Sunday, 7 February 2021

We’re getting another 300k doses of Sinopharm + El Sisi in rare chat with Amr Adib



Good morning, everyone, and welcome to a new workweek. You have 77 days left until your next holiday and c. 65 days left until Ramadan. Just sayin’.

IN THE HOUSE TODAY- CIT Minister Amr Talaat and Planning Minister Hala El Said will present their policy priorities to MPs today and tomorrow, according to the House agenda. El Said appears to be the last minister scheduled to deliver a policy statement, the total to 20 out of 33 cabinet members.

Kuwait is off limits for the next two weeks after the Gulf country last week decided to ban entry to foreigners amid a rise in covid cases. Emigration Minister Nabila Makram has advised Egyptians to postpone their travel plans until further notice. Saudi also lowered the gates early last week, banning flights from Egypt and 19 other countries, and on Thursday ordered closed all malls, restaurants, cafés, gyms and cinemas for a 10-day period.

GLOBAL NEWS worth knowing this morning:

The US isn’t going soft on China: Secretary of State Anthony Blinken “blasted” Beijing in a call during which he tweeted that he “made clear the US will defend our national interests, stand up for our democratic values, and hold Beijing accountable for its abuses of the international system.”

We’re not alone: India is setting out to privatize state-owned banks, the Financial Times reports. Indian media suggest that two small institutions — Punjab and Sind Bank and Bank of Maharashtra — are likely to go on the auction block first.

PSA #1- That directorship you just got offered? It’s more than just an easy honorarium for showing up sober to meetings. You have to pay attention, too — at least if you’re the director of a company in the United Kingdom, where the business department is about to make directors personally responsible for the accuracy of financial statements. The reforms will be outlined in a report to be made public this week, the Financial Times reports. Something bad happen while you’re sitting at the boardroom table? You could face a fine and a temporary ban from serving on boards.

PSA #2- If you or your spawn are planning to attend a private university in Egypt, you now need to go through the new admissions system set up by the Higher Education Ministry. Prospective students have until tomorrow to upload their secondary education certificates on the new website — and from Friday through to 8am on Monday, 15 February to register for a spot. Application results will be announced on Saturday, 20 February. Want to read more about the Tansik-style system? We looked at its merits and potential drawbacks in our weekly education vertical, Blackboard.

It’s about to get a little bit more expensive to register your car as proposed amendments to the Traffic Act would impose new fees on private, diplomatic, and public-sector vehicles depending on engine size, former assistant interior minister Medhat Koreytem said. Private vehicle owners could be required to cough up EGP 60-350 to help finance the smart transport system. The fees will rise 6% per year from the first value and will be capped at a 200% increase. Ahmed Moussa has the story on Ala Mas'ouleety (watch, runtime: 3:24 and runtime: 1:53).

We’re looking at warm weather all week, with the mercury rising from 23°C today to 27°C tomorrow and Tuesday, according to our favorite weather app. Then again, what does it (or the national weather service) know after the no-show of the rainapocalypse this past Thursday?


The annual African Union (AU) summit wraps up today: The virtual summit will see South Africa hand the chairmanship of the AU to Felix Tshisekedi, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi stressed the importance of a coordinated African response to the covid-19 pandemic in an address to AU leaders yesterday, while Egypt was selected to represent the North African region in the union for the third year running.

Egyptian-Kazakh Business Forum: Representatives from 250 Egyptian companies and 110 Kazakh firms are in Sharm El Sheikh for the Egyptian-Kazakh Business Forum. The event, designed to promote increased cross-border commercial ties, kicked off on Friday and ends today.

Inflation figures for January will be released on Wednesday, 10 February.

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


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China’s catching up in the vax race

China will soon provide Egypt with 300k doses of its Sinopharm covid-19 vaccine, Liao Liqiang, China’s ambassador in Cairo, said on Twitter. That’s enough to protect 150k people from the virus, with each recipient getting two shots 21 days apart.

The doses we’re getting in the next few days should cover most health workers, Health Minister Hala Zayed said at a presser last week (watch, runtime: 1:16). Medical professionals in 22 state-run quarantine hospitals had been vaccinated as of last Wednesday, and there are 363 hospitals to go, she said.

The ministry plans to vaccinate over 410k medical staff by mid-month, at which point the elderly and people with underlying health conditions will begin receiving their jabs (here and here). Egypt kicked off its vaccination program using the Sinopharm jab in late January, after the vaccine was approved by regulators late last year. The company plans to ship a total of 40 mn doses to Egypt, enough for 20 mn people. The inoculation has been found to be 79-86% effective against the virus in studies.

IT’S TIME TO TRUST RUSSIAN and Chinese jabs. That’s the headline across the top of a New York Times opinion piece published just days after a study in the UK’s prestigious medical journal Lancet found that Sputnik V has a 91.6% efficacy rate. We’d roll our sleeves up for Sputnik, locally manufactured or not. In fact, the best news we could imagine is word that the Russian vaccine would be locally manufactured at Vacsera’s facilities here in Cairo.

FACT- The US and UK have used up about 40% of the nearly 120 mn vaccine doses that have so far been administered.

The Health Ministry reported 509 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 540 the day before. The ministry also reported 44 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 9,604. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 169,106 confirmed cases of covid-19.

It will take about seven years to get to a post-covid-19 “normal,” according to Bloomberg estimates based on the business information service’s global vaccine tracker. Health officials have estimated that 70-75% of the global population must be vaccinated in order to effectively stop the spread of covid-19 and reach herd immunity — a process that will take longer in some countries than others. Israel will hit 75% coverage in two months, the highest coverage rate in the world, while setbacks in Canada’s vaccine rollout will struggle to hit that figure before fall (or worse, if the current shortage in vaccination supply continues).

The UK is turning into a petri dish of virulent variants: Three covid-19 strains identified by health researchers in the UK appear to have a mutation called E484Ks, which could make current vaccines less effective and may give them the ability to sidestep immunity conferred by prior infection, the Financial Times reports.

The Oxford / AstraZeneca jab does not prevent “mild to moderate” covid from the South African strain, according to a study to be published today. The news follows word that Johnson & Johnson and Novavax’s entrants were also less effective against the strain.


As expected, central bank leaves rates on hold

The Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) left rates on hold during its first meeting of 2021 on Thursday, citing “subdued” economic activity. The second wave of the covid-19 pandemic and efforts to contain it continue to weigh on the economy’s near-term prospects, despite loose financial conditions, the central bank said in a statement (pdf) following the meeting.

Where do the rates stand? Overnight deposit and lending rates remain at 8.25% and 9.25% respectively, while main operation and disc. rates each stay at 8.75%. This is the second consecutive meeting that the CBE has left rates unchanged after reducing them by 400 bps during 2020, including a record 300 bps rate cut in March.

The hold was expected by 11 of 12 economists we surveyed last week. The pool was mostly in agreement that real interest rates were within the CBE’s target range of 2-3%, and that it had been conservative with liquidity injections last month, causing a slight increase in interest rates. Additionally, the meagre growth of money supply since November would cause them to hold off from making any cuts. The steady rate is expected to boost FX inflows by offering attractive yields to foreign investors, as per the survey.

Inflation has remained stubbornly low despite the stimulus: Average annual headline urban inflation in 4Q2020 came in at 5.2%, below the 6% lower bound of the CBE’s initial target range. The CBE has set a new 7% (± 2%) target.

Blame covid: The weak price growth is a result of the pandemic, the CBE said yesterday, highlighting the government’s efforts to contain the outbreak and its market interventions to prevent supply shortages. “Given the balance of risks, the CBE undertook several preemptive measures to support economic activity while remaining consistent with achieving its price stability objective over the medium term,” it said.

This could change in the months ahead: “Inflation is going to start recording higher figures every month throughout the first three quarters of 2021, and will start slowing down a bit towards 4Q2021, which is why we had expected a rate cut,” Pharos’ head of research Radwa El Swaify told Enterprise. However, the average will remain within the 7% (+/- 2%) throughout 2021, she added.

More fuel for the carry trade: “We believe Egyptian treasuries will remain attractive, underpinned by a strong EGP and rising real interest rates given the low inflation,” Beltone Financial’s Alia Mamdouh wrote in a note following the meeting. “Among emerging markets with comparable yields, Egypt still stands out with a relatively less impacted economy from the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it provides growth potential.”

Was that the last chance to cut before 4Q? Most likely, El Swaify tells us. She sees inflation rising from Ramadan until the final quarter of the year due to seasonal factors. EFG Hermes’ Mohamed Abu Basha has penciled in a 100 bps rate cut this year, but toward 2H2021.


New regs for SME lenders

A new regulatory framework for SME lenders is now the law of the land after being published in the Official Gazette (pdf) last week. Under the framework, lenders must have in place appropriate risk assessment and capital adequacy protocols, ensure they appoint experienced boards (which lines up with recent regulations on internal structure), and seek approval if a single party plans to hold over more than 25% of the lender. The lenders also need to follow Egyptian Accounting Standards when reporting financials, have specialists on staff, and provide funding to each project separately.

Capital adequacy and risk management: The regs require SME lenders to maintain a capital adequacy ratio of 12% and set aside 15% of their operating profit as a contingency against operational risks, as well as only take on debt up to 9x of their equity base. Other risk mitigation regulations include having 100% of the liquidity needed to cover outbound cashflow for a 30-day period on hand at all times and lending no more than 10% of capital to a single borrower, or 25% to borrowers in the same industry.

Supervision and monitoring, foreign ownership: Other elements of the new framework include rules for monitoring and supervision, such as inspections by the authority, and a requirement to get security clearance to on-board foreign owners.


After USD 100 mn in investment: AMG has plans to IPO in 2023

Alfa Medical (AMG) will invest EGP 5 bn over the next five years and is planning an IPO in 2023, Chairman Adel Talaat told the local press on Thursday. Talaat’s statement on the company’s planned investments came one day after UK government development finance arm CDC announced a USD 100 mn investment in the healthcare group. The chairman provided no detail on AMG’s IPO plans beyond the 2023 target date.

Investment plans in detail: The company plans to nearly double its stock of hospital beds to 300 from a current 170 by the end of 2021, and add 130-150 beds and 25 laboratories each year, Talaat said. The group’s most ambitious project, Alfa Medical City, will be completed by the end of 2023.

It’s unclear whether the EGP 5 bn figure includes CDC’s investment, which apparently will also help to finance the Alfa Medical City and expand the company’s lab count, in addition to setting up a training academy for AMG employees and other healthcare professionals. CDC has a stake in the company shy of 20%, Talaat said.

Advisors: Compass Capital was sell-side advisor to Alfa on the CDC investment. The transaction marks the “very exciting” launch of a new line of business at Compass, our friend Tarek Abdel Rahman tells us. “A transaction with an investor of CDC’s caliber draws a line under the strength of Alfa’s business model and the attractiveness of the healthcare industry in the Arab world’s most populous country,” added Abdel Rahman, managing partner at Compass, whose track record in M&A and corporate finance spans from Citi to Beltone and boutique firm Akanar (now part of the investment bank Arqaam). Matouk Bassiouny & Hennawy and Clifford Chance were counsel to CDC, according to a statement (pdf).


Egypt leading Careem’s Mideast covid-19 recovery

Uber’s Middle East subsidiary Careem posted its fastest recovery from the pandemic here in Egypt, Careem Egypt General Manager Haitham Essam told Enterprise. “We were able to reinstate 67% of operation rates, which is the highest recovery rate among the Arab world,” after seeing an 80% plunge in activity during the first wave of the pandemic, Essam said. Careem Egypt expects to recover to pre-covid activity levels in 2021, he said.

What the company did to nudge along the recovery: In response to the pandemic, Careem launched new transport options that ensure social distancing, such as Go Aman in Egypt, in which vehicles install a plastic shield between the driver and the passenger. Careem also slashed the prices of its standard Go services by 10% and — in response to the massive uptick in online shopping demand from Egyptians during the pandemic — tapped into last-mile delivery, as well product delivery services, Essam told us.

In the wider MENA region, Careem is forecasting a return to pre-pandemic business activity closer to the end of the year, after previously expecting a quicker recovery, CEO Mudassir Sheikha said in a year-end forecast, according to Reuters. While demand has slowed of late, the business “was nine times larger than at its lowest point last year” but still remained below its performance before the pandemic. Sheikha believes that what Careem may lose in margins in the short- to mid-term, it can make up for in volumes over time


170 closer to 1k: Natural gas filling stations to be set up next month

From mid-March to mid-April, around 170 new stations will be ready to fill up cars running on natural gas, the cabinet announced on Thursday. The Oil Ministry is scouting 750 sites for natural gas filling stations, of which 368 are already in the works. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has set a goal of rolling out 1k new stations.

The move is part of the government’s natural gas transition plan, for which the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) launched a multi-bn EGP program last month, encouraging car owners to outfit their vehicles with dual-fuel engines. The Trade Ministry also rolled out a website for applications for car replacements and conversions in January.

By the numbers: Some 250k old cars will be taken off the road and outfitted with dual-fuel engines by the end of 2023 under the first phase of the plan. The CBE’s financing will cover the cost of 80k cars that are part of the plan’s earlier phases, the governor had said. Overall, the plan will need EGP 60 bn to cover the cost of subsequent phases.

Drivers will soon be able to find the location of their nearest fueling station through a new Oil Ministry app, whose beta version launched yesterday. The app is not yet rolled out for public use on the Play Store or Apple store.


Who doesn’t love a little bit of debt?

Banks dominate AT Lease securitization: Banks snapped up all of AT Lease’s EGP 1.1 bn securitized bond offering last week, with Suez Canal Bank coming out on top with a EGP 300 mn investment, Hapi Journal reported, citing unnamed sources. Banque Misr and its investment arm Misr Capital bought EGP 287 mn, Attijariwafa Bank EGP 200 mn, United Bank EGP 200 mn, and Bank ABC EGP 100 mn, the sources said. The leasing company closed the sale, which was part two of a larger securitization program, on Wednesday. The issuance comes as AT Lease is looking to boost its financial position and fund future expansion plans, including expanding its factoring services for SMEs.

Advisors: Misr Capital acted as lead manager, financial advisor, and arranger for the issuance, and Banque Misr was custodian, according to a statement (pdf). ALC Alieldean Weshahi & Partners were legal counsel, while Baker Tilly auditor. The Middle East Credit Rating and Investors Services (Meris) rated the issuance.


Sarwa Life Ins. Company’s recently launched money market fund was 3x oversubscribed at its closing last week, attracting almost EGP 300 mn of subscription requests, according to a statement (pdf). The fund, managed by Misr Capital, had a target closing of EGP 100 mn.

Jojoba oil producer GoGreen is in talks with the Agriculture Bank of Egypt (ABE) over a EGP 500 mn loan to finance the expansion of its Western Desert fish farm facilities at Al Moghra, the local press reports. The company is looking to tap into low interest financing supported by the Central Bank of Egypt to fund the 500-feddan expansion, GoGreen chairman Hossam Abdel Kader told the local press. A final agreement on loan terms is pending a feasibility study being conducted by the bank.

Correction: 7 February 2021. A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Sarwa Life Insurance and Misr Capital’s fund as a fixed-income fund.



Banque du Caire to establish e-payments company

State-owned Banque du Caire will partner with an unnamed foreign investor to launch a planned e-payments company in which it will hold a majority stake, head of investments at the state-owned bank Mohamed Ragai told Al Shorouk. Ragai provided no further details on the planned e-payments arm. The bank received central bank approval for its e-payments license application late last year, and established a remittance transfer service with Fawry shortly after.

Investment plans: Banque du Caire plans to invest USD 2 mn in its Uganda branch, Ragai said. The bank is also considering launching a number of investment funds for SMEs, and plans to continue investing in leading stocks on the EGX, said Ragai.

Still no word on the IPO: Ragai made no mention of the bank’s potential IPO, which was scheduled for last year but postponed indefinitely due to unfavourable market conditions caused by covid-19.

EFG Hermes subsidiaries partner up to offer finance to merchants

EFG Hermes subsidiaries launch merchant financing program: Corp-Solutions will offer factoring services to ValU merchants under a new program the two EFG Hermes subsidiaries launched on Thursday, the investment bank announced in a press release (pdf). Merchants who have been customers of ValU for more than a year will be granted access to finance ranging between EGP 50k and EGP 10 mn, which they can use to finance working capital and make capital investments. ValU — EFG Hermes’ fintech arm — uses AI to assess credit profiles and set a pre-approved limit, enabling it to authorize the transaction within 24 hours.


Egycomex to pilot with the start of the wheat season

Egypt’s long-awaited commodities exchange (Egycomex) will kick off trading on a pilot basis in late April or early May when the next wheat season begins, and Egypt is aiming to supply 4 mn tonnes of wheat in the coming season, Supply Minister Ali El Moselhy said, according to Mubasher. Internal Trade Development Authority Chairman Ibrahim Ashmawy — who will also be chairman of Egycomex — had told the local press last year that the exchange would begin trading in wheat in the first half of 2021, but later pushed the launch to the second half of 2021. Ashmawy had previously told us that traders would be able to buy and sell wheat, oil, sugar, and rice when the exchange launches, and said in a separate interview that gold, steel and cotton would be added later. The exchange has been in the works since February 2018, when it was made possible after amendments made to the Capital Markets Act.


Juhayna CEO Seif Thabet arrested

Juhayna CEO Seif Thabet has been detained for 15 days pending investigation on the orders of the prosecutor general, Masrawy reports, citing unnamed sources in the know. Seif is being questioned in the same case brought against his father, Safwan Thabet, late last year, on allegations of “financing terrorism and supporting terrorist groups.” Seif had taken over as managing director at the company following Safwan’s arrest in December. An alleged affiliation with the Ikhwan had seen Safwan placed on a terror watchlist in 2017, in addition to his assets being frozen. He has denied belonging to the outlawed group.


Libya agrees to interim government

Libyan factions agree transitional government after years of conflict: Delegates from Libya's rival factions voted for a transitional unity government at a UN-led forum in Geneva on Friday ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections later this year. In a landmark moment following five days of talks, a three-member presidential council and a prime minister were chosen in two rounds of voting

It is hoped that the new unified Libyan administration will end the division and chaos that has lasted for almost a decade following Nato’s ouster of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The UN dubbed the move “a historic moment” as it is a key step in a peacemaking process aimed at unifying the war-torn country ahead of the December 24 elections.

Egypt rolled out the red carpet for Libya’s new UN-backed government, with the Foreign Ministry saying in a statement it was looking forward to working with the new administration and expressing hope that the agreement will enable a peaceful transition of power.


The biggest story on the airwaves yesterday was pretty big: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi called in to El Hekaya for a chat with host Amr Adib on a range of issues, a rare one-on-one with the media. You can catch the full interview here (runtime: 26:25). Key talking points:

Vaccination program: There are some 35 mn people in the first tier of individuals in the vaccine drive — medical professionals and people with chronic conditions — meaning the country needs 70 mn vaccine doses to inoculate them, El Sisi said. The financing is ready and available to complete their vaccination, he said. The government is committed to getting its hands on all of the doses needed to inoculate the rest of the country and get the virus under control, he stressed.

Real estate + housing: The president spent a great amount of time discussing building code violations — which have recently become a policy focal point for his administration — pointing to an unlicensed building in Alexandria that tilted because it didn’t meet construction standards as an example of why this issue is so pressing. El Sisi blamed corruption for building code violations and the prevalence of slums (which apparently account for nearly half of all buildings in the country). Egypt needs some EGP 4 tn to solve the slums problem, and Alexandria alone needs some EGP 400 bn to address the buildings in violation of the code, he said. The government currently plans on spending around EGP 500 bn to develop 4,500 villages over the next three years, El Sisi added.

The president touched on family planning as one of his “top priorities,” but said that his government is not planning any “aggressive” measures to confront the issue at this stage. The Social Solidarity Ministry had launched the “Two is Enough” family planning program in 2018 in a bid to curtail the country’s birth rate.

GERD and other regional happenings: El Sisi reassured viewers that Egypt is standing its ground in negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, but is also working on a strategy to reduce water waste, such as the rehabilitation of canals. (Read more on the water saving plan and the focus on agricultural water infrastructure in our industry vertical, Hardhat.) Meanwhile, regarding our neighbors to the west, Egypt is throwing its support behind the new Libyan government and the road towards peace and stability, El Sisi reiterated. We have more on the Libya story in From the Region, above.

GERD was also on the menu for former Irrigation Minister Mohamed Allam, who stressed to Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi that Ethiopia moving ahead with the second stage of filling the dam’s reservoir this summer would seriously impact Egypt and Sudan’s water needs. In the meantime, Ethiopia is dragging its feet on reaching an agreement on purpose and will try to push ahead with its plans regardless, Allam said (watch, runtime: 11:51).

Teachers are getting the salary bump and bonuses they were promised as of this month, and a separate Finance Ministry committee is looking at civil servants’ wages, Minister Mohamed Maait told Masaa DMC's Eman El Hosary. The committee is primarily focused on addressing “defects” in the wage system, Maait said, without providing further details (watch, runtime: 14:14).

Also on the airwaves last night: The Suez Canal reeled in USD 5.6 bn in 2020 — the third-highest annual revenue in the canal’s history, Suez Canal Authority boss Osama Rabie said (Lobna Assal on Al Hayah Al Youm | watch, runtime: 8:24).


Leading the conversation on Egypt in the international press this morning is the release of detained Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein on Thursday night after four years in detention. The story is everywhere from the Associated Press to Sky News and Reuters.

MEANWHILE- A US court is looking into whether former PM Hazem El Beblawi holds diplomatic immunity (Al Monitor), the Washington Post looks at the new administrative capital, and Ezzedine Fishere is writing about Egypt for Chatham House.


EGX-listed snackfood maker Edita has expanded its wafer segment with the launch of Freska Block, according to a company statement (pdf). The new product, which is available in three flavors — hazelnut cream, peanut butter, and cappuccino cream — will retail at EGP 3 per pack.

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

  • The Transport Ministry will issue this year an international tender for the automation of the Qalyub-Tanta-Menouf railway signaling system project, the initial cost of which is expected to be EUR 300k.
  • Revenues generated from antiquities plummeted more than 90% in 2020 to average just EGP 110 mn per month, Tourism Ministry Khaled El Anany said last week.
  • Egyptian electric vehicle control system developer Brightskies signed a protocol with Engineering Automotive Manufacturing Co. and El Nasr Automotive to manufacture components used for electric buses.


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GameStonk falls back to earth: The brick-and-mortar games retailer subject to an epic tug-of war between retail investors and hedge funds gave up much of its extraordinary 2021 gains last week, falling 80% in a sell-off that saw USD 18 bn wiped from its market cap, Bloomberg reports. The stock finished the week trading at USD 63.77, a far cry from the USD 483 peak seen at the end of January.

This coincided with US stocks having their best week since November after poor jobs figures raised investor optimism that lawmakers would push through the Biden administration’s USD 1.9 tn stimulus proposal, Bloomberg says. “The market is going to be in a bad news is good news scenario — bad news is temporary and likely to be met with additional support,” said Steve Chiavarone, portfolio manager and equity strategist at Federated Hermes.

Global food prices are at near-seven year highs as governments stockpile strategic goods and erect trade barriers, weather hits supply, and covid-19 disrupts trade, the Financial Times reports. The FAO Food Price Index reached 113.3 points in January, its highest monthly average since July 2014, raising fears of rising hunger in poorer countries dependent on imports.

And we could soon be paying more for our tea: Tea prices in India have leapt to record highs as flooding and covid-19 restrictions weighed on production last year, according to Reuters. Egypt imports mns of kilos of Indian CTC (crush-tear-curl) grade every year.




-0.2% (YTD: +7.0%)



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Interest rates CBE

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USD 39,296.72


The EGX30 fell 0.2% on Thursday on turnover of EGP 1.8 bn (21.7% above the 90-day average). Domestic investors were net buyers. The index is up 7.0% YTD.

In the green: Pioneers Holding (+5.3%), Cleopatra Hospitals Group (+3.2%) and Fawry (+2.4%).

In the red: Ezz Steel (-3.9%), Orascom Development (-3.4%) and Emaar Misr (-2.6%).


Sudan is calling on the international community to mediate stalled trilateral GERD talks: The US, European Union, United Nations, and African Union should all play a mediating role in talks on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas told Reuters yesterday. A unilateral step by Ethiopia to fill the dam come the rainy season in July would threaten Sudan’s electricity and water supply, and would be considered a national security threat, Abbas said.

Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is set to take over as the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) director general after receiving US backing, ending a months-long stalemate over the future of the organization, and making her the first WTO head from Africa, the Financial Times reports. Egypt had fielded a candidate to fill the seat, but he was eliminated from the race in September.

Also worth knowing this morning:

  • President Joe Biden has pulled US support for the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen, more than five years after Riyadh launched a bombing campaign against the Houthi movement (The Guardian).
  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) will now be able to take legal action against Israel on Palestine’s behalf for war crimes committed against Palestinians

since Israel’s establishment after the court ruled that, because Palestine was not a UN recognized state, it would be allowed to delegate its jurisdiction to the ICC, Reuters reports.


Famed actor Ezzat El Alaili passed away on Friday at the age of 86, his son confirmed. His latest public appearance was at the Alexandrian Mediterranean Film Festival in November, which was held to honor the renowned actor for his significant contribution to the Egyptian film industry. El Alaili started off his career as a TV researcher/producer after graduating in 1960 and made his big-screen debut three years later, landing some lead roles in several of Youssef Chahine's films. He has starred in over 300 films, TV series, and plays, and won a lifetime achievement award from the Dubai International Film Festival in 2015.


February: France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, is set to visit Egypt.

6-7 February (Saturday-Sunday): African Union annual summit.

6-8 February (Saturday- Monday) Students will be able to upload their educational certificates on the Higher Education Ministry’s electronic university admissions site

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

7-28 February (Sunday-Sunday): The Finance Ministry will receive applications from companies wishing to take part in the second phase of its program for the immediate payout of export subsidy arrears to exporters, minus a 15% fee.

8 February (Monday): Egypt leads an emergency Arab League minister-level meeting on the Israel-Palestine peace process.

8 February (Monday): AUC will hold a webinar titled ‘The Rise of Citizen Capitalism’ featuring Michael O’Leary, the managing director of Engine No. 1, and Warren Valdmanis, a partner at Two Sigma.

9 February (Tuesday): International Conference on Global Business, Economics, Finance and Social Sciences, Ramses Hilton, Cairo, Egypt.

10-11 February (Wednesday-Thursday): Egypt will host an arm of the World Conference on Science Engineering and Technology, Hotel Pavillon Winter, Luxor, Egypt.

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.

12-15 February (Friday-Monday): Students will be able to apply for placement at private universities on the Higher Education Ministry’s electronic university admissions site

20 February (Saturday): Final results of applications for private university places will be announced on the Higher Education Ministry’s electronic university admissions site

22-24 February (Monday-Wednesday): Second Arab Land Conference on land management, efficient land use, among other topics.

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

26 February (Thursday): The Afro Future Summit will take place virtually.

28 February (Sunday) Deadline for businesses, sole traders, and those generating income from sources other than their day job to file wage tax returns through the electronic filing system.

March: Potential visit to Cairo by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

4-6 March (Thursday-Saturday): Cairo Fashion & Tex trade show, Cairo International Convention Centre, Cairo, Egypt

8 March (Monday): The IDC Future of Work Egypt conference will be held virtually featuring experts from Egypt and Jordan.

9-11 March (Tuesday-Thursday): EduGate 2021 – Enter The Future conference, Kempinski Royal Maxim Hotel, Cairo, Egypt.

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

1-3 April (Thursday-Saturday): HVAC-R Egypt Expo.

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, Egypt,

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, Cairo, Egypt.

30 June (Wednesday): 30 June 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.

12 August (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the Islamic New Year.

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

30 September-2 October (Thursday-Saturday): Egypt Projects 2021 expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

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.

21 October (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the 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.

27 June – 3 July 2022 (Monday-Sunday): World University Squash Championships, New Giza.

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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