Good morning, nice people and welcome to one of the quietest news days we’ve seen in months.
No single story dominates the news agenda here at home or abroad, but covid features prominently in the headlines everywhere.
Among the global stories worth knowing about this morning:
- Investors are getting anxious over the odds we’re in the final days of a stock market bubble, particularly as “valuations and other signals flash red.” The “mania” in shares like GameStop and “surging” options activity also suggest a “market pullback” is coming. (FT and CNBC)
- Former Fed boss Janet Yellen has won confirmation as Joe Biden’s Treasury Secretary, becoming the first woman to hold the job. (WSJ)
- The chief of PE outfit Apollo will quit after the company said he had paid USD 158 mn to pedophile Jeffrey Epstein for “tax advice” and other services. (NYT)
KEEP AN EYE ON THIS- Struggling asset managers facing “relentless” pressure on margins could be takeover targets in a wave of M&A, the Financial Times reports. Look for others to simply close shop and return remaining AUM to their clients.
TURN OFF YOUR DAMN CAMERA- Are you still running your camera for Zoom meetings? It’s killing the environment. One hour of videoconferencing “emits up to 1kg of carbon dioxide, uses up to 12 litres of water, and requires a piece of land the size of an iPad Mini,” PetaPixel writes, picking up on a report in the journal Resources, Conservation and Recycling. Turning off your camera cuts that footprint by 96%. Nobody really needed to see your bookshelf anyway, right?
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is due to brief the House later today on policy, according to Masrawy. Civil Aviation Minister Mohamed Manar Enaba will also appear today.
The Federal Reserve’s two-day monetary policy meeting kicks off today. With the economic recovery and the pandemic still a concern, we can’t see anything other than interest rates staying at rock bottom and its bond-buying program remaining in place.
AmCham’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Committee is hosting a webinar today on “The Power of Mentorship,” with speakers including Zooba founder Chris Khalifa, Dar Al Mimar Group Chairman Ayman Ismail. The session will be moderated by Qalaa Holdings’ Chief Sustainability and Marketing Officer Ghada Hammouda. Tap / click here to register
AUC’s School of Business is hosting a webinar today 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.
A virtual roundtable titled “Competitive Advantages of Sukuk” takes place tomorrow featuring seven speakers discussing the components of a successful sukuk issuance, among other topics. Among the panelists: Our friend Bahaa Alieldean, managing partner at Alieldean Weshahi & Partners, Misr Capital CEO Khalil El Bawab, and Amr Hassanein, chairman of MERIS Ratings.
Davos in the Desert kicks off at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh tomorrow and runs through Thursday.
Further afield: This year’s Egypt Petroleum Show will kick off on Monday, 31 May at the Egyptian International Exhibition Center. The three-day event will bring together senior execs from global oil and gas companies and energy government officials. You can download the event brochure here.
Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news events, national holidays and news triggers.
FROM THE OPENING DAY OF VIRTUAL DAVOS–
Chinese President Xi Jinping warned global leaders against “a new cold war” as US President Joe Biden looks to bolster alliances and counter China’s growing influence around the world, according to AFP. "To build small cliques or start a new Cold War, to reject, threaten or intimidate others… will only push the world into division," Jinping said in a speech during the ongoing virtual Davos forum. US-China relations have been marred by growing tensions in the four years of Donald Trump, mainly due to issues related to trade and tech.
The US responded: The Biden administration views China as its strategic competitor but will approach China foreign policy “with patience,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing yesterday (watch a summary of the US' stance, runtime: 3:18 or Psaki’s full press briefing here, runtime: 1:11:00).
Jinping also called for a more muscular G20 that allows for closer economic coordination between the world’s strongest economies amid what he called a “rather shaky” recovery from the pandemic, reports Reuters.
Star Wars, Episode LX: The Sino-American competition is also heating up in space, the New York Times warns in a piece the nerds among us will appreciate.
ON DAY 2: Panel discussions will cover stakeholder capitalism, covid-19 and climate change, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will all give special addresses.
CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-
GOOD NEWS for Canucks in Egypt (or for folks who are studying there / sending their offspring to study in the Great White North): Air Canada will begin operating three weekly direct flights between Montreal and Cairo from 17 June until 29 October, reports Airways Magazine. The flights “seasonal” flights from Cairo to Montreal will run on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday while Montreal to Cairo leg will fly on Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday. The flights can now be booked through Air Canada’s website. The CAI-YUL flight is AC075 and the first one that shows on Air Canada’s website departs on 18 June at noon and touches down in Montreal at 5pm.
PSA #1- Businesses have until 31 January (next Sunday) to file wage tax returns for 2020 including separate filings for the first and second halves of the year. Sole traders and folks who generate income from outside of their day job will also need to file electronically for the first time. Taxpayers who use the electronic filing and payment system will pay an annual fee of EGP 325, the Finance Ministry said in a decree published this week.
PSA #2- Time is running out if you haven’t paid income, value-added, or real estate taxes and want to settle up without all the late fees. Late taxpayers are still eligible for a 50% exemption on interest fees and late penalties until 12 February under a bill passed last year, Tax Authority boss Reda Abdel Kader said last week, according to Al Shorouk.
Family businesses tend to do well in times of crisis — and covid was no exception: Family-run businesses tend to “embody the best of corporate behavior” by taking the long view, while keeping relatively more frugal than bigger firms, avoiding flashy acquisitions, and innovating, writes the Financial Times’ Pilita Clark. Insolvency rates among big and small family businesses were lower in the UK after the 2008 financial crisis, and anecdotal evidence Clark has come across suggests that the same trend will hold up throughout the pandemic. Family firms are estimated to account for 85% of the world’s companies, from small corner stores to large conglomerates such as Mars.
The once-ailing diamond industry is roaring back to life as the pandemic has shifted luxury spending away from travel and back to jewelry, especially in the US and China, Bloomberg reports. Online shopping for diamonds is fueling demand, which has been stagnant at about USD 80 bn per year for the past five years.
Our friends at MagicCube have become the first startup to be appointed to the board of the PCI Security Standards Council, the company said in a statement this week. Comprised of America’s largest payments companies — from Apple to Google, Citi to Amazon — the council determines standards for payment security industry.
*** Check out the episode of our podcast Making It, where we sat down with MagicCube founders Hisham Shawki and Nancy Zayed about their journey in the industry.