Monday, 29 March 2021

Macro Pharma Group announces price range for IPO (and we’re still waiting to see if Ever Given will float)

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, nice people. Mondays are typically the slowest news days of the week, but not so today — we have plenty going on.

IT’S A BIG DAY FOR: Our covid-19 vaccine rollout. Yesterday, we reported that it seems unlikely we’re going to be getting anytime soon the 5 mn of doses of AstraZeneca we had expected by month’s end thanks to global supply constraints. Coincidental or not, the news today is that (a) we’re getting a bunch of Sinopharm’s jabs “within days” in two shipments — one a purchase, the other a gift from China, and (b) we’re edging closer to an agreement to manufacture Sinovac’s competing jab.

It’s also a big day for capital markets as leading cosmeceutical player Macro announces a price range for its IPO on the Egyptian Exchange. Conventional wisdom is that new paper is key to luring back foreign investors in public equities, so this is very welcome news indeed.

…and for the Ever Zeft, as work to refloat it continues around the clock. The hope is that it might be refloated as early as today: The Associated Press is reporting that there will be two attempts to refloat it today, helped by a full moon that will make low tide lower and high tide higher.

*** CATCH UP QUICK with the top stories from yesterday’s edition of EnterprisePM:

CORRECTION: In yesterday’s EnterpriseAM, we said that Taaleem had priced its IPO at EGP 6.20 per share. We were incorrect. A close reading of the disclosure from the Financial Regulatory Authority indicates that Taaleem could price its IPO at up to EGP 6.20 per share, not at EGP 6.20. The company had previously said it expected to price the transaction at EGP 5.48-6.02 per share, and a senior source with first hand knowledge of the offering confirmed to us yesterday afternoon that bookrunner CI Capital will price within this range. We have amended the story on our website.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

The two-day Arab Federation of Exchanges Annual Conference 2021 begins today. This year’s virtual conference will discuss ESGs for economic growth and capital markets as well as fintech and innovation.

The Startup Festival in Sharm El Sheikh ends today. Investors, entrepreneurs, policymakers and more than 80 startups are gathering for the event, which also features panel discussions and workshops.

Bok, prijatelji: The Egyptian-Croatian Business Forum meets this Wednesday, 31 March, for the first time since 2010. On the table: Giving a nudge to both trade and investment, a FEDCOC statement says. The forum will take place while Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić-Radman is in town next week. Grlić-Radman and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry are expected to attend.

The government’s fuel pricing committee is scheduled to meet next week for its quarterly review of prices. Faced with slightly higher global oil prices, the committee could hike prices this time around, after leaving rates steady since last April, Al Shorouk reports, citing unnamed sources. Oil prices rallied over the weekend, partly thanks to the Suez Canal blockage but also because of fresh Houthi attacks on Saudi Aramco’s facilities and expectations that major OPEC+ producers will continue to curb output.

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*** It’s Blackboard day: We have our weekly look at the business of education in Egypt, from pre-K through the highest reaches of higher ed. Blackboard appears every Monday in Enterprise in the place of our traditional industry news roundups.

In today’s issue: Over a year into covid-19, online education remains a core part of student life. Student satisfaction with online learning directly impacts academic engagement and success. But just how satisfied are Egyptian university students with online learning? A recent joint AUC-GUC research paper sought to find out by surveying 280 undergraduate business students from Egypt’s top ten private universities and state-funded Cairo, Ain Shams, and Helwan universities. We take a look at what it found (hint: flexibility is seen as a plus of online learning, but low interaction levels and internet instability are definitely not).

enterprise

Organized to the highest of international endurance sports standards, you don’t want to miss this year’s event taking place at Somabay on 8-10 April.

COVID WATCH

More gift jabs from China on the way as we cross the 200k case mark

We’re getting yet another gift shipment of Sinopharm — plus a batch we purchased: China is set to send over another undisclosed number of Sinopharm jab doses as its third gift shipment in the next few days, Chinese ambassador in Cairo Liao Liqiang told Health Minister Hala Zayed yesterday. This comes as a separate batch of the Sinopharm vaccine — which Egypt purchased from the vaccine maker — is also set to arrive within days, according to a statement yesterday.

The Sinopharm tally: Beijing has already gifted us with two 300k-dose gift shipments of the vaccine in February and March. We had also purchased 50k jabs in December, bringing the total number of Sinopharm doses Egypt has taken receipt of to 650k.

A total of 3 mn doses of the Sinopharm jab should have landed in Egypt by the end of May, according to head of the ministry’s preventive medicine department Alaa Eid.

We’re also moving closer to manufacturing the Sinovac vaccine here at home as a delegation of Chinese experts is visiting Egypt soon to inspect state-owned vaccine maker Vacsera’s production lines prior to signing a manufacturing agreement, Zayed said.

Need a refresher on the differences between the Sinovac and Sinopharm jabs? We’ve got you covered.

And if you’ve lost track of how many vaccines Egypt has ordered and received overall, or need a recap of when, where, and how you can get inoculated, the Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center is out with a short report and handy infographics to get you up to speed.

Pope Tawadros II has got his first jab of the Sinopharm covid-19 vaccine, the Church spokesperson said in a statement.

Some 13.5% of Egyptian families suspect that one of their family members has been infected with covid-19 at one point during the pandemic, according to research conducted by state statistics agency Capmas conducted in October-December 2020. Almost two-thirds of these said that a high fever was the biggest indication, while 48% confirmed the suspected case through a test. The agency didn’t disclose how many people it surveyed.

The Health Ministry reported 686 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 683 the day before. The ministry also reported 37 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 11,882. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 200,050 confirmed cases of covid-19.

The UAE will start commercial production of Sinopharm’s covid-19 vaccine from April under an agreement signed yesterday that is set to make it the first country outside of China to produce the jabs, Bloomberg reported. While it’s not clear how many doses will be manufactured, the pact will see the country become a vaccine supply hub for the Middle East and — in the words of one analyst — is “a really clear signal that the UAE is China’s most trusted partner” in the region. The UAE approved the vaccine last year after local late-stage trials showed a 86% efficacy rate in preventing the virus.

Vaccinating kids and teens is vital to achieving herd immunity, according to the Wall Street Journal. This isn’t going to be possible until later this year or early 2022 at the earliest: manufacturers are still testing their vaccines to ensure that they’re safe when given to children.

Vaccine passports are coming soon to the US, with the White House and private sector firms currently working on laying out standards on the digital certificates that will serve as proof that a US citizen has been vaccinated against covid-19, the Washington Post reports. The passports will be available through mobile apps without charge, developers told the newswire. The US is the latest to hop on the bandwagon as China, Singapore, Canada and the EU have all signalled they are rolling out or could roll out the documents.

IPO WATCH

Macro announces price range for IPO

Macro Group Pharma has priced its initial public offering on the EGX at EGP 5.30-6.15 per share, according to a statement released overnight (pdf). The transaction will see 45.8% — or some 264.5 mn shares — of Egypt’s largest and fastest-growing cosmeceutical company offered in a secondary sale. The indicative price range values the company, pre-offering, at between EGP 3.1 bn and EGP 3.6 bn. The sale will include offerings to institutional investors in Egypt and abroad, as well as a retail offering for investors in Egypt only.

The timeline: Macro is kicking off the bookbuilding process now and will set a final offer price around 11 April. The subscription period for the retail portion of the offering is slated for 8-14 April. The issuer’s shares are expected to be listed on the EGX on or around this Wednesday, 31 March, with trading scheduled to begin on 19 April, give or take. That puts Macro on track to stick with its initially announced timeline of pulling the trigger by late 1Q2021 or early 2Q2021.

What’s Macro? The company, established in 2005, has a market share of just over 23%, or about 3x its closest competitor, with some 124 cosmeceutical products and one neutraceutical; it has nearly 80 additional products ready to roll out in 1Q and 2Q 2021. Macro sells its products over the counter, but physicians are its best allies: The company has over 550 people in its medical sales force that targets physicians and pharmacies nationwide and figures that “85% of sales are estimated to be initially generated via prescription at the physician level.” Despite the challenges of covid-19, Macro last year reported revenues of EGP 430.5 mn (with a 2018-2020 CAGR of 34%) and EBITDA of 187 mn (92% CAGR on the same period). The company’s bottom line last year came in at 135.1 mn, good for a net margin of about 31%.

Advisors: CI Capital and Renaissance Capital are joint global coordinators and joint bookrunners. White & Case is international and (with MHR & Partners) local counsel, while Dechert LLP and Zaki Hashem & Partners are counsels to the joint global coordinators and bookrunners. Inktank is investor relations advisor.

SUEZ CANAL

Heave…

We’re entering the sixth day of work to re-float the Ever Given. Additional tug boats are arriving at the Suez Canal this morning to assist in dislodging the mega-vessel, after the Dutch-flagged Alp Guard arrived yesterday night on site as dredgers continue to remove sand from underneath the ship and mud caked to its port side, Al Shorouk reports. Another tug boat, Italy’s Carlo Magno, was also expected to arrive overnight, Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi said (watch, runtime: 3:00). The two additional boats — which have a stronger bollard pull than other tug boats currently available — will likely be used on the stern of the ship, while the others will pull the bow, former Suez Canal Authority (SCA) board member Wael Kaddour told Lamees (watch, runtime: 10:58)

The SCA is still pushing ahead with dredging work around the bow of the Ever Given and has so far reached a depth of 18 meters to facilitate efforts to re-float the wedged ship, SCA boss Osama Rabie said in a statement.

Could the situation be cleared up by today? Presidential advisor for canal projects (and former SCA chief) Mohab Mamish thinks so, telling El Hekaya’s Amr Adib last night that authorities are optimistic that the ship will be dislodged today as dredging work continues (watch, runtime: 28:36).

If all else fails, we’ll move to the last resort of offloading some containers — but there’s a limit on how much can be done there, and how fast. A maximum of 20 containers can be unloaded per hour, and authorities would have to figure out some logistical issues, including where to take the offloaded containers since there are no ports near the vessel, former authority head Mahfouz Taha said, according to Al Mal. With the cranes currently available at the canal, this process could take some 10 days, Kaddour estimates, at which point he suggests more shipping lines will reroute to the Cape of Good Hope. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi had ordered authorities yesterday to begin preparations to offload some of the containers on the ship, and ship owner Shoei Kisen had proposed the same course of action over the weekend.

Russia and Germany are the latest to offer their help: Moscow is willing to provide “any possible assistance” to re-float the Ever Given, Russian Ambassador to Cairo Georgy Borisenko told Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti yesterday. Germany’s Ambassador to Egypt Cyril Nunn said Berlin is also ready to step in if asked. The US and Turkey also offered a helping hand over the weekend, saying they are prepared to dispatch special equipment and vessels.

Annual trade growth could drop 0.2 to 0.4 percentage points with every week the canal remains blocked, German ins. giant Allianz said, according to the Wall Street Journal. And each day is costing Egypt around USD 14 mn in foregone revenues from ships passing through the canal, Rabie said earlier this week.

The stranded vessel has been blocking the canal since Tuesday and salvage teams had been working to dislodge it with dredgers and tugboats. There are now more than 450 vessels waiting to move through the Canal, including 25 oil tankers. And there are more scheduled to arrive over the next few hours, Mamish told Al Arabiya yesterday night (watch, runtime: 8:13).

As some ships continue to pour into the canal, others are joining the growing list of those taking the long way around: Two dozen more ships are now going around the Cape of Good Hope, including six Hapag-Lloyd vessels and 15 others from Maersk Global.

The SCA wants to make it worthwhile for the ships sticking it out: Vessels waiting for the Ever Given to be refloated could be compensated for the delay through further haircuts on crossing fees (beyond those the SCA already provides), as well as through other incentives that haven’t yet been specified, Rabie said.

Satellite footage showing the Ever Given’s journey before it got stuck made the rounds on last night’s talk shows, with Masaa DMC’s Eman El Hosary among those taking note. Initial reports and analysis of its movement indicate the ship was “swinging” in the canal, El Hosary said (watch, runtime: 14:23). Al Hayah Al Youm’s Lobna Assal also had coverage (watch, runtime: 2:28).

Do you think you could’ve done a better job of steering the ship? This game, courtesy of CNN, will give you the daily recommended serving of humble pie.

THE FALLOUT:

  • Syria has decided to ration its already scarce oil supply as an LNG tanker to the country is now anchored among the stranded cargo ships, in a sign of the knock-on effects that could further exacerbate the country’s fuel crisis, Syrian state-run news agency SANA reports.
  • Are we building ships too big? The Ever Given saga has brought to light the trouble with mammoth shipping containers, which may have outgrown available port and logistics infrastructure in their pursuit of further efficiency, the Financial Times reports. Though megaships are estimated to be 7x as energy efficient as road transport, stacking containers higher makes ships more susceptible to winds, and building them wider makes them more difficult to steer. It was a worst-case scenario that many analysts, who described MVs as a “[play] on globalisation,” saw coming after being years in the making, particularly evident at the Suez Canal banks, according to the Guardian.
  • We may be too reliant on the sea for trade — at least that’s what China seems to be indicating. Chinese manufacturers are rapidly expanding the volume of goods they send overland to Europe in a bid to bypass covid-19 induced disruptions at ports that have sent prices skyrocketing, the FT says. China has sent more than 2k freight trains to Europe in the first two months of the year — double the number it sent in the same period in 2020 — as the lower costs and fewer delays make rail a more attractive option.

POLITICS

…all the livelong day

MPs are calling for a joint parliamentary committee to oversee plans to upgrade the country’s ailing railway infrastructure in response to Friday’s train crash in Sohag that killed at least 19 people and left 185 injured, Al Mal reports. The committee — which would be made up of the transport, communications, and budgeting and planning committees, among others — would investigate how funds are being allocated to railway upgrades and call on Transport Minister Kamel El Wazir to draft a comprehensive plan to improve rail safety through more automation in control and signaling. El Wazir said following the incident that the government has earmarked EGP 225 bn for the rail network.

The transport minister’s absence from parliamentary proceedings yesterday drew criticisms from some MPs, including the deputy head of the House Budgeting Committee Moustafa Salem, Al Mal says.

Friday’s tragedy has prompted fresh national outcry over the state of the country’s rail network, which Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly admitted has suffered “decades of neglect.” Official figures show that thousands of incidents have occurred over the past decade. The most recent major crash happened in 2019, when a train ploughed into a platform in Cairo’s main Ramses Station, which killed 31 people and injured more than 40.

ALSO FROM THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE- A bill to amend the law governing the Cotton Arbitration and Testing General Organization, and grant the authority oversight over all stages of the ginning process, was approved by the House yesterday. The amendments impose a maximum jail sentence of six months and a maximum fine of EGP 1 mn for anyone found to have obstructed access to cotton records. The bill will now make its way to the State Council (Maglis El Dawla) for a final review before being ratified by the president.

COMPETITION WATCH

The latest on Eastern Co.

New, more competitive terms for the license to establish Egypt’s second major tobacco company could be introduced after several tobacco players filed a formal complaint with the Federation of Egyptian Industries’ tobacco division. The complaint looks to scrap the conditions booklet the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) had issued for the license auction, head of the Division Ibrahim Imbaby told Al Shorouk. The companies also want to see an independent committee bringing together the finance and public enterprises ministries, the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA), the IDA and the Tobacco Division to lay down guidelines for the new conditions booklet, Imbaby added.

The complaint follows a separate grievance that tobacco players reportedly filed with the ECA last week over allegations of antitrust practices, arguing that the new company’s effective monopoly on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco would be a breach of the Competition Protection Act.

Background: The IDA issued almost two week agos a tender for the license, which would (sort of) end Eastern’s monopoly on the tobacco industry. The authority invited several local and international players to compete in the tender, the results of which will be based on a point-count system. Current state-owned monopoly Eastern Company would own 24% of the new entrant, which would also be required to price its popular brands 50% higher than Eastern’s. So far, an unnamed Emirati bidder has reportedly expressed interest. Foreign players are lobbying for a two-month extension on the deadline for bids, which is set on Sunday, 4 April, to allow time for technical and feasibility studies — and also wait for possible change to the tender’s terms.

M&A WATCH

EK Holding increases stake in Alexandria Fertilizers

EK Holding has reportedly purchased a 10% stake in Alexandria Fertilizers in a USD 50 mn transaction, according to a report in Al Mal’s print edition, which cites sources with knowledge of the transaction. EKH, which already owned a 45% stake in the company, acquired the bulk of the shares from Banque Misr’s investment arm Misr Capital, which sold its 4.16% stake for USD 14.7 mn, the sources said. EKH also raised its indirect stake in Alexandria Fertilizers by purchasing another 10% stake in Kuwait Gate Holding — one of Alexandria Fertilizers shareholders — in a USD 38.5 mn transaction. Pharos Holding executed both transactions on the OTC market.

TOURISM

More covid help for tourism, airlines

Tourism companies, hotels and private airlines are up for another six-month holiday on their debt, tax, and utilities holiday until this October. Cabinet’s Tourism and Antiquities Committee signed off on the proposal ahead of taking it to the Council of Ministers for a final decision, according to a statement yesterday. The stimulus measure, first introduced in April 2020 to prop up the tourism and aviation industries through the pandemic, was originally set to expire last October before being extended until the end of 2020 and then until the end of this coming April as the pandemic continued to batter the tourism industry.

The sector has been getting back on its feet: Nearly 2 mn tourists visited Egypt since the lifting of internal border controls to allow commercial flights in July, Tourism Minister Khaled El Anany has said. El Anany previously said Egypt could see a return to pre-covid visitor numbers as early as fall 2022.

INFRASTRUCTURE WATCH

A second major desert reclamation mega-project

Another 1 mn feddans of desert land near Egypt’s northwestern coastline are slated for reclamation as part of a new national mega-project, according to an Ittihadiya statement. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi instructed his government yesterday to “immediately” move ahead with implementing the project, which is designed to create a new area of agricultural production dubbed the “New Delta,” according to the statement. The area will include industrial complexes that are built around agricultural production, the statement says, without providing further details.

The project should be complete within two years, Agriculture Minister El Sayed El Quseir told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa. The project has already undergone feasibility studies from the Agriculture Ministry, Cairo University, and Alexandria University (watch, runtime: 26:56).

This is not the same as the 1.5 mn feddan project, which El Sisi announced back in 2015 as one of several national mega projects. That project involves tendering a vast expanse of land in the Western Desert to qualified investors and aims to increase the size of Egypt’s arable land by 20%.

MOVES

EIPICO appoints Ahmed Kilani as chairman and managing director

MOVES- Ahmed Saeed Kilani has been named chairman and managing director of EIPICO (the Egyptian International Pharma Industries), the company said in an EGX filing (pdf). Kilani is currently a board member of the Federation of Egyptian Industries (where he heads the food supplement division) and serves as the chairman of the Arab Company for Pharma and Medicinal Plants.

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ENTERPRISE+: LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

FGM penalties in the limelight: Aside from wall-to-wall coverage of the latest in the Suez Canal (which we recap in full above), the legislative amendments that would impose harsher penalties for FGM was at the top of the talking heads’ agendas last night.

In the hot seat: The ultra-conservative Al Nour Party, which opposed the bill on the grounds that penalizing the practice hasn’t successfully eradicated it, party member and House representative Ahmed Hamdy told El Hekaya’s Amr Adib. Hamdy suggested that relying on community outreach would be more effective in ending the types of mutilation that disfigure or harm women, but maintained that his party believes (without a single shred of scientific evidence) there are some circumstances in which the practice is medically necessary. Hamdy also suggested that “medical opinions change,” which means that statements being made now indicating that FGM is never medically necessary “could be proven wrong” in the future (watch, runtime: 3:56).

We’ll leave Adib’s raised eyebrows and particularly high decibel level to speak on our behalf here and suggest that Mr. Hamdy can now go crawl back under the rock from whence he came. For anyone who needs a reminder, the practice is called mutilation, which isn’t exactly how one would expect to describe a normal medical procedure, OB-GYN Omar Abdel Aziz told Adib (watch, runtime: 0:47).

Also on the airwaves last night:

  • The current uptick in covid-19 cases is mostly minor cases, but everyone should remain cautious regardless, professor of chest diseases at Kasr El Ainy Maisa Sharafeldin said. (Eman El Hosary on Masaa DMC | watch, runtime: 7:56)

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

We have a mixed bag of nuts from the foreign press this morning, which otherwise remains squarely focused on the Suez Canal debacle. Among the headlines to skim:

  • Egypt is seeking to strengthen economic ties with Horn of Africa and Nile Basin countries like Somalia and Djibouti in a bid to gain their support in the GERD dispute. (Al Monitor)
  • Egypt and Greece’s cooperation policies in the East Med are likely to determine the region’s energy geopolitics, especially the 2020 partial maritime delimitation agreement that nullifies a Turkish-Libyan MOU claiming exploration rights in the area (Modern Policy)
  • Nawal El Saadawi gets another obit, this time being memorialized as the “godmother” of Egyptian feminism. (Maine Public Radio)

PLANET FINANCE

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Major US and Chinese tech firms on Wall Street lost a combined USD 33 bn in market cap on Friday after a mysterious USD 19 bn sell-off left investors positing that a big hedge fund or family investment office was looking to wind down bns worth of positions, the Financial Times reports. The sell-off saw brokers offering prominent stocks in “block trades,” which involve offering large chunks of stocks at prices negotiated outside the market. Though a common phenomenon, the size of the sales and the fact they took place within normal trading hours is “unprecedented,” traders told Bloomberg, leaving investment managers wondering whether markets can expect another wave of block trades today.

Bloomberg says the family office of former Tiger Management trader Bill Hwang was behind the sales.

A select number of seasoned bond bulls are going against the current by banking on a medium term drop in US treasury yields, and are piling into cheap bonds now in anticipation of a price rise as yields slump, the Wall Street Journal writes. A burst of economic optimism off the back of a vaccine recovery and government stimulus package will not be enough to buoy yields much further beyond their current rates, says chief investment strategist at PGIM Fixed Income Robert Tipp, who believes that structural factors such as an ageing population and rising private sector debt will soon push yields down. “When the economy recovers strongly like it is right now, investors push up yields, but a lot of times, actually most of the time, they tend to pass through fair value and keep going,” he said.

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EGX30

10,868

  • (YTD: +0.2%)

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USD (CBE)

Buy 15.68

Sell 15.78

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Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

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Tadawul

9,483

+0.7% (YTD: +9.1%)

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ADX

5,757

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DFM

2,500

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S&P 500

3,975

+1.7% (YTD: +5.8%)

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FTSE 100

6,741

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USD 64.47

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USD 1,732.50

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BTC

USD 55,435.36

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The EGX30 ended yesterday’s session flat on turnover of EGP 685 mn (53.5% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is up 0.2% YTD.

In the green: Pioneers (+3.3%), Oriental Weavers (+2.2%) and Telecom Egypt (+2.1%).

In the red: Eastern Co. (-2.1%), Export Development Bank (-1.4%) and GB Auto (-1.3%).

It’s green as far as the eye can see in Asia this morning, with Japan’s Nikkei leading the gainers. Futures have Europe and Toronto opening handily in the green later today, while suggesting that in Wall Street the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq will all be in the red at the opening bell.

AROUND THE WORLD

The US is “not ready” to lift USD 370 bn worth of tariffs on China, with newly appointed Trade Representative Katherine Tai telling the Wall Street Journal that tariffs should be lifted gradually so as not to harm the economy, and that the US would continue to use tariffs as leverage to ensure China’s compliance with the terms of 2020 accord to end the trade war.

China added individuals from the US and Canada to its tit-for-tat sanctions list, prohibiting two American officials, a Canadian lawmaker, and members of a rights advocacy body from entering the country or doing business with China over their criticism of Beijing's detention of 1 mn Muslim Uyghurs, the Financial Times reports. China had last week imposed sanctions on entities and individuals from the EU and UK in retaliation against coordinated sanctions by the four countries against four senior Chinese officials involved in the detentions.

The World Bank has normalized its relations with Sudan after nearly three decades, following Khartoum clearing its arrears to the bank’s International Development Association, paving the way for the country to access about USD 2 bn in grants for sustainable economic recovery and poverty alleviation, according to a statement.

IN DIPLOMACY: El Sisi, Macron talk Libya, anti-terrorism, GERD: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the latest developments in Libya, anti-terrorism cooperation, and the stalled Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations in a phone call yesterday, according to an Ittihadiya statement.

Also covering GERD: US Envoy to Sudan Donald Booth, head of the EU Delegation in Egypt’s political division Marina Vraila, and Water Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty, who met in Cairo yesterday, according to a cabinet statement.

blackboard

Are university students satisfied with online education? Despite classes resuming on campuses this year, online education remains a key component of student life. As a commonly recognized pillar of online education quality (pdf), student satisfaction with online learning needs to be a priority for increasing its chances of successfully educating the student, argues a recent joint AUC-GUC research paper (pdf). The two universities teamed up on an online survey of 280 undergraduate business students, which took place between July and September 2020, to students’ satisfaction with online learning at their schools. 85% of the students surveyed attend one of Egypt’s top ten private universities, while 15% attend the public universities of Cairo, Ain Shams and Helwan.

Their verdict? Overall satisfaction with online learning isn’t very high. On a scale of 1-5, most students on average would rate their satisfaction at a level 3, based on factors such as the academic quality of classes, how much students learn online versus face-to-face, and whether they would recommend their courses and instructors. Their “level of interest” in online education — which looks at how much of the education is self-driven — isn’t doing much better. Reasons cited for waning interest include teaching methods, the way course content was explained, and material being insufficiently challenging. Students missing in-person exchanges and campus life were likely to struggle with motivation.

Online learning gets bonus points for its flexibility: 70% of students surveyed believe online learning saves time and offers more flexibility than classroom learning. 18.9% feel their overall learning experience is better online, and 12.9% believe they got better instructions and explanations of material online.

But it’s marked down for low interaction levels: Only 8.9% of students surveyed reported more peer interaction through online learning. Most students still feel that instructions and content delivery are better in person.

And professors have something to do with it: Overall satisfaction with teachers performance was given a score of 3.5 out of 5. Students rated teaching on a number of factors, including responsiveness, constructive student-teacher interactions, and the amount of timely and helpful feedback provided in online classes and on assignments, exams or projects.

Tech access is crucial for online learning, but unreliability can be a problem: 91% of students surveyed can regularly access the internet at home, with only 2.9% having no computers or internet connections. But 13.9% believe the pandemic negatively impacted their ability to access technology, and cite technical problems on the platforms they use. The platforms may be too complicated or subject to disturbances, says the study.

How are students learning online? Live lectures or virtual classrooms (synchronous teaching) is the most popular method for university professors. 81% of students surveyed had been taught via real-time meetings using Zoom or other apps. 72.1% had received pre-recorded lectures in video or audio format (known as asynchronous teaching). 34.6% had received PowerPoint presentations with pre-recorded audio material. 2.5% of students surveyed received no online tuition.

Professors are encouraged to cater style to audience: Awareness and targeting of different learning styles — visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic — makes online learning more effective, the paper says. Over 50% of the women students surveyed were reading/writing learners, while 29.3% of the male students were kinesthetic learners, who best learn by doing and like to remain mobile. The lowest percentage of both male and female learners surveyed were auditory learners, who learn by listening and through discussions, but are easily distracted by noise.

These learning style differences can affect the time needed to master online study material. Visual and reading/writing learners took from 3-6 hours per week on average to study the online course material, while kinesthetic and auditory learners took 6-9 hours per week, the paper tells us.

When it comes to assessment, students seem to like online exams: Most of these students were happy for their final assessment to be in the form of an online exam, the paper indicates, without specifying what percentage of students felt this way. 49.4% of private university students and 39% of public university students surveyed took online exams exclusively during the pandemic, while 42.3% of private university students and 34.1% of public university students were assessed through both online exams and research.

College students are going through the same issues as K-12: The study supports the conclusions of our previous survey of K-12 school students and parents, which showed that having more control over when, where and how you learn is seen as being online study’s biggest plus. Lack of interaction and tech issues meanwhile are its main barriers.

How can these barriers be overcome? Several studies (pdf) — including one by academics at the University of the Philippines Manila and another by academics at the University of British Columbia — recommend using asynchronous teaching for content delivery and synchronous sessions for questions, feedback and encouraging interaction. They advise conducting regular needs assessments, to understand which students face particular tech constraints or extra responsibilities in the home, and then tailoring the work assigned to them accordingly. They emphasize that personal check-ins — including emails and phone calls — help provide psychosocial support. And they recommend using a range of edtech to expand student access to a range of resources.

Your top education stories for the week:

  • Education IPO: Taaleem Management Services is selling shares at up to EGP 6.20 apiece in an initial public offering on the EGX this week.
  • Actis to double down on education investment: Global investor Actis has big plans for key sectors including health and education. The firm’s MENA chief Sherif El Kholy discussed this and more in an exclusive sit-down with Enterprise last week.
  • Private tuition fee loans: Education outfit CIRA is giving parents whose children attend its schools tuition fee loans with a 12-month repayment period under a partnership agreement with Beltone’s consumer finance arm Belcash.

CALENDAR

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

28-29 March (Sunday-Monday): Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport Startup Festival, Sharm El Sheikh.

29-30 March (Monday-Tuesday): Arab Federation of Exchanges Annual Conference 2021.

30 March (Wednesday): Deadline to visit the moroor and get an RFID sticker affixed to your car’s windshield — or run afoul of the Traffic Police.

31 March (Wednesday): Income tax deadline for individuals. Real estate tax filing deadline.

31 March (Wednesday): The Egyptian-Croation Business Forum will convene.

1-3 April (Thursday-Saturday): HVAC-R Egypt Expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo.

6 April (Tuesday): French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Egypt working breakfast with Sovereign Fund of Egypt CEO Ayman Soliman.

7 April (Wednesday): British-Egyptian Business Association (BEBA) webinar on digital banking and fintech.

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): Coptic 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).

7-9 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.

17-20 June (Thursday-Sunday) : The International Exhibition of Materials and Technologies for Finishing and Construction (Turnkey Expo), Cairo International Conference Center.

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.

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

1 July: (Thursday): National holiday in observance of 30 June Revolution.

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.

1-12 November (Monday-Friday): 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), Glasgow, United Kingdom.

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. © 2021 Enterprise Ventures LLC.