Thursday, 21 January 2021

Bank Audi to leave Egypt, handing the keys to FAB

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, friends. We’ve made it through another workweek together, and our rewards are two-fold: A big news day here at home and abroad — and confirmation that we’re off Thursday-Saturday next week.

LOTS OF NEWS here at home: FAB is buying Bank Audi’s Egypt arm in the latest sale of a Lebanese lender here, e-Finance may be looking to IPO in 1H2021, joining at least two others who are testing the waters, and the Education Ministry has overturned foreign ownership limits on investment in the industry. We have the full story on each of these and more in the news well this morning.

PSA- Thursday, 28 January will be a national holiday in observance of Revolution / Police Day, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly confirmed in a statement yesterday. Police Day and the revolution anniversary fall on Monday, but will be observed on Thursday as is now customary for mid-week holidays.


THE BIG STORY globally: Joe Biden is now the 46th president of the United States after being sworn in at the Capitol yesterday. He delivered a heartfelt speech that pledged to unify a deeply divided nation and overcome the covid-19 crisis — and restore ties with the rest of the world. “This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge,” Biden said. “Unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America. If we do that, … we will not fail.”

You can watch the full speech here (watch, runtime: 21:24) — or if you have 10 hours to spare, you can relive the day in full (watch, runtime: 9:55:41).

Kamala Harris was sworn in as the first woman and first person of color to serve as vice president, taking her oath shortly before the president. You can see the moment here (watch, runtime: 1:47). We loved her double-fist bump with Barack Obama, who attended the inauguration alongside former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush. Agent Orange departed the White House early in the moring and became the first president in more than century to skip his successor’s searing in.

Biden is making his presence felt, signing 17 executive orders to start undoing King Cheeto’s reign of furious incompetence. They include rejoining the Paris climate agreement, reversing the withdrawal from the World Health Organization, and ending the flight ban on people from Muslim-majority countries. CNN has the full list here.

KSA is watching the Biden White House warily after a top Biden intelligence nominee said the US would declassify its report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi columnist and critic, the Guardian reports.

Trump’s parting gift: 73 pardons and 70 commutations to former aides, Silicon Valley execs — and rappers. The list includes former White House Chief Strategist and alt-right godfather Steve Bannon (who faced charges of fraud) former Google executive Anthony Levandowski (who was doing time for stealing trade secrets) and rapper Lil Wayne, Bloomberg reports. Trump did not give himself or his family preemptive pardons.

US stocks surged to a record high at the close of play yesterday amid optimism that the newly inaugurated Biden administration’s USD 1.9 tn stimulus bill will shield the market takes hold, says the Financial Times.

Columnists are going to have to find something else to write about: Find the newly de-Trumpified POTUS Twitter account here and follow the White House here.

Want to go deeper on Biden? Read How Joe Biden became a steady hand amid so much chaos in the New York Times or get to know him better through this photo essay on his life and decades-long career in politics.

HERE AT HOME-

Al Mashat gives House rundown on economic diplomacy: Multilateral and bilateral cooperation with development partners, infrastructure and sustainable development, investing in human resources, and the principles of economic diplomacy were among the topics covered by International Cooperation Rania Al Mashat during her statement to the House of Representatives yesterday. Al Mashat also laid out the latest in the homegrown “Egypt Takes Off” development program — which aims to boost job creation, government performance and raise living standards.

Gamea in Sudan for trade fair: Trade Minister Nevine Gamea is at the International Khartoum Fair in Sudan this week, where she’ll sign a couple of agreements related to business and SMEs with the Sudanese Trade and Industry Ministry, according to Al Shorouk. The minister is also expected to hold talks on manufacturing and trade cooperation, the ministry said in a press release (pdf).

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Egypt faces Belarus tomorrow at the 2021 Handball World Championships after defeating Russia 28-23 in the opening game of the main round yesterday. That places the Pharaohs second in the six-team main round group, with one point less than group leaders Sweden. Egypt will then play Slovenia on Saturday.

AUC’s School of Business is hosting a webinar next Tuesday, 26 January on “Rethinking Macroeconomics in the Digital Age” to discuss how technological change is changing the way we think about macroeconomics, investment, training the labor force and access to finance. The event will feature Subir Lall, the IMF’s deputy director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department. You can register for the webinar here.

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

enterprise

Somabay Endurance Festival will be taking place at Somabay for the first time. With a phenomenal swim, beautiful cycling route, and truly unique run course, the Endurance Festival at Somabay will be like nothing you’ve experienced before. Mark your calendars for April 8-10 for the Spring Edition.

M&A WATCH

The Great Lebanese Bank Sell Off: Act II

FAB is acquiring Bank Audi’s Egypt arm: First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) has signed a final agreement to acquire 100% of Bank Audi’s operations in Egypt and expects to complete the transaction in “the next few months,” the banks said in a statement yesterday.

We don’t know how much FAB is paying: The banks didn’t disclose the value of the transaction. Chatter had previously put it in the neighborhood of USD 700 mn.

FAB will become one of the largest foreign banks in Egypt: The Emirati lender assets will increase to EGP 120 bn (c. USD 8.1 bn) post-acquisition, making it one of the largest banks in Egypt in terms of assets, the statement said. FAB’s branch count will more than triple to 70, adding Bank Audi’s 53 branches to its existing 17. Audi’s total assets were valued at EGP 83 bn (USD 5.3 bn) at the end of 3Q2020.

Audi is going through tough times back in its home market: S&P and Moody’s both downgraded Audi’s credit rating further into junk status in 2019 following protests that threw the country’s banking sector into a liquidity crisis. The transaction “represents a strong vote of confidence” in the bank’s governance and business model, bank chairman and CEO Samir Hanna said.

What happens now? The acquisition is pending several procedural approvals from within the banks and final regulatory approvals from the Egyptian and Emirati central banks, the banks said.

ADVISORS- EFG Hermes is sole financial advisor to Audi, with London law firm Dechert and Zulficar & Partners acting as legal advisors. FAB itself and UBS Group AG’s London arm provided financial advisory services to FAB, and Matouk Bassiouny and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer were legal counsel.

That was Act II — but what happened in Act I? Another struggling Lebanese bank Blom also signed a final agreement to sell off its Egypt assets earlier this week. Bahrain’s Bank ABC agreed to purchase the subsidiary for EGP 6.7 bn and hopes to finalize the transaction during the first half of 2021.

EDUCATION

Big ‘W’ for private sector education

SMART POLICY- Education Ministry scraps 20% cap on foreign ownership of schools: International and private schools in Egypt will no longer face limits on foreign ownership after the Education Ministry reversed (pdf) the 20% cap imposed in 2019. The decision allows schools to be fully owned by individuals, funds, or companies with foreign or dual nationalities, provided they’re registered and based in Egypt.

The caveat: All school owners — Egyptian or otherwise — will be subject to security checks, and the ministry still holds the right to refuse to issue a license on a case-by-case basis. The relevant authorities will have the right to refer individual cases to a specialized committee of education and security officials, which will have the final say on whether to grant a license. This will depend on whether the school would “enrich the education process” or pose a threat to national security, according to the decision.

Industry breathes a sigh of relief: The move is a sign that the government is serious about attracting qualified investors to the industry — and that merit will take precedence over nationality when it comes to operating a school here, CIRA CEO Mohamed El Kalla told us. GEMS Egypt CEO Ahmed Wahby said the move would drive investment into the sector while also helping current operators improve their services and meet demand.

Background: The 20% foreign ownership limits had raised serious concerns among school operators and investors, who feared the decision would deter investors and slow expansion plans in education, one of Egypt’s most promising sectors. Investors raised concerns on the damage the decision could inflict on the investment case for Egypt’s education sector in comparison to other emerging markets. They were also wary of the lack of clarity created in the regulatory climate, and the implied uncertainty in the investment climate as the move was pushed forward suddenly, raising concerns that the rules of the game could also be changed just as quickly in other sectors. This prompted the government to engineer a compromise in the form of a committee that would handle requests for exemption to the 20% cap on a case-by-case basis in January 2020.

OTHER EDUCATION NEWS-

The public education system needs some EGP 130 bn to meet its new classroom construction targets, a problem which is compounded by the influx of an estimated 800k students each year, Education Minister Tarek Shawki said in his address to the House of Representatives yesterday, according to Youm7. The minister also recapped his ministry’s revamp of elementary school curricula and ongoing cooperation with Japan to set up 41 schools teaching Japanese-designed curricula since 2018.

AND GLOBALLY: SAT subject tests have been scrapped by the US CollegeBoard as standardized subject-based tests fall out of favor as an indicator for college admissions, CNN reports. Universities will rely instead on the results of Advanced Placement courses (APs) as indicators of a student’s subject specific knowledge. The main SAT exam will still be administered, though half of colleges in the US made them optional for admissions this year because of covid-19.

SAT exams were canceled in Egypt because of the pandemic, throwing the admissions process of universities into disarray, and calling into question universities’ reliance on the tests. But in the absence of a reliable method to ensure academic integrity at schools nationwide, standardized testing remains a useful tool in evaluating education.

IPO WATCH

e-Finance going to market in 1H?

State-owned payments platform e-Finance looks to be reviving its planned IPO, tapping auditors BDO as an independent financial consultant to assess the company, according to an unconfirmed report in the local press. E-Finance had reportedly tapped Baker Tilly back in 2019 to prepare the fair value report.

The listing could go ahead in the next quarter: BDO is expected to complete the assessment in the first quarter of the year, with the IPO expected to take place in 2Q2021, the sources said. As with any story citing unnamed sources on the timing of a transaction: Take that with a tablespoon of salt.

And the stake size? Still not set, but look for more at the company’s general assembly meeting next month.

The listing has been repeatedly pushed over the past few years: After being postponed in 2019, the company’s plans to go public in April were derailed by the pandemic. The government has since pushed the IPO to 4Q2020, then to 1Q2021, and now to 2Q.

Is now the right time to take an IPO to market? Financial Regulatory Authority boss Mohamed Omran thinks so, saying earlier this week that he expects market liquidity to improve in the coming months.

Who else is plotting an upcoming listing (brought to you by the Enterprise IPO Tracker™)? CI Capital’s Taaleem and non-banking financial services firm Ebtikar are both considering a 1Q IPO, while consumer healthcare play IDH has hinted at a dual listing during the first six months of the year.

Advisors: Financial services company NI Capital is acting as the government consultant for the e-Finance’s potential listing, while Pharos Holding and Renaissance Capital are joint global coordinators. Zaki Hashem & Partners were previously reported to have been retained as legal advisors. Inktank is investor relations advisor.

COVID WATCH

Everything covid home and abroad on 21 January 2021

Sinopharma jab coming in days? That’s according to Ala Mas'ouleety's Ahmed Moussa, who claimed last night that Egypt will receive a shipment of 100k doses of the Chinese vaccine next week (watch, runtime: 6:01).

The caveat: This was completely unsubstantiated and we have no idea where Moussa is getting this information from.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard they’re coming “in days”: Health Minister Hala Zayed said the same over a week ago, adding that Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance will also be sending vaccines our way at the beginning of February. The Sinopharm vax was approved by Egyptian regulators at the beginning of January.

Cases fall again: The Health Ministry reported 789 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 899 the day before. The ministry also reported 51 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 8,747. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 158,963 confirmed cases of covid-19.

Public schools and universities could shift entirely online when students return from mid-year break on 20 February to contain the second wave of covid-19 under proposals currently under review by the education and higher education ministries, Al Shorouk reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

African countries now have access to a USD 2 bn vaccines pre-order program launched on Tuesday by the African Union’s (AU) new online covid-19 vaccines marketplace Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP). Under the program, AMSP partner Afreximbank will back orders placed with vaccine manufacturers selling to the AU’s 55 member states. The launch of the program comes after the AU’s covid-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team secured 270 mn provisional doses from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca.

A shortfall in vaccine supply to lower income countries could threaten the efficacy of existing jabs as the virus continues to circulate, and potentially mutate, among large swaths of the global population without access, the FT reports. World Health Organization boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had criticized the inequitable distribution earlier this week, saying that the great leveler known as Covax, which was set up to regulate the distribution, is being undermined.

A new study presents more proof that the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine will be effective against mutant strains of the coronavirus: The study — the results of which were released yesterday — tested all 10 mutations on the virus’ spike protein, as opposed to the previous study, which only looked at a single mutation. The result “makes it very unlikely that the UK variant will escape” protection from the vaccine, wrote BioNTech’s research team, adding that they are willing to adapt the vaccine if needed in the future. Bloomberg and the Financial Times have the story.

BANKING

Egypt’s banks to remain stable in 2021 -Moody’s

The Egyptian banking system will remain stable in 2021 even as bottom lines “come under pressure” from rising loan losses and lower interest income, Moody’s Investors Service said in a report yesterday. Bank bottom lines will compare favorably to peers, in part due to the central bank’s decision to freeze cash dividends which will be “enough to absorb growth in risk-weighted assets and keep capital ratios stable.”

Prepare for a rise in bad loans: Disruption in tourism and construction, a slowdown in industrial production and weaker consumer demand will cause a rise in non-performing loans, which typically average 3.9%.

Many banks have already taken precautions in anticipation of problematic loans, ramping up loan loss provisions out of caution.

Lower rates = compressed NIMs: The central bank’s decision to reduce interest rates by 400 bps in 2020 will narrow net interest margins, bringing banks’ incomes under pressure, the ratings agency said.

Liquidity + lending won’t be a problem: Some 20% of bank assets are held in cash and interbank balances and a further 39% in government bonds, though state-owned banks will still face tighter FX liquidity. Banks also have “ample” customer deposits with which to fund lending.

OTHER BANKING & FINANCE NEWS- Some 22 companies are seeking licenses to provide non-bank financial services, Financial Regulatory Authority head Mohamed Omran said, reports Al Mal. The regulator expects to issue the licenses for eligible companies in 1Q2021.

DEBT WATCH

Premium International closes EGP 170 mn securitized bond issuance

Consumer finance firm Premium International closed the fourth single-tranche EGP 170 mn tranche of its EGP 2 bn short-term securitized bond program yesterday, according to a statement (pdf) from our friends at EFG Hermes, which was sole financial advisor, sole transaction manager and book-runner, underwriter, and arranger for the sale. The 10-month tranche was rated Prime 1 by Meris. Dreny & Partners served as legal counsel.

ALSO IN THE MARKET FOR DEBT-

  • Alexandria Petroleum could land a USD 250 mn loan in 1Q2021, EBRD Deputy Regional Director Khaled Hamza told Al Mal.
  • EBRD could also provide the government with a loan by the summer to finance the Abu Qir metro project which will convert the existing railway into an underground metro, Hamza added. He had previously told the press that the government had requested an additional EUR 250 mn for the project.
  • The United Bank of Egypt signed a EGP 500 mn financing agreement with City Edge Developments, according to Al Mal.
  • Forward Contractors are negotiating with an unspecified state-owned bank for as much as EGP 1 bn to finance real estate projects in the new administrative capital, Al Mal reports, citing unnamed sources.

INVESTMENT WATCH

Mansour Group will invest EUR 100 mn in football academy Right to Dream that will see the company establish a EUR 30 mn facility in Cairo, the company said in a statement (pdf) yesterday. The investment, made through the group’s UK-based investment arm Man Capital, will see the academy grow its activities in Egypt, Ghana, Denmark and the UK.

DIPLOMACY

We’re on speaking terms with Qatar now

Egypt and Qatar have formally agreed to re-establish diplomatic ties, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said yesterday in a short statement. Egypt, along with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, agreed at a summit earlier this month to restore diplomatic, trade and travel ties, 3.5 years after they embargoed Doha for its alleged support of terrorism. Egypt began dialling back tensions soon after by reopening its airspace to Qatari flights last week.

This makes Egypt the first country to fully restore relations with Qatar since the Al Ula declaration earlier this month.

The dealbreaker: The Qatari government promised not to interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs and said that state-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera would tone down negative coverage of Egypt, Reuters reports, citing two Egyptian intelligence sources.

This could pave the way for deeper economic ties: Cairo and Doha also plan to develop economic relations and hold talks soon to discuss regional affairs such as Libya and the Ikhwan, the sources said.

The story topped coverage of Egypt in the foreign press this morning: Everyone from the Saudi Gazette to Xinhua and Gulf News took note. Over in the other camp — Turkey’s Anadolu Agency and Qatar’s Al Jazeera also had coverage.

IN OTHER DIPLO NEWS- Libyan political rivals have agreed to hold a referendum on a draft constitution during talks in Hurghada which wrapped up yesterday, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The plebiscite would be held ahead of proposed parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled to take place at the end of the year. Egypt will host a further round of talks running 9-11 February to determine the date of the vote.

CABINET WATCH

The FGM clampdown

Harsher penalties for FGM that could see doctors jailed for up to 20 years were greenlit by the Madbouly Cabinet in its weekly meeting yesterday. Under draft changes to the penal code, people found guilty of practicing FGM would be handed between 7-20 years behind bars with punitive labor, depending on whether the procedure results in acute injuries or death. Facilities where FGM is performed will be shut down and participating staff barred from practicing for up to five years. Those who request an FGM procedure or actively promote it could also face prison sentence. Bloomberg took note of the story.

Changes to the Personal Status Act were also approved by ministers: Cabinet said last week that the long-awaited bill, which has been with the House of Representatives since at least 2017, was still undergoing changes, but yesterday approved it unchanged. The law will make a number of changes to marriage and divorce, inheritance, death, and child custody.

Also signed off on: A EUR 200k grant from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation to improve services at government-run institutes.

enterprise

MOVES

BCW, Hill + Knowlton tapped for Ford PR

Juhayna’s board of directors unanimously approved Ahmed El Wakil as an independent non-executive board member, replacing former chairman and managing director Safwan Wakil is currently president of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and a board of trustee member at the General Authority for Freezones and Investment and the Internal Trade Development Authority.

BCW and Hill + Knowlton Strategies have been tapped as Ford Motors’ PR representatives in the Middle East, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia Pacific, according to an emailed statement (pdf).

*** Did you just get a promotion? Have a new board member? Land a new account? Let us know on editorial@enterprise.press.

CORRECTION- We incorrectly said in our Monday issue that BM Lease is the National Bank of Egypt’s NBFS arm, when the correct bank is Banque Misr. The story has been corrected on our website.

ENTERPRISE+: LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

There was little of interest on the business / econ front last night: Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa covered Education Minister Tarek Shawki’s address to the House of Representatives (covered in the Education section, above). The talk show host showed Shawki noticeably more respect than he gave to the information, supply and local development ministers earlier this week (watch, runtime: 4:58).

Elsewhere:

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

The arrest of a woman baker for selling cupcakes adorned with male genitalia is still making the rounds in the Guardian, the BBC and Gulf News. The pastry maker was released on bail earlier this week.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Canada’s Bombardier will supply our monorail cars with a little help from the UK government after the country’s export fund agreed to hand the company a GBP 1.7 bn (USD 2.3 bn) subsidy to manufacture them in the UK — the largest amount of funding it has ever given to an overseas infrastructure project, the Department for International Trade said yesterday. In 2019 Egypt awarded Bombardier — along with Orascom Construction and Arab Contractors — a 30-year contract to design, build, supply and operate the monorail lines, which will connect Sixth of October City to Giza and the new administrative capital to Nasr City. The company will start manufacturing the rolling stock under the USD 4.5 bn contract this quarter.

Other things we’re keeping an eye on this morning:

  • Gold production from Centamin’s Sukari mine fell 46% in 4Q2020 from the previous quarter due to activity at part of the mine being put on hold over safety concerns, the company confirmed in its earnings release (pdf).
  • An economic court has acquitted Prime Holding CEO Mohmed Maher of misdemeanor charges, according to an EGX disclosure (pdf).
  • A new app could soon see all Housing Ministry and NUCA licensing procedures go digital as part of the government’s wider efforts to digitize, said Housing Minister Assem El Gazzar in a statement.
  • Downtown Cairo’s Arcadia Mall will house Egypt’s first wholesale and imported mobile accessories and electronics hub, with 60 shops set to be opened before 29 January as a first phase and 60 other shops to follow in the next three months.
  • A new Red Sea oil and gas exploration and production tender could be launched in the near future as seismic surveys in the area are due to begin soon, Oil Minister Tarek El Molla said yesterday.

PLANET FINANCE

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Earnings season continues in the US of A:

  • Morgan Stanley has its best year ever in 2020 after profits grew by 42% more than forecasts had suggested 4Q2020, off the back of high trading volumes in the last quarter, according to an earnings release (pdf).
  • Our newfound germophobia was good news for P&G, which raised its sales forecast for the second time in a year and reported an 8% rise in sales in 4Q off the back of covid-driven demand for cleaning products, Reuters reports.

The Bahraini government closed a USD 2 bn three-tranche bond sale as the pandemic and low oil prices continue to weigh on its fiscal deficit and pushed its debt dues to USD 40 bn, reports Reuters.

A global shipping container shortage has sent prices skyrocketing to more than three times their price just two months ago, the FT reports. The sudden increase has been attributed to a supply chain “bottleneck” as a sharp rebound in western demand for Asian goods has left companies battling for access to containers and shipping lines, said SeaIntelligence consultant Lars Jensen.

Up

EGX30

11,599

+1.0% (YTD: +6.9%)

Down

USD (CBE)

Buy 15.67

Sell 15.77

Down

USD at CIB

Buy 15.68

Sell 15.78

Down

Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

Down

Tadawul

8,878

-0.3% (YTD: +2.2%)

Up

ADX

5,676

+0.3% (YTD: +12.5%)

Up

DFM

2,792

+1.4% (YTD: +12.1%)

Up

S&P 500

3,851

+1.4% (YTD: +2.6%)

Up

FTSE 100

6,740

+0.4% (YTD: +4.3%)

Down

Brent crude

USD 55.67

-0.4%

Down

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 2.54

-0.3%

Up

Gold

USD 1,872

+1.7%

Down

BTC

USD 34,943

-4.4%

The EGX30 rose 1% yesterday on turnover of EGP 1.7 bn (20.8% above the 90-day average). Local investors were net buyers. The index is up 6.9% YTD.

In the green: Pioneers Holding (+8.5%), Egyptian Iron & Steel (+7.5%) and Beltone Financial Holding (+6.9%).

In the red: Ezz Steel (-0.8%), Egypt Kuwait Holding (-0.7%) and CIRA (-0.6%).

It’s a sea of green this morning: Asian shares are up and futures suggest a nice bounce for investors in day two of the Biden administration, with shares in Europe and North America on track to open in the green later today.

MY MORNING ROUTINE

Mohamed Zein, IRO at Saudi Aramco: My Morning / WFH Routine looks each week 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 Mohamed Zein (LinkedIn). Edited excerpts from our conversation:

My name is Mohamed Zein and I am an investor relations officer at Saudi Aramco. I’m responsible for competitive benchmarking, financial analysis, external messaging, and analyst and shareholder engagement within the company's investor relations function. I spent most of my professional career working as a sell-side equity research analyst covering the consumer and healthcare sectors in MENA before transitioning into investor relations right before Saudi Aramco's IPO in 2019.

Bixby wakes me up at 5:30 AM. I quickly go through my notifications and then have my morning dose of stretching. I then log my weight, get ready for work, and read Enterprise while having breakfast and coffee. I haven’t stopped following the Egyptian market since I left for Saudi Arabia, and Enterprise has been my daily source of insight.

I start work at 7:00 AM, so my day starts rather early. I typically spend a great chunk of my time studying the company, the industry, and competitors via daily interaction with the company’s business units, industry experts, and by reading analyst research. The better you understand the business, the more refined your equity story will be. Engagement with analysts and investors is an integral part of my role, and if there’s one thing I learned as an ex-analyst, it’s that you should be prepared, pre-emptive, and ready for all kinds of questions.

Why did I switch from research to IR? Investor relations in the MENA region is still emerging and there is plenty of room for improvement, in my opinion. There is a lot of overlap between the responsibilities and skills of a research analyst and those of an investor relations officer, and analysts are often among the best candidates for investor relations, for their analytical and persuasion skills and capital markets experience. And the chance presented itself.

I am currently working from the office, but like many others, I worked from home for a good chunk of 2020. Productivity and team collaboration were not really impacted during the WFH phase. On the contrary — they improved in many aspects. On a more personal level, I learned basic cooking for the first time in my life and I was able to shed weight, looking at the glass half full. I also used the time to advance my professional skills.

I’m a planner. I don't like to leave things to chance and so I like to maintain mental and electronic checklists. Once I start to feel overwhelmed, I plan for my next vacation, travel permitting, to declutter my mind.

I absolutely miss time on the road. There is no permanent substitute for face-to-face meetings with investors.

As far as getting the work done, webinars / Zoom / individual calls did a good job. The downside was obviously the absence of real life human to human interaction.

I don’t think robots are advanced enough just yet to do my job for me. Algorithms and machine learning are already being used in markets today, but they have not really replaced traditional professions. Investor relations is a job of interpersonal skills and there is as much art as there is science to the job. That said, the pace with which technology advanced over the past 30 years has been mind-boggling. I’m keeping an open mind about it.

There are a number of misconceptions about the investor relations profession. Investor relations is not merely a regulatory or compliance role that companies are required to fill. It is not public relations either. Investor relations is essentially a strategic role that ideally sits near the top of an organization. It’s a tool that provides the market with information about the company that helps investors make informed decisions about the company’s shares. It also provides management with invaluable strategic insight.

The best part of the job is engaging with the market when a company / industry is going through challenges. The worst part is when it’s business as usual.

Investor relations in the MENA region is changing for the better. Institutionalization and corporate governance have been gaining traction in recent years and corporates have started to see investor relations for what it’s worth.

What keeps me up at night? The thought that I could’ve done better at my job that day. That said, it’s the same thought that motivates me the next day.

I’m passionate about knowledge. I have a healthy amount of curiosity.

I typically spend my weekend eating, reading and jogging by the beachfront of the Arabian Gulf. I also like to binge-watch shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

I am big on the fantasy genre. The last book I read was The Wise Man's Fear. I’m currently reading Narrative Management in Corporate Japan – Investor Relations as Pseudo-Reform. I recently watched (and loved) The Queen’s Gambit, and I listen to classics non-stop.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given: Stop saying ‘yes’ when you really want to say ‘no.’

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.

19-22 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 January (Tuesday): AUC’s School of Business webinar on “Rethinking Macroeconomics in the Digital Age.” Registration available here.

26 January (Tuesday): Uber will host a virtual panel discussion titled ‘Tech for Transport Safety’, which will be the inaugural panel in a MENA-wide series of events under the name Ignite.

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.

31 January (Sunday): The deadline for businesses to electronically submit their annual tax return to the Egyptian Tax Authority.

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.

8-10 April (Thursday-Saturday): The TriFactory’s Endurance Festival at Somabay.

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.

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.

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