Thursday, 8 April 2021

IMF upgrades Egypt budget projections in latest outlook

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Well, that’s another week in the books, nice people, as we wind down this final week before Ramadan. The Holy Month is now five days away.

Look today for more information on covid restrictions that will come into play during Ramadan. Health Minister Hala Zayed will hold a presser today to address measures that will be taken to limit the spread of covid-19 during the month, Masrawy says.

Egypt will either raise or maintain fuel prices in 2Q due to the rise of global oil prices last quarter, an unnamed governmental source told the local press. The government’s fuel pricing committee will announce 2Q prices before this Saturday. Brent crude ranged between USD 50-70 per barrel during the first quarter, up from USD 37-53 in 4Q2020.

Meanwhile, Eva and Pharco have apparently landed rights to manufacture China’s Sinovac jab. We have chapter and verse on the story in this morning’s news well, below.

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

FROM THE REGION- Crisis averted, says Abdullah: Jordan’s King Abdullah II said yesterday the rift between himself and his half-brother, the former crown prince Hamza bin Hussein, had been “nipped in the bud,” according to a written statement read on Jordan TV (watch, runtime 1:32). The investigation into the plot is still active, Abdullah noted, adding that Hamza is with “his family in his palace under my care.” Hamza said last week that he had been placed under house arrest after the government claimed that he was plotting with foreign actors to destabilize the country.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Today is the deadline for the business community to give comment on new draft executive regs for the Customs Act. Under the proposed regulations, importers would be allowed to pay customs fees in chunks over 6-12 months, depending on how established their business is. The regs would also allow goods to move out of Egypt without submitting waybills on the spot.

More information on the new construction licenses + building code will be made public before next Thursday: The government will hold a presser before 15 April to explain the details of the new system that will hand out construction licenses. The two-month pilot phase will begin 1 May before the system is fully rolled out at the start of the new fiscal year.

Further out in the legislation pipeline: Amendments to the VAT Act will be shipped back to the House Planning and Budgeting Committee in a few weeks after public consultations on the amendments wrap up, committee undersecretary Mostafa Salem told Enterprise. The Finance Ministry has been sitting down with industry players, including representatives from Coca Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestle for their comments on the amendments, including applying the 14% tax to the rent and purchase of commercial and administrative properties, imposing VAT on crackers and some sweets, and removing the tax on imports of strategic commodities.

The Sovereign Fund of Egypt will issue the conditions booklet for the contract to develop the Mogamma El Tahrir this month, according to CEO Ayman Soliman. The goal is for the Mogamma to be transformed into a multi-purpose building.

Inflation data for March will be out on or around Saturday, 10 April.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is due in town on 12 April to discuss the latest developments on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Lavrov’s planned trip comes after expectations that Russian President Vladimir Putin would visit Egypt sometime in March did not materialize.

Shares of Macro Group will start trading on Monday, 19 April in the second hotly anticipated IPO of the year. The window for retail subscriptions runs 11-15 April.

Egyptian Iron and Steel’s mining spinoff should be going live on the EGX any day now as the parent company prepares to go into liquidation, with officials previously saying to expect the debut in the first week of April.

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

The Central Bank of Egypt will meet to discuss interest rates on Thursday, 29 April.

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

enterprise

ECONOMY

Egypt on surer fiscal ground + more debt relief agreed + IMF backs wealth tax

IMF upgrades Egypt budget projections in latest outlook: Egypt’s public finances have withstood the test of covid-19 better than previously thought, new projections released by the IMF indicate. Figures in the Fund’s latest Fiscal Monitor Report (pdf) suggest that the outlook for Egypt’s fiscal position has improved over the past six months, though debt is expected to rise at a quicker pace than before.

The budget deficit is no longer expected to widen this year: The IMF now sees the budget narrowing to 7.3% of GDP by the end of the current fiscal year, compared to 7.9% in FY2019-2020. In October, the Fund expected the deficit to climb to 8.1% of annual output before falling back in FY2021-2022.

But there will be slower progress over the longer term: The deficit is now forecast to shrink to 4.2% of GDP by the middle of the decade, compared to the 3.8% projection the IMF published in October.

The primary surplus will also be bigger than previously thought, coming in at 1% of GDP at the end of the current fiscal year. The IMF previously saw the government generating a slender 0.4% primary balance.

But the debt load is also larger than before: Egypt’s public debt is now projected to reach almost 93% of GDP by the end of the current fiscal year from 90.2% last year. Forecasts in October had projected the country’s debt pile rising from 86.6% of GDP to 90.6% this year. Conversely, the IMF now expects debt-to-GDP to fall at a faster rate in subsequent years, coming in at 73.4% in FY2025-2026 compared to the 77% predicted in October.

Revenues to rise: Revenues will rise to 20.6% of GDP this year from 19.3% in FY2019-2020, and will slowly tick up to reach 21.7% by FY2025-2026.

The Fund is no longer expecting a noticeable cut back in public spending: It now sees spending falling to 26.9% of GDP in FY2021-2022 from 27.9% this year. The IMF in October predicted the expenditure would fall by a more dramatic three percentage points in the coming fiscal year. Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said this week that the ministry would not let up on spending, and pledged to use higher tax revenues to raise wages in the coming fiscal year.

The fiscal report comes a day after the IMF upgraded Egypt’s growth forecasts in its latest World Economic Outlook. The Egyptian economy is now expected to deliver 5.7% growth in FY2021-2022, up two percentage points from the previous forecast in October. On the flipside, the current account will widen to 4% this year before narrowing gradually to 2.5% by the middle of the decade.

Breakthrough on debt relief

Struggling emerging economies are set to receive another lifeline after G20 finance ministers yesterday agreed to boost IMF reserves by USD 650 bn, the group said in a statement yesterday. Ministers also agreed to extend a debt relief moratorium introduced last year by another six months until the end of 2021. The new allocation of special drawing rights — a reserve currency used by the IMF — will enable the international lender to channel more emergency funds to developing nations struggling to cope with the economic costs of covid.

Could debt relief be conditioned on climate policy? The IMF and the World Bank are considering new measures to incentivize developing countries to fund climate projects that could see them being offered debt relief in return, according to Reuters. The institutions are setting up a new platform that will provide advice to low-income nations on implementing climate-friendly policy, and could offer a combination of debt relief and soft loans as incentives.

The International Cooperation Ministry wants to team up with private sector players on sustainable development projects through green finance, International Cooperation Minister Rania Al Mashat said at a webinar during the IMF / World Bank Spring Meetings, which are taking place till Sunday, 11 April, according to a statement. Al Mashat pointed to the importance of private sector inclusion in the state's digital transformation plans, adding that public-private partnerships in this field play an essential role in economic growth.

IMF calls for wealth taxes to pay for covid spending

What times we live in: The IMF has suggested that governments introduce temporary wealth taxes on companies and individuals to redistribute the cost burden of the pandemic and prevent rapidly rising inequality. “To help meet pandemic-related financing needs, policymakers could consider a temporary covid-19 recovery contribution, levied on high incomes or wealth,” the fiscal monitor said.

And now corporates might have to kiss their tax havens goodbye: A US proposal to impose a minimum global corporate tax rate is picking up steam among the world’s biggest economies, in a move that would — if it sees the light — effectively put an end to tax havens. The European Commission backed the proposal to set a 21% base tax rate but wants to ensure that the same rules would apply to US tech giants, which has previously been a sticking point for Washington. Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Financial Times have more.

BANKING

Under pressure

Egypt’s banks could face further pressure on net income in 2021 due to the lower interest rate environment and a potential rise in bad loans when the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) lifts support measures it introduced at the onset of the pandemic, Fitch Ratings said in a report yesterday. “We expect continued pressure … due to lower rates and higher loan impairment charges as borrower support measures end,” the ratings agency wrote.

So far, loan quality has remained stable: Non-performing loans held on bank balance sheets were little changed during the pandemic, remaining at an industry average of 3.4% at the end of 3Q2020 thanks to the central bank’s interest rate cuts and its debt relief initiative.

But this could change when emergency stimulus measures are wound down: Fitch expects the ratio of bad loans to rise to 4% by the end of 2021 as the central bank ends its measures to support borrowers. Banks last year set aside bns on their balance sheets in the form of provisions against the possibility that covid-19 would force more borrowers to default on loans, which played a key role in a 20% drop in profits during the first half of 2020.

Over-reliance on lending to state and large borrowers is a weakness: “We do not expect [rising bad loans] to lead to capital erosion, but capitalization remains a credit weakness given banks’ high exposure to the sovereign and large individual obligors,” the report says.

Banks remained financially sound throughout the pandemic despite operating income from loans and core operations mostly decreasing. This is because a large part of bank income comes from government debt, and their loans-to-deposit ratio is quite low by international standards.

FX liquidity is also exposed to external shocks: The sector’s net foreign assets nosedived by 45% m-o-m at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, when banks made USD available to foreign investors who pulled USD 18 bn out of the country in a single month during the great global covid selloff. Their positions have been recovering steadily since then, but remain susceptible to capital outflows.

COVID WATCH

Eva Pharma, Pharco to manufacture Sinovac in Egypt

Pharco's BioGeneric Pharma and Eva Pharma will manufacture China’s Sinovac vaccine alongside state-owned vaccine maker Vacsera, Souq Al Dawaa reported. The companies will locally manufacture 20-60 mn doses a year — enough to fully vaccinate between 10 and 30 mn people — after an agreement was reached with the Chinese firm this week. While it's not still known when the manufacturing will start, health ministry officials recently said it should be “within a few months.”

The Health Ministry reported 783 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 778 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 207,293 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 37 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 12,290.

Are Gavi / Covax deliveries of AstraZeneca getting back on track? The Serum Institute of India will resume exports of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in June if covid-19 cases in India decline “without compromising the needs of our country,” said Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of Serum Institute told the Financial Times. The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer had in March stopped exporting jabs to prioritize local demand, which had threatened to delay developing countries' access to vaccines through the Covax program. This includes Egypt which has signed on to receive 5 mn doses through the program so far.

Astrazeneca is still under fire: European and British regulators have officially linked the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to a rare brain blood clotting disorder and are advising that people of certain don’t take the shot. The UK will now offer people under 30 years’ old alternative vaccines while the EU is yet to agree on a common course of action. Spain outright banned the use of the vaccine for under-60s while Italy is only recommending that people under that age avoid it.

Are women at greater risk? The European study found that instances of blood clotting were 20 times higher in women aged under 60, Christian Bogdan, a member of Germany’s vaccine committee, told Reuters.

But both regulators still recommend the vaccine. A British government advisory group said that this is “out of the utmost caution, rather than because we have any serious safety concerns,” while EMA’s executive director Emer Cooke noted, “The risk of mortality from covid is much greater than the risk of mortality from these rare side-effects.”

How big are the risks in absolute terms? The EMA found a total of 222 cases of two different types of clots — in a total population of about 34 mn people who received the vaccine in the EU. That’s a rate of 0.0006342857143%. Your chances of being hit by lightning in Europe? 0.0002%.

M&A WATCH

Sodic taps financial advisors to assess Aldar acquisition bid

Sodic to weigh Aldar acquisition offer: Our friends at Sodic have appointed unnamed financial advisors to look into Emirati real estate firm Aldar Properties’ bid to acquire a majority stake in the company, the upmarket developer said in a regulatory filing (pdf). Aldar last month submitted a non-binding offer to acquire at least 51% of Sodic’s shares for EGP 18-19 apiece. The offer’s midpoint price values the company at EGP 6.6 bn, and was at a 14% premium above Sodic shares’ closing price at the time the bid was made.

Sodic’s largest shareholder — a consortium of Act Financial, Hassan Allam Properties and Concrete Plus Engineering and Construction — has not closed the door on the bid, saying last month that it is “exploring all possible scenarios.” The consortium collectively holds more than 15% of Sodic’s shares. Olayan Saudi Investment holds 14%, while the Abanumay family has 10% and Ripplewood 9%.

FINANCE

More financial inclusion for pensioners + PayTabs, valU services coming to LuLu

Pensioners will soon have access to “new electronic channels” to receive and use their monthly payments under an MoU the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) signed with the National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA), according to a joint statement (pdf) yesterday. The CBE-led initiative will allow more pensioners to use local card scheme Meeza and other types of prepaid cards and digital wallets offered by mobile network operators and banks. This should allow them access to more ATM machines, points of sale, online stores, utility bill payments, and QR transactions.

Egypt’s cashless drive: The MoU comes as part of a government strategy to cut back on the use of physical money and promote e-payments. The Finance Ministry began in 2019 distributing Meeza debit cards to make state benefits available electronically to pensioners, civil servants, and subsidy recipients. Authorities also made it mandatory for government payments over EGP 500 to be paid electronically. In parallel, the CBE launched a drive to finance commercial banks’ purchase and distribution of points of sale nationwide, and is planning to have 1 mn of those machines in use nationwide within three years to bring more people into the formal financial system.

IN OTHER FINANCE NEWS- EFG Hermes' subsidiaries PayTabs and Valu will roll out services at LuLu Group's supermarkets across Egypt under a two-stage partnership between the three parties, according to a press release (pdf). Under the partnership, customers will be able to use Valu's installment plans through PayTabs' electronic platform at all of LuLu's physical outlets — and will be able to use them online at a later phase.

DEBT WATCH

Finance in Motion arranging USD 75 mn loan to unnamed bank

NBFS players and renewable energy projects could soon be in line for a piece of a USD 75 mn facility Finance in Motion is providing to an unnamed local bank for on-lending, Egypt country head Mohamed Morsy told Al Mal. The facility could be made available as soon as next month through its Green for Growth and Sanad funds. The Germany-based impact investor had earlier this year said it expects to invest USD 100 mn into Egypt projects in 2021 through its two funds, with a focus on small-scale solar plants and energy conservation projects. Finance in Motion provides funds to banks that are on-lent to players in agriculture, low-income housing, renewable energy, with a focus on MSMEs. They also directly finance non-banking financial sector companies focused on financial inclusion.

OTHER DEBT NEWS- Egypt’s Canal Sugar Company has signed a USD 50 mn export financing agreement with the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), as part of the fund’s contribution towards the USD 1 bn project — 30% of which will be financed by company shareholders, while the remainder will come through local and international banks, according to a statement.

DEVELOPMENT FINANCE

USD 200 mn World Bank loan to fight air pollution gets House approval

Greater Cairo could soon see fewer polluting emissions with the help of a USD 200 mn loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, greenlit by the House of Representatives' Energy and Environment Committee on Tuesday, the local press reported. The World Bank lending arm will provide the funds for allocation towards Egypt’s “green recovery” project, which will modernize air quality monitoring systems, establish safe landfills in Tenth of Ramadan City, safely eliminate dumps in Abu Zaabal, set up charging stations for electric vehicles, and support other green initiatives. The funding had been signed off by Cabinet in late February following the World Bank’s approval of the loan last fall.

MOVES

Arab Dairy has appointed El Sayed El Sayed El Gohary (bio) as chairman, while Yasser Mohamed Zaki Ibrahim (bio) was named vice chairman and managing director, according to an EGX disclosure (pdf).

Sherif Abdel Fattah has stepped down as deputy chairman of Schneider Electric Egypt following 30 years with the multinational company, the local press reports. Abdel Fattah will remain a member of Schneider Electric Egypt's board of directors to advise on project management and government relations.

Jirayr Habibian (bio) has been named managing partner at Matouk Bassiouny & Hennawy’s UAE office, according to a press release (pdf). Habibian has held senior roles with Investbank, Standard Chartered, and Lebanese Swiss Bank as well as law firm Squire Patton Boggs.

KUDOS

Chambers Middle East law firm awards. Plus: CIB, 30 North, NBE, Youth Fencing and more

Mabrouk to all of our lawyer friends: Youssef & Partners Attorneys was awarded the 2021 Chambers Middle East Award for Law Firm of the Year in dispute resolution in Egypt, while Helmy, Hamza & Partners received the accolade in banking and finance. Matouk Bassiouny & Hennawy took home awards for the corporate and M&A categories, the law firm said in a press release (pdf). Zulficar & Partners founding partner Mona Zulficar also took home the Lifetime Achievement Award.

CIB has joined the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, becoming the first bank in Egypt to sign up to the initiative, it said in a statement (pdf) this week. The task force, created by the Financial Stability Board in 2015, aims to develop standardized climate risk disclosures that can be used by companies, banks and investors. More than 1.5k companies and organizations around the world have backed the project since its launch.

The National Bank of Egypt made Bloomberg’s league table for syndicated loans in Egypt in 1Q2021 arranging a total of 12 transactions worth a combined EGP 49 bn, the bank said in a statement (pdf). NBE was at the top of the league table for fees generated from syndicated facilities, it said, and ranked second as lead arranger and third as facility agent.

Our friends at 30 North were named the best luxury coffee brand in Egypt by the Luxury Lifestyle Awards, they said in a statement (pdf). 30 North was founded in 2017 and has outlets across Cairo and on the North Coast. The company serves both retail and B2B customers from a certified coffee roasting, blending and packing facility and is the local representative of Victoria Arduino and BlueCup.

The Egyptian youth fencing team has won a gold medal in the teams competition at the Junior and Cadet World Fencing Championships currently taking place in Egypt. The tournament wraps up on 11 April.

Tahrir Square’s Egyptian Museum has made it to the Unesco World Heritage Center's tentative list with the state hoping for a possible World Heritage designation in the near future, according to a statement. The nomination was first raised by the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry in February in the wake of the ministry's plans to overhaul the more than a century-old museum, the statement said.

enterprise

ENTERPRISE+: LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

MP warns of possible conflict with Ethiopia as GERD dominates the airwaves

The GERD issue once again dominated the talking heads’ agendas last night. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s remarks about the failure of the latest round of talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia were all over the airwaves: Al Hayah Al Youm (watch,runtime 3:22), Masaa DMC (watch, runtime: 1:39), and Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 1:39).

A key theme of the night: Ethiopia has broken its promises. Both Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan and Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa said that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has gone against a prior agreement that would have ensured Egypt’s share of Nile’s water (watch, runtime 1:42 | 5:11). Then former irrigation minister Hossam El Moghazy reminded Yahduth Fi Masr viewers that Ethiopia has breached the 2015 Declaration of Principles, which included conditions for the dam's filling and operation and outlined a process by which the countries can settle disputes (watch, runtime 3:17).

MP Abou El Enein warns EU that conflict with Ethiopia isn’t out of the question: Rep. Mohamed Abou El Enein’s meeting with some European ambassadors yesterday also got full coverage on Ala Mas’ouleety. Abou El Enein is said to have signaled there will be a direct conflict if Ethiopia proceeds with the second filling. He called on the international community to make “a rapid intervention before it’s too late” (watch, runtime 11:14). El Sisi last week made the second filling of the dam a “red line” for the government, warning Addis Ababa that it would not be allowed to take a “single drop” of the country’s water.

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

The Suez Canal blockage is still earning us some digital ink in the foreign press, with the Washington Post writing that the collective effort of dislodging the MV Ever Given boosted Egyptians' national pride. Last month’s blockage also gave the public insight into the huge variety and volume of goods constantly in motion across the seas, the Wall Street Journal writes.

Also making headlines:

  • Social audio app Clubhouse is gaining popularity in Egypt and other Arab countries as it provides a room to discuss off-limit issues such as honor killings and the draft personal status law that would restrict women’s rights. (Reuters)
  • Egyptian writer Alaa Al Aswany's novel, The Republic of False Truths, has been translated into English, three years after it was banned in much of the Arab world. (The Financial Times)

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Qalaa Holdings’ Taqa Arabia has established a new water treatment solutions company Taqa Water, which will cater to the industrial, real estate, agriculture, and tourism sectors, making the company the first integrated energy and utilities provider in the region, it said in a statement (pdf) yesterday.

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

  • The Public Enterprises Ministry wants Chinese automobile producer Dongfeng to contribute 20% of the capital to establish a planned electric vehicles company in cooperation with El Nasr Automotive.
  • Deutsche Hospitality has opened its 409-room Steigenberger Ras Soma Resort in Soma Bay on the Red Sea coast, making it Deutsche’s fifteenth property in Egypt.
  • The Supply Ministry has established its first commercial registry office in a bank at a Banque du Caire branch in Obour City.
  • Electro Cable’s new EGP 800 mn electrical cables factory in Sadat City should increase the company’s production capacity by 30% over four years.
  • Former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq has been acquitted of siphoning off public funds while he was civil aviation minister from 2002 to 2011.

PLANET FINANCE

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Pharos Holding - https://pharoslive.com/

The British company that owns the biotechnology behind the Oxford / AstraZeneca jab is going public — in the US. Oxford-based Vaccitech is reportedly filing for an IPO on the Nasdaq and could price the sale as early as this month, the Financial Times reports, citing unnamed sources with direct knowledge of the transaction. The plans to take the IPO across the pond is seen as a “loss” for the UK’s aspirations to become a hub for post-Brexit investments in life sciences.

Crowdfunding platform Patreon has tripled its valuation to USD 4 bn in a USD 155 mn funding round led by US tech hedge fund Tiger Global, reflecting the increased focus of VCs on startups that cater to content creators, it said in a blog post. Patreon, which wrapped last year a USD 90 mn funding round that reportedly valued the company at USD 1.2 bn, would use the new financing to provide new tools for creators, underpin potential acquisitions and expand its international presence.

Down

EGX30

10,228

-0.4% (YTD: -5.7%)

None

USD (CBE)

Buy 15.65

Sell 15.75

None

USD at CIB

Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76

None

Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

Up

Tadawul

10,014

+0.3% (YTD: +15.3%)

Down

ADX

6,033

-0.8% (YTD: +19.6%)

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DFM

2,559

-0.6% (YTD: +2.7%)

Up

S&P 500

4,079

+0.2% (YTD: +8.6%)

Up

FTSE 100

6,885

+0.9% (YTD: +6.6%)

Up

Brent crude

USD 63.09

+0.6%

Up

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 2.52

+2.6%

Down

Gold

USD 1,741.60

-0.1%

Down

BTC

USD 56,315

-2.7% (as of midnight)

The EGX30 fell 0.4% yesterday on turnover of EGP 1.0 bn (28.9% above the 90-day average). Local investors were net sellers. The index is down 5.7% YTD.

In the green: CI Capital (+3.1%), AMOC (+2.5%) and Telecom Egypt (+0.8%).

In the red: Edita (-3.7%), SODIC (-2.6%) and GB Auto (-2.2%).

Asian markets are flat in early trading this morning and futures suggest US and European markets will open in the green later today.

AROUND THE WORLD

The US is considering boycotting the Beijing Winter Olympics: The Biden administration is exploring a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in China as one possible option to punish the country for its treatment of its ethnic Uighur minority, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said yesterday.

IN DIPLOMACY: Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry pushed efforts to form a new Lebanese government in a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Beirut yesterday. Shoukry also met with caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri and House Speaker Nabih Berri, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. Shoukry’s visit is part of a France-led push to see Lebanon appoint an emergency cabinet that will agree to reforms and unlock international assistance needed to stave off an economic collapse.

MY MORNING ROUTINE

Ahmed Bassiouny, co-founder and managing partner at Noqood: 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 Ahmed Bassiouny (LinkedIn), co-founder and managing partner at Noqood.

My name is Ahmed Bassiouny, I’m 34 years old and I’m the managing partner of Noqood, which I launched in 2017 with my co-founder Adham Mamdouh. I graduated from Alexandria University’s Faculty of Commerce in 2008 and started working at ins. company Allianz while I was still in school. I started working in the banking sector after graduating, where I stayed until 2017. I passed my CFA level 1 and CFA level 2 along with Adham, and then we started Noqood.

The idea for Noqood came from what we saw as a lack of financial literacy in the market. We realized people didn't know much about exchange rates, credit card limits or how much foreign currency they could carry abroad, so we started working on this educational project we called Noqood, which literally translates to money in Arabic. Over time we added more components to our company, which has now grown to four main pillars.

Our financial literacy component makes a lot of financial information available to everyone so people can learn about things like the difference between current and savings accounts, credit cards, debits cards, where to put their money and when the best time to take out a loan is. Our second pillar is focused on banking, where we provide an overview of products and services currently available in the market that makes it easier for users to choose what best suits their needs. Our stock market services provide an aggregated technical and fundamental analysis of the market based on company filings — which we’ve been working closely on with brokerage firms like EFG Hermes, Naeem, Mubasher and Pharos on. And finally, our ins. focused services bring together all the different ins. packages available in the Egyptian market from car to home ins.

We currently have around 5k visits per month with an average of three minutes spent per visit. This tells us that people are spending time learning something new or comparing different options. We know that we’re introducing new people to the stock market, especially retail investors with small amounts of money who are looking to trade on their own online. We saw this in action during the Fawry IPO, when we noticed a lot of interest from people in Upper Egypt and Sinai investing in the stock market.

Younger people from all over the country are more willing to open bank accounts. I think it's easier to focus on getting younger demographics into the banking system than their parents. We can figure out more about the demographic breakdown of users based on when they apply for something using our platform.

These days I wake up at 8:30 am. I grab coffee on the way to work and make it to the office at 10 am. I start my day by making to-do lists and reading Enterprise. By 11 am, I’m fully focused on phone calls, emails and meetings. I finish work around 7 pm and head home to see my seven-year-old daughter before her bedtime. Then I get to some unfinished business or meet up with my co-founder Adham. I like to see my friends at least once a week. Fridays and half of my Saturdays are for family time; the other half of my Saturday is dedicated to work.

Every day I'm looking for new clients and new sales. Right now, we’re trying to expand and secure more partnerships with banks and financial institutions. In 2020 we worked on a slightly different type of project with Emirates NBD where we were asked to provide quality leads for their asset campaign. They were looking to sell loans to unbanked clients who we managed to connect them with.

2020 was a really tough year for everyone. Our work mainly depends on third parties like banks and brokerage companies, which was a problem at first because these are very large institutions with slow decision making processes, especially when it comes to third party agreements. So at the start of the pandemic there was a high level of uncertainty everywhere and things just paused for a moment. But after some time had passed I think people started to realize the importance of the internet and doing things remotely.

I don't think full WFH is here to stay. We moved to WFH last March, but now it's a flexible schedule. We have daily phone calls, a WhatsApp group and Zoom meetings and at least one in-person meeting a week. I personally prefer in-person interactions though. Working in a team with other people drives you to work. After a while, staying at home can become boring and I think there’s a desire now to go back to the office even if it's once or twice a week.

We’re waiting for the new fintech law to be passed to give us more space to move. Right now our business depends on a lot of external factors and our goal is to reach a point of less dependence on large banks. We want to be a place that clients trust to give them an independent overview of the market with no bias to any particular financial institution. For the year ahead we’re working on a new incremental savings project, which I think could really be a breakthrough for us.

I like football and fishing. I’m a huge Al Ahly fan and I catch all their matches with my uncle but it's been some time since I've gone fishing. For the past year it's been entirely work and family. This year I think I’ll be focusing on getting some consistent exercise and reading incorporated into my schedule.

I really believe in just focusing on doing your best consistently. All you can really control is how committed you are — and the rest is up to fate.

ON YOUR WAY OUT

Norway’s USD 1.3 tn sovereign wealth fund has taken the plunge into renewables after signing a USD 1.6 bn agreement Danish energy company Orsted that will see it own 50% of its offshore wind farms Borssele 1 and 2 in the Netherlands, the fund said yesterday. The direct investment is the first of its kind for the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund which is at the forefront of a growing wave of interest from sovereign wealth funds in green investments. Norges Bank has so far earmarked a massive USD 12 bn of investments for large scale renewable projects in North America and Europe over the next two years and wants to avoid having “too many assets” the fund’s head of renewable infrastructure, Boerge Sivertsen, said.

CALENDAR

April: The government’s fuel pricing committee is scheduled to meet for its quarterly review of prices

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

8 April (Thursday): The Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) will host a matchmaking virtual event, dubbed “Hangout with VCs.”

8-10 April (Thursday-Saturday): The TriFactory’s Endurance Festival at Somabay.

10 April (Saturday): Techne Drifts Grand Finale, New Greek Campus, Mall of Arabia, Cairo, Egypt.

11-15 April (Sunday-Thursday): Retail subscription period for Macro’s IPO.

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

12 April (Monday): First day of Ramadan (TBC).

19 April (Monday): Shares of Macro start trading on the EGX in the year’s second IPO.

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.

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