Thursday, 1 April 2021

ADQ is acquiring 100% of Amoun Pharma for USD 740 mn as the world sees best run of M&A since 1980

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Welcome to the second quarter of 2021, friends. It’s also April Fool’s day as we gear up for this final day of the workweek, so you may want to up-regulate your BS meter if you have kids under the age of 12.

Looking back, 1Q was kinda phenomenal if you’re a finance nerd or just love doing business. We end the quarter with two hot IPOs in the market (Taaleem and Macro) and our first-ever technical listing on roadshow (IDH). Then there’s the M&A boom, which has so far included two rare transactions in banking (Bank ABC bought Blom Egypt and FAB snapped up Bank Audi’s local arm). Banque Misr has acquired 90% of investment bank turned NBFS house CI Capital, and there’s been tons of activity in the healthcare and NBFS sectors.

Two to keep an eye on: Hospital giant Cleopatra’s ongoing acquisition of Alameda Healthcare and Aldar’s offer for at least 51% of upmarket real estate player Sodic.

And the M&A news continues this morning, as ADQ acquires 100% of Amoun Pharma (is this the … third time Amoun has changed hands?). We have the rundown in this morning’s news well, below.

The M&A boom isn’t just an Egypt thing: We’re closing the best quarter for M&A globally since 1980, the FT writes. The quarter saw transactions “worth USD 1.3 tn agreed in the three months to March 30, more than any first quarter since at least 1980 and topping even the heady levels of the dotcom boom at the turn of the millennium.”

THE BIG STORY INTERNATIONALLY: US President Joe Biden unveiled yesterday his proposed eight-year, USD 2.3 tn infrastructure investment plan, which would cover developing transport infrastructure, improving care for the elderly and disabled, expanding affordable housing construction, and addressing climate change concerns, among a host of other things. Read the broad strokes of the plan, courtesy of Reuters and the New York Times, then jump over to Politico for analysis on the bill’s chances of survival through Congress and the Senate.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

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

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

The Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group are set to take place this coming Monday and run through 11 April. This year’s virtual meetings will bring together central bankers, ministers of finance and development, private sector executives, representatives from civil society organizations and academics. The topics up for discussion include the world economic outlook, poverty eradication, economic development, aid effectiveness, and the global financial system. Some events will be open to the public and can be streamed live from the World Bank’s platform.

The French Chamber of Commerce and Industry is hosting a webinar that will take a deep dive into the Madbouly government’s program to create a national ID for all residential and commercial properties and to digitalize the country’s building permit system. The gathering runs Tuesday, 6 April from 4pm to 6:30pm and you can sign up 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

M&A WATCH

ADQ snags Amoun Pharma

Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund ADQ is acquiring 100% of Bausch Health’s unit in Egypt, Amoun Pharma, in a USD 740 mn transaction, Bausch said in a statement yesterday. The agreement comes as Canada’s Bausch company looks to pare down debt. The definitive agreement includes a mandatory tender offer by ADQ for the total issued share capital of Amoun including less than 1% held by minority shareholders, according to a statement yesterday. The sale is expected to go through in 1H2021 and is still subject to regulatory approval, Bausch said. Bloomberg also took note of the acquisition.

It seems the SFE got a piece of the action? Unconfirmed press reports had suggested that the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Egypt (SFE) was planning to join ADQ in its bid to acquire Amoun by nabbing a 10% stake. Yesterday’s statements did not say that the SFE had participated in the transaction, but ADQ Executive Director Fahad Al Qassim said the transaction “further solidifies our commitment” to the USD 20 bn joint investment platform that ADQ and the SFE set up back in 2019. “Together with SFE, we will work with Amoun’s leadership to expand on the company’s proven track record and market position in the pharma landscape,” Al Qassim said.

Advisors: Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley served as financial advisors to Bausch Health. Safwat & Partners and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz provided counsel to Bausch Health in the transaction. Shearman & Sterling LLP and Matouk Bassiouny & Hennawy were ADQ’s counsel, according to a statement (pdf).

 

CLARIFICATION- on 1 April 2021

The story was amended to include Safwat & Partners, who provided counsel to Bausch Health on the transaction along with Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. 

COVID WATCH

Habemus AstraZeneca

Our first 854k-dose batch of Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccines from the Gavi / Covax program has landed in Egypt, Health Minister Hala Zayed said in a statement yesterday. The shipment, which was initially expected to carry 5 mn doses, is the first delivery from a 40 mn-shot order Egypt placed for the vaccine through Covax.

Are we getting another 4 mn doses this month? Zayed did not clarify whether the rest of the 5 mn-dose batch (around 4.15 mn doses) should be delivered, but Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa suggested last night that they will be delivered sometime in April (watch, runtime: 0:55). The batch was short as the manufacturer is struggling to keep up with global demand.

Have you registered to get your covid-19 vaccine yet? You can still sign up through the ministry’s website and get your shot at one of 138 medical units across the country. There are 33 sites available across Cairo, with another 24 others in Giza and 19 in Alexandria. The ministry is looking to set up 5k medical units and 600 hospitals to administer the vaccines soon.

The Health Ministry reported 699 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 693 the day before. The ministry also reported 39 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 11,995. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 202,131 confirmed cases of covid-19.

Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine is 100% effective at preventing symptomatic covid in 12-15 year olds, according to the results of a study conducted by the companies involving 2.2k teenagers. Pfizer and BioNTech will be seeking clearance of their vaccine for this age group with US regulators in the coming weeks, with a view to inoculating children before the start of the next school year.

ٍMICROFINANCE

Tamweely is getting closer to a booster

Microfinance player Tamweely could soon secure a EGP 100 mn loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to boost its microfinance portfolio, Chairman Amr AbouElazm said at a presser yesterday, according to Masrawy. AbouElazm didn’t offer any other details or specify when Tamweely expects to lock down the facility. Tamweely bumped up its loans portfolio 139% y-o-y in 2020, with the number of loan beneficiaries rising to 75k at the end of last year, compared to 55k at the end of 2019, he said.

SEPARATELY- Tamweely is looking to provide micro leasing products to SMEs early 2022, once it receives sign-off from the Financial Regulatory Authority, CEO Ahmed Khorshid tells Al Mal, according to a report in the newspaper’s print edition. Micro leasing entails in-kind loans in the form of working equipment, as opposed to liquidity. Tamweely also plans to introduce nano-finance schemes to customers before year-end, which would cater to low-income earners and provide them with greater access to borrowing, Khorshid added.

Tamweely has also partnered with Banque Misr to provide a set of new e-services to clients including the provision of loans through Meeza cards, Khorshid said.

REGULATION WATCH

Banks get a break on concentration risk regs

Banks are getting another nine-month break from regulations designed to limit concentration risk in the industry, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) said in a circular (pdf) yesterday. The CBE is now extending the waiver on implementing the regulations until the end of December, after saying last year it would give banks a breather on the regs until 12 April 2021.

Background: The regulations — which the CBE issued in 2019 — require commercial banks to set aside additional capital above the base requirement. The ratio for each bank depends on measurements of key concentration measures, which are either based on extending too much credit to borrowers in a single sector — known as sectoral concentration — or to a single borrower (individual concentration).

ٍCABINET WATCH

Cabinet approves new raises for civil servants

Public sector employees not covered by the Civil Service Act are officially in line for raises of 13% of their basic salaries at the start of the next fiscal year (which starts on 1 July), under incentives approved by cabinet during its weekly meeting yesterday, an official statement read. The same decision also stipulates a EGP 75 minimum increase to the monthly gross salaries of civil servants whose employment is not covered by the act, who will receive annual raises at the start of the fiscal year. It also increases monthly bonuses for state officials by a minimum of EGP 175 and a maximum of EGP 400, depending on rank. Public sector wage increases need to be ratified by the House of Representatives before taking effect.

Minimum wages are also up: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi last month instructed the government to raise the minimum wage for civil servants to EGP 2.4k from EGP 2k as of the next fiscal year, a move which is expected to cost around EGP 37 bn. The president also ordered a 13% hike for pensioners and annual raises of 7% for civil servants covered by the Civil Service Act.

Meanwhile, the executive regulations for the SMEs Act will see the light of day soon under a separate cabinet decision. The regulations will stipulate the conditions for SME access to state-supported financing, as well as provide more details on incentives the government has in store for small and medium-sized businesses, and companies that provide services to startups and entrepreneurs. They will also cover formal licensing requirements for small and medium-sized companies, will specify the licensing fees, and will outline how SMEs can apply for tax relief.

What do we know about the SMEs Act? While the cabinet statement was light on details, we think the law, ratified in July 2020, will exempt SMEs from stamp tax and contract fees when establishing the company. It will also provide those businesses with credit facilities for five years from their commercial registration date, and afford tax and non-tax incentives to support the sector and encourage small businesses to go legit. Tax brackets laid out in the law are based on businesses’ annual sales. The overall tax incentives package could cost the government EGP 1.5-2 bn each year.

Also approved by cabinet yesterday:

  • A decision to renew a package of measures to support the tourism sector still hard-hit by the pandemic, including a payment holiday for real estate taxes and other state dues, and haircuts on landing and ramp fees in airports in tourist destinations.
  • A decision to set the price the government purchase price for local farmers’ wheat at EGP 705-725 per ardib, up EGP 25 from last year.
  • Plans to build 230k new homes under the state’s social housing scheme and allow families that apply for social housing access to the CBE’s recently-announced EGP 100 bn subsidized mortgage lending program.

DIPLOMACY

Claquette?

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan are reportedly heading back to the negotiating table this Saturday in the nth attempt to resolve the GERD impasse. The meeting — which will be the first African Union-brokered talks following an almost three-month hiatus — will see the three countries try yet again to reach common ground on the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Jeune Afrique reports, citing unnamed diplomatic sources close to the issue. Congolese President and current AU Chairman Félix Tshisekedi will preside over the three-day sitdown with the three countries’ foreign, water, and irrigation ministers in the hopes of reaching a lawfully binding agreement.

The meeting comes as Ethiopia appeared to have warmed up to resuming the fraught negotiations a day after President Abdel Fattah El Sisi indirectly warned Addis Ababa that it wouldn’t be allowed to take “a drop of Egypt’s water.” Ethiopia plans to “soon” restart AU-mediated talks on the operation and filling of the dam, Ethiopian ambassador to Cairo Markos Rike said at a presser yesterday, according to Sky News. Rike reiterated his Foreign Ministry’s previous statements that Ethiopia wasn’t officially informed of Sudan’s formal request to bring in the EU, US, UN and AU to help mediate an agreement on the dam’s filing and operation, underscoring his country’s transparency in the GERD file since its inception in 2011.

Talking is all good and well, but what really matters is whether Ethiopia will stick with plans to move ahead with the reservoir’s second filling in the upcoming rainy season (starting in August), which Addis Ababa has said it will do with or without an agreement. So far, Ethiopia has not shown any real goodwill in the negotiations, head of the Sudan and Nile Basin research division at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies Hany Raslan told Hadith Al Kahera’s Ibrahim Eissa (watch, runtime: 3:33).

Reminder: We have regional (and broader international) backing on GERD: Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Bahrain gave us public backing yesterday, marking a significant step in Egypt’s push to rally international support on the GERD issue. The diplomatic campaign has also encompassed boosting economic ties with Horn of Africa and Nile Basin countries like Somalia, Burundi and Djibouti in a bid to gain their support in the GERD dispute, Al Monitor notes. El Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry have each met and spoken with several international leaders over the past several months, including French President Emmanuel Macron and head of the EU Delegation in Egypt’s political division Marina Vraila. The international backing reaffirms the general opinion that Egypt has handled the entire issue with a steady hand and is in the right, Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies head Khaled Okasha told Al Hayah Al Youm’s Lobna Assal (watch, runtime: 12:42).

Background: Negotiations have been floundering since last year after Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan were unable to agree on a timeline for the filling and operation of the dam, with Sudan walking away from trilateral virtual talks in January that were meant to agree on a format for continued negotiations, insisting on an expanded role for the AU.

MEANWHILE- Egypt and Sudan flex their muscles ahead of the talks, with the two countries’ air forces conducting a joint air drill yesterday at Sudan’s Meroe Air Base. Special forces from the two countries also participated in the drill, according to a statement, which say the troops focused on raids and stealth operations and the management of joint air operations. The drill sends a “strong and clear” message to Ethiopia that Egypt and Sudan are willing and capable to resort to a military confrontation if Addis Ababa doesn’t cooperate, Sudanese political commentator Essam Dekeen told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 3:42).

SUEZ CANAL

And now, we investigate

The Suez Canal Authority’s (SCA) investigation into the Ever Given’s grounding is now officially underway. Officials from the SCA will board the vessel today to begin their probe into the crew’s actions in the moments leading to the ship running aground in the Suez Canal last week Sayed Sheaysha, a senior advisor to the authority who is leading the probe, told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 10:03). While Sheaysha told Reuters yesterday that Ever Given’s captain is fully committed to helping the SCA with the investigation, he complained to Lamees that the vessel hasn’t been responding to emailed requests for relevant information, signaling potential complications down the road.

The Ever Given will remain in Egyptian waters for another week or more until investigations are wrapped, SCA boss Osama Rabie tells Al Hayah Al Youm’s Lobna Assal (watch, runtime: 19:26). Local and international ins. companies are welcome to lend a hand to the SCA in the investigation process, he said.

The SCA expects to claim some USD 1 bn in damages from ins. companies, which includes foregone revenues of around USD 15 mn per day (multiplied by the six days the Ever Given blocked off the waterway) and damages to the Suez Canal from dredging the bank’s embankment to dislodge the ship, Rabie tells Ala Masouleety’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 25:44). The Suez Canal won’t be held responsible for any damages as a result of the incident, he confirmed to Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan (watch, runtime: 14:26). Lawyers said earlier this week that Egypt will likely be entitled for payments from the Japanese company for services rendered to refloat the ship.

The SCA could reach an agreement with the ship’s operator and owner Shoei Kisen within 3-4 days on compensation payments, depending on how the investigation goes, Sheaysha added. In the event the two sides fail to reach an agreement, the matter will be handed over to Egypt’s prosecutors, who will file a case against the shipping company in domestic courts. This process could take years and the vessel would be required to remain in place until the case is settled, Sheaysha said, suggesting that it’s in everybody’s best interest to reach an agreement out of court.

Meanwhile, the traffic backlog is continuing to clear up, with at least 81 additional ships sailing in both directions by mid-day yesterday, Rabie said yesterday, according to a cabinet statement. By our math, this brings the number of vessels waiting to transit down to 86, from the 422 that were originally backed up as the Ever Given was being dislodged. The delayed ships are getting 5-15% markdowns on their transit fees to compensate for the delay, Rabie told Ahmed Moussa.

EARNINGS WATCH

Banque du Caire’s net income dipped 19% y-o-y in 2020 to EGP 3.2 bn, down from EGP 3.95 the year before, according to Masrawy. The state-owned bank’s net interest income grew 20% y-o-y to reach EGP 10 bn, compared to EGP 8.3 bn in 2019.

MOVES

MOVES- Our friend Khaled Hassan (bio) has been appointed CEO and managing director of Amer Group after the company’s board of directors signed off on the new posting, according to a statement (pdf). Khaled was most recently CFO at Ades International Holding and previously served as the CFO at Cleopatra Hospital Group between 2015-2019.

Shireen AlKady (LinkedIn) has been reappointed chairman of Prime Holding for another three-year term, according to a company statement (pdf). AlKady’s appointment came after a general assembly meeting yesterday that voted to confirm his position as executive chairman.

THURSDAY KUDOS

Literature: Algerian writer Ahmed Taibaoui received the AUC Press’ Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature yesterday for his novel, The Disappearance of Mr. Nobody.

Recycling: PepsiCo is investing EGP 10 mn this year in a new platform it launched that aims to increase the uptake of recycled plastics. The platform is meant to increase the private sector’s role in recycling activity in Egypt, PepsiCo Egypt CEO Mohamed Shelbaya said.

Law: Al Tamimi & Co has inaugurated a new office in Port Said as part of its plans to expand in the MENA region, according to an emailed statement (pdf).

** Done something you’re proud of? Landed a new client? Drop us a line on editorial@enterprise.press and we’ll take note of it next Thursday for everyone else in the community to see.

enterprise

ENTERPRISE+: LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Leading coverage on the airwaves last night: The “royal procession” that will see the transfer of 22 mummies from Tahrir to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat this Saturday, 3 April. The procession will be broadcast on 220 international television channels in 60 countries, Tourism Minister Khaled El Anany told Yahduth fi Misr’s Sherif Amer (watch, runtime: 3:41). The mummies will be on display and open to visits as of Sunday, 18 April, after the completion of any necessary restoration, El Anany noted. Ahmed Ghoneim, the museum’s supervisor, phoned in to Al Hayah Al Youm to detail the final touches and preparations for the ceremony (watch, runtime: 6:48).

Also on the airwaves last night:

  • Former Prime Minister Kamal El Ganzouri’s death and his funeral, which President Abdel Fattah El Sisi led yesterday, earned airtime. (Ramy Radwan on Masaa DMC | watch, runtime: 2:34)
  • The New Delta reclamation project will be key for Egypt’s food security, Agriculture Ministry spokesperson Mohamed El Kersh said. (Lobna Assal on Al Hayah Al Youm | watch, runtime: 30:03)

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of the Ever Given no longer leading coverage of Egypt in the foreign press. A couple of headlines to skim this morning:

  • History: Antiques traders are making a good buck selling old doors belonging to now demolished buildings in the city and preserving a part of the city’s history in the process. (Al Monitor)
  • Art: New York-based Egyptian artist Ghada Amer’s “Women I Know” series will bring together painting with thread and found texts when she holds her first solo exhibition in September at the Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York. (The National)

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

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

PLANET FINANCE

Powered by
Pharos Holding - https://pharoslive.com/

KSA’s top listed companies are redirecting dividends into MbS’ investment plan: Twenty-four of Saudi Arabia’s largest companies have agreed to reduce dividend payouts and commit USD 1.3 tn over the next 10 years to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s new domestic investment strategy, Al Arabiya reports. The “Shareek” program, announced on Tuesday, is meant to bolster private sector contribution to GDP by up to 65% by the end of the decade, MbS said. Around 60% of the USD 1.3 tn are being contributed by Aramco and Sabic alone, Bloomberg reported. The total amount of the program will rise to USD 7.2 tn, including USD 2.6 tn from government spending, as well as USD 800 bn from Saudi’s Public Investment Fund, MbS added.

The EU is trying to capitalize on Brexit to take euroclearing away from London as a big portion of EUR-denominated contracts are cleared in the City, says Politico. While the British are clearly opposed to those efforts, the biggest challenge facing Brussels isn’t so much UK opposition as it is the gigantic volume of financial trades that would need to be shifted over to mainland-based clearinghouses. The market size for clearing EUR interest-rate swaps, or forward contracts used by financial institutions to hedge against interest rate fluctuations, alone runs into the tns, and 90% of those are being cleared by London-based LCH.

What is clearing, you ask? Tap / click here for our recent primer.

The renminbi had its worst month in a year-and-a-half low against the USD in March: The onshore currency fell 1.4% during the month to RMB 6.57 — the worst performance since the height of US-China trade tensions in August 2019, the Financial Times reports. Investors fear the country’s economic bounce to pre-pandemic levels could lead to the government withdrawing stimulus, which according to Capital Economics’ Senior Economist Julian Evans-Pritchard could cause a “cyclical slowdown.” The country’s central bank will welcome some currency depreciation to give exports a boost, but significant fall in the currency is unlikely to happen, analysts say.

The US private sector hired more new employees in March than any month since last September, according to data from the ADP Research Institute released Wednesday, Bloomberg reports. A bounceback in the leisure and hospitality industries was widely responsible for the gains, as the US’ successful vaccine rollout continues to buoy economic prospects. The economy is also getting a boost from President Joe Biden’s recent USD 1.9 tn stimulus package, as well as a new USD 2 tn infrastructure investment plan, the details of which we had in yesterday’s PM.

Down

EGX30

10,568

-1.6% (YTD: -2.6%)

Up

USD (CBE)

Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76

Up

USD at CIB

Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76

None

Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

Up

Tadawul

9,908

+2.8% (YTD: +14.0%)

None

ADX

5,913

– (YTD: +17.2%)

Down

DFM

2,550

-0.3% (YTD: +2.3%)

Up

S&P 500

3,973

+0.4% (YTD: +5.8%)

Down

FTSE 100

6,714

-0.9% (YTD: +3.9%)

Down

Brent crude

USD 63.54

-0.9%

Down

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 2.60

-0.2%

Down

Gold

USD 1,710.20

-0.3%

Up

BTC

USD 59,088.62

+0.4%

The EGX30 fell 1.6% yesterday on turnover of EGP 1.21 bn (16.4% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 2.6% YTD.

In the green: Orascom Financial (+5.0%), Heliopolis Housing (+0.6%) and Madinet Nasr Housing (+0.5%).

In the red: Fawry (-4.4%), Pioneers (-2.6%) and Ibnsina Pharma (-2.4%).

It’s green as far as the eye can see on Asian exchanges, but futures suggest a mixed open in Europe and in North America, where the Dow, S&P and TSX look set to open in the red, while the Nasdaq will start out in positive territory.

AROUND THE WORLD

The US State Department issued its annual report on Egypt’s human rights record, in which it charges that Egypt has committed a number of rights violations, including against refugees and asylum seekers, as well as members of the LGBTQ+ community. The report also accuses the Egyptian government of “frequently” not respecting the right to freedom of expression, “restricting and disrupting” individuals’ access to the internet and their ability to post content online, and “inconsistently [punishing] or [prosecuting] officials who committed abuses.”

One area we did better on: Enforcing laws that criminalize [redacted] assault, with the report pointing to the arrest and conviction of serial assaulter Ahmed Bassam Zaki last summer as a positive example.

IN DIPLOMACY: Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman was in town yesterday for talks with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and to launch the Egyptian-Croatian Business Forum — the first to be held between the two countries in 10 years. A cooperation protocol will be signed during the forum to link Alexandria's port with the Croatian port of Rijeka, Ramadan said at a press conference with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (watch, runtime: 15:29). The minister noted that Croatia is particularly interested in cooperating in the automotive, tourism, pharma, engineering industries.

FURTHER AFIELD: Egyptians employed in Saudi Arabia will have their travel visas and work permits extended while the country maintains its travel ban, Saudi ambassador to Egypt Osama Naqli told Immigration Minister Nabila Makram yesterday, according to a statement. The extension applies to Egyptians currently in Saudi Arabia and those who work for Saudi employers but are unable to return to the country. The Saudi government earlier this month said that its international travel ban will remain in place until 17 May, pushing back previous directives that were set to resume flights 31 March.

MY MORNING / WFH ROUTINE

Pakinam Kafafi, CEO of Taqa Arabia: Each week, my Morning / WFH Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Pakinam Kafafi (LinkedIn), CEO of Taqa Arabia. Edited excerpts from our conversation:

My name is Pakinam Kafafi, I’m the CEO of Taqa Arabia and a happy mother of two amazing children. I’ve been CEO of Taqa Arabia since 2013 and I’m a full-time mom to my children Laila and Omar.

Taqa Arabia is a one-stop energy solutions provider. We’re one of the leading energy solutions and utility companies based in Egypt with three different divisions that fall under Taqa Arabia’s purview. We have Taqa Gas, which is responsible for natural gas distribution, Master Gas-branded CNG stations, and conversion centers for vehicles. Taqa Power is in the business of both fossil fuel and renewable energy generation and distribution. Taqa Oil Marketing develops and manages Taqa-branded fuel stations and storage terminals. And then there’s Taqa Water, which is responsible for all water treatment activities, and brings Taqa full-circle to becoming a “one-stop shop” provider for energy and utility services.

I wake up at 6:30am and get my children ready for school. I make sure their lunch boxes are packed and we talk for 15 minutes to get them nice and energized for the day ahead. If they’re working online I help them sign in in the morning, especially with Omar, who’s still seven years old and needs some assistance getting settled. Then I have my precious cup of coffee followed by a shower and some me time. I usually call my mom to check in on her then I read emails, starting with Enterprise. I’ve been closely following Enterprise’s energy and utility stories, including those in Hardhat. I’m also really excited about all the new start-ups focused on environmental sustainability.

I usually leave home by 9am, but my daily schedule varies. I'm either in meetings, visiting sites or at the office. If I'm working from home a lot of communications are over Teams, but I try to be physically present at our sites as much as I can. While I appreciate the efficiency of Zoom meetings, I personally still love face to face interactions and I don’t feel right staying at home while a lot of our employees are still on the ground. The pandemic has taught me that there is no right or wrong way to do things though and maybe a mix between both might be the best way forward.

I usually head home by 7pm — if I don't have a rare business dinner — and spend some quality time with my children until they go to bed. That means helping them with homework, taking them to tennis practice or just talking about their day. I like to read with them for a bit before they go to bed at 9 pm — and I'm proud to say that I now know a whole lot of kids' stories.

Once the kids go to bed, it's me time. I'm a very sociable person and I make sure to see my friends at least twice a week. Before the pandemic we used to go out all the time and during the height of things we would just talk on the phone and check in on how things are going with everyone. I then usually catch something to watch on Netflix between 11pm-12 am before going to bed.

I’ve been watching New Amsterdam recently and I love it. It follows the story of doctors at a New York hospital. I used to like thrillers and action movies, but now I'm drawn to watching something light or meaningful. I was also recently watching The Crown and Emily in Paris. Sometimes you just need to eliminate the stress in your system.

Being the CEO of a company like Taqa Arabia is not an easy task. With the help of 3.4k employees and professional management team, we’re responsible for delivering daily energy needs to 1.3 mn residential, industrial and commercial clients in 48 cities across Egypt. My responsibilities as CEO of Taqa include setting a strategy for the company that aligns with our shareholder goals, to sustain and grow the business and to make sure everything is running smoothly. That means I need to focus on keeping in close contact with all of our managing directors on how we can best reach our KPIs and milestones.

The pandemic was challenging but we were able to overcome the uncertainty by being flexible. There was a lot of uncertainty at first and a lot we couldn’t predict, which was especially troubling as an energy provider. We saw our client volumes going down and it became increasingly difficult to connect new households to our natural gas network. Match that with fixed prices and delayed payments and things became even more difficult for us. We decided to focus our efforts on what was already working for us, which were our gas operations. We concentrated on compressed natural gas and ended up increasing our CNG stations from just seven at the start of the pandemic to 21 by the end of the year. Industrial power connections were also a line of work that we were able to move forward with despite the lockdowns. By the end of 2020 we had achieved 19% y-o-y EBITDA growth.

As a utilities company it was difficult for us to go WFH. We have a committee in place that assesses the covid safety situation every two to three weeks. Our on the ground operations, which couldn't be halted, continued to function pretty close to how they normally would. We did split our employees into smaller teams, though, to lower redundancy and the risk of transmission. Our 800 office employees were put on a rotation system that would fluctuate based on the most recent case counts in the country. If cases were high we’d do a 50-50 split between in person work and WFH. Whenever it looks like things are cooling down we’d increase that number to 75% office work, 25% WFH. I think our biggest achievement to date is that we kept all our employees safe and healthy, without interrupting our client services.

We learned a lot about ourselves during this period. I think crises bring people together. We wouldn't have been able to maneuver and adjust to the new challenges without our team. We’ve been through a financial crisis and two revolutions in a little over the past decade so we’ve almost become accustomed to the interruptions. Of course the pandemic is different, but we’ve learned strength and flexibility from those experiences.

Challenges really propel me to do better. I really believe that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. My whole life I’ve excelled the most when I had a challenge or crisis in front of me. There will always be challenges in life and the more you are aware of that fact the better suited you are to face them.

CALENDAR

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.

5-6 April (Monday-Tuesday): Cityscape Egypt virtual conference on real estate investment.

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.

12-15 September (Sunday-Wednesday): Sahara Expo: the 33rd International Agricultural Exhibition for Africa and the Middle East.

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.

12-14 October (Tuesday – Thursday) Mediterranean Offshore Conference, Alexandria, Egypt

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.

1-3 November (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Energy exhibition on power and renewable energy, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt

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

29 November – 2 December (Monday-Thursday): Egypt Defense Expo

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.