Thursday, 14 January 2021

We’re getting a 1,000 km high-speed rail network

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Well, friends, we made it through another week together. We have a few more hours of blowing sand ahead of us, according to both the weather office and our favourite weather app, but we’ll slide into the weekend with clear skies and cooler temperatures.

THE BIG STORY here at home: Siemens is in line to snag a contract to work on a USD 23 bn national, high-speed electric rail system as the nation’s infrastructure investment boom continues. We have more below.

THE ONLY STORY internationally this morning: Donald Trump has become the first US president in history to be impeached twice. A resolution formally charging him with inciting an insurrection against Congress for last week’s Capitol riot passed the House of Representatives with a 232-197 majority — with 10 Republican lawmakers, including no.3 House Republican Liz Cheney voting in favor.

The Donald is likely going to be out of office when the trial starts: Although the House is planning to send the single impeachment article to the Senate immediately, Majority leader Mitch McConnell has intimated that the trial will start after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on 20 January, according to Politico.

The story is front-and-center anywhere you look in the global press this morning, with everyone from the NYT to CNN emblazing IMPEACHED in 100pt wood on their front pages.

RANDOM OBSERVATIONS-


WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY- Our newly sworn-in MPs will meet again today to elect 25 committee chairs. Well-connected MP Moustafa Bakry says majority bloc the Support Egypt Coalition has already decided who will lead 14 of the committees.

Business-relevant committees: Former IMF advisor and CBE board member Fakhry El Fiqi will be the new head of the Planning and Budgeting Committee while Ahmed Samir, deputy head of the Sixth of October Investors Association, will retain his position heading the Economic Committee. You can find Bakry’s full list of names here.

Meanwhile, Magles El Dawla Judge Ahmed Manaa was appointed as the House secretary-general yesterday, succeeding Mahmoud Fawzy, Al Mal reports.

It’s the second day of the 2021 Men’s Handball World Championship. Hosts Egypt don’t have matches scheduled today after beating Chile 35-29 in the opening game yesterday.

Remember: The entire tournament is being played behind closed doors, but if you want to catch any of the games on TV, here’s how. You can find the full match schedule here.

Qatar Airways will resume flights to Egypt on Monday, it said on Twitter yesterday. The carrier plans to operate a daily flight between Cairo and Doha and twice weekly flights to Alexandria. This comes a day after EgyptAir announced plans to restart flights to the statelet. Egypt, along with Saudi, the UAE, and Bahrain, agreed last week to restore trade and travel ties with Doha, bringing to an end the 3.5-year diplomatic crisis.

Samsung is unveiling today its latest Galaxy flagship, the S21, coinciding with the virtual-only Consumer Electronics Show, which wraps today.

That “big announcement” teased by Apple this week? It isn’t likely to excite iSheep of the Egyptian variety. The company will put USD 100 mn into supporting racial justice initiatives in the US, it said yesterday.

WHY WE’RE OPTIMISTIC- REASON #923: Credit quality is holding up, CIB CEO Hussein Abaza told us yesterday, and “there’s light at the end of the tunnel” on capex spending.

Vaccine is a game-changer: “Heading into our second year of covid, the prospect of a vaccine is a game changer. We’re still in a tunnel, but we can see the light. The only question is how much longer we have to go,” he said. “It’s ‘Will capex spending pick up starting in June or starting in September?’ not ‘Will capex spending pick up at all?’ And while we’ll continue to be as aggressive as necessary with provisions, we’ve seen no signs of deterioration in credit quality.”

In the meantime, the CIB chief sees the economy moving in the right direction: “The vaccine will be a huge psychological leap for consumers, manufacturers, retailers. And in the meantime, as one of our clients told me the other day: We’ve all managed businesses through more challenging times — whether that’s Metrojet, devaluation or the events of 2011. Today, we have no curfew. Consumption is picking up. Businesses of all forms are open — we’re in a much better position than many other markets.”

AND REASON #924: The sell side continues to tip Egypt. Investors should bias toward equities in Egypt and the UAE, which are trading at “undemanding valuations … and have been significantly underperforming peers since 2017,” CI Capital wrote in a research note yesterday. The investment bank sees foreign and institutional investor activity ramping up in Egypt’s equity market, which is expected to support its rerating. Over in the Gulf, the UAE is expected to see a “strong correlation between the market and trade activity.”

On the macro front, CI Capital foresees a “convergence of treasury yields to market rates” during the first half of the year, helping to unlock the economy’s potential after a long wait. Private sector activity, spurred on by a potential revival in the tourism industry and the resumption of structural reforms, paired with the closing of the real wage gap, are all expected to underpin a resurgence in consumption.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Egyptian thinktank the Cairo Center for African Studies is hosting a webinar on the economic impact of covid-19 and policy responses in Africa on Tuesday, 19 January. Speaking at the event are World Bank Country Director for Egypt, Yemen, and Djibouti Marina Wes, IMF Senior Representative in Egypt Said Bakhache, and Institute of International Economic Finance Deputy Chief Economist Elina Ribakova. You can check out the flyer and register for the webinar here (pdf).

We could start seeing widespread use of QR codes on electricity bills by the end of the month, Al Shorouk reports, citing an unnamed source familiar with the government initiative. The QR codes are expected to contain unique user information like account numbers addresses, company names and dates of issue that could reduce fraud in bill collection.

enterprise

TRANSPORT

High-speed rail uber alles

Siemens looks poised to work on a 1,000 km high-speed national electric rail network worth some USD 23 bn. The CEO of the German conglomerate, Joe Kaeser, was in Cairo yesterday for talks with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the project, according to an Ittihadiya statement, which says that a final agreement was put forward during the meeting but as yet remains unsigned.

The project’s first 460-km phase will connect Ain Sokhna to Alamein via the new administrative capital. Work would start immediately on the project, which is expected to cost some USD 6 bn (c. EGP 94 bn), feature 15 stations and take two years to complete, the statement said. The price tag includes USD 3 bn for the civil and construction works, which are being carried out by a consortium that includes China Railway Engineering Corporation, China Railway Construction Corporation Limited, the Arab Organization for Industrialization, Orascom Construction, Samcrete, Arab Contractors. The government previously said it is looking to recruit Siemens to supply the electrical systems and trains.

Siemens has proven experience with megaprojects — and there should be plenty of work for the domestic private sector on this. Siemens brought in local players for a multi-bn program to build the world’s three largest combined-cycle power plants a few years back when the country was struggling with an electricity crisis.

ALSO MEETING THE PREZ YESTERDAY- The chairman of German shipbuilder Lürssen Werft, who offered to train Egyptian naval engineers, Ittihadiya said in a statement.

IN OTHER TRANSPORT NEWS-

We could see a new EV ride-hailing app, courtesy of the government and the white taxi association, before the year is out, El Watan reports, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter. The plan is part of the government’s strategy to begin locally assembling electric vehicles, with the first 100 EVs produced split between cabs and passenger cars, the sources said. The new cabs will be rolled out alongside an application for users to book rides in Cairo and Alexandria in its first phase and mostly stationed nearby malls and commercial centers.

On that note- El Nasr Automotive is expected to sign soon the final contracts for its partnership with China’s Dongfeng to assemble electric vehicles locally, with plans to install the assembly line in 2Q2021 and begin production in 4Q2021.

ANALYSIS

It’s gonna be ok…

Why the market accepted the Central Bank of Egypt’s freeze on cash dividends without batting an eyelid. Picking up where we left off yesterday: The Central Bank of Egypt has barred banks from paying out cash dividends from 2020 profits to ensure the system has sound as covid continues to weigh on business sentiment — and, potentially, credit quality.

Good medicine, but it tastes like [redacted]. We rang up a couple of the smartest bankers we know yesterday, expecting to listen to tirades. Instead, what we heard — even under a grant of anonymity — is that it is smart policy, even if the medicine tastes a bit sour. The bottom line: As the lender of last resort and guarantor of deposits, the central bank is taking measures to (a) keep liquidity in the system as high as possible and (b) maximize every bank’s ability to respond flexibly if this whole covid thing drags on — and takes credit quality down with it.

But doesn’t this send a bad signal to international investors? No. Why? In a single word: Covid. Top execs at head offices of foreign-owned banks with branches here have already been through this. To take but one example, the European Central Bank only reversed late last month what was effectively a ban on dividend payouts — and imposed really strict limits on what they’re allowed to do going forward.

And the CBE has done this before on a one-off basis, as when it asked Credit Agricole last April to trim back its proposed dividend.

What about fund managers? They won’t be delighted, but they knew it was a risk. Last year, many of them (facing redemptions from their own customers) pestered execs to keep paying dividends even as CEOs wanted to keep cash on hand to respond to the fallout from covid.

And yes, retail investors will howl — but that was expected, right? When you see a share as your ticket to a lunch box at an AGM…

Will bank stocks come under pressure? Credit Agricole, a dividend play for investors, was the EGX30’s worst performer on Tuesday (-6.2%) and was down 3.3% at the closing bell yesterday. In the long run, the market already knew that Credit Agricole needed to hike its capital to meet the CBE’s new EGP 5 bn floor, and index heavyweight CIB is a growth stock that pays dividends, not a pure dividend play. COMI shares closed in the green both Tuesday and Wednesday

COVID WATCH

Everything you need to know about covid at home and abroad on 14 January 2021

The Health Ministry reported 996 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 970 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 152,719 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 58 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 8,362.

Six more doctors lose their lives to covid: Radiologist Mona Abdel Wahed, pediatricians Faisal Youssef, Ahmed El Refai, and Hassan Youssef, clinical pathology professor Hala Abaza, and cardiologist Azza Ibrahim were the latest to die from covid-19. The total number of physicians that have died of the illness has now reached 309 — including 31 in the first 10 days of 2021, the Medical Syndicate said.

Heading to the US of A? You’ll need to show your airline a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours of flying as of 26 January under a decision from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The order expands an earlier decision to test passengers returning from the UK following the discovery of a more infectious strain of covid-19. Airline crew, military personnel, and children below the age of 2 will be exempt.

China’s Sinovac vaccine has fallen short of its competitors, only showing 50% effective in its most recent clinical trials in Brazil, according to the country’s state owned research center, the Butantan Institute. The biological research center has walked back its initial estimates claiming that the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine (not to be mistaken with the Sinopharm jab which Egypt is purchasing) would be at least 78% effective in preventing mild infections down to 50.4%, just above the minimum requirement for a vaccine to be considered viable.

TRADE

Oil imports, trade + SME development get USD 1.1 bn shot in the arm

Egypt is getting another USD 1.1 bn loan for imports of petroleum products and basic commodity purchases from the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (IFTC) after the two sides signed an agreement yesterday, according to a Planning Ministry statement. In addition to financing imports, the money will be used to digitize exporting industries such as cotton and improve value chains, with an emphasis on private sector inclusion. The facility will also be used to support female entrepreneurs with the help of the SheTrades program.

The new funds come as part of a larger five-year USD 3 bn cooperation agreement signed in 2018 to support commodity and fuel purchases, SME growth, and institutional development. The IFTC’s financing portfolio in Egypt has so far reached some USD 11.2 bn. Reuters also picked up the story.

DEBT WATCH

Palm Hills tapping Al Taamir for securitization?

Al Taamir is in talks to manage Palm Hills Developments’ (PHD) planned EGP 650 mn securitized bond issuance, which is expected to go to market this quarter, Al Taamir Chairman Mazen Hassan tells Al Mal. Al Taamir — a special purpose vehicle set up by the New Urban Communities Authority — led the largest ever four-tranche securitized bond offering in Egypt last year, and is expected to seek regulatory approval for PHD’s issuance by the end of the month. Al Taamir is looking to issue EGP 2 bn of asset-backed securities this year.

Securitization bonanza picking up steam: PHD late last year issued the company’s largest ever EGP 1.25 bn securitized bond offering following the frenzy of securitized bond issuances in 2020 that has so far shown no sign of slowing down this year. CI Capital’s Corplease has already closed a EGP 2.7 bn issuance earlier this month, while GB Auto subsidiaries GB Lease and Drive Finance, took a combined EGP 3 bn securitized bond offering to market. Amer Group and TMG earlier this week sold EGP 700 mn of asset-backed securities.

Sukuk markets are heating up

Expect to see a flurry of global sukuk activity this year as an economic recovery takes hold in the GCC, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia, S&P Global says. The research house also sees record-low interest rates and ample liquidity keeping market conditions “buoyant “ throughout the year, driving an anticipated USD 140-155 bn-worth of sukuk issuances this year. Some USD 139.8 bn of sukuk were sold in 2020, down from USD 167.3 bn in 2019.

The note doesn’t make mention of Egypt, which is gearing up for its first sovereign sukuk issuance once legislation that allows the government to sell the debt instruments to investors clears the House of Representatives. The bill should be finalized during the current legislative session, which began earlier this week.

TOURISM

Airline fuel prices slashed by USD 0.15 per gallon starting 21 January

The aviation industry is getting a break on fuel through the end of the year after the government decided yesterday to slash prices by another USD 0.15 / gallon as of 21 January to help airliners stay afloat through covid-19, according to a cabinet statement. This is the second time the government has cut fuel costs for airlines since the pandemic began, reducing prices by USD 0.10 / gallon in April.

Policymakers hope the move encourages air carriers to increase flights to domestic tourist destinations and comes as the government launches a campaign to persuade more Egyptians to vacation locally. Tourism Minister Khaled El Anany said he hoped the initiative would encourage airlines to increase their flights to Egypt’s tourist destinations and boost the industry as a whole.

Do we need another reminder? Egypt’s tourism sector has been battered by the pandemic after the partial shutdown of the economy and suspension of international flights in 2Q2020 all but shuttered the sector. And things weren’t that much better as restrictions were relaxed in the summer as global concern over the pandemic remained before the second wave in the winter saw much of the developed world return to lockdown. All in all Egypt saw a 77% y-o-y drop in arrivals last year leading to a 85-92% collapse in revenues.

DEMERGER WATCH

Egyptian Iron and Steel’s new mining company to begin trading on EGX in 2 months

State-owned Egyptian Iron and Steel is being liquidated in a process that will take up to two years, the company said in a disclosure (pdf) yesterday. The perennial lossmaker will have to sell off 6 mn sqm of its land assets to be able to pay off its EGP 9 bn in outstanding debts before liquidating, Public Enterprises Minister Hisham Tawfik told Al Arabiya.

New mining company to list on EGX in the next 2 months: The company will spin off its mining operation as part of the liquidation process, creating a new company, Iron and Steel for Mines and Quarries, that will be listed on the EGX in the coming weeks, the disclosure says. Egyptian Iron and Steel expects to receive approval from the Financial Regulatory Authority to list the shares within two weeks, to receive approval to register the company within 10 days of issuing its shares, and to begin trading on the EGX two to three weeks after that.

Background: The company said earlier this week that it would spin off its mining operations and liquidate its steel plant in Helwan as part of a government strategy to streamline the public sector. Tawfik said last year that the troubled company would separate its most valuable business into a standalone company ahead of a potential listing on the EGX.

LEGISLATION WATCH

Executive regs for SMEs Act under review by cabinet

The executive regulations for the SMEs Act are currently under review by the Madbouly Cabinet and “other relevant authorities,” Deputy CEO of the Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency Tarek Shash said in a statement picked up by Masrawy. The SMEs Act was ratified last July and offers small businesses a number of tax and regulatory incentives to join the formal economy.

The regs are expected to be finalized and ratified within a few weeks, Shash said on the airwaves last night (watch, runtime: 9:43). The regs will affect some 4 mn SMEs, which provide nearly 77% of the country’s jobs, he said.

enterprise

STARTUP WATCH

Runway ready

Opio, an Egyptian women’s wear startup, raised a USD 300k seed investment from AUC Angels and unnamed angel investors, as well as follow-on funding from accelerator Flat6Labs Cairo, according to a press release (pdf). The statement does not specify how the company plans to use the funding, but does note that Opio is looking to set up shop in the GCC. Opio was founded in 2017 and “commissions white label and toll manufacturing women’s wear apparel to different manufacturers” to sell at lower prices to its customers through its website.

KUDOS

KUDOS- Tennis champion Mayar Sherif has become the first Egyptian to qualify for the Australian Open’s main draw, after becoming the first Egyptian player to make it to the main draw in the French Open at Roland Garros last September.

Egypt’s first woman mixed martial arts fighter Aya Saeed is encouraging other women to join the sport, Menna Farouk writes for Al Monitor.

The National Bank of Egypt (NBE) was rated as the country’s top bank for syndicated loans in 2020 in Bloomberg’s global syndicated loans league table, having arranged EGP 318 bn-worth of syndicated loans, according to a statement (pdf). The state-owned bank also topped the ranking in Africa and the Middle East.

ENTERPRISE+: LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

The potential Siemens electric train agreement got a lot of attention on the airwaves last night: Yahduth Fi Misr’s Sherif Amer highlighted President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi meeting with Joe Kaiser, the head and CEO of Siemens to review the final agreement between Egypt and Siemens to establish an integrated system for the express electric train in Egypt (watch, runtime: 1:49). Amer will air an interview with Kaiser today. (watch, runtime: 2:44). Al Hayah Al Youm's Lobna Assal also covered the news (watch, runtime: 5:05 | 2:02). We’ve got the full story in the Transport section, above.

The new parliament continued to pique the interest of the nation’s talking heads: Assal noted yesterday’s second session of the new parliament, which lasted only 15 minutes and saw Hanafi Gebali chair his first session as the new House speaker (watch, runtime: 3:00). Commenting on former speaker Ali Abdel Aal’s decision not to run for reelection, Hadith Al Qahera’s Ibrahim Eissa said that this was the first time it had ever happened (watch, runtime: 3:16).

The Men’s Handball World Championship kicked off in Cairo yesterday: Egypt opened proceedings with a 35-29 win over Chile yesterday evening, earning the praise of Hesham Nasr, head of the Egypt Handball Federation (Masaa DMC | watch, runtime: 4:21), (Al Hayah Al Youm | watch, runtime: 35:00).

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

It’s a mixed bag in the foreign press again this morning: Reuters picks up Human Right Watch’s plea to incoming US President Joe Biden to suspend arms sales to Egypt, and also spotlights MP Farida El Shobashy’s leadership of the House during the inaugural session of the new parliament earlier this week, becoming the first woman ever to take charge of the assembly.

Meanwhile, African business mag How We Made It In Africa profiles our good friend Magda Habib and how she set up Dawi Clinics, which aims to become “the Starbucks of healthcare in Egypt.” Habib, one of the first guests of Enterprise’s Morning Routine column, and the business’ co-founders hope to expand its branch count to 50 in the next two or three years.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Hassan Allam Properties has upped its stake in real estate developer Sodic to 5% from 4.91%, according to a regulatory filing (pdf). The company purchased 310k shares at EGP 15.5 per share, totalling EGP 4.8 mn. This brings the stake collectively held by Hassan Allam Properties and its CEO, Act Financial, Concrete Plus Engineering and Construction and group affiliated Tarek Mohamed Mahmoud Youssef to 14.91%. The group is now Sodic’s largest stakeholder, followed by Saudi Arabia’s Olayan Investment, which holds 13.84%. The group has been increasing its holdings in Sodic, since July.

MEANWHILE- State-owned public transport company Mowasalat Misr will invest EGP 2 bn in expansion plans over the coming two years beginning in 2Q2021, while Mubasher has launched a EGP 360 mn electronic asset management platform, Du. Meanwhile, United Oil and Gas’ operations at the Abu Sennan concession are performing “strongly” and outperformed production forecasts during the second half of 2020, the company said yesterday.

ALSO: Mubarak-era Information Minister Safwat El Sherif died yesterday of leukemia, his son Ihab confirmed to Youm7.

PLANET FINANCE

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The US stock market is in bubble territory: That’s the consensus among investors, according to a survey picked up by Axios that found that 92% of 904 active investors either believe the market is already in a bubble or is approaching one. Stretched valuations, a resurgent greenback, rising yields on US treasuries, and BTC mania are all fuelling fears that stocks are overheating.

“The long, long bull market since 2009 has finally matured into a fully-fledged epic bubble,” Jeremy Grantham, co-founder of asset manager GMO wrote in a note recently. "Featuring extreme overvaluation, explosive price increases, frenzied issuance, and hysterically speculative investor behavior, I believe this event will be recorded as one of the great bubbles of financial history, right along with the South Sea bubble, 1929, and 2000."

The statelet had an IPO yesterday: QLM Life and Medical Ins. Company’s shares soared 24% on their debut in Qatar yesterday, according to Bloomberg. The country’s first initial public offering since 2019 raised QAR 659 mn (c. USD 180 mn), and came less than a week after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain agreed to establish trade and ties with Doha.

Up

EGX30

11,389

+0.4% (YTD: +5.0%)

Down

USD (CBE)

Buy 15.62

Sell 15.72

Down

USD at CIB

Buy 15.62

Sell 15.72

None

Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

Up

Tadawul

8,914

+0.3% (YTD: +2.6%)

Up

ADX

5,290

+0.6% (YTD: +4.9%)

Up

DFM

2,721

+0.8% (YTD: +9.2%)

Up

S&P 500

3,812

+0.3% (YTD: +1.5%)

Down

FTSE 100

6,745

-0.1% (YTD: +4.4%)

Down

Brent crude

USD 56.03

-1.0%

Down

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 2.74

-0.3%

Up

Gold

USD 1,848

+0.2%

Up

BTC

USD 36,349

+5.8%

The EGX30 rose 0.4% yesterday on turnover of EGP 1.7 bn (21.8% above the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net buyers. The index is up 5.0% YTD.

In the green: Dice (+6.4%), Beltone Financial Holding (+4.2%) and Juhayna (+4.0%).

In the red: Egyptian Iron & Steel (-9.9%), Credit Agricole (-3.3%) and Ezz Steel (-1.2%).

Asian markets are making cautious gains this morning, with Chinese shares the outliers, trading in the red at the time of dispatch. European and US stocks are projected to open in the green later today.

AROUND THE WORLD

Could Abu Dhabi be the key to solving the intractable GERD dispute? The UAE is offering to act as an arbiter in the GERD dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, Sudanese news agency SUNA reported. A delegation from the Emirati Foreign Ministry announced the bid yesterday during a visit to Khartoum. The three sides have been unable to agree a format for a new round of talks, with a meeting earlier this week failing again to break the deadlock.

MY WFH ROUTINE

Basil Ramzy, CEO of Marakez: Each week, my Morning / WFH Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Basil Ramzy (Linkedin). Edited excerpts from our conversation:

Professionally, I'm the CEO of Marakez, a mixed-use real estate developer. We focus on retail and commercial developments but also have a growing residential business. I’m responsible for making sure we have a strong team that is aligned and working in the same direction to achieve Marakez’s goals.

Bigger picture: I’m a husband and father to a 16-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy. I wake up at about 6:30 everyday and get the kids up and ready for school. I then settle down to drink a lot of coffee while reading Enterprise and a few other news outlets. Next are my morning phone calls, which are determined based on my priorities that week, and then jump into a daily huddle call with the full Marakez team.

Except for the first two and a half months, I’ve mainly been working from the office since the beginning of the pandemic. We implemented a WFH protocol for departments where it makes sense and for individual cases where health conditions or personal circumstances make it important, but some of us still trek to our desks in the morning.

When covid-19 first hit, we had a lot of big decisions to make on how to move ahead, after talking and listening to our partners and stakeholders. Construction has remained on track in all our projects. We decided to continue operating our business with caution: At Mall of Arabia, we canceled all events and implemented hygiene and safety protocols, but decided to stay open and keep operating to provide essential services to the community. We kept our business obligations to our customers and continued building.

Like the rest of the world, our team became proficient in online communication. We started having daily huddle calls from before the pandemic, and that habit helped carry us through that transitional period. We invested more time and funding into technology by adding infrastructure such as digital sign-offs, internal cloud file sharing, reporting CRM software, and other project management tools.

One of the results of increasing our connectedness is that the “clean break” at the end of the workday isn’t that clean anymore. Right now, it’s not something that’s bothering me but it’s something I’m keeping an eye on to make sure it doesn’t become too intrusive.

This year was unique to everybody, with its unique challenges — but it’s not the first challenging period we’ve had to get through. My team is excellent at managing turbulence and uncertainty. Marakez as a company is set up this way; we have a culture of taking on challenges and working hard for each other. Many of us have been working together for a very long time so we’ve built a lot of trust and belief in each other and our collective capability.

We’re also long-term investors in the Egyptian economy and strong believers in the growth story here. The population is young, dynamic, entrepreneurial, optimistic, resilient, and all the things that make it a great place for us to be doing business.

Second-city parity is important to us — to create developments in secondary cities like Tanta and Mansoura that are of the same standard that the residents of these cities see us creating in Cairo and for them not to feel that, just because we’re going to a secondary city then that must mean we’re going to give them something lesser-than.

The lesson we’ve learned from the past year is that offices are essential, and we’re still investing heavily in our office space line of business. For us, teams need to be together in the same physical space, but not necessarily 9-5 every day. There’s a healthy shift towards measurable outcomes, rather than hours spent in the office and this is making us more aware of our ability to measure all aspects of our performance.

On the weekends, I like to unwind by going mountain biking in Wadi Degla, which is really refreshing and makes me feel like I’ve completely left the city.

I got really excited when I saw that there’s another Dune movie coming out, so I re-read the Dune series, which I haven’t read in a while. It’s not necessarily a recommendation, just something that I enjoy. I’ve also been watching the Queen’s Gambit on Netflix.

When things go back to normal, I want to travel. I haven’t even thought of where I want to go yet — I just want to get to that point first.

CALENDAR

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.

19 January (Tuesday) Financial Regulatory Authority’s (FRA) annual conference on non-banking financial services.

19-22 January (Tuesday-Friday) Global Energy Forum, Abu Dhabi, UAE. The Atlantic Council-organized event will focus on the post-pandemic energy system.

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

25-29 January (Monday-Friday): The World Economic Forum’s “Davos Dialogues” (virtual)

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

28 January (Thursday): National holiday in observance of 25 January revolution anniversary / Police Day.

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

6-18 February (Saturday-Thursday): Mid-year school break (public schools — enjoy the break from bumper-to-bumper traffic)

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

13 April (Monday): First day of Ramadan (TBC).

25 April (Sunday): Sinai Liberation Day.

29 April (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Sinai Liberation Day.

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

1 May (Saturday): Labour Day (national holiday)

3 May (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

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

13-15 May (Thursday-Saturday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

18-21 May (Tuesday-Friday): The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting “The Great Reset”

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

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

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

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

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

30 June (Wednesday): June 30 Revolution Day

1 July: (Thursday): National holiday in observance of 30 June Revolution

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

1 July (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.

19 July (Monday): Arafat Day (national holiday)

20-23 July (Tuesday-Friday): Eid Al Adha (national holiday)

23 July (Friday): Revolution Day (national holiday)

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

9 August (Monday): Islamic New Year

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

1 October (Friday): Expo 2020 Dubai opens

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day

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

18 October (Monday): Prophet’s Birthday

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

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

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

Note to readers: Some national holidays may appear twice above. Since 2020, Egypt has observed most mid-week holidays on Thursdays regardless of the day on which they fall and may also move those days to Sundays. We distinguish below between the actual holiday and its observance.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2021 Enterprise Ventures LLC.