Wednesday, 31 March 2021

EFG Education Fund hits third close with EGP 250 mn SFE investment

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, friends, and welcome to last day of Q1 — and another big news day.

IT’S A BIG DAY FOR: Investment news. The Sovereign Fund of Egypt has joined the EFG Hermes Education Fund as a limited partner, with its EGP 250 mn commitment bringing the fund to third close. The SFE is also looking to restructure its much of its real estate holdings into a new entity that it could IPO in the future.

Meanwhile, EGX boss Mohamed Farid is looking forward to a good year, saying the exchange could see as many as six new listings in 2021 — and, in the process, lure institutional investors back from the sidelines. The market has been 60-70% retail since the great EM sell-off early in the pandemic.

IN LOCAL COVID NEWS: We’re getting nearly 1 mn more covid jabs today and there’s more on the horizon, health officials say. Some 854k doses of AstraZeneca’s jab should land today and as many as 4.5 mn more should be here “in the coming period,” they said. Plus, mosques will be allowed to open for all five daily prayers plus taraweeh this Ramadan. The evening taraweeh prayers will be capped at 30 minutes in length.

We have the rundown on all of this and more in this morning’s news well, below.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

It’s also a morning full of warnings and reminders:

  • It’s the last day to file your real estate taxes, which you can do here.
  • If you earn income outside a day job with a company (or if you’re a freelancer, etc), you need to file your personal income tax return today.
  • Your corporate tax return is due one month from today.
  • It is now 13 days until Ramadan.

It’s also the final day to settle building code violations with the government, which you can do until 10pm today, Local Development Ministry spokesperson Khaled Kassem told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa. Those who pay their settlement fees in banknotes will pay 25% less than those who pay electronically, according to Kassem. There are some 2.09 mn settlement requests that have come through to date (watch, runtime: 16:00).

Your deadline to get an RFID tag on your car passed yesterday. We suggest hauling [redacted] to your moroor ASAP to affix the sticker on your windshield.

YET ANOTHER WARNING: Many large taxpayers need to sign up for the state’s new e-invoicing system by mid-April or face prosecution, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said in a statement warning companies that were on-boarded for the second rollout phase of the ministry’s new platform. Maait had previously said those failing to comply could face a host of penalties, including removal from large taxpayer classification, which would entail losing perks such as expedited tax procedures, settlements, and less frequent auditing. As things stand, the system is mandatory for some 481 of the country's largest taxpayers — 134 of which joined during a pilot phase and 347 in the ongoing second phase, the statement said.

The ministry is planning to get all 2.8k large taxpayers registered to use the platform by 1 July, before gradually rolling it nationwide.

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

  • An investigation to determine what went wrong with the Ever Given is underway. Expect lots of passing the buck.
  • Orascom Financial Holding is making its entry into the fintech space with a new e-payments company.
  • Egypt’s three clearing and depository companies will need to run their board elections under new rules announced by the Financial Regulatory Authority.

MARKET WATCH-

OPEC+ countries will likely decide to maintain production cuts at their monthly meeting tomorrow after the coalition decided earlier this month to maintain cuts through April, Bloomberg reports. The decision, which was broadly against expectations, came as the group shied away from overestimating a potential demand rebound. Brent prices had hit a two-year high of USD 70 / bbl following the 4 March announcement, but slumped by almost USD 10 / bbl the following week off of dampened demand following a renewed round of lockdowns in Europe and increased Iranian exports to China. Saudi Arabia’s 1mn bbl / day production cut is likely to be extended yet again in tomorrow’s meeting, observers say, with the coalition currently holding back around 8 mn bbl / day, or 8% of global oil supply, to avoid a glut and maintain prices.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

The Egyptian-Croatian Business Forum meets tomorrow for the first time

since 2010. On the table: Giving a nudge to both trade and investment, a FEDCOC statement says. Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić-Radman and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry are expected to attend.

The British Egyptian Business Association (BEBA) will host a webinar on combating harassment and violence in the workplace tomorrow at midday. Register for the event here.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is due in town on 12 April to discuss the latest developments on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, signaling Russia could be looking to play an active role in mediating the impasse, according to TenTV’s Al Mashhad (watch, runtime: 1:28). Lavrov’s planned trip comes after expectations that Russian President Vladimir Putin would visit Egypt sometime in March did not materialize.

“Summer hours” will come into effect for stores and restaurants as of 17 April. This means retail shops can close at 11pm (instead of 10pm during the winter), while cafes and restaurants can stay open until 1am (instead of midnight currently). We have more details on the winter vs. summer hours here.

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

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: We present to you part two of how local startups are fixing the fragmented supply chain. This week, we are looking at social commerce platform Brimore, which is turning average households in remote areas into points-of-sale by cutting down the stops of the traditional supply chain. You can catch up on part one, where we dove into B2B bulk ordering platform MaxAB, here.

enterprise

INVESTMENT WATCH

SFE makes its first investment in education with EFG fund

EFG Education Fund hits third close with SFE investment: The Sovereign Fund of Egypt (SFE) has committed EGP 250 mn (c. USD 15.9 mn) to the EFG Hermes Education Fund, according to a joint statement (pdf) published yesterday. The investment brings the fund to its third close, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told Enterprise. This will be the only investment in the fund’s third and final close, Karim Moussa, the head of asset management and private equity at EFG Hermes, told us.

EFG’s education fund now has some USD 150 mn in dry powder to invest, “which perfectly positions us to continue expanding our scope in the Egyptian market,” Moussa said. The third close makes the fund “one of the largest specialized investment funds in the MENA region,” he added. The education fund had an initial close in 2018 that saw it land commitments worth a combined USD 119 mn from local and foreign investors. It reached a second close in June 2019 with commitments from regional institutional investors, Moussa told us.

About the education fund: Established in 2018, the fund was set up as a 50/50 JV between EFG and GEMS Education to invest in Egypt’s K12 education sector. It is managed by the investment bank’s private equity unit. EFG said at the time that it expected to invest USD 300 mn in Egyptian schools over the next five years.

The SFE also signed an MoU with GEMS Egypt to build and operate two national schools in west Cairo, the statement said. The schools will be built on SFE-owned land and will each have capacity for 2.5k students. The MoU “will help [GEMS] expand our geographical presence in the local market while maximizing value for landowners like SFE through long-term impactful investments,” GEMS Egypt CEO Ahmed Wahby said in the statement.

This is the first education investment for the SFE — but not the first expression of interest in the sector: The fund said last year that it was in talks with several foreign companies to get them to invest in education, after signing an agreement with private equity giant Actis to drive investment in priority sectors in Egypt’s economy, including education.

And it won’t be the commitment the SFE makes to an industry-specific fund: The SFE will follow up the partnership by making “similar alliances with entities that possess technical know-how and the necessary capital in the near future,” said CEO Ayman Soliman.

PRIVATIZATION WATCH

SFE to set up an entity for its real estate assets, with an eye to IPO

The Sovereign Fund of Egypt (SFE) could roll its real estate assets into a new entity that it will eventually IPO on the EGX, SFE CEO Ayman Soliman tells Al Mal. The fund will set up a company or a real estate investment trust (REIT) to consolidate the assets into one entity once it finalizes their development, according to the report in the newspaper’s print edition. A REIT is a mutual fund that owns, finances or manages income-generating real estate assets. These “cherry-picked” assets include state-owned Mogamma Tahrir and the land where the headquarters of the dissolved National Democratic Party used to stand. The plan is not set in stone, but would be part of the SFE’s long-term strategy, Soliman said.

The latest on the Mogamma: Feasibility studies on the revamp are still underway, Soliman said. The conditions booklet for the planned overhaul of the Mogamma El Tahrir will be made available next month, Planning Minister Hala El Said previously said. The fund will give prospective private-sector partners a four-month window to purchase the booklet and present their bids on the project, which will likely see the iconic building transformed into a multi-purpose building, with a portion turned into an apartment hotel and others used for commercial purposes, according to the minister.

IPO WATCH

Burnin’ up

…And while we’re on the subject of IPOs: We could see five or six new listings hitting the EGX in 2021, which may pave the way for the return of institutional investors into the market, EGX Chairman Mohamed Farid tells Al Arabiya. Farid didn’t provide any further details on the timelines of the potential listings, or whether the anticipated IPOs include any companies from the stalled state privatization program.

It already looks like the IPO pipeline is heating up this year: Macro Group Pharma has kicked off the bookbuilding process for its IPO, while higher education specialist Taaleem has kicked off subscription for an offering that was 2.34x oversubscribed, valuing it at EGP 4.2 bn. And while it’s not technically an IPO, London-listed consumer healthcare giant IDH kicked off a roadshow yesterday for a technical listing of at least 5% of its shares on the EGX. NBFS player Ebtikar is also very likely to go to market and e-Finance’s IPO — which is part of the state privatization program — could happen this year, according to analysts surveyed in our first Enterprise IPO poll.

Background: A handful of companies that were planning to IPO in 2020 either postponed or outright killed their plans. Banque du Caire’s hotly anticipated IPO was postponed to 2021 as the state privatization program was pushed amid the covid-induced market selloff last year. Meanwhile, NileAir pulled the plug on its offering after the tourism and aviation industries cratered, and Qalaa Holdings reportedly postponed the 1H2021 sale of a 30-40% stake in energy distribution player Taqa Arabia and will not be taking Arab Refining Company to market anytime soon. Mid-cap real estate player Emerald was the only new listing on the EGX in 2020 after an already slow 2019, which saw only two IPOs — Rameda Pharma and Fawry — going to market.

SUEZ CANAL

The Neverending Story

There will be no Ever Given Mk II, El Sisi promises: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi pledged to purchase new equipment and boats for the Suez Canal to ensure that ships will never again block the vital shipping artery. Cabinet officials will be instructed to ascertain the Suez Canal Authority’s needs and sign new contracts “no matter the circumstances or cost,” he said during a visit to the authority’s headquarters in Ismailia, a day after the mega container ship was finally freed from the banks of the canal (watch, runtime: 1:38).

The latest from the waterway: Some 255 of the 422 ships left stranded in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean should have transited the Canal as of this morning, by Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan’s math (watch, runtime: 2:28). The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) has said it expects the backlog of vessels to be cleared within three or four days, as it brings the number of ships passing through on a daily basis to 95, up from the usual 50-60, but some service providers think it could take longer. The SCA is looking to get the canal’s regular daily capacity to 95 vessels by 2030, authority boss Osama Rabie told Yahduth fi Misr’s Sherif Amer (watch, runtime: 4:12)

Industry experts think the ripple effects will continue to be felt until the summer, including vessels and containers being “out of sync” as the flow of shipping traffic through the canal got thrown out of whack by the Ever Given, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Do we need to worry about a cyber attack next? The canal’s IT and communications systems could be vulnerable to hacks and cyber attacks, former senior director for Middle East and North African affairs at the US National Security Council Robert Greenway writes in a Bloomberg Opinion piece. Greenway points to recent cyber attacks on industrial control systems, saying that the canal is vulnerable to similar hostility because of its “antiquated” IT architecture.

COVID WATCH

Ahlan, Ramadan (restrictions) + Covax jab shipment today?

Here’s how our second pandemic Ramadan is going down: Prayers — including the evening Taraweeh prayers — will be permitted in all mosques across the country during the Holy Month, as long as preventive measures such as wearing face masks are followed, cabinet’s covid-19 crisis management committee decided yesterday. Taraweeh prayers, however, must be limited to half an hour, the statement says.

No charity tables: The committee decided to ban charity iftar tables (Mawa’ed Rahman) and large gatherings in indoor areas, including funerals and celebrations.

Reminder: Last Ramadan saw a steady climb in daily infections and infections, leading into the summer months.

Penalties and fines will be handed out, and mosques could be closed if the required preventive measures aren’t in place, cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad told Yahduth fi Misr’s Sherif Amer (watch, runtime: 3:56).

The first 854k doses of an 8.6 mn-shot order of AstraZeneca’s jab should be landing in Egypt today, courtesy of the Gavi / Covax initiative, Health Minister Hala Zayed said in a statement yesterday. The first shipment was previously expected to include a total of 5 mn doses. It remains unclear when we’ll be receiving the remainder of that batch, especially after Covax recently signaled delays in vaccine shipments during March and April as India temporarily suspended all exports of the jab as its own case tally soars.

As many as 4.5 mn doses will be available in “the coming period,” presidential health advisor Mohamed Awad Tag Eldin told Ala Masouleety’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 10:03). Tag Eldin didn’t disclose any further details.

What we already know: China is set to send over another undisclosed number of Sinopharm jab doses as its third gift shipment in the next few days. This comes as a separate batch of the Sinopharm vaccine — which Egypt purchased from the vaccine maker — is also set to arrive within days. A total of 3 mn doses of the Sinopharm jab should have landed in Egypt by the end of May.

The Health Ministry reported 693 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 689 the day before. The ministry also reported 42 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 11,956. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 201,342 confirmed cases of covid-19.

The WHO looks like it’s going to revisit its investigation into the origin of covid-19 after more than a dozen countries criticised its latest report on the virus origin, which dismisses the lab-leak hypothesis. The World Health Organization’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “this report is a very important beginning” and “is not the end,” in response to countries’ concerns that the report’s results were delayed and lacked access to complete data, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Asian countries are looking to Russia and China as an alternate source of covid-19 vaccines after India imposed temporary vaccine export restrictions to protect local supplies that will likely affect the COVAX program’s ability to meet its delivery targets, Reuters reports.

German authorities in Berlin and Munich have banned the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for under-60s, after 31 people who had received the vaccine developed rare brain blood clots, which in nine cases led to death, the Associated Press reports. The news comes as many Canadian provinces said they would follow federal guidance that they should suspend use of AstraZeneca’s jab in folks under the age of 55 even though exactly zero casts of blood clots have appeared there, CBC reports.

BioNTech is now aiming to produce 2.5 bn vaccine doses in 2021, up by around a quarter from the previous target as the company tries to scale up production to meet the huge global demand, Bloomberg reports. The company could still up production further, said CEO Ugur Sahin, who predicted a version of the shot that can be stored in regular refrigerators instead of sub-zero temperatures would be available within months.

POLITICS

The big red line

El Sisi issues a sharp warning to Ethiopia on GERD: Threatening access to the Nile’s water is a “red line” for Egypt, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi warned Ethiopia yesterday, as it plans to go ahead with the second filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in a few months’ time. Speaking during a presser to mark the freeing of the Ever Given container ship, El Sisi said that Ethiopia will not be allowed to take “a single drop” of water from Egypt, and warned that further attempts to disrupt the Nile’s flow will cause “inconceivable instability” in the region (watch, runtime 2:29).

The region’s stability is “dependent on Egypt’s response to Ethiopia’s intransigence” on the issue, the president stressed, saying he’s not making threats but is rather reiterating the importance of reaching a binding agreement.

Addis Ababa reiterated in recent weeks that it will go ahead with the second phase of filling the GERD during the rainy season in July and August without an agreement with Egypt and Sudan. It also continued to oppose Cairo and Khartoum’s proposition to bring in the EU, US, UN, and African Union to help mediate an agreement.

We’re not out of ammo, pundits say: Egypt hasn’t been “backed into a corner” and still has other options to resolve the impasse, political commentator Mostafa El Fekky told Yahduth fi Misr’s Sherif Amer. El Fekky declined to say what these options could entail, but pointed out that Egypt has shown patience in the entire negotiating process and doesn’t particularly want to resort to a military confrontation (watch, runtime: 5:19). Meanwhile, we have the backing of much of the international community, in large part thanks to El Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s ongoing campaigns to rally international support by meeting with international leaders over the past several months, former diplomat Hany Khalaf tells Al Mashhad’s Amr Abdel Hamid (watch, runtime: 3:19).

Foreign press coverage: El Sisi’s remarks were one of his “strongest” in response to the issue, Bloomberg and the Associated Press said. Reuters also took note of the story.

The talking heads said much of the same, with Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi saying El Sisi’s statement was “the most important” one he has made on the matter to date (watch, runtime: 7:03), while Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa lauded the president for signaling to Ethiopia that Egypt doesn’t respond well to threats (watch, runtime: 8:50).

CURRENT AFFAIRS

Fairmont defendants out on bail

Four of the seven defendants in the Fairmont [redacted] assault case were each released on EGP 100k bail, pending further investigation as per a court decision, according to Masrawy. The Prosecutor General has appealed the decision to release the defendants, according to a statement. The assault, which took place in a Nile Fairmont suite in February 2014, first came to light last summer when the victim of the attack posted anonymous testimony online and filed a formal charge accusing the men of the assault. Five of the seven young men charged with perpetrating the assault were arrested late last year but two remain at large.

EARNINGS WATCH

Fawry’s net income increased 81% y-o-y in 2020 to reach EGP 186 mn, up from EGP 103 mn the year before, according to a company earnings release (pdf). Revenues were up almost 40% to EGP 1.2 bn, thanks to rapid growth in the company’s microfinance and banking services. The strong top-line growth demonstrates Fawry’s “growing centrality” to Egyptian commerce, said Fawry CEO Ashraf Sabry.

Looking ahead: “Management is confident that the company is well-positioned to meet its strategic objective of creating Egypt’s first integrated digital ecosystem,” Sabry said. The company plans to quadruple the volume of monthly transactions handled by its acceptance business in the coming year, as well as double the value of its microfinance business “to further grow these segments’ top-line contributions,” he said. The company will also expand the services offered through its myFawry app to include financial services and in-store discounts, with an eye to doubling monthly transaction volumes by the end of 2021.

enterprise

ENTERPRISE+: LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

It was not a good day for Information Minister Osama Heikal, who is still under fire, especially after he didn’t attend yesterday’s meeting at the House Culture and Media Committee that was set up to discuss the committee’s report on his policy statement. The minister reportedly said he had a “prior engagement,” which had committee member Nader Mostafa and Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa equally incensed. The committee was unanimous in its decision to reject Heikal’s policy statement, agreeing collectively that there was “not a single point” that was satisfactory, Mostafa said. Heikal could now be summoned for a formal inquiry, according to the MP (watch, runtime: 24:02). Moussa went on his own rant, saying that if Heikal were confident in his own performance, he wouldn’t have evaded the House meeting (watch, runtime: 10:51).

Egypt’s planned infrastructure development projects also earned some airtime last night, including the recently announced “New Delta” agricultural project, which will see some 1 mn feddans of desert land near our northwestern coastline reclaimed. Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 3:37) and Al Hayah Al Youm’s Lobna Assal (watch, runtime: 4:34) took note. Assal also noted President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s announcement regarding several new and developed ports that will be inaugurated within the next few months, including the Ain Sokhna, Damietta, and Abu Qir ports (watch, runtime: 3:10).

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

It’s another morning of Suez Canal coverage for Egypt, starting with the Financial Times’ Heba Saleh and Harry Dempsey, who say that freeing the Ever Given was a matter of national pride for Egyptians. The canal has long been a symbol of independence from colonial rule, Saleh and Dempsey write. Elsewhere, the Times of Israel notes that a 13-member Yemeni Jewish family departed for Egypt in an agreement the family struck with Iranian-backed Houthi forces.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Egypt-Sudan electricity link gets a boost: Siemens Energy was awarded a contract to build two grid stabilization stations in Sudan that will help feed cross-border electric power to Egypt as part of the Egypt-Sudan Electric Interconnection Project. The stations come as Egypt has agreed to invest EGP 450 mn in the supplying and installation of power compensators to boost the link’s capacity to 300 MW.

Osool ESB Securities Brokerage is offering margin with the help of a EGP 350 mn loan from Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank's ADILease, the local press reports. The MoU follows regulatory amendments by the Financial Regulatory Authority earlier this month which gave Egyptian factoring companies the green light to finance margin lending by brokerage companies. The move comes as a bid to allow brokerages access to new funding sources and stimulate trading on the EGX.

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

  • Contact and Fawry have signed a partnership agreement (pdf) to allow clients of the consumer finance company to make installment payments through Fawry’s mobile app.
  • Zack’s Fried Chicken is planning to invest EGP 12 mn to set up four new branches of Burger Joint, which it acquired earlier this year, according to Zack’s founder Hassan Abouzekry.
  • The Central Bank of Egypt will provide an additional EGP 1 bn for onlending to the Agricultural Bank of Egypt for the provision of low interest loans to SMEs as part of a government project to support cattle farming.
  • Pharos Energy’s revenue share of its Fayoum oil-producing concession could increase from 30% to 40% after the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation gave its preliminary approval to amendments to the terms of an earlier agreement.
  • The Rixos Premium Magawish Hotel was inaugurated yesterday in Hurghada as part of development plans for the Magawish tourist village.
  • The owner of the 10-storey building that collapsed last week in Cairo's Gesr El Suez neighborhood was arrested on charges of illegally adding four floors, causing the building's collapse.

PLANET FINANCE

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Archegos’ meltdown could cost global banks USD 6 bn: Shares at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Nomura, and Credit Suisse all took a tumble yesterday following a global selloff of banking stocks after banks that had lent to Archegos were forced to sell off stocks after Archegos defaulted on a margin call last week, Reuters reports. The firm, which is run as a family office by Bill Hwang and was subsequently subject to less regulatory scrutiny, was estimated to have held positions of over USD 50 bn, while having only USD 10 bn in assets, sources said, resulting in an incredibly overleveraged and risk exposed portfolio, Bloomberg says.”

No idea what we’re talking about? We broke down the story — and what it means for Egypt — in yesterday’s edition of EnterprisePM.

A major smartphone maker (not Apple) is entering the EV space: Xiaomi announced yesterday it is investing USD 10 bn over the next decade in a subsidiary focused on the "smart electric vehicle business." The Chinese company will spend an initial CNY 10 bn (c. USD 1.5 bn) to launch the business, expanding its investment in the coming years.

None

EGX30

10,740

  • (YTD: -1.0%)

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USD (CBE)

Buy 15.67

Sell 15.77

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USD at CIB

Buy 15.67

Sell 15.77

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Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

Up

Tadawul

9,635

+0.2% (YTD: +10.9%)

Up

ADX

5,911

+1.5% (YTD: +17.2%)

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DFM

2,559

+0.2% (YTD: +2.7%)

Down

S&P 500

3,959

-0.3% (YTD: +5.4%)

Up

FTSE 100

6,772

+0.5% (YTD: +4.8%)

Up

Brent crude

USD 64.20

+0.1%

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Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 2.62

Down

Gold

USD 1,680.50

-0.3%

Up

BTC

USD 58,810.77

+2.7%

The EGX30 ended yesterday flat on turnover of EGP 1.05 bn (27.8% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net buyers. The index is down 1.0% YTD.

In the green: Orascom Financial (+6.0%), Pioneers (+3.5%) and Orascom Investment (+2.4%).

In the red: Eastern Co. (-2.6%), Oriental Weavers (-1.5%), and MM Group (-1.3%).

hardhat

A tale of two startups: How nascent companies are helping solve supply chain fragmentation and pandemic-level customer demand — Part 2: We continue our series today on how startups in Egypt are helping solve some of the problems of our fragmented supply chain management system, particularly as e-commerce continues to rise. Last week, we looked at how Egyptian B2B bulk ordering startup MaxAB is using data from orders and its own delivery infrastructure to minimize the time wasted on trucks full of supply goods roaming the streets waiting for a retailer to buy products.

In Part 2, we look at a novel and non-traditional approach to supply chain issues such as customer acquisition and effective distribution, courtesy of social commerce platform Brimore.

Refresher: What’s wrong with our current supply chain management system? Typically, a product traveling from the manufacturer to the consumer will change hands multiple times as it goes from the factory to a distributor, then a sub-distributor, a big wholesaler, a smaller wholesaler, and then a retailer. For FMCG products to reach the consumer, it gets even more inefficient, as a wholesaler vehicle stocked with one product from one company drives around, trying to sell the stock to a few of the 400k grocery shops all over Egypt, which oftentimes results in wasted time and expenses.

We weren’t ready for the e-commerce boom: Before 2020, e-commerce used to be a marketplace living off single-product, single-item orders, which were often fulfilled by the supplier itself. The e-commerce boom saw customers ordering multiple products in large quantities, which need fleets and warehouses to be fulfilled, , CEO and cofounder of Brimore Mohamed Abdelaziz tells Enterprise. Egypt and the wider MENA region were not ready in terms of fulfillment infrastructure to cope with bulk orders of home-use goods and commodities, he added.

Furthermore, smaller manufacturers struggle with new customer acquisition and ensuring their products are available or in stock at every point of sale, Abdelaziz says. Firstly, acquiring new customers for their products entails convincing new people to actually try a new product. Secondly, making sure that 100% of their products are available at 100% of the locations, 24/7 in order to avoid customer frustration and retain customers, is a pain. This requires money to effectively distribute goods and continuously track sales across all retail outlets. The first is a marketing problem; the other is a distribution and supply chain issue — and both are extremely costly.

One possible (homemade) solution: Brimore promises manufacturers to make their products consistently available and get new customers to try them. Brimore connects suppliers with independent sellers across 27 of Egypt’s governorates. To do that, the company targets women living in remote areas who act as informal retailers, selling goods out of their homes in their local communities. These women can order the products directly from the supplier in bulk and use their local network (typically other women who manage household purchases) to make sales. This fuels a word-of-mouth type of direct selling, which unshackles the manufacturer from marketing costs.

What does this have to do with supply chain management? Instead of the product meandering through a five-stop process until it reaches the retailer, it is directly moved from manufacturer to those women through Brimore.

This model is gaining popularity, particularly outside Cairo and Alex: The total number of active women selling through Brimore is at 50k today, growing almost 9x y-o-y. Over 200 manufacturers are distributing their products through the company, while 70% of the business is located outside of Cairo and Alexandria. About 36% of Brimore’s business comes from Upper Egypt and 10% from border governorate, such as Sinai and the New Valley. The company raised USD 4.3 mn of announced investment rounds to date.

That demand now requires Brimore to get it on fulfillment centers: During the pandemic, Brimore launched its own end-to-end fulfillment business. Up until last year, the company was still outsourcing its operations. Recently, it decided to take on its own supply chain infrastructure, including a warehouse to store all products it dispatches, and a last-mile delivery service to the women who would directly sell these products to consumers. The new line acts as a revenue center to its core business by fulfilling its own operations, as well as those of other businesses.

The model is proving attractive to VCs: Brimore raised USD 3.5 mn in a pre-series A funding round led by Algebra Ventures in 2020. Flat6Labs, Disruptech, Vision Ventures and 500 Startups also participated in the round. The investment came one year after the company secured USD 800k in seed funding in a round led by Algebra and Endure Capital.

Altogether, the 2020 experience was a boon for logistics startups’ investment story. The sector was previously extremely underdeveloped, but the pandemic helped convince investors of the value in funding asset-heavy startups, Abdelaziz says. As these startups grow, so will asset-light businesses and marketplaces. Asset-heavy companies usually own a lot of fixed assets, such as machines, that are needed to generate income, while asset-light entities usually do not need a lot of tangible, expensive equipment to operate their business model.

Your top infrastructure stories for the week:

  • Rail upgrades: A tender for modernizing the signaling system and track upgrade works along the Cairo-Beni Suef segment of Egypt’s rail network will be issued next month, after it was previously postponed until foreign financing was secured for the project.
  • Land reclamation: 1 mn feddans of desert land near Egypt’s northwestern coastline are slated for reclamation as part of a new national mega-project to create an agricultural production zone dubbed the “New Delta.”
  • Urban infrastructure: A multi-storey residential building collapsed in Gesr El Suez on Saturday, leaving at least 23 people dead and injuring 25 others.
  • Dry ports: Egypt is looking for European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) funding to conduct feasibility studies on the Damietta Dry Port.
  • Trade: Steven Yoogalingam was named managing director of the Suez Canal Container Terminal (SCCT).

CALENDAR

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

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

31 March (Wednesday): British Egyptian Business Association (BEBA) webinar on workplace harassment.

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

5-11 April: The Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group will take place virtually.

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.

12 April (Sunday): Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Egypt for GERD talks (watch: runtime: 1:28).

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.