Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Egyptian equities are looking really good right now

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, wonderful people: It’s a workaday Wednesday on a workaday week, with no single story dominating the narrative here at home in business, policy or anything else, really.

The same can be said globally. Maybe it’s the fact that we’re basically in midwinter? (Though nobody in Egypt ought to complain — we officially have the world’s nicest winter weather.)

CATCH UP QUICK– The top stories from yesterday’s edition of EnterprisePM:

  • We’re getting closer to launching our first sovereign sukuk issuance: The House Economic Committee has completed its amendments to the Sovereign Sukuk Act. The House also approved changes to the Traffic Act, under which fees up to EGP 1K will be imposed on private and public-sector vehicles, with proceeds earmarked to support the rollout of new “smart” transport systems.
  • Mayar Sherif has become the first Egyptian woman to tough out a victory at a main draw match in a Grand Slam. The 24-year-old tennis player was also the first in the country to qualify for the Australian Open.
  • Egypt has taken a step toward supporting survivors of domestic violence: Cairo University’s Kasr Al Ainy Teaching Hospital rolled out the first unit to help women victims recover from both physical and psychological abuse while providing legal assistance if needed.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

It’s inflation day, with January figures due out from the Central Bank of Egypt and state census bureau Capmas later today. 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.

It’s day #2 in The Donald’s impeachment trial after 56 US senators voted to reject his lawyers’ arguments that trying a president after he leaves office is unconstitutional, the New York Times reports. The Gray Lady suggests, however, that it seems unlikely that enough Republicans will vote to convict: Six crossed the floor to vote with the Democrats last night, but 17 need to do so to secure a conviction. Reuters also has the story.

WORTH YOUR TIME THIS MORNING- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on the Biden administration’s foreign policy doctrine, particularly on the Middle East — even though he didn’t talk about Egypt. Blinken reiterated the US’ support for a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, and said that it isn’t looking to change its position on recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Washington doesn’t appear to be looking to change its approach to Saudi Arabia just yet, Blinken suggested, but is ending its support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. You can watch the interview here (runtime: 3:17) or read the transcript here.

Then go watch the State Department’s Christiaan James on Mideast policy — he spoke with Ahmed Moussa, of all people, last night and said Washington is committed to mediating between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and is committed to cooperation with Cairo on counterterrorism. We have the full rundown in Last Night’s Talk Shows, below.

Some countries may see stunted economic growth in the near term as pandemic-related border closures caused a “collapse” in skilled migrant flows, the Financial Times says, citing data from the OECD. Inward migrant flows to rich countries such as Australia — which rely on migration “to fill jobs, sustain growth in the labor force … and offset the fiscal burden of an ageing population” — dropped 30-80% y-o-y, says the OECD’s Jean-Christophe Dumont. And even if the trend reverses by 2024, the IMF expects these countries’ working-age population to shrink by 2-2.8%.

Peak 2021: Social justice and SPACs in one headline. A new SPAC led by former NFL superstar Colin Kaepernick is looking to invest in businesses with environmental, social, and governance impact, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company, which is looking to raise USD 287.5 mn in its IPO, ticks off pretty much all of the political wokeness boxes: Its board is mostly composed of people of color, including Black and indigenous people, and women.

Lesson #318 on How to be a [Redacted] Leader: We once had a boss who, like many drones of his era, papered his office with photocopied ‘cartoons,’ the largest and most prominent of which read “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” KPMG’s UK chief is apparently of the same school of management and has had to apologize (on email and to the FT) after telling his people to “stop moaning” and “stop playing the victim card” when they questioned him about potential cuts to pay, bonuses and pensions. Shut up and be happy you have a job — that’s how to keep folks motivated in a people-based business.

PSA- It’s T-4 days until Valentine’s Day. We’ve never been fans of the Hallmark holiday, and agree with the idea that it’s “only for Instagrammable moments,” as one fellow anti-VDay-er tells the New York Times. And if you think we’re being too harsh, might we remind you that our last Valentine’s Day present was Egypt’s first recorded case of covid-19?

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

A four-day forum on Libya’s constitution kicked off in Hurghada yesterday, bringing together delegations from the Libyan parliament and the Supreme Council of State to agree on a timeline and arrangements for a Libyan constitutional referendum.

Egypt is hosting an arm of the World Conference on Science Engineering and Technology, which runs today and tomorrow at Luxor’s Hotel Pavillon Winter.

enterprise

*** It’s Hardhat day — your weekly briefing of all things infrastructure in Egypt: Enterprise’s industry vertical focuses each Wednesday on infrastructure, covering everything from energy, water, transportation, urban development and as well as social infrastructure such as health and education.

In today’s issue: Although VC funding in digital health in Egypt lagged behind the global average last year, there’s a rising need for healthtech that has helped homegrown startups grow significantly since the pandemic took hold. We look at our top picks for healthtech startups to keep an eye on this year.

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ECONOMY

The Year Ahead, according to EFG

Egyptian equities are inexpensive and under-owned — and the economy needs more policy momentum. Those are EFG Hermes’ takeaways (in a nutshell) on Egypt’s macro profile in its annual Year Ahead report. While the IMF-backed reform program made the economy “far more resilient than it was five years ago” and helped cushion the blow of covid-19, stimulus is much needed, the region’s leading investment bank said.

The right type of stimulus: This includes “a mix of macro and microeconomic policies that would act as a catalyst for growth,” such as making doing business easier, setting incentives for productivity, and “pressing ahead with privatization.”

EFG is overweight on Egypt, saying that “a market sell-off combined with the Central Bank of Egypt’s rate cuts meant that stocks began to look very [affordable], with the earnings yield rising above the riskfree yield for the first time since the 2016 devaluation.” Egyptian bellwether CIB is at its lowest valuation multiple in years, EFG notes, and “other stocks are also inexpensive” and so could benefit if “further cuts in real rates increase local liquidity.”

Retail investors are driving trading right now, as they are in KSA, with the average daily value traded by day traders more than doubling to c. USD 61 mn in 2H2020 compared to the first half of the year.

Foreign investor interest a double-edged sword — for the moment: The firm notes that while Egyptian equities benefit from interest on the part of active investors, that means we could see selling pressure EM fund managers themselves face redemptions.

Four of EFG’s top 20 picks in MENA are Egyptian equities, including CIB, EK Holding, real estate developer TMG and education outfit CIRA. CIB and TMG also make EFG’s wider list of 15 frontier and emerging market picks.

Disappointing EGX returns: The EGX’s annualized growth rate, in EGP, was only 8.4% over the past four years as the stock market, as a whole, delivered “disappointing returns” since the November 2016 currency float. This is the case because institutional investors are getting more from fixed income as the real interest rate in Egypt is among the highest in the world (and this is why Egypt remains a carry trade darling).

A shift in market dynamics: Local behaviour changed since the March lockdown. The pandemic-induced sell-off, combined with aggressive policy action by the CBE, brought stock valuations to attractive levels. This guided the earnings yield (earnings per share over a 12-month period) to its highest level since 2016 and led to a sharp increase in retail trading. Retail average daily trading volumes more than doubled to USD 61 mn in 2H2020 from 1H2020. Retail interest was heavily geared toward small-cap stocks. Those stocks, tracked by the MSCI Egypt Small Cap Index, delivered a return of 52.8% from the March bottom. The rising popularity of retail investing was a common theme in many markets throughout the pandemic.

EFG’s top Egypt picks by sector:

  • Banking and finance: CIB, Credit Agricole and Egypt Kuwait Holding;
  • Consumer: GB Auto, Cira, Eastern Company, and Oriental Weavers;
  • Industrial: Misr Fertilizers;
  • Real estate: Emaar and Talaat Moustafa; and
  • Healthcare: Eipico.

Another challenge is limited room for monetary policy expansion, an issue “depriving the economy from a strong push after sharp contractionary policies during the reform years,” EFG noted. The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) already used a big part of its policy firepower in 2020, enacting a total of 400 basis point rate cuts between March and November to fight back against the pandemic. It kept the interest rate on hold in its most recent meeting, citing “subdued” economic activity from the second wave of covid and efforts to contain it.

Charting growth: EFG expects the ongoing recovery to continue as it sees no “major restrictive measures” that could take a further toll on economic activity.

GDP growth could come in at 5% in FY2021-2022 (close to pre-pandemic levels). The investment bank expects growth to close the ongoing fiscal year at 3.2%, and estimates the figure clocked in at 3.3% last fiscal year.

What will drive the rebound? The “more stable sectors” including construction, agriculture and public services, as well as hydrocarbons.

What’s likely to remain under pressure: EFG is “less reassured about the much-awaited consumption recovery,” which it says has been weak in past years following the EGP float. This was exacerbated by the pandemic, putting pressure on an “already-struggling” area.

Don’t expect huge rate cuts this year: “The CBE’s focus on carry-trade volumes make significant rate cuts unlikely in 2021.”

Other key points on Egypt:

  • Consumer price inflation is expected to average 4.7% in FY2020-2021 and 5.5% in FY2021-2022;
  • External government debt to GDP will fall to 18.9% this fiscal year, from 19.1% in FY2019-2020, and further to 17.4% in FY2021-2022;
  • Foreign direct investment will come in at USD 7.2 bn this fiscal year and USD 8.3 bn next fiscal year;
  • Foreign currency reserves will end FY2020-2021 at USD 36.8 bn, and increase only slightly to USD 37.2 bn next fiscal year.

DEBT WATCH

Egypt won’t tap debt market again before 2H, no decision on wheat hedging –Maait

Egypt has no plans to return to the international debt market before the end of the first half, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait told Al Arabiya. Despite low interest rates globally, the government won’t tap the market for a second time until the state’s current fiscal year ends on 30 June, the minister said. The state budget gives the government the license to borrow up to USD 7 bn through debt instruments in the international market, of which the ministry has so far used a little over half in FY2020-2021.

Egypt sold USD 3.75 bn in USD-denominated eurobonds earlier this week. The issuance was at “significantly lower” yields than recent sales and the ministry raised USD 750 mn above its initial target of USD 3 bn as the market responded favorably to a lower yield ask, Maait said. The issuance received some USD 16.5 bn in orders, making it more than 4.4x oversubscribed. The proceeds will be used to plug in the fiscal deficit, which Maait says currently stands at close to EGP 440 bn (c. USD 28 bn).

No decision yet on wheat hedging: The ministry still hasn’t decided whether it wants to purchase derivative contracts to protect against rising grain prices, Maait said yesterday. The minister recently announced that the government is considering the plan, alongside its current practice of hedging against rising oil prices.

By our math, there will soon be a decision if conditions in the global wheat market continue as they are: Wheat prices are currently at multi-year highs, buoyed by imminent export restrictions expected to take effect this spring from the world’s largest supplier, Russia. A gauge of wheat futures is currently at close to USD 230 per tonne, which is well above a USD 199.5 price assumed in the state budget (pdf).

REGULATION WATCH

No self-dealing in the ins. industry, FRA says

Major shareholders of ins. companies can’t also be major clients: Property and liability ins. companies will be restricted in how much business they can do with their principal shareholders under a recent decision from the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA). Shareholders will now only be able to account for 10% of insurers’ total premiums in a move designed to curb concentration risk and minimize conflicts of interest.

What’s the logic here? Shareholders can often receive preferential treatment from insurers in which they hold stakes when taking out policies on separate holdings, including markdowns and lightly-scrutinized claims, which could put the insurer at financial risk, a source at the FRA told Enterprise yesterday. Limiting the number of policies insurers can write for their owners also helps mitigate portfolio concentration, they said.

Regulators have been stepping in in recent months to curb concentration risk — which arises when a financial intermediary is overly invested in a single individual, company, sector, or related group. Mortgage and consumer finance companies are examples of non-banking financial services players, which all fall under the FRA’s purview, currently subject to limits against concentrated portfolios (see our coverage here and here). Other rules by the central bank also prevent commercial banks from lending more than 15% of their base capital to a single borrower— what’s called a “single obligor” limit in the trade.

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FINANCE

Lending for MDs, merchants

Prime Fintech’s Endorse has rolled out a financial leasing service geared towards physicians and other health professionals who want to open or upgrade clinics, pharmacies and labs, according to a press release (pdf). The company will offer finance with a tenor of up to 60 months, and an option to own the asset at the end of the repayment period, CEO Mervat Erian said. The company will target other industries in a “similar fashion,” she says, without giving a timeline. Endorse is the first company to be launched by Prime Fintech, a subsidiary of Prime Holding established last year to deepen the company’s footprint in the non-banking financial services sector.

EFG Hermes Corp-Solutions plans to lend EGP 100 mn to ValU merchants this year through the new factoring service announced by the firms last week, EFG Finance CEO Walid Hassouna told Al Mal yesterday. Merchants who have been customers of ValU for over a year can each borrow between EGP 50k and EGP 10 mn from Corp-Solutions to finance working capital and make capital investments.

MINING

Akh Gold snags exploration licenses for 9 Eastern Desert blocks

Sawiris-backed Altus Strategies subsidiary Akh Gold has landed four gold exploration licenses for nine blocks in the Eastern Desert from the Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority, the company announced in a statement yesterday. Altus Strategies had said last month that it expected to be awarded licenses for the blocks shortly, after being one of 11 companies to land exploration rights to 82 concession blocks in the Eastern Desert in a tender launched last March. Canada’s Lotus Gold, Egypt’s Ebdaa Gold, and the Mining and Manufacturing Company (MEDAF) signed contracts for licenses to mine 11 blocks in the Eastern Desert last month.

Background: Altus Strategies expanded its activities in Egypt after amendments to the Mineral Resources Act offering investors more attractive terms were approved in 2019, and following the acquisition by Egyptian-owned La Mancha of a 35% stake in Altus in February 2020. Oil Minister Tarek El Molla had announced that Egypt would issue a new gold exploration tender every four months.

LEGISLATION WATCH

A busy day in the House

The House of Representatives was busy yesterday pushing through new bills, granting final and committee-level nods to others and signing off on tweaks to some existing laws. Among the acts that made it through parliament:

Customs incentives for EV + clean energy firms: A change to customs rules that make it easier for EV firms to qualify for customs breaks won approval from the House general assembly. Under the changes, which President Abdel Fattah El Sisi called for in September, importers only need to source 10% of their components from local suppliers to qualify for the tax break, down from 30% previously.

The energy shift: The change — which applies to companies involved in setting up EV charging or natural gas refueling stations, inputs brought in to outfit cars with dual-fuel, electric, or natural gas engines, or parts used to set up renewable energy plants — is designed to encourage domestic industry to shift towards producing technology that harnesses more sustainable forms of energy. The push toward electric vehicles seems to have gained momentum recently with the signing of agreements to assemble electric vehicles and install charging stations, while 2021 has seen the launch of the government’s multi-year plan to convert mns of vehicles to run on natural gas.

Overseas funding gets a rubber stamp: The House approved amendments to the Egypt-US Investment Development Agreement, unlocking an additional USD 26.6 mn to help facilitate local trade and investment. It also signed off on raft of financing agreements from international institutions, including a JPY 1 bn (USD 9.55 mn) grant from the Japanese government to fund economic and social development programs, a technical assistance grant worth EUR 3 mn from the European Bank of Reconstruction & Development to modernize Cairo Metro Line 1, and EUR 200k from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation for women’s empowerment in the tourism sector.

POLITICS + DIPLOMACY

Palestine moves towards its first election in 15 years

Palestinian factions agreed to a timeline and mechanism for the first presidential and legislative elections in 15 years at the two-day Egypt-backed reconciliation talks at the Arab League, which wrapped yesterday, according to a statement carried by Palestinian News Agency Wafa. The factions — including rivals Fatah and Hamas, along with other political figures — agreed to hold elections simultaneously across the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem and to abide by the outcomes. The factions also agreed to form a specialized court to handle issues arising from the elections, to have the elections secured by Palestinian police forces, and to release all prisoners of conscience and ensure freedom of speech during the process.

The parties will reconvene in Egypt in March to continue negotiations on the terms and mechanism of the formation of the new Palestinian National Council.

The talks came as Egypt decided to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza until further notice to improve the humanitarian situation in the Gaza strip, under President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s directions, the local press reports. The move is also hoped to encourage the settling of long-standing divisions between Hamas and Fatah, ahead of the planned elections. Reuters also took note of the story.

ELSEWHERE IN DIPLOMACY- Tensions in the East Med were on the agenda for Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry during his visit to Athens yesterday. Shoukry and his counterparts from other Mediterranean nations gathered in Greece at the invitation of Greek FM Nikos Dendias, according to a cabinet statement.

MOVES

OFH management structure: Onsi Naguib Sawiris (LinkedIn) will become chairman of Orascom Financial Holding (OFH) — the spinoff company from Orascom Investment Holding that will be created in the upcoming horizontal demerger, OFH said in response to an inquiry from Hapi Journal. Sawiris is the co-founder and managing partner of NY-based HOF Capital, and is an investor in Swvl, Minly, Foundation Ventures, and UiPath. Nils Bachtler (LinkedIn) is CEO of OFH.

The spinoff will be complete by the end of the month, but trading of OIH shares on the EGX will be suspended as of tomorrow to allow for the spinout of assets into OFH. The new company will receive OIH’s 74.5% stake in Beltone Financial and 28.8% stake in Sarwa Capital. OIH will retain all of its investments in its eight subsidiaries, and its management structure will remain unchanged.

Sena Erten (LinkedIn) has been tapped as VP and head of people at Ericsson MEA, the company announced in a statement (pdf) yesterday. Erten has 20 years of experience working in human resources and joins the company from Mondelez International, where she headed up the HR department.

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

The agreement on Palestinian elections was the big news of the night, with Fatah Secretary Jibril Rajoub explaining the terms of the agreement to Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi. Egypt will act as guarantor to the implementation of the binding agreement, and will oversee the process on the ground, Rajoub said (watch, runtime: 13:33). Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan also had the story (watch, runtime: 2:11).

We can’t believe we’re saying this, but one of the bigger highlights on the airwaves came out of Ala Mas’ouleety with Ahmed Moussa, who had a chat with Christiaan James, a spokesperson from the US State Department. The US will renew its efforts to mediate negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and is committed to ongoing cooperation with Cairo on counterterrorism, he said. James affirmed US President Joe Biden’s support for a two-state solution between Palestine and Israel, as well as the US’ rejection of foreign military intervention in Libya. James also touched on the situation in Yemen and Washington’s plans to address the threat Iran poses “not just to the region or to the US, but to the whole world.” You can watch the full interview here (runtime: 17:19).

Also getting airtime: The new Traffic Law amendments approved by parliament, which MPs apparently have mixed feelings about. Rep. Soliman Wahdan told Yahduth fi Misr’s Sherif Amer he doesn’t think it’s the best idea to slap new fees when citizens’ pockets are feeling the pinch from covid-19 (watch, runtime: 1:30), while Rep. Yehia El Kedwani says the increase in fees is negligible and will pay off in the long term (watch, runtime: 6:42). Al Hayah Al Youm’s Mohamed Sherdy also got more details on the fees from Rep. Amr Younis (watch, runtime: 4:10).

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

Human rights and the Arab Spring have captured the attention of the foreign press this morning: Human Rights Watch is criticizing the stalled investigations and unfair treatment of witnesses in the Fairmont [redacted] case, while Qantara accuses European governments not doing enough to pressure Egypt on human rights issues. Meanwhile, the Guardian and the BBC are both out with more pieces on the 25 January Revolution as we approach tomorrow’s 10-year anniversary of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

Mayar Sherif’s historic victory at the Australian open yesterday is also getting attention: BBC | Reuters | CNN.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

A handful of stories we’re keeping an eye on this morning:

  • Global energy and commodities firm Mercuria is in negotiations with the government for a USD 450 mn investment project in the Suez Canal covering shipping services and waste collection.
  • Russian airline Aeroflot will increase the frequency of its flights to Cairo in February.
  • Agricultural crops exporter Agromac is planning to set up a new sorting and packaging facility expected to cost EGP 65 mn in Sadat City.
  • The Kings of the Sun exhibition of ancient Egyptian artifacts at the Prague National Museum will be extended until the end of June.

COVID WATCH

Daily cases are inching up again

The Health Ministry reported 573 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up 567 the day before. The ministry also reported 52 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 9,751. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 170,780 confirmed cases of covid-19.

Cases have inched up over the past three days after hitting a recent low of 509 on 6 February, from a previous peak of 1,022 on 14 January.

Manufacturers are being nudged by the Egyptian Federation of Investors Associations to donate EGP 100 per worker to the Tahya Misr Fund to help finance the purchase of covid-19 vaccines, the local press reports. While member of the association’s board Sobhi Nasr says most have made contributions, the fund is still seeking further donations to cover the USD 6 per shot price tag of importing covid-19 vaccines.

The WHO has AstraZeneca’s back: The World Health Organization (WHO) expressed confidence in the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine at a presser yesterday, a day after South Africa suspended the rollout of the vaccine following a study that cast doubt on its effectiveness against its local variant. Although describing the news as “concerning,” WHO official Fadela Chaib suggested that the data was inconclusive about how effective it is at preventing severe illness.

South Africa could go ahead with the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine after all, and is considering a “stepped” approach where it initially inoculates 100k people and monitors hospitalization rates, a South African official said at the presser.

PLANET FINANCE

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Cookie jar, meet hand: Saudi Arabia’s central bank is about to undergo its biggest changes in decades in what may result in more of the country’s hard currency reserves going to the country’s sovereign wealth fund, where they can be used to pay for Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious projects, the Financial Times reports. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (Sama), the custodian of the kingdom’s oil wealth which has long favored low-risk assets, has been increasingly overshadowed by MbS’ Public Investment Fund, which has been diverting Sama’s reserves to finance projects associated with his Vision 2030. And this new balance of power will likely be formalized this month when a new law comes into force that analysts say will enable the transfer of more of the kingdom’s wealth to the PIF.

A rise in commodity prices is stoking predictions of long-term “supercycle” growth driven by Chinese demand for raw materials and a global energy transition away from carbon, the Financial Times reports. Positive growth in 27 commodities futures over the past six months — including in oil, copper, soybeans and coffee — has led some analysts to liken the trend to the impact that rapid Chinese industrialization had on prices in the early 2000’s. Goldman Sachs is now saying that recent growth points to a “much longer structural bull market.”

French energy giant Total posted a steep decline in annual profit last year, as it reckoned with a historic collapse in oil prices due to the covid-19 pandemic. Profits in 2020 tumbled 66% to come in at just USD 4.06 bn versus USD 11.8 bn a year ago, the company announced in its earnings release (pdf) yesterday.

Down

EGX30

11,448

-0.65% (YTD: +5.6%)

None

USD (CBE)

Buy 15.60

Sell 15.70

None

USD at CIB

Buy 15.59

Sell 15.69

None

Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

Up

Tadawul

8,893

+1.0% (YTD: +2.3%)

Up

ADX

5,663

+0.1% (YTD: +12.2%)

Up

DFM

2,647

+0.2% (YTD: +6.2%)

Down

S&P 500

3,911

-0.1% (YTD: +4.1%)

Up

FTSE 100

6,532

+0.1% (YTD: +1.1%)

Up

Brent crude

USD 61.14

+0.1%

Down

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 2.81

-0.7%

None

Gold

USD 1,837.00

Up

BTC

USD 46,422.09

+0.9%

The EGX30 fell 0.65% yesterday on turnover of EGP 1.37 bn (3.5% above the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is up 5.6% YTD.

In the green: Pioneers Holding (+2.0%), Eastern Company (+1.0%) and Telecom Egypt (+0.5%).

In the red: Alexandria Mineral Oils (-2.1%), Qalaa Holdings (-1.8%) and Sodic (-1.6%).

Asian markets are all solidly in the green this morning and future suggest both European bourses and Wall Street will follow suit later today.

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Healthtech startups to watch and how covid-19 leveled the playing field: As the pandemic took hold, global VC funding in digital health broke records in 2020, reaching USD 14.8 bn, according to a report by Mercom Capital Group. Although this level of funding was not directly mirrored in Egypt, with our internal trackers showing only six healthtech investments in 2020, a growing need for healthtech during the pandemic helped many homegrown startups see significant growth spurts.

We look at the healthtech startups that have grown enough to seek an expansion outside of Egypt, helped by their recently obtained investment rounds. The reality of covid-related conditions and restrictions, as well patients’ needs for their health requirements to continue being fulfilled, has created a new need and forced the growth of startup-born tech solutions that were dynamic enough to adapt to the circumstances.

Taking pharmacy delivery a step further: “The average monthly ‘medicine basket size’ was around EGP 750, but the pandemic grew that figure to EGP 1.7k during the two weeks of infection, and EGP 1.4k for three months after recovery,” meds delivery platform Chefaa founder Doaa Aref says. That’s why a number of startups in the sector focus on enhancing the customer experience when transacting with pharmacies.

Chefaa users get their meds delivered from the nearest pharmacy, and patients with chronic diseases or recurring prescriptions pay a monthly subscription fee to get their meds delivered to their doorstep every month. Starting this year, Chefaa also offers to cover 25% of the medication price of its 38k monthly auto-fill orders. In total, 190k customers use Chefaa’s order-and-deliver service from its 900+ partner pharmacies.

Over 1.8 mn users from all over the world use the platform’s unpaid perks, such as dosage reminders, a virtual pharmacist and a directory of medications. With the seven-figure series A funding it received last year, Chefaa is working on enhancing its customer experience, expanding to other countries, and building the tech that helps identify gaps in medication supply and trends based on geographic locations.

Adding a twist to the game is Yodawy — a pharmacy delivery app with a built-in AI ins. approval engine and a digitized prescription tool. With a six-figure number of orders completed, the startup also built its own partners and pharmacy portal to facilitate order processing methods.

“At the beginning of the first wave of the pandemic, there was a growth surge within our company with up to 5x of normal order rates, mainly because there were about 15-20 specific SKUs that most people were looking for. Those rates normalized once again a few months in,” founder Karim Khashaba says.

Yodawy successfully raised USD 1 mn in funding so far, and has partnered with over 2k pharmacies across the country. This year, the startup is looking to expand regionally, as well as grow its partnerships with leading ins. players.

Solving the radiologist per capita shortage: Most countries are suffering from a very low radiologist per capita ratio. Locally, there are only around 2k active radiologists serving the entirety of the population, according to Amr Abo Draie, founder of Rology. Rology is a teleradiology platform that connects healthcare providers and hospitals with radiologists, matching them with the cases based on expertise and availability. The platform automatically matches scans with the relevant radiologist, and allows diagnosis to be ready within 24 hours of the scan, which under normal circumstances could take up to three weeks.

Startups in general have faced a shortage of private sector partners that would readily embed their technologies into their existing frameworks — a pain that covid-19 has been slowly alleviating. The same goes for the healthcare sector. “Previously, the main challenge for startups was having physicians and organizations adopt and embed their technologies into their everyday processes, but covid-19 forced everyone to adapt,” Abo Draie tells Enterprise. “Additionally, more investors are now interested in business-to-patient (B2P) solutions.”

With a total of USD 1 mn raised in funding, Rology wants to focus on scaling outside of Egypt, namely in Africa and the GCC. Currently, there are 52 doctors on the platform, and 113 hospitals are using it, 10 of which are located outside of Egypt, including Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Congo and the Maldives.

One of Rology’s big milestones is a nationwide agreement with the Republic of Congo, through which all hospitals in the country will be using the platform throughout the year.

The startup has also created a tool that automatically detects covid-19 traces in CT scans. Additionally, it is working on more AI tools that could learn from the 80 mn x-ray images in their data bank to apply these learnings on future cases.

Healthy mind, healthy body: While one’s physical health is crucial, a few startups are focused on mental health as a cornerstone for a person’s wellbeing. Dubbed as a mental health platform, Shezlong allows users to find therapists and book online sessions, ensuring complete secrecy and anonymity in the process.

During 2020, Shezlong tripled its customer base, revenues and number of sessions conducted. Currently, Shezlong hosts 80k customers with more than 100k sessions conducted since its inception in 2014, with patients flocking in from different countries.“With patients and doctors staying at home due to the global pandemic, demand has risen on both sides,” founder Ahmed Abu Elhaz tells us. That is where Shezlong comes in as an alternative domain for delivery. Given covid-19, there is a much more vital need for diagnostic tools that help patients rest assured about their health, he adds.

The startup raised USD 1 mn in investments so far, with a series A round in the works. The startup plans to expand in the GCC in 2021, as well as introduce a product roadmap with new features and services, including group therapy.

Telemedicine without borders: Online platform Docspert Health connects patients in the Middle East and Africa with leading international experts. For instance, if someone is seeking a second opinion on scans and lab results, Docspert’s platform allows them to input the type of needed consultation and their contact details, in order to book a video conference appointment with a leading physician in the UK, US or Europe.

While the platform is just one year old, it was able to triple its customer base in the last four months, and is looking to do the same over the next year. It has over 100 international experts on its platform across 40 medical specialties.

Docspert Health recently raised a six-figure investment round in order to expand into GCC, launch covid-specific services, and expand into the ins. market. “Covid-19 drove a lot of consumer behavior in 2020, and upped the need for telemedicine as a whole, which helped Docspert grow,” founder Hisham Mehanna says.

Will the surge in interest for these startups continue this year? Shezlong’s Abu Elhaz thinks 10% month-on-month growth is sustainable throughout the pandemic. Yodawy’s Khashaba thinks the spike in interest in healthtech solutions will cool as covid fads, but sees room to grow in B2B.

Your top infrastructure stories for the week:

  • EV future: Infinity Solar subsidiary Infinity-E will install 300 electric car charging docks across Egypt by 2023.
  • CIT: Fiber optic connectivity will be one of the public utilities required for new construction permits as of April — and will be treated like all other required utilities.
  • Public transit: Canada’s Bombardier is expected to submit a bid for the Transport Ministry’s tender to upgrade the Raml tram overground line in Alexandria.
  • Natural gas transition: Some 170 new natural gas stations will be ready to fill up cars by mid-April.
  • Iraq reconstruction: Hassan Allam Holding is bidding for a power generation facility in Iraq and could start work by the end of the year.
  • Green energy: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and the CEOs of Belgium’s DEME, Antwerp, and Fluxys discussed potential cooperation and investments in green hydrogen production.
  • Rural development: The Planning Ministry expects to complete the development of 375 villages by the end of the year as part of the government’s EGP 500 bn ‘Hayah Karima’ initiative.

CALENDAR

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

6-20 February (Saturday-Saturday): 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

17 February (Wednesday): MENA x CEO MENA Entrepreneurship & VC Panel: Investor Perspectives from New York to North Africa will be hosted by the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization.

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.

1-5 March (Monday-Friday): Aswan Forum for Peace and Development will take place virtually.

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.

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).

7 June-9 June (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo, Egypt.

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.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2022 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

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