Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Will ‘21 be the year for IPOs, M&A and investment? (See you back here on Sunday — Happy New Year, everyone!)



Well, friends — we made it through 2020 together. Most of us here haven’t seen each other since early March, when we went fully WFH, and trust us: The honor of writing you all each morning is one of the things that has kept us going in this ridiculous year.

Thank you for starting your morning with us each workday, whether you do so on email or on the web.

Thank you for writing to us with story ideas, corrections and random musings — your notes keep us going and remind us daily that we’re writing to very smart, very engaged people who care passionately about business and the country in which we are all privileged to live.

And thank you to our advertisers, whose steadfast support allows us to continue producing Enterprise each day without charge. If you enjoy Enterprise, please give a tip of your (metaphorical) hat to the great people at CIB, Pharos, Sodic, Somabay, Orascom Construction and CIRA.

Today is our last “normal” issue of the year, and it’s a blockbuster for finance nerds as we look back at 2020 and ahead to what’s coming in ‘21 on three key fronts: equity capital markets, M&A and investment. We’re all going to sleep in a little bit tomorrow, but you’ll find the January 2021 issue of Your Wealth in your inboxes instead to keep you company. We’ll be back at our customary 6am on Sunday.


We are still none the wiser whether tomorrow will be a day off for banks. The central bank and EGX have yet to announce if Thursday is a bank holiday, as New Year’s Day falls on a Friday. Banks with December-January fiscal years are typically shuttered on 1 January to close their books. Look for an announcement this afternoon if there’s going to be one.

The Health Ministry reported 1,333 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 1,359 the day before — the first time our daily reported cases have dipped since 28 October. The ministry also reported 54 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 7,520.

No, we’re not getting another curfew (at least not yet). Cabinet denied yesterday that it is moving to re-impose the nighttime curfew after a recording of the curfew announcement from earlier this year went viral.

What’s really happening: Failing to comply with a covid restriction will get you a fine starting Sunday. The nation’s talking heads reminded viewers that people not wearing masks in public venues and on public transport will be ordered to pay a EGP 50 fine on the spot — and made sure to point to the rapidly rising case count (Ramy Radwan on Masaa DMC | watch, runtime: 4:40 and Lobna Assal on Al Hayah Al Youm | watch, runtime: 1:15).

SILVER LINING- The new covid-19 variant apparently does not cause more severe cases of the disease, nor does it have a higher mortality rate, a study from Public Health England found, according to the Financial Times. The study also didn’t find a statistically significant increase in the likelihood of reinfection from the new, more transmissible strain.

Meanwhile: China is struggling to get the world to trust its vaccines, Bloomberg writes. The big issue? A lack of transparency: “There has been little information about how Chinese vaccines have fared in final-stage clinical trials, with just the United Arab Emirates and China itself endorsing the vaccines for emergency use so far. Meanwhile, some U.S. and European companies have published data on the safety and efficacy of their shots and started to deploy them.”

Other news you may want to know about this morning:

  • Cairo and Alexandria’s public transport projects are getting a EUR 1.1 bn financing package from the European Investment Bank (EIB) after International Cooperation Minister Rania Al Mashat signed the contracts for a portion of the funding yesterday, according to statements from cabinet and the EIB.
  • El Nasr Automotive and China’s Dongfeng are postponing signing the final contracts for their EV assembly partnership as they continue to work on ironing out the international arbitration clauses of the agreement, Public Enterprises Minister Hisham Tawfik said, according to Masrawy.

SIGN OF THE TIMES- Investment banks raked in a record USD 124.5 bn this year in fees for debt and equity sales, thanks to a bump from the pandemic, the Financial Times reports, citing Refinitiv data. Debt and equity both had a solid year “as companies looked to access capital markets to shore up their balance sheets in the face of pandemic-related uncertainty,” said Barclays analyst Jason Goldberg. Fees from underwriting IPOs alone soared to a 10-year record of USD 13 bn, buoyed by high-value companies such as DoorDash and Snowflake going public.



The FRA just joined the fight for gender equality

SMART POLICY- Gender parity is getting a push from the Financial Regulatory Authority, which will slash development and service fees by as much as half for companies and non-banking financial institutions with women comprising at least 25% of their total staff. The higher your proportion of women on your team, the lower the development fee, the FRA says without getting into specifics. Development fees are a requirement under the Capital Markets Act.

Showing proof of gender parity while doing business will also become a prerequisite for NBFIs looking to receive or renew any licenses from the FRA, according to the statement. The regulator will require these institutions to treat clients of both genders equally in all their dealings, as well as offer products and services that cater to the needs of women (which the statement does not specify), and set up a specialized unit or department or designate an individual to handle client complaints pertaining to their gender parity.

MEANWHILE- The private sector will be getting the lion’s share in the ownership of the new futures exchange, with the FRA deciding to earmark at least 75% of the exchange to financial institutions that meet solvency standards and / or with experience in futures contracts. Nobody will hold more than 10% of the futures exchange. Details on all of the foregoing in this statement from the FRA, out yesterday.


How the CBE plans for future risks

Want to know what’s keeping the CBE up at night? Have a look through the central bank’s latest Financial Stability Report, which takes a deep dive into a range of risk scenarios for Egypt and how they might be managed should they come to pass.

One of the more interesting (if presently unlikely): What could prompt the CBE to reverse course on easing and start raising rates? Covid, of course.

Here’s how it might work: The report points to a potential series of events, starting with the second wave slowing down GDP growth as tourism grinds to a halt and other industries also take a hit. The budget deficit could also widen if the government needs to ramp up public spending on healthcare services and roll out fresh stimulus (which Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said earlier this month the government is ready to do). A widening deficit and shrinking economy could come together with another drop in FX streams — namely lower remittances from Egyptians abroad, a dip in Suez Canal revenues, and potential portfolio outflows — to throw off the balance of payments and bring the currency under pressure. This scenario would, in turn, create inflationary pressure that could require the central bank to reverse its monetary easing cycle and raise rates again.

The report makes clear the bank is still on its easing path, pointing out that easing can likely continue as it did during the first wave, particularly that the likelihood of a significant spike in inflation is low.

There’s lots more in the report (pdf), which dives into multiple risks, systemic security and policy options for how the CBE could act in a variety of situations.

The CBE has cut interest rates by 400 bps this year, including a record 300 bps cut in March and 50 bps cuts at two consecutive meetings. The bank’s monetary policy committee decided to leave rates on hold at its final meeting of 2020 last week, citing global concern about the new covid-19 variant, but expectations are that CBE is still on an easing path — barring a shock such as the one above.

SEPARATELY- The CBE is launching a multicurrency real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system next year, the report says, without specifying when in 2021 we can expect the system. The CBE has had an RTGS system — which is used to process large-value and “the most important types of funds” — in place since 2009, but the system will be upgraded to include multiple foreign currencies.



CIRA pulls sukuk trigger

CIRA closed its EGP 600 mn sukuk issuance — the first for Egypt’s education sector — yesterday, according to a statement (pdf). The leading private-sector education outfit sold ijara sukuk that will be traded on the EGX. The sharia-compliant bonds will carry a tenor of seven years and will not be convertible to shares. The Financial Regulatory Authority had green lit the issuance one day earlier.

The issuance was 2.3x oversubscribed, allowing the subscription period to open and close on the same day, the statement notes. The bond sale and CIRA both earned an A rating with a stable outlook from the Middle East Ratings and Investor Services (Meris).

Advisors: EFG Hermes Investment Banking was sole financial advisor, lead arranger and bookrunner for the transaction, while EFG Hermes Sukuk Co. was the issuer for the EGP-denominated sukuk. Ahli United Bank, Suez Canal Bank and Banque du Caire are underwriters. Prime Capital acted as independent financial advisor. Zulficar & Partners is provided counsel.


Plus: What does our IPO tracker say about ‘21? (Barring a global meltdown, that is)

2020 was not a good year to be an investor in public equities in Egypt, but there are glimmers of hope that suggest 2021 could be a different story. (Insert here your preferred waffle words and caveats about exogenous shocks, acts of God, pandemics and your legendary stock-picker friend who still managed to beat the market many times over.)

How bad was 2020? Egypt is in the running with Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Mauritius and Jamaica in the sweepstakes for world’s worst-performing exchange — the EGX30 is down 23.1% year-to-date with only today’s trading session left to go. Among large, investable markets, Morningstar’s index shows us the world’s third-worst performer behind Brazil and Colombia, but ahead of Hungary and Peru.

Regionally, the Kuwait Stock Exchange (-12.6%) and Dubai Financial Market (-8.7%) are the next-worst performers. The Nasdaq Dubai is down about 2.7%, while Saudi’s Tadawul (+4.3), and the Abu Dhabi Exchange (+0.5%) could still close the year in the green.

The world’s top-performing exchanges according to data cobbled together from Bloomberg: Nigeria (+47.0%), Denmark (+29.4%), South Korea’s Kospi (29.0%), Turkey (+27.2%), Iceland (+23.9%) and Argentina (+23.1%).

The pandemic may have emerged from China, but it’s done little to dent their stock markets: The Shanghai Composite is up 11.6% in trading today, while the Shenzen Component is up 36.0%.

What happened in Egypt? Foreigners sold out of the market at the start of the pandemic and they’ve largely sat out the year. The story is clear when you look at the brokerage rankings: Trading on the EGX is usually dominated by EFG Hermes (with a market share that is sometimes in the high teens, and usually in the low-to-mid-20s) and CI Capital (in the teens). It’s simple math: Together, own the lion’s share of the foreign institutional inflows into Egypt. That shifted as 2020 wore on. Last month, EFG had a 17.4% share, followed by Pharos (just under 6%), CI Capital and Beltone (each at about 5%) and Pioneers (just over 4%).

But volumes are up, right? Yes. In fall 2019, total turnover on the EGX was in the EGP 400-500 mn per day range. This past fall, it was well north of EGP 1 bn most days — but the players were largely retail and local institutions, and trades have been spread out over the dozens and dozens of small brokerages who have clung to their licenses for years despite anemic business (did you know there are 130 licensed, active brokerage firms registered with the EGX — and 142 if you include the ones whose licenses have been suspended?).

Where did the foreigners go? They pulled out of the market — all the (emerging) markets. The EGX30 was down just 5.5% for the year at the end of February — then came the Great Global Emerging Markets Selloff of 2020, and Egypt got hammered the same as every other EM. By mid-March, we were down more than 37% for the year, and foreign investors have largely sat on the sidelines since. It could have been much, much worse: A lot of the local appetite to play the market came after things were grim enough that the Central Bank of Egypt stepped in with a nearly unprecedented share buying program. Foreign investors were net buyers last year and net sellers this year. And as EM were melting down, the US Federal Reserve was engaged in precedented support of financial markets stateside. Repo facilities, direct lending to securities firms and a host of other active market operations ensured that liquidity was sucked back into the US market — giving investors a chance at higher returns with reduced risk in a classic flight to safety in a riskoff.

One thing foreign and domestic investors are looking for in ‘21: New paper. Simply put, it needs to come into the market after two years in which IPO flow has been abysmal. Rameda Pharma and fintech darling Fawry were the only two IPOs in 2019 after Hassan Allam Holding and Carbon Holding pulled hotly anticipated transactions. The flap over Beltone’s handling of Sarwa’s EGX debut in late 2018 sapped momentum for many companies that were considering going public, and the state’s privatization stake sale ran late for reasons domestic (think: bureaucracy) and international (selling pressure on EM), but EGX boss Mohamed Farid still started 2020 with at least three IPOs in the pipeline and some government stake sales planned.

Then: Covid, which wiped out Egypt’s pipeline. High-profile transactions like Banque du Caire’s hotly anticipated IPO postponed, and the state’s stake-sale program was kicked back once again.

Covid outright killed at least two IPOs, possibly forever: Nile Air pulled the plug on its offering after the tourism and aviation industries cratered, and Qalaa Holdings has reportedly postponed the 1H2021 sale of a 30-40% stake in energy distribution player Taqa Arabia. Word on the street is that Qalaa will also put off the listing of the Arab Refining Company, parent company to its Egyptian Refining Company, whose financials came under pressure after covid wiped out oil prices (briefly sending them into negative territory).

Small-cap real estate player Emerald was the only IPO of 2020, in an EGP 202 mn offering on which parent company Odin was financial advisor and Mubasher the bookrunner.

More interesting: Speed Medical became the first company listed on the Nilex to make the jump from the baby bourse to the EGX when it completed an EGP 222 mn capital increase earlier this month.

So, how do things look for 2021? Egypt looks compelling — the question is what happens with global markets. Let’s take that piece by piece, shall we?

First: Foreigners say they’re coming back. Our friend Rami Sidani, head of frontier investments at Schroders, told us a couple of weeks ago that “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. … We also see Egypt reaping the fruits of all of the investment the government has been doing to connect cities and build out infrastructure.” (If you haven’t already done so, our chat is worth reading in full.). You would also have to assume the Fed will cool-off its support for financial markets to avoid overheating the US economy. Investors would then be pushed to find market-beating returns in other markets and asset classes.

The sell side likes Egypt, too, whether that’s our friends at Pharos here at home — or RenCap and Credit Suisse abroad. All of them like Egypt in the new year.

Second: The government is sending signals that stake sales are in the cards as it looks to sell chunks of Alexandria Containers, Abu Qir Fertilizers and Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals. The offerings are promising enough that institutional investors and DFIs are all closely watching.

Third: The country’s “real” pipeline of equity capital market transactions is as healthy as it has been in years. We maintain an internal tracker of IPOs and stake sales on which we note every detail imaginable about any company whose CEO or beneficial owner has ever muttered that they may, one day, like to go public or sell additional shares.

Lots of these pronouncements are bull[redacted] designed to gin up some media attention. There’s little our colleagues in the domestic press like more than an easy IPO story. With that in mind, we assign every musing an ERR — Enterprise Realness Rating. A zero means there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that company will ever make its debut on the EGX. A 5 means we know with a high degree of confidence that they’ve retained advisors.

Only 15 out of 85 companies on our tracker have an ERR of 3 or more. Set aside the aforementioned stake sales, and we figure there’s a 2021 pipeline that is anchored by:

  • Taaleem Educational Services, which CI Capital is taking public in the first quarter.
  • London-listed Integrated Diagnostics Holdings, which is seeking shareholder approval for a transaction that it hopes will allow it to pursue a dual listing on the EGX.
  • Agrifood player Galina Holding, which is looking to sell as much as 49% of itself in its EGX debut early in the New Year. RenCap is quarterbacking the transaction.
  • Non-bank financial services player Ebtikar could sell a 25-30% stake and is targeting a 1Q2021 listing. EFG Hermes is said to have been hired for the job.
  • e-Finance has confirmed that it, too, is looking at 1Q.

Keep your eye on: Macro Pharma, the fast-growing cosmeceuticals outfit controlled by private equity player Alta Semper. Reports in the local press yesterday suggest that Macro has tapped CI Capital and Renaissance Capital to quarterback the IPO, which is now slated for 1H2021.

The wild cards: Banque du Caire, whose hotly anticipated IPO is on the shelf with no date in sight by which it might get off life support, and Ghazl El Mahalla, the sports club, which was talked up as an IPO prospect late this month.

SOME GOOD NEWS YESTERDAY- Companies that have filed IPO paperwork and then put their transactions on hold are getting another six months to pull the trigger and go public. The Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) decided yesterday to push the deadline for companies that have listed their shares on the bourse but haven’t yet begun trading to 30 June 2021, from December 31 2020, according to a statement.

The curveball: Military-owned companies are really unlikely to go to the EGX this year, but policymakers are adamant that a small handful will offer significant chunks of equity to the private sector in 2021, possibly opening them to IPO in the future. First in the chute: Safi, the bottled water brand. Wataniya Petroleum is also said to be in the Sovereign Fund of Egypt-led program, but there has been less news there.

Still other curveballs: New exchanges to play on, including boards on which to trade commodities and futures. Hope also springs eternal that we may one day see a secondary market for corporate bonds.

Now, what about those global markets? Chatter about a global equities bubble has picked up again in the past week, with the New York Times musing about “levels of froth reminiscent of the dot-com boom.” We’ve seen this story before, and it’s a play in three acts:

  • Talking heads and the financial press alike basically “will” a correction to happen, often with a fairly real macro shock as the trigger and the Fed taking a step back from its active role;
  • Investors in global EM pull back — they may still see pockets of value, but they get swamped with redemptions, leaving them less capital to invest;
  • Egyptian IPOs get put on the shelf, no matter how compelling the company’s fundamentals.

How bad could it get? A 75% sell-off is in store for stocks in early 2021 following a final “melt-up,” warns David Hunter, the chief macro strategist at Contrarian Macro Advisors and a 47-year market veteran, in this somewhat breathlessly headlined piece by Business Insider.

Want a more nuanced view on risk in 2021? Go read the Financial Times’ survey of the buy side: What can go wrong? Investors’ views on the big risks to markets in 2021.


A boom year for M&A

Buyers and sellers looked past covid-19 and the depressed public market valuations that accompanied it to announce 110 M&As in 2020, up from 80 the year before (+38%). Oddly enough, that correlates nicely with 2015, which we declared “The Year of M&A” as 39 transactions were concluded even as the EGX30 was down -21.8% for the year.

Wait, Enterprise, where’d ya get yer data? As is the case with our IPO tracker, above, we track every whisper of an M&A that we hear of and keep it on a super-secret Google Sheet.

We think it’s now officially a trend: More and more companies have chosen to grow through merger or acquisition since the late 2016 float of the EGP. We reported on 39 companies tying the knot in 2017, while 56 did so in 2018.

Most M&A activity was among privately held companies, and most of them were no more prone to disclosing transaction values this year than last. But: In total, we reported on transactions with a disclosed value of EGP 70.8 bn in 2020, more than double the EGP 29.1 bn we covered last year.

Broken transaction of the year: Vodafone Plc’s USD 2.4 bn sale of Vodafone Egypt to Saudi Telecom (STC), which went bust just before Christmas. Vodafone’s group CEO has since chatted with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to reassure him that Big Red is here to stay — and sees Egypt as a hub for its push into Africa. Because our tracker covers all announced M&A, that figure skews the telecom industry’s contribution to the top sector by value (below).

Transaction of the year: It was whispered of in the market last year, but Fahad El Khater’s Alameda Healthcare (parent company of As-Salam International and Dar El Fouad hospitals) finally sold itself to Cleopatra Hospitals just this week in a landmark transaction that could be worth as much as USD 500 mn. Alameda boss (and majority shareholder) Fahad El Khater becomes the second-largest shareholder in Cleopatra and vice-chairman of CHG — you can read all about the transaction here.

(Note that the CLHO-Alameda transaction isn’t included in the by-value totals below because neither company would confirm the figure put out there by Bloomberg.)

By number of transactions, banking and financial services as well as healthcare were again the prime drivers of M&A activity in the year now ending. Taking a wide view of industry classifications:

Top industries for M&A in 2020, by #: Banking and financial services (32), healthcare (19), followed by building materials, infrastructure, oil and gas and real estate at six apiece.

Top industries for M&A in 2019, by #: Banking and financial services (15), healthcare (10), food (7), energy (7) and education (6).

Top industries for M&A by announced value, 2020 (in EGP): Tech & telecoms (37.3 bn), pharma (14.4 bn), banking & financial services (6.4 bn).

Top industries for M&A by announced value, 2019 (in EGP): Tech & telecoms (12.2 bn), oil and gas (8.8 bn) and healthcare (2.7 bn).

Foreign interest in Egyptian M&A was on par with 2019. Fully 36% of the M&A stories we covered this year involved transactions with foreign involvement, largely unchanged from 34% in 2019.

About 56% of transactions announced in 2020 are complete, while just 9% went bust. Look for the completion rate to tick up as we head into 2021 — the USD 500 mn or so Cleopatra / Alameda tie-up was on our tracker at the end of 2019 as “possible.” In total, we end 2020 with 62 completed transactions, 10 broken, 10 in process, 26 we list as planned / possible, and two whose status is unknown. Last year’s completion rate as of today? 80%, by our math.


Now imagine what no ‘rona and low interest rates will do…

Let’s get three things taken care of right off the bat, shall we, and make sure we’re all speaking the same language?

#1- This report is drawn from data in our Enterprise Investment Tracker, wherein we chronicle salient data points from all of the stories we cover under this theme. By definition, it’s not complete — plenty of companies make investments without announcing them, particularly (a) smaller and mid-sized companies and (b) companies that like to fly under the radar and are not publicly traded. But after six years of doing this, we’re convinced it captures the trend and direction year-on-year.

#2- None of the figures you’re reading here cover spending on opex. What you pay to run your plant or drill a hole or move stuff around isn’t a balance sheet item — it goes on your income statement as an operating expense. Our tracker covers capital expenditures — announced or executed. Stuff that involves companies financing things from their cashflows, by raising debt or equity, or through retained earnings.

#3- Plenty of companies choose not to disclose a value on their investment, as is the case with M&A (above)

So, with those caveats, how did we fare on the investment front in 2020? Not as badly as you might have thought.

We captured 92 investments worth a combined EGP 403 bn in 2020 — again, keep in mind that figure isn’t complete and you can’t use it to calculate an average: 16 of the investments on which we reported did not put a value on the transactions.

In 2019, we chronicled 97 investments worth a combined EGP 690.5 bn. Sounds grim when you look at the value figure, right? Take a breath: Well over EGP 200 bn of the investments on which we reported last year have since been scrapped, including two “clean coal” (what a concept…) powerplants worth nearly USD 9 bn together.

Top three industries for investment in 2020, by value:

  • Infrastructure at EGP 168 bn, thanks solely to the National Egyptian Company for Railroad Industries, in which the government is offering the majority of the equity to private-sector companies (you can argue that this is too vague to qualify as an investment announcement, but given the administration’s track record on infrastructure projects…);
  • Telecoms and technology at EGP 35 bn as Orange, Vodafone Egypt, Etisalat and Teleco Egypt all announced bns in network upgrade plans;
  • Banking and financial services at EGP 31 bn.

Rounding out the top five by value in 2020: Retail and manufacturing.

By comparison, the top industries by value in 2019 were energy (EGP 290 bn), oil and gas (EGP 92 bn), retail (EGP 68 bn), real estate (EGP 68 bn) and healthcare (EGP 34 bn).

The #1 sector by number of transactions this year and last: Manufacturing.

The biggest pickups in investment this year by value came in banking and financial services (up 13x), followed by infrastructure (+540%), manufacturing (+164% thanks to a late-in-the-year push), and telecoms (+96%).

Who suffered this year? Oversupply nuked new investment in cement, while real estate, healthcare and and oil and gas were slammed by covid-19.

We saw slightly less foreign involvement in the investment stories we covered in 2020: 71% of transactions we chronicled involved either straight foreign investment or a partnership between foreign and local players. In 2019, the comparable figure was 77%.

Companies were less interested in greenfields during this year of covid. The ratio of investments in greenfields vs. expansion of existing operations was 0.72 this year. Last year, we had more than two greenfield announcements for every expansion.

Unsung trends of the year: Continued appetite for Egypt from development finance institutions. Everybody and their sister is raising a private equity fund to go after SMEs.

What to look out for in 2021? For starters: An end to the pandemic — and further interest rate cuts from the Central Bank of Egypt, which will make finance for investment and acquisition alike more affordable for companies — and encourage them to put their capital to work rather than collecting easy interest at the bank.

The pipeline speaks now to optimism on the part of Egyptian corporates, as we noted a few weeks back. And don’t take our word for it: Now, some 87% of Egyptian businesses say they plan to invest more next year, according to an HSBC survey.


It was a mixed bag of nuts on the airwaves last night, with no single story — aside from covid-19 warnings and updates — leading the conversation.

The Great Natural Gas Transition Plan will officially kick off at the beginning of next month, when President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is set to launch the campaign that aims to take some 250k old cars off the road and outfitted with dual-fuel engines by 2023, Trade and Industry Minister Nevine Gamea told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa yesterday (watch, runtime: 4:17).

Egyptian expats who have been stuck in transit in the UAE, Turkey, and Oman on their way to Kuwait will soon be able to complete their journey as Kuwait plans to reopen its airspace on 2 January, Emigration Minister Nabila Makram Ebeid told Moussa. The ministry has been helping out the stranded citizens with accommodations while waiting for flights to resume, the minister noted (watch, runtime: 10:25).

Elsewhere, the “Decent Life” initiative, which was rolled out at the beginning of 2019, earned airtime for its accomplishments from Al Hayah Al Youm’s Lobna Assal (watch, runtime: 29:17).


Leading coverage of Egypt in the foreign press this morning is the sentencing of [redacted] offender Ahmed Bassam Zaki to three years in prison on charges of blackmailing and [redacted] harassing two women on social media. The verdict, which was handed down by the Cairo Economic Court, can still be appealed. Zaki is also facing a separate trial for allegedly [redacted] assaulting three minors. (Associated Press | AFP).

Also worth keeping on your radar this morning: Reuters looks at how Egypt is working to maintain its position as the world’s biggest orange exporter by sticking to strict quality control measures. Ezzedine Fishere suggests in the Washington Post that US president-elect Joe Biden can rattle the sanctions saber to make Egypt and other countries in the Middle East change their human rights policies.


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The EGX30 rose 0.7% yesterday on turnover of EGP 1.2 bn (10.7% below the 90-day average). The index is down 23.1% YTD.

In the green: Ezz Steel (+5.9%), GB Auto (+5.1%) and Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals (+5.0%).

In the red: Dice (-2.5%), Orascom Investment Holding (-0.7%) and Sodic (-0.5%).

Globally, it’s a mixed bag this morning: The Nikkei and Australian Securities Exchange are down this morning, while Chinese and South Korean shares are in the green. Futures show wall street likely to open in the green later today — but the FTSE100, EuroStoxx 50 and the Dax are all set to open in the red.




+0.7% (YTD: -23.1%)



Buy 15.68

Sell 15.78



Buy 15.68

Sell 15.78


Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending




+0.4% (YTD: 4.3%)




-0.1% (YTD: +0.5%)




+0.4% (YTD: -8.7%)


S&P 500


-0.2% (YTD: +15.4%)


FTSE 100


+1.6% (YTD: -12.5%)


Brent crude

USD 48.17



Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 2.47




USD 1,881.50




USD 29,963.94



Making It Season Three: Where do we go from here?

Where do we go from here? Our guests in season three of Making It lead businesses that have endured devaluation, economic instability, and lockdowns across the country and region under covid-19. We discuss how they built resilient businesses that could adapt and survive, as well as where they see their companies and industries going in the near future. Whether you work in food, retail, financial services or even cybersecurity, this season has something of interest for you.

Not ready for a 40-minute episode? Try these short trailers to get a taste:

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


As 2020 draws to a close, we’re running a recap of our Hardhat Year in Review issues.

In part 1, we look at how covid-driven supply-chain disruptions and price volatility impacted energy, construction and shipping — and how they bounced back.

Part 2 looks at how infrastructure development had to adapt to the turbulence this year through digitization and diversification — from the rise of digital services and payments to the development of the smart grid, the government’s plan to transition to natgas cars, and the emergence of green bonds as the testing ground for our debt diversification strategy.

Your top infrastructure stories for the week:

  • Enara Energy has signed an agreement with Chinese PV solar panel maker Chint Electric to develop a sand-to-cell PV panel factory in Egypt. The project looks likely to be a revival of the Armed Forces’ USD 2 bn integrated solar panel factory, for which talks broke down over two years ago.
  • The government plans to generate 300 MW of electricity from waste-to-energy (WtE) projects by 2025, with tenders for WtE plants to be issued to the private sector by the electricity and environment ministries under a Build-Own-Operate framework.
  • The Oil Ministry intends to bring Egypt’s total number of natgas filling stations to 550 by 2021, as part of its push for car owners to switch to natgas and dual fuel engines.
  • The Transport Ministry is in talks with the World Bank for two loans worth a combined USD 400 mn for a planned railway upgrade project. One USD 200 mn package would finance the transition to an electric railway signaling system in the Giza-Beni Sueif line, and the other another would finance upgrades to the railway tracks and control system for the line.
  • The Suez Canal is extending through 1 June 2021 its incentive scheme that sees LNG carriers traveling between the US and SouthEast Asia receiving 30-75% off their transit fees. This follows an earlier announcement that transit fees for large oil tankers traveling between northern Europe and southeast Asia will be slashed by 48%.


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.

31 December (Thursday): Deadline for EGX-listed companies to comply with regulations requiring at least one member of their boards of directors be a woman.

1 January 2021 (Friday): New Year’s Day, national holiday.

1 January 2021 (Friday): 11k of Egypt’s largest taxpayers begin filing taxes through the electronic unified tax platform.

January 2021: US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is set to visit Egypt.

5 January 2021 (Saturday): The annual GCC summit will be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The agenda includes potential resolution of the three-year-old spat with Qatar.

7 January 2021 (Thursday): Coptic Christmas, national holiday.

13-31 January (Wednesday-Sunday): Egypt will host the 2021 Men’s Handball World Championship in four venues in Alexandria, Cairo, Giza and the New Capital.

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 2021 (Saturday-Thursday): Mid-year school break.

20 February 2021 (Saturday): 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.

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

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).

17 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.

2H2021: Egypt’s Commodities Exchange (Egycomex) will begin trading.

1 July 2021 (Thursday): Large taxpayers that have not yet signed on on to the e-invoicing platform will suffer a host of penalties, including removal from large taxpayer classification, losing access to government services and business, and losing subsidies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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