Thursday, 17 December 2020

Vaccine campaign starts next month, but don’t expect it to finish overnight

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, nice people — we made it through another week together. The big story this morning: Increasing clarity on when Egypt’s vaccination campaign may begin and a warning from a top government official that stricter enforcement of anti-covid measures could all be in the cards alongside potential curbs on New Year’s Eve celebrations.

On that subject: We may not be Operating Thetans of any level, but we have newfound love and appreciation for Tom Cruise after the Scientologist went on this gloriously profane rant, telling crew members on his Mission Impossible set that they are “[redacted] gone” and “mother[redacted]ers” for having violated covid-19 protocols that risked shutting down production.

The big business story of the day globally: It’s been a really bad week for Big Tech as 10 US states said yesterday that they’re suing Google for anti-competitive behavior in the advertising market. The search giant is accused of having conspired with Facebook (itself the subject of a new anti-monopoly probe) to rig the ad market. This comes just days after the US Federal Trade Commission said it is investigating Facebook, Amazon and seven other tech giants and as the European Commission moves to rein in big tech.

THURSDAY MORNING MUST-READ: What if you could do it all over? in the New Yorker, which gets into the existential angst of “unlived lives.” Or, you know, we could all decide to “optimize for happiness” in the one life we have.

SIGNS OF THE TIMES at home and abroad:

  • Vanguard is the first to have an equity fund with more than USD 1 tn in assets under management. Kinda makes you wonder: How big is too big?
  • European tech companies are salivating over the IPO (and Spac) craze in the US, with the US’ relatively lax listing rules making an overseas listing a more lucrative and attractive option, bankers tell Reuters.
  • Chinese online food retailer Wuong Net Technology’s shares shot up more than 400% yesterday two days after its IPO, Bloomberg reports. It all adds to investor befuddlement over the state of the IPO market, the Wall Street Journal suggests.
  • 3 mn Egyptians have registered for the government’s universal healthcare scheme, says Finance Minister Mohamed Maait.

Emerging markets are still heading into 2021 with considerable risks even with the prospect of a vaccine on the horizon, says Bloomberg. The issue: EMs will lag behind advanced economies in obtaining and distributing their share of the jabs. As the vaccines become available in all corners of the world and brings the pandemic under control, EM central banks could face pressure to reverse their record policy easing — especially as the EM debt pile is at all-time highs thanks to massive stimulus packages. These risks are also compounded by the possibility of a Biden administration taking a hardline on dictators, and geopolitical tensions from the rise of China.

That’s not to say developed markets are going to coast through, either: There are growing concerns of a potential inflationary burst as we go further into economic recovery, particularly in the US, the Financial Times quotes analysts as saying. The US Fed may be forced to tighten policy sooner than the market had priced, leading to a reverse in market expectations and a potential sell-off of both stocks and bonds.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR- The Central Bank of Egypt is scheduled to meet a week from today for its last review of rates this year. Economists here are anticipating a hold this time around after cutting rates 400 bps in 2020 on the back of food prices driving the headline inflation rate up for the second consecutive month, to 5.7% in November from 4.6% in October.

The Egypt-UK post-Brexit trade agreement will come to effect on New Year’s eve. It is hoped that the agreement will unlock a spate of UK investments in Egypt, including in the Suez Canal Economic Zone, oil and gas, manufacturing, agribusiness, healthcare and education sectors, UK Trade Envoy to Egypt Sir Jeffery Donaldson said last month.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is set to visit Egypt in the first week of January 2021 in what will be his final official trip, Bloomberg reports. The tour is also expected to include Israel and Qatar.

Taxpayers have until 12 February 2021 take advantage of a partial waiver of penalty fees on late tax payments, Tax Authority boss Reda Abdel Kader said earlier this week.

Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news events, national holidays and news triggers.

KUDOS

THURSDAY KUDOS-

The nice people at Abou Ghaly Motors opened this week the first fully operational 3S facility in Egypt under Mercedes-Benz’s Mar2020 flag, which Mercedes Egypt CEO Thomas Zorn said “is our latest flagship retail concept,” digital sales and customer service processes and aftersales. The facility on the Cairo-Ismailia Desert Road includes a 16-car showroom and has the capacity to service more than 100 cars a day in over 30 service bays — meaning shorter wait times for the gearheads among us taking our vehicles in for service.

SMART POLICY- The International Finance Corporation and AmCham are working together to help businesses in Egypt create more inclusive and accommodating workplaces for women. The program covers introducing flexible work policies, childcare provision and mental health services — all of which may sound like the ABCs of inclusivity for half of the country’s labor force, but continue to be overlooked in many workplaces.

She’s not Egyptian, but we love MacKenzie Scott, the author and ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos who is now the world’s 18th wealthiest person. She has donated unprecedented sums this past year to awesome causes. With her fortune growing faster than she can give it away, she’s now transforming what it means to be a philanthropist. This piece by the AP is a good starter, or you can dive deeper with the NYT and Fortune.

enterprise

COVID WATCH

Vaccine rollout to start next month + your NYE party may be on ice

With new cases at their highest level since late July, Egypt is now just weeks away to the start of a nationwide covid-19 vaccine rollout.

It’s awesome news, but there’s a caveat: Nobody is going back to normal overnight — not here at home, not abroad. Let’s start at the top:

The Health Ministry reported 544 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 523 the day before and the highest figure since 24 July. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 123,153 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 24 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 6,990.

Nearly six in 10 ICU beds are now occupied, Cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad said yesterday, and a third of ventilators at isolation facilities are hard at work.

The first doses of China’s Sinopharm jab will start rolling out in January, the head of the Health Ministry’s covid-19 committee, Hossam Hosni, told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa last night (watch, runtime 16:13). Egypt is on track to secure 500k doses of the Sinopharm vaccine by the end of the month, with an eye to start vaccinating in January, cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad said last night (watch, runtime: 13:23).

Just like in Canada, the UK and the US, we’re looking at a staggered rollout: Egyptian officials are in talks with manufacturers for an additional 10 mn doses in addition to the 20 mn already reserved through the global vaccine alliance Gavi. The question is which jabs will arrive when — and in what quantities. Also unclear is whether world-class vaccine maker Vacsera will be able to license a jab to make here at home.

Part of the problem: Rich countries have “cleared the shelves” with many placing orders for enough to immunize their citizens many times over.

High-risk citizens, including those with chronic illnesses and frontline health workers, are at the head of the line, Saad said. These cases are now being logged on the ministry website that was set up to register citizens opting into the vaccine, Hosni told Al Hayah Al Youm’s Mohamed Sherdy (watch, runtime: 12:52). Once the priority cases are taken care of, the vaccination program will be made available to the wider public. Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly has instructed his government to draw up a plan for the allocation and distribution of the vaccines across the country, according to a cabinet statement.

Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry has set aside EGP 1 bn in its budget reserves for the fight against covid, cabinet said yesterday without providing further details.

Even as we gear up for the vaccine rollout, the government is doubling down on enforcing covid-19 prevention measures. Cabinet has said it could jack up fines for breaking the government’s rules — such as capacity limits in enclosed spaces and riding public transport without a face mask — and will require violators to pay the penalties on the spot, Saad told Sada El Balad’s Azza Mostafa (watch, runtime 17:07).

Your NYE party may be on ice: Cabinet could impose regulations for New Years celebrations, but restrictions on prayers at houses of worship don’t yet appear to be on the table, Saad told Yahduth fi Misr’s Sherif Amer (watch, runtime: 4:12).

SO WHEN WILL LIFE GO BACK TO NORMAL? The NYT asked Anthony Fauci as well as top scientists and science writers when we can all start making plans again.

SIGN OF THE TIMES- BioNTech’s Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci have been named the Financial Times’ people of the year for the couple’s success in developing a covid-19 vaccine that is over 95% effective in record time.

enterprise

ENERGY

Zero to 60 in…?

Some 250k old cars will be taken off the road and outfitted with dual-fuel engines by the end of 2023 under the first phase of the government’s multi-year natural gas transition plan, which will kick off at the start of 2021, Trade Minister Nevine Gamea said on the airwaves this week (watch, runtime: 9:08). The first year aims to cover 70k cars that have been on the road for over 20 years — including 55k taxis and passenger cars and 15k microbuses, the minister said. The two following years should get 90k cars each, meaning a combined 180k vehicles, to hit a total of 250k by the end of 2023. The first phase of the program will cover seven areas around Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, and Qalyubia, according to a local press report.

This three-year first phase has now been expanded to include passenger cars after having previously only targeted taxis and microbuses, following orders from President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.

Dated microbus owners would receive support of EGP 20k and cab drivers with old vehicles EGP 12k to help cover the down payment for the new cars, the sources speaking to the local press yesterday claimed. Under a Finance Ministry proposal, owners of passenger cars will also be entitled to down payment support to make the switch, but depending on the type of their vehicle, they added. The remaining cost of the vehicle will be paid over 10-year installments at reduced rates of less than 5% under a financing program backed by the Central Bank of Egypt, Gamea had said.

Dual-fuel cars assembled locally under the plan could be in line for value-added tax and customs breaks on inputs, the sources quoted by the press yesterday said. Gamea’s ministry is preparing a draft law to hand over to the newly-elected House of Representatives after the MPs take office in January, Khaled Saad, the secretary-general of the Egyptian Association of Automobile Manufacturers, told Enterprise yesterday.

Currently there are several models of locally-assembled passenger cars that use natural gas, seven of which will be on display in an expo Egypt plans to hold in the second half of January 2021. Those models include locally-assembled cars by Chevrolet, Hyundai, Lada, and BYD, Saad told us. For microbuses, there are two models, King Long and Zemex, ready to join the program, Saad said. Carmakers Toyota, Foton, and Jinbei are expected to begin locally assembling natgas models in 2021, he adds. We had also noted last month that Brilliance Auto Group is in talks with its parent company, HuaChen Group Auto Holding, about potentially participating with locally-assembled microbuses.

We’ll be waiting to hear more on the strategy following the expo, Gamea had said earlier this week.

Want more? We took a deep dive this summer into the plan in our weekly infrastructure vertical Hardhat: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3.

ASORC’s USD 450 mn fuel plant to begin trial operations

IN OTHER ENERGY NEWS- Assiut Oil Refining Company’s (ASORC) USD 450 mn new high octane fuels plant will begin trial operations this week, Youm7 reports, quoting unnamed oil industry sources. The state-run facility, which has a capacity of 800k tonnes a year, will be fully up and running before the year is out, the sources said. The project comes as part of government efforts to reduce Egypt’s reliance on petroleum imports, with an eye to achieve self sufficiency by 2023, the sources added.

Other projects in the pipeline include an USD 2.3 bn expansion of MIDOR’s refinery in Alexandria and a USD 1 bn hydrocracking facility that’s being set up by French construction firm Technip for the Assiut National Oil Processing Company — a company founded last year by ASORC, the EGPC and other government-affiliated entities.

Overall, the plan to gradually halt petroleum imports will still see investments of USD 7.5 bn over the next three years, Oil Minister Tarek El Molla recently said. Projects already inaugurated have led to a 50% reduction in Egypt’s annual fuel imports, which fell to some 1.5 mn tonnes from 3 mn tonnes previously. At this rate, Egypt will stop importing petroleum products during FY2022-2023. Egypt had previously been expected to reach this target by the end of this year. It’s unclear if the covid-19 pandemic has slowed down the planned refining projects.

ECONOMY

SFE hits EGP 26 bn milestone

The Sovereign Fund of Egypt (SFE) now has nearly EGP 26 bn in assets under management (AUM), SFE CEO Ayman Soliman told CNBC Arabia in an interview (watch, runtime: 16:00). The fund’s portfolio of owned assets has separately reached EGP 13 bn, Soliman said, without naming any of the assets.

The SFE is focusing on healthcare and logistics for the pharma industry, electricity, transport, agriculture, and infrastructure through specialized sub-funds as part of its plan to recalibrate its priorities, which began when the pandemic took hold in March. It’s currently working on the sale of a 70% stake in the first of three Siemens / Elsewedy Electric / Orascom Construction combined-cycle power plants to private sector investors and marketing stake sales of up to 100% in army-affiliated companies to the private sector.

The fund could consider issuing sukuk and conventional bonds to fund infrastructure projects it’s planning to tender to the private sector through its infrastructure sub-fund, Soliman told CNBC Arabia. Debt and sharia-compliant sukuk issuances are an attractive source of financing for the fund as they can be backed by the Finance Ministry, he added. This would make the SFE another state-backed entity that could potentially issue sukuk as Egypt is getting ready to pass a bill that would pave the way for our first sovereign sukuk sale.

INDUSTRY

LaFarge chief on how to save his industry

It’s going to take more than just lower natural gas prices to uplift Egypt’s ailing cement industry, LaFarge Egypt CEO Solomon Baumgartner Aviles writes in an opinion piece (pdf). According to Aviles, the price of natgas should be USD 1.7 per mmBtu — which is much lower than the current USD 4.5 per mmBtu manufacturers and exporters pay — to entice cement producers to use natgas instead of carbon-intensive coke fuel.

Manufacturers can’t offload excess inventory through exports, either, because inflated production costs would make it hard to compete abroad, Aviles said. And it’s not just high energy prices that are driving the high input costs. A weaker EGP (since the float) and higher taxes also play into the difficulties, Aviles added. Cement manufacturing remains plagued by its longstanding oversupply problem, with existing production lines this year having the capacity to produce 38 mn tonnes more than the country needs, he notes.

Background: Things have gone from bad to worse for the cement industry since the supply glut began in 2016. The inauguration of a large state-owned cement factory in 2018 intensified the pre existing issues, quickly leading to several companies suspending operations, some temporarily and others permanently. The industry in September called for government intervention, saying it is time to explore “radical” solutions. You can read our deep dive into the cement industry from earlier this year, when prospects for the sector already looked bleak.

REAL ESTATE

Sodic’s Karmell first phase sells out on launch day

Sodic sold all of the units in the first phase of its new residential project Karmell on launch day, according to a press release (pdf). The 240-acre New Zayed compound is inspired by the California town Carmel-by-the-Sea, with the first phase including fully finished two-story modern homes with two designs. Sodic implemented the compound in partnership with the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA). In Sodic’s 3Q2020 earnings, the developer said it was on track to hit its sales targets this year despite the industry facing challenges thanks to the pandemic.

CABINET WATCH

Partnering with the state on affordable housing?

Private-sector real estate developers can work on government-sanctioned social housing projects under a cabinet decision. Homes developed by the private sector will be sold to low- and middle-income families and individuals under the same conditions as those sold by the state’s Mortgage Finance Fund, cabinet said in a statement following its weekly meeting yesterday. It’s unclear whether the government will introduce incentives to attract private developers to the social housing scheme, such as having the mortgage fund cover subsidies to deliver the private sector-built homes at a reduced cost. Under the current social housing program, the fund already pays 190k-250k per home in indirect subsidies (for mid-range homes) and EGP 210k-280k (for the lower range).

Also approved by cabinet yesterday:

  • Amendments to the penal code to slap fines of up to EGP 200k and prison sentences of at least one year for anyone who records or broadcasts footage of criminal court proceedings without approval from the judge;
  • A USD 7.5 mn grant from the Italian government to support the Roubiki Leather City;
  • A EUR 200k grant from the Spanish Agency for International Development for an initiative to empower women employed in the tourism industry; and
  • Moving forward with a plan to launch the “your business in your village” initiative to create more jobs in rural areas with a focus on women that support their families.

MOVES

Because Egyptians are everywhere

Two Egyptians are now leading multinational telecoms giants: Hatem Dowidar (Linkedin) has been appointed CEO of Etisalat Group after acting as interim CEO of the Emirati telecom giant since May 2020, according to an Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange filing. Dowidar was previously CEO of Etisalat International and the group’s COO. Meanwhile, Ahmed Essam (Linkedin) has been appointed as Vodafone UK CEO, effective 1 February, succeeding Nick Jeffery who will take on a role outside the company, according to a press release. Essam, who has been the group’s Chief Commercial Operations and Strategy Officer since 2018, will remain on the Vodafone Group executive committee.

In other Vodafone moves, Alexandre Froment-Curtil (Linkedin) — who was previously the CEO of Vodafone Egypt and Turkey — has been promoted to Vodafone Group CCO.

National Bank of Egypt CFO Wael Abou Ali (Linkedin) has been named as interim managing director of the Arab Investment Bank (AIB) until EFG Hermes and the Sovereign Fund of Egypt complete their due diligence examination ahead of a potential acquisition of a 76% stake in AIB, according to Masrawy. Abou Ali will continue to hold his position at NBE.

ENTERPRISE+: LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

There was no single leading story on the airwaves last night besides the wall-to-wall coverage on Egypt’s fast-approaching vaccination program (on which we have chapter and verse in What We’re Tracking Today, above).

The UAE’s inclusion in the East Med Gas Forum as an observer will help push further research on the region’s natural gas potential and exploitation, former EGPC boss Medhat Youssef told Masaa DMC’s Sarah Hazem (watch, runtime: 4:32). Ittihadiya spokesperson Bassam Rady also recapped Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s visit to Cairo, which included talks on a potential reconciliation with Qatar (watch, runtime: 13:51). We have the story in this morning’s Around the World, below.

Social Solidarity Minister Nevine El Kabbaj recounted the financial support her ministry has doled out to fishermen as day laborers, especially as their income has been undercut because of the pandemic. The ministry has earmarked EGP 300 mn for fishermen, which includes paying for half the cost of their fishing boats (watch, runtime: 15:56).

Meanwhile, a plea to the government to bring back sheesha to restaurants and coffee shops was the main talking point for Chamber of Tourism Establishments member Hisham Wahba, who told Ala Mas’ouleety that the water pipe — which is currently banned under covid-19 restrictions — is causing coffee shops to forego income (watch, runtime: 6:00).

MAKING IT

How to build a great business in Egypt

In season three of Making It, our show about building a great business in Egypt, we spoke to CEOs and founders of companies across industries ranging from retail and healthcare to private equity and sports data. We explore success stories and common challenges of businesses at various stages, as well as the impact of covid-19 and what the future looks like for their companies and industries. Whether you’re looking for insight or inspiration, there’s something in here for you.

You can also listen on: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Omny | Anghami.

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

It’s a wasteland for Egypt in the international press this morning, not that we’re complaining. The discovery of a (stolen) 5k-year-old artifact from the Pyramids in a cigar box in Scotland is getting plenty of ink, ranging from CNN to The Independent. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal looks at the challenges of normalizing relations with Israel and Reuters has a puff piece on potters.

PLANET FINANCE

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The EGX30 fell 0.7% yesterday on turnover of EGP 1.5 bn (9.5% above the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 21.3% YTD.

In the green: Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals (+1.8%), Ezz Steel (+1.3%) and EFG Hermes (+0.4%).

In the red: Beltone Financial Holding (-3.9%), GB Auto (-3.7%) and Egyptian Iron and Steel (-3.1%).

Asian shares are mixed this morning, but futures suggest Europe and Wall Street will all open in the green later today.

Down

EGX30

10,983

-0.7% (YTD: -21.3%)

Down

USD (CBE)

Buy 15.65

Sell 15.75

Down

USD at CIB

Buy 15.64

Sell 15.74

None

Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

Up

Tadawul

8,721

+0.7% (YTD: +4.0%)

Up

ADX

5,154

+0.4% (YTD: +1.5%)

Up

DFM

2,541

+0.4% (YTD: -8.1%)

Up

S&P 500

3,701

+0.2% (YTD: +14.6%)

Up

FTSE 100

6,571

+0.9% (YTD: -12.9%)

Up

Brent crude

USD 51.18

+0.2%

Up

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 2.71

+1.3%

Up

Gold

USD 1,867.90

+0.5%

Up

BTC

USD 21,431.87

+10.7%

The US Federal Reserve vowed to keep buying bonds until it sees a “substantial” progress on the economy as it wrapped its two-day FOMC meeting yesterday. Fed officials “upgraded their economic projections but maintained predictions that they would keep rates close to zero until at least the end of 2023,” the Financial Times reports. Reuters also has the story. Meanwhile, the Fed has also joined the fight against climate change.

Saudi Arabia is pouring hundreds of bns of SAR into local investments through its wealth funds to narrow its budget deficit as of next year, after its economy was battered this year by low oil prices, Bloomberg reports. Cushioned by revenues that will reach SAR 849 bn in 2021, the kingdom’s budget will remain “expansionary” for the coming period even as government spending is slashed, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said.

Low oil demand will likely stick around for a little while longer, despite a rebound in oil prices earlier this week that reached USD 50/bbl due to excitement from the rollout of vaccines and a swift recovery in China, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) December Oil Market Report. Driven by reductions in demand from Europe and OECD countries in 4Q2020 as they reel from renewed lockdown measures and weak demand for air travel, the group says it will be another “several months” before enough people are vaccinated for a rebound in consumption to really take hold. You can view the landing page for the report here.

The Eurozone’s economic performance exceeded expectations in December, with the bloc’s flash PMI data (pdf), but remains below the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction. Pundits had expected the reading to come in much lower as covid-19 surges in Europe.

AROUND THE WORLD

IN DIPLOMACY: The UAE has joined the East Mediterranean Gas Forum as an observer, the presidency announced after a meeting between President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, which also covered ramping up the UAE’s investments in Egypt and energy cooperation, Reuters reports.

Italy will sell USD 1 bn worth of arms to Egypt including frigates, trainer jets, navy patrol boats, and a military satellite, RT reports.

Seven Egyptian banks were accredited as trade finance intermediaries by Afreximbank in 2020, including CIB, National Bank of Egypt, Banque du Caire, Arab International Bank Egypt, Banque Misr, Emirates NBD Egypt, and the Export Development Bank of Egypt, according to a press release. These banks will now be able to extend Afreximbank’s initiatives and credit solutions to their clients as a way to facilitate the transformation and development of trade across Africa.

MY MORNING ROUTINE

Each week my Morning / WFH Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and throws in some business questions just to keep things interesting. Speaking to us this week is Rami Sidani (LinkedIn), head of frontier investments at Schroders in Dubai. Edited excerpts from our conversation:

My name is Rami Sidani, and I’m a fund manager with Schroders Investment Management, the UK-headquartered firm with offices around the world. I’m based in Dubai and we cover the markets that are just a notch under emerging. We invest in exotic places spanning the globe, whether that’s Egypt, Kenya, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria and the Philippines — or Argentina, Peru and Columbia.

I wake up at 7am and have breakfast with my family before the kids leave for school and I start following Asian markets. I start early because I invest in Southeast Asia, and they’re ahead of us on the clock. My morning is usually devoted to followups and trades and staying up-to-date on news and developments in Asia, with Vietnam and the Philippines being the largest markets in that geography.

We have three kids now. Nazih, 5, and, Malek, 3, were joined by Serena on 20 May 2020 — she’s six months old now. I melt every time she smiles.

At 8:05am Dubai time, I get Enterprise. Egypt is a big market for us, but I read Enterprise because I just love the comprehensiveness of it. The global updates are all there, and I often find myself following links to topics like the US elections or about some interesting idea you’ve incorporated and sometimes I need to control it. The idea is that I need to be in the office by 9am so that I’m ready for the GCC market open at 10am.

We’re partially WFH and partially in the office. I live just three minutes from the office and we’re well spaced out. We’re a small team in Dubai and most of the group is back in London, so we were really good with virtual meetings and the like before covid hit.

My day is busy — there are just so many countries where I need to stay abreast of current affairs because our returns can to a large extent be dictated by local developments. So it’s lots of news, lots of conference calls with people on the ground. A lot of time with analysts and, most importantly, with the teams at the companies in which we invest.

Business travel isn’t dead. Not when you consider how important good company management is to our decisions. We’re long-term investors in public equities and we’ve been here a long time, so we’ve got strong ties with management teams built through years of in-person meetings. The length of these relationships gives us comfort, but I really want to jump on a plane again.

I miss Cairo and hope it’s one of my first trips when the world normalizes. We visit Cairo 2-3 times a year. It’s the largest market for us in the region and has really interesting long-run prospects. It’s also a lot of fun and has a very special energy.

2021 is going to be the year for Egypt. We think the stars are aligned in terms of lower rates (the lowest in a decade) that will spur investment and accelerate credit growth. We’re going to see tourism pick up as the world normalizes. The Grand Egyptian Museum’s opening will be a big milestone and the major revamp of the Pyramids plateau that you’ve been writing about will pave the way for a strong recovery in tourism. We also see Egypt reaping the fruits of all of the investment the government has been doing to connect cities and build out infrastructure.

Egypt is a massive market — 100 mn people and very favorable demographics. The economy is relatively very nascent and the penetration rates speak to the potential.

Financial inclusion is low by any measure — from the ratio of credit to GDP, to private sector loans, to cash usage in the economy to, of course, the size of the parallel economy, which could be as big as the official economy. Egypt can easily accelerate growth from 5-6% to 7-8% if it attracts more foreign direct investment, and the government is doing a solid job with pro-business reforms.

Egypt is a structural growth story with years ahead of it given the low base, how uninvested it is. The float of the EGP in 2016 paved the way for sustainable growth. So we’re really constructive on Egypt, which stands out as one of the very few places that has grown despite covid.

Are I afraid the robots will take my job? Not today, but it’s hard to have a five-year view on this given how fast technology is evolving. My wife and I worry what it means for our kids. But on the job, Schroders has given us phenomenal access to new tools, particularly when it comes to data analytics, which we’ve been introducing as a central pillar in our investment process. The use of technology will only increase from here — we know the direction of travel. The early adopters are the ones who will emerge stronger tomorrow.

My organizational system is … organized chaos. My day speeds by quickly, so I need to stay really organized just to keep up with my responsibilities. I’m very different in my personal life — I don’t book personal trips in advance and I’m late for dinners with friends. But at work, I’m organized and it’s about planning way, way ahead. Working for a UK firm pushed me further in that direction — it was culture shock. I mean, I’m Lebanese and I live in MENA, but in the UK you get a Christmas party menu to choose from in August. “Yeah, I think I’ll feel like having the duck in December.”

Asset management is a lifestyle, whether it's travel or reading the FT and the Economist on the weekend. But Friday and Saturday are precious — sacred, really. We won’t do anything that doesn’t involve our kids. It’s about sports and lunches and the beach. Evenings are for seeing friends who we consider an extended family.

My wife and I like to unwind with a good television series before lights out. We try to limit it to a single episode a day, but we’ll binge on the right show. We watched Succession during lockdown and we’re waiting for season three now.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given has nothing to do with investing, and that’s how important it is to really listen. It’s a lesson my father taught me and one I’m trying to cement with my kids. Understanding how important it is to listen changes your perspective. The ability to really listen to different views and opinions and learn from people’s experiences is an art.

CALENDAR

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

December: A meeting to finalize membership and trading rules governing Egypt’s Commodities Exchange (Egycomex).

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.

31 December (Thursday): Deadline for car owners to comply with traffic regulations to install a RFID electronic sticker on their cars.

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

1H2021: Egypt’s Commodities Exchange (Egycomex) will begin trading.

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.

Mid-January: Local expo to display natural gas-powered and dual-engine vehicles for Egypt’s car replacement program.

17 January 2021 (Sunday): 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 in case 445 of 2019.

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.

30 May-15 June 2021 (Wednesday-Thursday): Cairo International Book Fair.

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

30 June- 15 July 2021: National Book Fair.

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.

13-17 December 2021: United Nations Convention against Corruption, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

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