user base to 30k users in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

What doesn’t kill you makes you strongerThis was the key message relayed by International Cooperation Minister Rania Al Mashat who spoke of the Egyptian economy’s resilience through covid during a panel discussion at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum (watch, runtime: 31:54). Al Mashat — joined by UAE Minister of State and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company CEO Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, and Brookfield Asset Management CEO Bruce Flatt to discuss post-pandemic economics — recapped what Egypt has done to navigate the pandemic, reiterated its continued commitment to reform, and argued the case for Egypt as a lucrative destination for investment, covid or no covid.

Sticking to Plan A: Egypt had strong buffers that kept it relatively shielded from the economic fallout, primarily thanks to the IMF-backed economic reform program which enabled the policy transparency and predictability that is crucial for foreign investors, Al Mashat said. The approval of the USD 5.2 bn standby loan from the IMF during the crisis is a signal to investors that policymakers have not lost sight of the long-term reform goal, she said, adding that investments made in education and digital infrastructure enabled the country to “breeze through” the lockdown period.

Bringing in investors: With Egypt positioned to be among the handful of countries to avoid recession this year and the large infrastructure investment programs underway, the country will continue to attract investors in the post-covid economic climate, Al Mashat said. The government is aware of the importance of “stakeholder capitalism” which recognizes the need for all of society’s stakeholders to benefit from economic growth, she said, reiterating the importance of engaging the private sector across all industries.

In case you missed it: Al Mashat hit all these notes on Enterprise After Hours, our podcast featuring business leaders, policymakers and cultural icons. You can listen to the episode on our website, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Anghami, Omny, or Spotify (for non-MENA accounts). You can also check out edited excerpts of our conversation.

EARNINGS WATCH- Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank recorded net profits of EGP 884.3 mn in 9M2020, down 12.6% y-o-y from EGP 967 mn, according to an EGX filing.

Al Ahly for Development and Investment’s consolidated net profit fell to EGP 1.15 mn in 9M2020, down from EGP 11.26 mn in the same period last year, the company said in an EGX filing.

Misr Cement Qena’s consolidated net profits rose 32% to EGP 39.2 mn in 3Q2020, up from EGP 29.7 mn in the same period last year, the company said in a statement (pdf).

*** WE’RE HIRING: We’re looking for smart and talented people to join our team at Enterprise, which produces the newsletter you’re reading right now and Making It, our very first podcast. We offer the chance to work in a unique and casual work environment that promises to be intellectually challenging and rewarding. Enterprise is currently in the market for:

  • A seasoned reporter to join our team and create stories and packages that fascinate and inform our readers.
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Interested in applying? To apply for the editor / reporter positions, please submit your CV along with 2-3 writing samples and a solid cover letter telling us a bit about who you are and why you’re a good fit for our team. The CV is nice, but we’re much more interested in your clips and cover letter. Please submit all applications to jobs@enterprisemea.com.

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Egypt in the News

It’s a ghost town in the international press this morning, and for that we’re very thankful.

Worth Watching

What led to Ant Group’s IPO flop? The Financial Times has this handy explainer on what it is calling “the biggest misstep for capital markets of 2020” — the USD 37 bn record-breaking Ant IPO that became a non-starter after Chinese regulators pulled the plug on the offering the day before it was set to go to market (watch, runtime 3:45).

Diplomacy + Foreign Trade

Topping diplomatic coverage this morning: Egypt will receive GBP 1.8 mn from the British government through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for a Social Solidarity Ministry project, the British Embassy in Cairo said in a statement. The project aims to promote issues faced by vulnerable groups via social media, community dialogue events, and mass media, the embassy said.

On the trade front: The value of Egyptian cement exports fell 8% y-o-y in the first nine months of the year to USD 113 mn from the USD 123 mn last year, according to a report published by the Egyptian Building Materials Export Council picked up by Al Mal. Kenya was the biggest buyer during the period, importing some USD 33 mn of cement, while Libya imported USD 21.9 mn worth.

Egypt is preparing to host the 10-day “Sword of Arabs” military exercises at the Mohamed Naguib Military Base, at the same time it conducts drills with Sudan and Russia.

hardhat

Where’s the market for affordable office space for small and mid-sized businesses? The challenge of finding affordable and licensed office space (note those two key words) bedevils many a small business owner. While larger businesses can weather expensive rents in new districes, affordability has moved in the wrong way in the past two decades, pushing many businesses to commit zoning violations and house their businesses in residential apartments. It is only recently that an alternative solution has offered the smallest of small SMEs a way out: shared office space. We take a look at the root of the problem: Why small firms have found themselves priced out of the commercial real estate market.

Rental rates have soared over the past four years: The average price of property in Cairo, already by far the most expensive market in the country, rose 18.5% between 2017 and 2019 to hit USD 22.36/sqm, according to Fitch Solutions’ 3Q2020 quarterly real estate report. This is projected to accelerate in 2020, increasing 13.5% to USD 25.37/sqm in just a 12-month period. Rental rates in Giza and Alexandria, while cheaper relative to other parts of Cairo, risen at about the same pace. In just two years, the average price of office space in Alexandria rose more than 20% to hit USD 13.57/sqm while rates in Giza hit USD 13.42/sqm, up 13.6% from 2017. Like Cairo, Fitch expects another hefty increase this year, with Alexandria likely to see rates hit USD 14.6/sqm (up 7.6%) and average prices in Giza to surge 8.8%, also to USD 14.6.

What is driving this? The cost of land, mainly: The price at which the New Urban Communities Authority sells residential land in New Cairo — one of the most desirable locations in the country for companies seeking office space — is almost three times cheaper than other types of land, Tarek Shoukry, head of the Chamber of Real Estate Developers at the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce, tells Enterprise.

This has encouraged developers to prioritize residential projects and leaves only major investors with enough liquidity to pay the high costs of land and permits able to go ahead with commercial projects, he says. The result? A supply-demand gap with many businesses fighting over precious little office space — and no economic rationale for developers to build office space that might be affordable to a small business.

New Cairo has been the epicenter of demand: Banks, financial institutions, and major corporations have led a move to New Cairo, pushed by its proximity to Cairo International Airport, better services, and supply of new units, according to Fitch. Although exact data on supply is hard to come by, a search on Propertyfinder shows that out of 774 office units across Cairo available for rent, over 500 of these units are in New Cairo, followed by Maadi, then all other neighbourhoods in the capital.

On the other side of the river, the majority of office space in Giza consists of less desirable 20-30 year-old c construction that serves as a barrier to businesses expanding into those neighborhoods, Fitch notes. You’ll still see demand there from domestic and international companies, but the highest quality pockets are centered in the Sheikh Zayed area, and it, too, is expensive.

On the Mediterranean Coast: Inflation in Alexandria’s commercial property market has been moderate, with prices rising the least among the areas surveyed by Fitch. However industry experts don’t expect this to last long: with the New Alamein development increasing interest in the city, prices are likely to accelerate should supply remain low.

The new capital’s business district will add more supply — but it’s not going to be affordable. The district, slated for completion in 2022, will rival New Cairo to feature the country’s most expensive office space. Rates are expected to come in at USD 19.1/sqm and USD 31.7/sqm, averaging USD 25.4/sqm.

SMEs turn to residential apartments: For years, SMEs and startups have had to forgo office space due to their high prices and, instead, start up in residential buildings and apartments, Khaled Ismail, founder and chairman of Kiangel, an angel investment fund investing in early-stage startups in Egypt, tells us. Though there are no statistics, one need only look at any residential neighbourhood and count the number of businesses. Doctors, for example, have flooded Nasr City and Mohandeseen, leasing residential apartments to open clinics, while many companies and even small textiles factories have set up shop in downtown flats.

This is a clear violation of zoning laws, which govern whether buildings can be used for administrative, commercial or residential purposes, Shoukry says. For example, according to the building code, an administrative building must include a parking lot for all the employees that work there and must obtain approval from the military’s air defence administration. But residential properties do not have to follow these rules and companies cannot, by law, use them to set up a business.

Difficulty in enforcing zoning laws has allowed this trend to continue unabated, which Ismail attributes to a lack of coordination between state agencies and the businesses not being plugged into the commercial registry. Despite being illegal, a company can launch from a residential building and survive for years without running into problems with authorities, he explains.

Even if the government wanted to step up enforcement, we may be past the point of no return. This trend has been ongoing for decades and is now almost impossible for the government to reverse, Ismail says. Hundreds of thousands of SMEs, accountants and doctors are now working from residential buildings and moving them out will not be an easy task. Aside from disrupting the livelihoods of thousands of Egyptians, the exodus would aggravate existing supply-demand imbalance in the commercial real estate market and push the prices of residential units down, he says, suggesting that the status quo is beneficial to all parties.

Your top infrastructure stories for the week include:

  • ElSewedy Electric inks smart highway contract: ElSewedy Electric for Trade and Distribution signed a USD 90 mn contract to implement an ITS (intelligent transport system) for six highways, according to a statement (pdf). The ITS will include a traffic management system and a toll collection system, and is expected to be completed within 18 months.
  • The European Union will part-fund a EUR 6 mn project to develop irrigation systems in Fayoum and Minya, according to a cabinet statement. The project will be funded by the EU and Egypt’s National Water Research Center.
  • Port Said-Alexandria railway: El Didi Group and Gama Construction might sign a contract with the Transport Ministry during the TransMEA conference to build a new railway connecting West Port Said Port to Alexandria through Damietta and New Mansoura, Al Mal reports, citing sources in the know.
  • Vodafone Group could supply and host servers for public sector companies with negotiations ongoing with the Public Enterprises Ministry, the local press reports. The first phase would be completed within four months and include 15 out of the 63 state-owned firms.
  • The government plans to hook subsidized bakeries up with natural gas instead of diesel fuel, according to a report by Al Shorouk.

The Market Yesterday

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EGP / USD CBE market average: Buy 15.58 | Sell 15.68
EGP / USD at CIB: Buy 15.57 | Sell 15.67
EGP / USD at NBE: Buy 15.59 | Sell 15.69

EGX30 (Tuesday): 11,064 (+0.7%)
Turnover: EGP 2.2 bn (94% above the 90-day average)
EGX 30 year-to-date: -20.8%

THE MARKET ON TUESDAY: The EGX30 ended Tuesday’s session up 0.7%. CIB, the index’s heaviest constituent, ended down 0.3%. EGX30’s top performing constituents were Orascom Development up 8.1%, SODIC up 6.5%, and TMG Holding up 3.3%. Yesterday’s worst performing stocks were Cleopatra Hospital down 0.4%, Egypt Kuwait Holding down 0.4% and CIB down 0.3%. The market turnover was EGP 2.2 bn, and local investors were the sole net buyers.

Foreigners: Net short | EGP -226.0 mn
Regional: Net short | EGP -24.7 mn
Domestic: Net long | EGP+250.7 mn

Retail: 71.5% of total trades | 70.4% of buyers | 72.5% of sellers
Institutions: 28.5% of total trades | 29.6% of buyers | 27.5% of sellers

WTI: USD 41.35 (+0.02%)
Brent: USD 43.76 (-0.14%)

Natural Gas: (Nymex, futures prices) USD 2.69 MMBtu, (-0.37%, December 2020 contract)
Gold: USD 1,878.90 / troy ounce (-0.47%)

TASI: 8,572 (+0.54%) (YTD: +2.19%)
ADX: 4,960 (+0.17%) (YTD: -2.28%)
DFM: 2,317 (+0.79%) (YTD: -16.19%)
KSE Premier Market: 6,047 (+0.57%)
QE: 10,211 (-0.16%) (YTD: -2.05%)
MSM: 3,641 (-0.07%) (YTD: -8.54%)
BB: 1,447 (+0.06%) (YTD: -10.11%)

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Calendar

November: Egypt will host simultaneously the International Capital Market Association’s emerging market, and Africa and Middle East meetings.

November: An Egyptian-Russian ministerial committee will meet to discuss trade and investment in Moscow.

10-19 November (Monday-Thursday): A World Bank delegation arrives in Egypt to discuss financing development projects.

13-20 November (Friday-Friday): Cairo Jazz Festival.

18 November (Wednesday): The 50 Million African Women Speak online event will be held, organized by the Egyptian MSME Development Agency and Comesa

19-28 November (Thursday-Sunday): Cairo International Film Festival, Cairo Opera House, Egypt.

21 November (Saturday): Deadline to install electronic vehicle stickers

22-25 November (Sunday-Wednesday): Cairo ICT 2020 and TransMEA 2020, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

23-24 November (Monday-Tuesday): Runoffs for parliamentary elections in Giza, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, Assiut, New Valley, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, Red Sea, Alexandria, Beheira, Matrouh.

30 November (Monday): Final results will be announced for Parliamentary elections held in Giza, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, Assiut, New Valley, Sohag, Qena, Luxor, Aswan, Red Sea, Alexandria, Beheira, Matrouh.

December (date TBC): Egypt Economic Summit, Cairo, Egypt, venue TBD.

December: Fifth round of Egypt-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks.

December: The 110th regular session of the Egyptian-Iraqi Joint Higher Committee will be held under the chairmanship of the prime ministers of the two countries.

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).

5 December (Saturday): A court will hold a postponed hearing to look into an appeal by Syria’s Anataradous against an arbitration ruling in favor of Amer Group and Amer Syria.

7 December: Former Civil Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafik faces trial over embezzlement allegations.

7-8 December (Monday-Tuesday): Runoffs for parliamentary elections in Cairo, Qalyubia, Menofia, Gharbia, Kafr El Sheikh, Sharqia, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, North Sinai and South Sinai.

9-10 December (Wednesday-Thursday): BiznEx, the international business expo in Egypt, Nile Ritz Carlton Hotel, Cairo, Egypt.

14 December (Monday): Final results will be announced for Parliamentary elections held in Cairo, Qalyubia, Menofia, Gharbia, Kafr El Sheikh, Sharqia, Damietta, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, North Sinai and South Sinai.

15 December (Tuesday): House of Representatives reconvenes from recess.

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.

31 December (Thursday): Egypt-UK post-Brexit trade agreement to take effect.

1Q2021: The Seventh Annual Egypt Automotive Summit will be held

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.

25-29 January 2021 (Monday-Friday): The World Economic Forum’s “Davos Dialogues” will take place virtually.

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.

6-18 February (Saturday-Thursday): Mid-year school break.

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).

18-21 May 2021 (Tuesday-Friday): The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting will be held under the theme of “The Great Reset” in Lucerne-Bürgenstock, Switzerland

31 May-2 June 2021 (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Nasr City, Cairo.

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.

24 June 2021 (Thursday): End of the 2020-2021 academic year.

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.

30 July-3 August 2021 (Thursday-Monday): Eid Al Adha, national holiday (TBC).

1 October 2021-31 March 2022 (Friday-Thursday): Postponed Expo 2020 Dubai.

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