Sunday, 31 January 2021

We’re getting our first doses of the Oxford vaccine today



Good morning, everyone, and welcome to a new workweek — and the last day of January. As we look to February, our thoughts turn to an expanded vaccine rollout, to spring weather — and the prospect that we may all be able to travel again. We’re … cautiously optimistic, to borrow a (really overused) phrase from business that really means, “We’re hopeful, and please don’t smite me with lightning for feeling that way.”

It’s interest rate week: The CBE meets on Thursday, 4 February for its first review of 2021. Eleven of 12 economists and analysts we polled expect rates to be left on hold, as we report below.

Tomorrow is a brand new month- Here are the key data releases over the next two weeks:

  • Purchasing managers’ index: January PMI data for Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will land on Wednesday, 3 February.
  • Foreign reserves figures for January should drop towards the end of this week.
  • Inflation figures for January will be released on 10 February.

Ten cabinet ministers will present to MPs their policy priorities this week as the House of Representatives enters its third week of ministerial briefings. Sixteen of 30 ministers have spoken so far, and rumbles of a cabinet shuffle have quieted in the past week. What does this week’s schedule look like?

  • Sunday: Transport, Petroleum
  • Monday: Finance, Social Solidarity
  • Tuesday: Justice, Trade and Industry
  • Wednesday: Electricity, Housing and New Communities
  • Thursday: Tourism, Health

Expect an announcement today on whether the deadline for businesses to file wage tax returns is being extended until the end of February amid pressure on the electronic filing system, the local press reports, citing unnamed Finance Ministry sources. Today’s deadline applies to businesses, includes separate filings for the first and second halves of the year and will require sole traders or folks who generate income from outside of their day job 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 last week.

Is Putin (and an end to the flight ban) due in town in March? Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly due to visit Egypt sometime around March, at which time we could see a “final” resolution to the five-year ban Russia has in place on direct flights to Red Sea destinations, Al Shorouk reports, citing unnamed tourism industry sources. Russian officials were in Hurghada last week to inspect the airport’s security measures, and are reportedly sticking around until Wednesday. Meanwhile, Moscow is resuming regular flights to Cairo as of next Monday.

Egypt will head up an emergency ministerial Arab League meeting on 8 February to discuss the Israel-Palestine peace process. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has held high-level talks with French, German, EU and Jordanian officials in recent weeks, suggesting that there may be renewed political will to push the two sides back to the negotiating table and resume peace talks.

Egyptian boardrooms were only slightly more diverse by the middle of last year: Egyptian companies made lackluster progress bringing more women onto their boards in the first seven months of 2020, according to the American University in Cairo’s 2020 Board Diversity Index (pdf) which found that the number of board seats at EGX-listed companies held by women increased only 0.7% from the end of 2019 to 31 July 2020. According to the index, which also tracks the number of women in chair and executive positions, a little over half (53%) of all publicly listed businesses had at least one woman on their boards last year, a slight increase from 47% in 2019. Women also account for only 3.9% of CEOs and managing directors, 8.7% of COOs, and 2.1% of CFOs on EGX-listed boards.

Just under half of EGX30 companies had zero women on their boards when we ran our last check at the end of last year.

THE BIG STORY INTERNATIONALLY this morning: Global stocks fell the most since October on Friday as retail investors caused chaos and concerns over the global vaccine rollout increased. The S&P 500 dipped into the red for the year after the index fell almost 2%, capping its worst week since October, while indexes in Europe were firmly in the red. The EGX30 missed the party as it was off for a three-day weekend.

What’s up with covid? Vaccine programs in several parts of the world aren’t going so great right now, and the EU and US have both turned to protectionism to try and maintain supply. Then there were several manufacturers casting doubt on their abilities to provide adequate protection against new strains of the virus. We have more on both of these in this morning’s Covid Watch, below.

Then there was the horde of Reddit traders determined to meme the titans of Wall Street into bankruptcy. What began as just another short-sell for Melvin Capital quickly turned into a matter of life or death as thousands of retail traders left it nursing a 30% loss and in need of a USD 2.75 bn bailout. In the space of two weeks, lossmaking videogame retailer GameStop’s share price surged more than 1,000% as r/wallstreetbets pulled off one of the most remarkable grassroots short squeezes in history, leaving some of the street’s biggest players on the wrong side of the trade, brokerages searching for liquidity, and concerns over market volatility. Bloomberg and the FT have more on last week’s market moves. CNBC has a day-by-day recap.

Want to go deeper? Read the FT’s piece ‘This is the way’: the Reddit traders who took on Wall Street’s elite and meet Deep[Redacted]Value in this Reuters piece.

If you haven’t already heard — we’re no longer competing in the handball world cup: Egypt suffered a gut-wrenching defeat at the hands of Denmark, after playing the reigning world champions to a draw in a quarter-final game on Wednesday. The Pharaohs showed class and were a goal up until the last second of double-extra time, which was when the European side netted a penalty and decided the game on tie-breaker penalty throws. Egyptian left back Ali Zein was named man of the match.

Denmark and Sweden will face off in an all-European final tonight at 6:30 pm CLT. Spain and France will meet in the play-off for the bronze medal at 3:30 pm CLT.


Some foreigners could be made Emirati citizens: Foreign investors, doctors, scientists, and other “special talents” are now eligible for Emirati citizenship under new rules, according to UAE news agency Wam. The citizenship could be granted to individuals based on nominations from the UAE cabinet, local courts, and executive councils, provided they meet other requirements.

FROM THE DEPT. OF AWESOME NEWS- Renewables overtook fossil fuels as Europe’s primary source of energy last year.



Second wave ebbing + vaccine rollout gathering a bit of steam

Egypt will receive its first shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine today, a top Health Ministry agency said yesterday. The announcement came a few days after Health Minister Hala Zayed said the British company would deliver 50k doses in February. AstraZeneca has agreed to supply Egypt with 20 mn doses of the vaccine, which is enough to inoculate 10 mn people.

The vaccine hasn’t been approved for emergency use, but the minister said last week that the regulator would soon give the go-ahead. The Sinovac jab is also set to be registered and approved in Egypt soon, Presidential Health Advisor Mohamed Awad Tag Al-Din confirmed to Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 3:06). Sinovac’s jab has proven around 50% effective in trials carried out in Brazil.

Another shipment of China’s Sinopharm vaccine is also expected to arrive in the coming days, Health Ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed told Amr Adib on Friday (watch, runtime: 1:02). Egypt kicked off its vaccination program last week with the Sinopharm jab, which was approved by regulators late last year. Sinopharm will send Egypt 40 mn doses of the vaccine, which has been found to be 79-86% effective against the virus in studies.

And some of our allocation from Covax should be coming in March: Covax, the vaccine-sharing platform led by the Gavi vaccine alliance and the World Health Organization, expects to have distributed 25 mn doses to the Eastern Mediterranean region in March, and 355 mn by the end of the year, Reuters reports, citing WHO official Yvan Hutin. The first shipment will arrive in February, he said. Covax is an alliance that aims to ensure equitable access to covid vaccines worldwide, with the aim of delivering 1.8 bn doses to poorer countries in 2021.

But dial back those expectations: Those 25 mn doses will be shared between the 22 countries in the WHO’s EastMed region. We’ll ultimately be getting some 40 mn doses through Covax.

Downside risk #1: The EU has placed temporary export controls on covid vaccines manufactured inside its borders after facing supply issues and delivery shortfalls with AstraZeneca and Pfizer. US-based Moderna is also facing production challenges.

Potential silver lining: Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has proven 66% effective in a major global trial — but 85% effective against severe disease, a development that together with it being a single jab and easily stored has raised hopes among many epidemiologists. Even J&J’s competitors are optimistic, with a top scientist who worked on Modern’s jab calling it a “darn good tool” and urging “Don't let the perfect get in the way of the good enough.”

Downside risk #2: Covavax is only 49.4% effective against the South African variant while J&J’s efficacy fell from 72% to 57% in South Africa as global concern about mutant strains continues to rise.

Reason #9,238 you should get vaccinated when your turn comes: Imagine the whole world has to get vaccinated again … and again … and again because we all allow some mutants to spin out of control. The awesome Dr. Ashish Jha has the rundown in this thread.

WE’VE PASSED THE PEAK of the second wave, presidential health advisor Mohamed Awad Tag Eldin told DMC on Wednesday (watch, runtime: 13:36), citing a decrease in infections since the start of the year. Daily new infections have dropped 58% year-to-date and dropped 11% week-on-week as of yesterday.

The Health Ministry reported 547 new daily cases yesterday, down from 587 the day before, bringing the total tally of infections to 165,418. The daily death toll, which tends to lag two weeks behind the infection rate, is yet to fall substantially. Another 48 people lost their lives due to the virus on Friday, followed by 46 yesterday, taking the total number of deaths to 9,263.

AMONG THE DEAD: Famed hairstylist Mohamed Al Sagheer died of covid-19 on Friday at the age of 84, son-in-law Ahmed El Sakka confirmed on social media. Al Sagheer is generally credited with having created the template for the “modern” salon industry in Egypt.


TRAVEL WARNING- Travelers and commuters in the US will now be required to wear face masks on nearly all forms of public transport, the CDC ordered Friday. Folks heading to Canada will soon need to be tested on arrival and wait at a government-approved hotel — at a cost of around CAD 2k — for their test results before being allowed to move on to their final destination and finish out their 14-day quarantine.

Israel closed its crossings with Egypt and Jordan on Thursday as part of a bid to curb the covid outbreak, Israeli media reported Wednesday. They are expected to remain closed until at least today. This comes as the government considers lengthening the country’s national lockdown and keeping its airport closed to prevent the entry of new variants of the virus.


Keep it steady

ENTERPRISE POLL- CBE expected to leave interest rates on hold in its first meeting of 2021: Eleven out of 12 economists and analysts surveyed by Enterprise expect the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE)’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to leave rates unchanged when it meets this Thursday, 4 February. Still, most expect the CBE to resume its easing cycle in the coming months with a potential small cut.

Where rates stand currently: The CBE’s overnight deposit rate is now at 8.25% and the lending rate is 9.25%, while the main operation and discount rates are now at 8.75%. Rates have been left on hold since last November, when the MPC made a surprise 50 bps cut, following an earlier 50 bps cut in September. With the record 300 bps emergency cut the MPC enacted in March 2020 to protect the economy from the fallout from covid-19, the central bank cut by a total 400 bps in 2020.

The sole dissenting voice: Pharos head of research Radwa El Swaify, who forecasts a possible 50 bps cut this month. El Swaify, who was one of only two analysts to correctly call November’s 50 bps cut, expects the CBE to try and get ahead of the coming wave of inflation, which Pharos forecasts coming in at 5.5% this month and rising to 6.9% in February. “This will support the fiscal budget and boost trade and economic growth at the beginning of the year,” Swaify tells Enterprise. Inflation is then expected to end the third quarter at 7.5%, and drop down slightly to 7.0% by the end of the year.

No pressing need for more cuts… Real interest rates are within the CBE’s target range of 2-3%, said EFG Hermes’ Head of Macroeconomic Research Mohamed Abu Basha, and the 400 bps cuts enacted in 2020 should prove sufficient for now. Likewise, CI Capital’s Sara Saada thinks the CBE has been conservative with its liquidity injections this month, causing a slight increase in interest rates, and is likely to continue its conservative approach and hold off on making any cuts this next meeting considering the meagre growth in money supply since November.

Especially with inflation where the CBE wants it: With its amended target range of 7% (+/-2) reflecting the CBE’s shift towards propping up investment activity, a steady interest rate is just what the market needs right now, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development lead economist Bassem Kamar tells us. With that in mind, both Kamar and Mubasher International’s Mohamed Magdy expect the MPC to hold off on making further cuts until the second half of the year.

…Despite mounting pressures: “We perceive upward interest rate pressures as was manifested in rising yields and relatively weaker coverage in the last government T-bill and T-bond auctions,” said HC Securities’ Monette Doss. Decreased banking sector liquidity, as well as global economic uncertainty and the continued volatility of sectors such as tourism and exports in Egypt also pose interest rate pressures.

… And the need for affordable borrowing: Sigma Capital’s Abu Bakr Imam believes cuts are necessary to allow the government to borrow at lower costs and carry out planned projects to achieve targeted growth levels, but still expects the CBE will hold off on further monetary easing until later in the year. Suez Canal Bank’s Mohamed Abdel Aal, on the other hand, thinks growth can be achieved with a steady increase in public spending on projects and consumer spending on goods and services, without the need for more cuts at the moment.

But larger cuts could be necessary if inflation and growth fall below forecasts: “The CBE may resume monetary easing at a more aggressive pace if inflation rates fall beneath 6%,” said Mubasher’s Magdy, or “if GDP growth rates dropped significantly below the baseline forecast trajectory.”

A steady rate could also boost FX inflows by offering attractive yields to foreign investors, said Abdel Aal. This could be a priority for the CBE at the moment as Egyptian treasuries face higher competition from Turkey, which boosted its policy rates by 475 bps in November, and by another 200 bps in December, putting its real return rates on level with Egypt’s at 3.8%. Arqaam Capital’s Noaman Khalid also points to the importance of attracting portfolio inflows as impetus for the MPC to hold off on rate cuts.

Are we more likely to see a cut in March? Prime Securities’ Mona Bedeir expects as much, penciling in a 50 bps in March and another 50 bps cut at some later point in the year. Nonetheless, “the CBE will be very cautious, given the external pressures that still weigh on the future exchange rate,” and the possibility of its loose monetary stance turning inflationary, Bedeir predicts.

Looking ahead: El Swaify sees room for another potential 50-75 bps cut in October, totaling cuts of 100-125 bps this year, while Magdy says we can expect a 50 bps cut at some point before the end of the fiscal year. Bedeir says markets are pricing in a total of 100 bps of cuts throughout 2021, which Khalid thinks will be concentrated in 2Q2021 or the back half of the year.


Fawry, CI Capital, MM Group make it into EGX30

Fawry is among five companies that have made it onto Egypt’s benchmark EGX30 index after the bourse completed a rebalancing of the gauge under new inclusion criteria, the EGX said in a statement (pdf). The rebalancing will be reflected on the index as of tomorrow. Fawry became Egypt’s first unicorn last year, achieving a market capitalization of USD 1 bn. Its market cap has since nearly doubled to upwards of EGP 29 bn (USD 1.85 bn).

Who else is in? Investment bank and NBFS player CI Capital, consumer stalwart MM Group, state-owned Abu Qir Fertilizers, and Alexandria Mineral Oils Company (AMOC) are now EGX30 constituents.

And who’s out? Education outfit CIRA, dairy producer Juhayna, soon to be defunct Egyptian Iron and Steel, clothing manufacturer Dice, and Beltone Financial Holding have all rotated out of the benchmark index.

The rebalancing also reduced the weight of the EGX30’s heaviest constituents to now account for 36.8% of the index’s combined market capitalization, down from 44.4%, the EGX said. A more even distribution of weights was one of the key targets of introducing the new inclusion criteria, it added. Other changes that took place under the new methodology include shuffling the constituents of the broader EGX50 EWI and EGX100 EWI indices, as well as setting in motion a plan to scrap the Nile Index tracking SMEs companies listed on small-cap NileX in favor of a new, improved “Tamayoz” index. You can read up on the current methodology here (pdf).

The EGX30 is reviewed (or “rebalanced”) every six months, at the beginning of February and of August each year.


Egypt scores worse in corruption figures than last year

Egypt has ranked #117 out of 180 in Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index (pdf), falling 11 spots from 106 last year. Egypt came in with a score of 33 in this year’s index, down from 35 in 2019. The index focuses on the perceived levels of public sector corruption around the world, giving a score from 0 to 100 to each country, with 0 being “highly corrupt” and 100 being “very clean.” Denmark and New Zealand tied for the spot of “cleanest” countries with a score of 88, while Somalia and South Sudan both occupied the last places with a score of 12.

In MENA, the UAE fared best with a score of 71, followed by Qatar (63). Libya, Yemen and Syria came in last. The average regional score stood at 39.

Globally, more than two-thirds of the examined countries scored below 50. The report voiced concerns about corruption in the healthcare sector, especially with the spread of the pandemic, and called on governments to hold state institutions accountable and make public procurement more transparent.


Al Tayseer Healthcare Group has big plans for the future

Al Tayseer Healthcare Group (THG) plans to have six hospitals in its portfolio as it prepares to expand ahead of a potential IPO in 2024, CEO Mohamed Gazar told the local press. This year, THG is snapping up an 80% stake in an unnamed hospital in Alexandria and raising its stake in Mansoura Medical Center to over 50% through a mandatory tender offer expected to wrap up in weeks, El Gazar said. THG currently holds a 20% stake in the Mansoura center, which it will be looking to modernize at an expected cost of EGP 120 mn once it’s in the driving seat, he added. The company also wants to set up 20 new branches of Hassab Laboratories, the high-profile medical labs operator it acquired in late 2019, raising the number of branches to 65 at a cost of EGP 30 mn, and wrap up an ongoing EGP 200 mn expansion of its flagship hospital in Zagazig.

There’s also a greenfield project in the pipeline: THG will break ground on a new 100-bed, EGP 100 mn hospital in Meet Ghamr within six months, Gazar said.

Blue ocean strategy: The company will focus on the Delta region, where there’s a shortage of hospital beds and less competition than in Cairo, Gazar says. Besides its immediate plans for this year, THG expects to acquire a hospital in Gharbia and another in Damietta by 2023, he added. It will also diversify by expanding into outpatient clinics and getting its hands on more medical labs. Gazar earlier this year put a EGP 700 mn price tag to the group’s expansion drive.

IPO plans: The offering is expected within three years. In the meantime, THG will begin by hiring KPMG Hazem Hassan as an auditor and an in-house team to rebuild its organizational structure and improve governance.

Ownership: The group is 68.6% owned by its founders, the Gazar family. The remainder is split between a group of doctors who collectively hold a 12% stake, and Ezdehar Egypt Mid-Cap Fund, which acquired close to 20% ownership late last year.


New oil + gas exploration tender coming

Energy companies will get a chance to get their hands on new onshore and offshore exploration blocks within two weeks, when state-owned EGPC and EGAS will launch a new oil and gas exploration tender, Oil Minister Tarek El Molla told Gulf Intelligence (watch, runtime: 21:15). The tender will include offshore blocks in the Mediterranean and Nile Delta, as well as onshore areas in the Western Desert and Eastern Desert, El Molla said. The fresh tender comes weeks after the ministry signed nine oil and gas exploration agreements worth more than USD 1 bn with six international and Egyptian companies.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s gas exports will also be handed a boost from the Damietta LNG facility, which is set to process some 4.5 mn tonnes of natural gas a year once it reopens at the end of February after lying dormant for almost eight years, El Molla said. The plant’s output will help increase the country’s export capacity to 12.5 mn tonnes.

Gas exports took a hit from covid, but demand is now recovering: Egypt’s gas exports collapsed last year as lockdowns across the world put pressure on demand and sent prices spiraling. The country completed only a couple of shipments between March and October as the outbreak disrupted the market. “Starting from October 2020 until now, we have already booked all our volumes to be exported from the Idku plant up till the end of March,” El Molla told the Dubai-based consultancy.

A top 10 exporter: Should Egypt get both the Damietta and Idku facilities back to full capacity, the country would become one of the 10 largest exporters of LNG in the world, according to Bloomberg data. This would put it firmly on the path to realizing its ambitions of becoming a regional gas hub, shipping LNG to Europe from its Mediterranean reserves and some of the gas imported from Israel.


Tourism losses piling up

Egypt has foregone USD 14 bn in foreign currency revenue thanks to the pandemic wreaking havoc on tourism, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said in an interview with MP Moustafa Bakry on Sada El Balad (watch, runtime: 3:18). Related sectors — including hospitality, aviation, and global trade — were also hard-hit, which meant lower FX receipts and a large number of businesses in financial distress and paying less taxes, Maait said. Egypt suffered a EGP 220 bn shortfall in tax revenue in FY2019-2020 in the wake of the pandemic.

Background: Only 3.6 mn tourists visited Egypt last year, down almost 75% from 13 mn in 2019. Average monthly receipts declined 85-92% to just USD 80-150 mn, down from USD 1 bn in 2019.


Companies in dedicated investment zones are in line for a VAT exemption

Goods and services from special economic zones (SEZs) may soon be made VAT-exempt under draft legislative amendments approved by the House Planning and Budgeting Committee on Wednesday, reports Al Mal. If passed in a final general assembly vote, the changes — part of a raft of amendments to the VAT Act — would afford projects set up in SEZs the same treatment as those in freezones, which pay no VAT on goods and services they import or export, excluding cars.

More VAT changes in the pipeline: An amendment that would scrap VAT on strategic commodities including legumes, grains, table salt, and spices received committee approval last week, while proposals to close exemptions for products including crackers and sweet pastries as well as commercial and administrative real estate remain with the committee.


CIB sees digital banking boom

2020 was a boom year for digital banking at CIB, which reported a 118% increase in the value of mobile banking transactions to hit EGP 53 bn, Deputy COO Mohamed Farag told the press. The total number of retail customers using internet banking services increased 35% during the year, he said.

And its mobile wallet saw strong growth: CIB Smart Wallet had 34% more users by the end of the year, with users more than doubling their transactions to EGP 2.8 bn as covid-19 restrictions forced many P2P and other transactions to go digital, Farag said. The bank now has a 20% activity rate in smart wallets, he said.

Also noteworthy: Many corporates have shifted “entirely” to digital channels, with B2B seamless transactions climbing 93% y-o-y in 2020 and the number of new businesses registering for internet banking increasing 45%, Farag said.

ALSO IN BANKING- Banque Misr is looking to expand its offerings in Somalia, Djibouti and Kenya as part of the bank’s expansion into East Africa, Deputy Chairman Akef El Maghraby told Al Shorouk. The bank is also looking to expand in Côte d’Ivoire. Banque Misr currently has a rep office in Nairobi, while Banque Misr Liban has a representative office in Côte d'Ivoire’s Abidjan. The bank also plans to set up shop in Riyadh, said El Maghraby, without specifying a timeline.


Looking to the west for wheat?

Could Egypt be turning to Canada and the US for more of its wheat? Russia’s new wheat-export restrictions that come into effect mid-February will likely spark demand for Canadian and US grain, Bloomberg writes. In a bid to cool domestic food inflation, the world’s largest wheat shipper imposed strict export measures, rallying global prices to a six-year high. The export tax is expected to rise even further for four months starting March. Closer to home, Egypt had canceled a grain tender two weeks ago, due to the high prices resulting from the new export restrictions. Analysts suspect countries to now look further west to the US and Canada for wheat imports, since the EU does not have sufficient supply.


RATP Dev to manage the Salam City-Tenth of Ramadan electric rail

It’s official: French transportation outfit RATP Dev will operate the Salam City-Tenth of Ramadan electric train, after ministers gave the all-clear to the contract at the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Ministers authorized the National Authority for Tunnels to sign the contract, which will see RATP Dev — short for Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens — manage, operate, and do maintenance for the line, which is currently 72% complete.

Nine months until launch: The electric train is being built by the CREC-AVIC International Consortium (which includes China Railway Group Limited and Aviation Industry Corporation of China). The consortium was contracted for civil works back in 2019, and is working alongside a few Egyptian outfits including Orascom Construction. Transport Minister Kamel El Wazir said this month that the first two parts of the project, which run from Adly Mansour station to several areas of the new capital, will be inaugurated next October.

Also receiving cabinet sign off:

  • Procedures to sign a contract with Siemens Gamesa for a project to generate 500 MW of wind energy in the Gulf of Suez as an independent power producer and sell electricity to the government at USD 0.03 per kWh;
  • An agreement with the French Development Agency to support teaching French at public schools;
  • A contract between the ICT Ministry and Microsoft to run a data center in the new administrative capital;
  • A draft law to bring a state fund to support cotton cultivation under the Cotton Research Institute in a bid to improve produce quality; and
  • A method to calculate payouts due to contractors working with the government under the 2017 Contractors Compensation Act.



Egypt getting its hands on its first shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine today was the talk of the town last night. Masaa DMC’s Eman El Hosary spoke to UK-based pathology professor Diaa El-Din Kamel to reiterate the vaccine’s minimal side effects and easy storage conditions (watch, runtime: 15:41), while Al Hayah Al Youm's Lobna Assal also took note (watch, runtime: 1:29).

Also on the airwaves last night:

  • Aboul Gheit staying on at the Arab League? Egypt has nominated Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit for a second five-year term, Ittihadiya said in a statement. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi called on Arab leaders to back his bid to stay on as the league’s chief (Lamees El Hadidi on Kelma Akhira | watch, runtime: 02:37) (Lobna Assal on Al Hayah Al Youm | watch, runtime: 08:41).
  • The new Traffic Act is still under discussion at the House Defense and National Security Committee, and is likely facing some reworking as some proposed fines appear to be too hefty, said committee member Yahya Al-Kedwani. (Amr Adib on El Hekaya | watch, runtime: 6:31)


The 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring is getting digital ink in the foreign press: A Bloomberg opinion piece by Timothy Kaldas argues that governments across the region remain vulnerable to political instability, Qantara features Egyptian activists’ reflections on the events of the decade, while the Washington Post looks at the wider region.

Elsewhere: The Telegraph tells its readers to look to Egypt for a post-lockdown holiday, the New York Times has included Ancient Egypt-inspired homeware brand Udjat in its weekly newsletter of editor’s recommendations, and the Guardian has picked up an Amnesty International report on conditions in prisons. Meanwhile, Travel + Leisure reports on the upcoming high-speed train line linking the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, and the kids of an Egyptian immigrant feature in the lede to a New York Times piece on licensing fees for street food vendors.


The universal healthcare program should be fully rolled out in 10 years instead of 15, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said in a statement on Thursday. The first phase covering Luxor, Aswan, Ismailia, Suez and South Sinai should be completed in 2021. Over 1 mn people in pilot governorate Port Said have registered for the scheme, which provides over 2.3k medical services. Currently, Luxor is getting ready to integrate the UHIS throughout its 59 medical service entities and seven hospitals.

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

  • Sarwa Capital could change its name to Contact Financial Holding at its next extraordinary general assembly, according to an EGX disclosure (pdf).
  • French shipping company CMA CGM will operate and manage a planned all-purpose terminal that will be set up in Alexandria Port by 2022, under a long-term partnership it provisionally agreed to with the government, the company said in a statement on Thursday.
  • China’s CSEC has been granted LGs worth EGP 1 bn from Banque Misr to fund the construction of office-space towers in the new administrative capital.
  • Qatari Diar will resume construction work on its USD 8 bn City Gate project in East Cairo in 2Q2021.
  • Egypt has reclaimed 5k artifacts from a US museum after years of negotiations to retrieve a collection that was illegally smuggled out of the country.


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Can you give us some? The Saudi stock exchange wants to break a record in 2021 for the most initial public offerings in any given year in its history, Khalid Abdullah Al Hussan, the exchange’s chief executive, told Bloomberg on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. Saudi saw 22 IPOs last year, with four companies going public on its main market raising a combined USD 1.5 bn. The kingdom is currently looking at hosting cross-listings from companies based in other GCC countries as a starting point for “a very very healthy pipeline.”

Companies have raised more than USD 400 bn in the first 3 weeks of 2021, USD 170 bn more than the average for this time of year, Refinitiv data shows, according to the Financial Times. Fiscal stimulus by governments and central banks around the world have given debt and equity markets a boost, allowing equity managers to price out covid-19 by using low interest rates to expand or cash out, while rapidly rising valuations have encouraged more companies to go public sooner and raise capital on stock markets.




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The EGX30 rose 0.4% on Wednesday on turnover of EGP 1.8 bn (23.5% above the 90-day average). Domestic investors were net sellers. The index is up 6.8% YTD.

In the green: Pioneers Holding (+4.2%), Eastern Company (+3.7%) and CIRA (+1.9%).

In the red: Egyptian Iron & Steel (-5.9%), Madinet Nasr Housing (-1.5%) and Credit Agricole (-1.1%).


Calendar on 31 January 2021

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.

25-29 January (Monday-Friday): The World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda (virtual).

27-28 January (Wednesday-Thursday): Future Investment Initiative, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

27 January (Wednesday): Roundtable on the “Competitive Advantages Of Sukuk.”

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.

12 February (Friday): Deadline to reach a settlement with the Tax Authority on overdue income, value-added, or real estate taxes 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.

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

22 February- 5 March (Monday-Friday) Egypt will host the World Shooting Championship in 6 October’s Shooting Club, with 31 countries set to participate

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 (TBC)

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

1 May (Saturday): Labor Day (national holiday).

2 May (Sunday): Easter Sunday.

3 May (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

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

25-28 May (Tuesday-Friday): The World Economic Forum annual meeting, Singapore.

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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