Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Sequoia makes its first North Africa + GCC investment in Egypt’s Telda



Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to another fine Tuesday. It’s a busy news day at home and abroad, so let’s jump right in.

THE BIG NEWS here at home is from planet finance, where high-profile Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia has made hot fintech startup Telda its first investment in our corner of the world — and where the Financial Regulatory Authority wants to make it possible for landlords, utilities and schools (among others) to “securitize” expected future cashflows. We have the rundown on all of this and more in this morning’s news well, below.

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

  • Cleopatra eyes Alex Medical takeover: Cleopatra Hospitals Group (CHG) is after up to 100% of Alexandria Medical Services after submitting a mandatory tender offer that values the company at EGP 550 mn.
  • FEI and sporting clubs are pushing vaccination drive: The Federation of Egyptian Industries is teaming up with the Health Ministry to roll out a nationwide program to vaccinate factory employees — and you’ll be able to get jabbed at the nadi, too.
  • Rail manufacture: Four foreign companies are bidding for a piece of a new railway manufacturing facility that aims to kickstart Egypt’s bid to localize the industry.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD is still the ongoing Israeli campaign against Gaza, where the death toll continues to mount. US President Joe Biden ever so slightly shifted his stance on the issue, telling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington will coordinate with Egypt and others to work on a ceasefire. We have chapter and verse in Around the World, below.

THE BIG GLOBAL BUSINESS STORY this morning: A mega-merger in the US of A will create a USD 130 bn media powerhouse: Telecom operator AT&T has agreed to spin off WarnerMedia and merge it with Discovery to create a new USD 43 bn media giant, the companies announced in a statement yesterday. The company will be valued at close to USD 130 bn including debt, given WarnerMedia’s USD 90+ bn enterprise value, Bloomberg reported. The news underscores how difficult it is to make a go of things in media right now: AT&T is saying goodbye to Hollywood after erasing bns in value — and just three years after it went to court to defend their Time Warner takeover.

The move comes as traditional broadcasters feel increasing pressure from streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and have sought strength through mergers, the AP suggests. AT&T’s HBO Max and Discovery+ have combined subscribers just shy of 25 mn users, paling in comparison to Disney Plus, which has amassed 104 mn subscribers since launching in November in 2019, and Netflix, which hit 208 mn subscribers last month.

The story dominated the foreign business press yesterday, and was picked up by everyone from the Wall Street Journal and the FT to the BBC and the New York Times.

Amazon, meanwhile, is looking to bulk up on media: The Everything Store is in talks to buy MGM (the studio that’s home to James Bond, in a USD 9 bn transaction, the Financial Times notes, pointing out that MGM is “one of the few Hollywood studios not to have been gobbled up by a larger conglomerate.”


Renaissance Capital’s annual MENA Investor Conference kicks off today and runs until Thursday. The virtual gathering will feature three days of 1-1 sessions between investors and MENA businesses. Things kick off today with an afternoon of panel discussions. You can check out the event schedule here.

It’s day number two for HC Securities and New York-based research and trading outfit Avior Capital Markets’ virtual conference Egypt equities. The gathering runs through Thursday. Sovereign Fund of Egypt CEO Ayman Soliman and Central Bank of Egypt Deputy Governor Rami Abulnaga are expected to speak (pdf).


The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting will now take place at some point in 1H2022 at a yet-to-be-determined location instead of this coming August in Singapore. The news came after the WEF decided to scrap this summer’s meeting following a jump in covid-19 cases, according to a statement. The gathering had already been postponed twice this year as organizers hoped to take the event offline.

Africa-based startups have until 26 May to sign up for France’s AFD Digital Challenge, an annual startup competition (pdf) by the French Development Agency (AFD). This year, the competition involves startups finding solutions to curb the carbon impact of economic activities or promote sustainable economic activity and the use of natural resources. The 10 startups chosen will receive an “acceleration pack,” a package of technical and financial support worth EUR 20k.

The IMF will complete by the end of June a second review of targets set under Egypt’s USD 5.2 bn standby loan. The loan was approved in June 2020.

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


*** It’s Going Green day — your weekly briefing of all things green in Egypt: Enterprise’s green economy vertical focuses each Tuesday on the business of renewable energy and sustainable practices in Egypt, everything from solar and wind energy through to water, waste management, sustainable building practices and how you can make your business greener, whatever the sector.

In today’s issue: Last month, we looked at how green economy startups have had a hard time generating significant interest from VCs and traditional banks due to a combination of weak cashflow and a very small pipeline of startups. So where do they then go? A number of alternative financing methods, from revenue sharing to crowdfunding are already taking off. But much more is needed to keep these startups’ bellies full.



Sequoia makes its first North Africa + GCC investment in Egypt’s Telda

Digital banking app Telda landed USD 5 mn in a pre-seed funding round led by Silicon Valley-based VC firm Sequoia Capital, according to a statement (pdf). Global Founders Capital and Class 5 Global also participated in the investment round.

The investment means Telda just broke the regional record for pre-seed funding, which Egyptian logistics startup Flextock set earlier this month by closing a USD 3.25 mn pre-seed investment. Telda’s funding round is also Sequoia Capital’s first investment in North Africa and the GCC, as well as the first investment in Egypt for Global Founders Capital and Class 5 Global.

About Telda: The app, which will formally launch in a few weeks’ time, will provide its users with a Telda card that can be used online or in brick and mortar stores, to withdraw from ATMs, pay bills, and send and receive money. The company is the first to land a banking license from the Central Bank of Egypt under the new Banking Act. And it’s a big market: Bloomberg reminds us that Egypt is the world’s third-most cash-reliant economy, after Morocco and Vietnam and just ahead of the Philippines and Peru.

It’s not the first rodeo for Telda’s founders: CEO Ahmed Sabbah was co-founder and chief technology officer of transport startup Swvl, while co-founder Youssef Sholqamy was a senior engineer at Uber’s infrastructure team.

And Sequoia has a good track record picking challenger banks: It invested in 2013 in Latin America’s Nubank, which now boasts some 38 mn clients and claims to be “the world’s largest digital bank.”

The story is getting attention in the foreign press this morning: Bloomberg | Business Insider | TechCrunch.

MEANWHILE: Egyptian shipment logistics startup Bosta raised USD 6.7 mn in a series A funding round led by Silicon Badia, a Jordan-based global VC fund, according to Menabytes. 4DX Ventures, Plug and Play Ventures, Wealthwell VC, Khwarizmi Ventures and other unnamed investors also participated in the round. Bosta will use the funding to grow its business in Egypt, with an eye to expanding into Saudia Arabia by the end of 2021. The company also has plans to expand further to other GCC markets. Bosta had previously raised a USD seven-figure investment in a series A round in February 2020 to support its growth in Egypt.


Utilities, schools and landlords could securitize cashflows they’ve not even booked

A new type of securitization under consideration by regulators could stoke the Egyptian market: Utilities and other companies that provide ongoing services to the public may soon be able to raise capital by securitizing future cashflows under a new instrument greenlit by the Financial Regulatory Authority last week, the regulator said in a statement.

How does it work? Known as future flow securitization, the instrument would give a wide range of private- and public-sector companies — from utility providers and telecom companies to healthcare and education outfits and landlords renting out properties — access to liquidity without needing a big portfolio of accounts receivables. Future income, whether from phone bills, utility payments, tuition fees or rent, can be packaged into securities and offered to investors in order to raise capital.

The subtle but key difference between this and traditional securitization: Where standard securitization involves collateralizing on-balance sheet accounts receivables, future flow instruments securitize payments that do not yet exist on the company’s balance sheet.

Future flow securities have the potential to create a larger securitization market in Egypt, Imane Raouf, senior associate at Dreny and Partners Law Firm told us. It would allow a larger number of companies that lack the receivables needed to issue traditional securitized bonds to enter the market and sell future flows to investors, she said.

It could spur infrastructure spending: Companies that provide basic amenities will be able to issue tradable future-flow bonds to fund big-ticket spending on infrastructure, road, and transport projects without needing to wait for payments from their clients. The FRA singled out those companies as the key beneficiaries of the mechanism.

When could this become reality? Future flow securitization would become an option for businesses if proposed amendments to the Capital Markets Act (pdf) pass the House of Representatives.

Securitization in Egypt has stepped up a gear in recent years: Securitized bonds have developed into an increasingly popular form of corporate financing among real estate and consumer finance companies and an important alternative to unsecuritized corporate paper, of which the country has barely seen any in recent years. The market is busy so far into 2021, with Palm Hills being the latest to announce a sale when it closed an EGP 800 mn issuance late last month.

For the ABC of securitization: Check out our explainer here.


Azimut Egypt is rolling out a new equity fund

Retail investors can subscribe to Azimut Egypt Asset Management’s new equity fund as of this coming Sunday, 23 May, Hapi Journal reports. Azimut is looking to secure EGP 250 mn in AUM “within the coming period,” according to a statement picked up by the newspaper. Egyptian equities are undervalued due to the lack of liquidity in the market and weak inflows of fresh investments, said Azimut Egypt MD Ahmed Abou El Saad.

This is the first of two new funds Azimut Egypt plans to launch this year, with Abou El Saad saying last month that the local arm of the Italian asset manager had obtained all necessary approvals for the funds. Abou El Saad had suggested the first of the two funds would go live last month and the second would be launched after Ramadan. Azimut launched last year its first Egypt-focused equity fund, AZ Equity-Egypt, and a fixed income fund, AZ-Savings.


Tourism revenues still below 2019 comps, but El Enany raises 2021 target

Tourism revenues in 1Q2021 are down almost 60% compared to pre-covid 1Q2019, with Egypt losing out on some USD 600 mn in revenues per month during the quarter compared to 2019 figures, Tourism and Antiquities Minister Khaled El Enany told Al Arabiya (watch, runtime 2:32). This puts our 1Q2021 tourism revenues in the range of USD 1.1 bn, according to our calculations, compared to the USD 2.6 bn recorded over the same period in 2019. Revenues improved on a q-o-q basis compared to the USD 987 mn posted during 4Q2020.

El Enany earlier said that Egypt is targeting tourism revenues of USD 8 bn this year, an upward revision from the USD 6-7 bn target announced by Deputy Minister Ghada Shalaby last month. S&P Global Ratings forecast’s expect tourism revenues will continue to lag below pre-pandemic levels till 2023.

The minister reiterated his hope that tourism would recover to its pre-pandemic levels in the second half of 2022, provided the vaccination rollout continues at the expected pace. Egypt has currently only received enough vaccines to cover 2.5% of our population, though the government has announced its intention to complete the vaccination of all tourism workers in Red Sea resorts this month, in its effort to turn beach holiday resorts into “no-covid zones.”

A pipeline of tourism projects could give the sector a boost: The Tourism Development Authority is currently offering investors USD 15 bn in tourism projects, with plans to inaugurate new tourist destinations including El Galala and New Mansoura in the “coming months,” the minister noted.


Prisoners + pensioners are next in line for vaccines

Next up on Egypt’s vaccination list: Prisoners + pensioners. The Health Ministry plans to begin vaccinating prisoners in Egypt in the next phase of its inoculation drive, Minister Hala Zayed said during a covid-19 crisis committee meeting yesterday, according to a Cabinet statement. The ministry also plans to set up mobile vaccination centers near pension disbursement sites at the beginning of the month, when pensions are distributed.

This phase of the vaccination campaign will be rolled out in tandem with the ministry’s plan to vaccinate factory workers and other employees in industrial zones, in cooperation with the Federation of Egyptian Industries under an agreement signed yesterday. Sporting clubs will also act as vaccination hubs.

The Health Ministry reported 1,188 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 1,201 the day before. The ministry also reported 61 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 14,388. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 246,909 confirmed cases of covid-19.

EU to support efforts to accelerate vaccine manufacturing in Africa: The EU will push to boost vaccine manufacturing in Africa at a global health summit on Friday where European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is expected to back proposals to set up new production facilities on the continent, the Financial Times reports, quoting unidentified European officials. Support could include direct EU aid and funding from the European Investment Bank and other development agencies, as well as building up a regulatory capacity. Such efforts aim to back the African Union's target to supply 60% of the continent's needs by 2040 compared to the current 1%.

But it’s not on board with the idea of a temporary patent waiver: European leaders last week pushed back on proposals to suspend intellectual property rights on covid vaccines, a step that many in the vaccine-starved global south see as a vital step to ensure equitable access.

Surprise: Covax is running way behind schedule: The Covax scheme designed to provide vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, including Egypt, has delivered less than half of the 170 mn vaccines previously envisioned, Unicef said yesterday. Egypt has so far received 2.55 mn doses of a promised 5 mn dose batch of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine through Covax, out of a 40 mn dose total order placed with the program. Reuters took note of the story.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi’s experimental covid-19 vaccine could enter late-stage trials in the coming weeks, with the pharma giants aiming to get regulatory approval for the jab by the end of the year, according to statements, (here and here).


Sudan gets USD 30 bn worth of pledges to cover bilateral, IMF debts

Sudan just got a USD 30 bn lifeline in the form of debt cancellation and funding pledges from IMF members during a conference in Paris yesterday kickstarting its debt relief program, Sky News Arabia reports. France has pledged to cancel USD 5 bn of debts Sudan owes, while Saudi Arabia has said it will scrap another USD 5 bn and Norway USD 4.5 bn.

France has also promised to give Sudan a USD 1.5 bn bridge loan to help the country pay off its IMF debts — and will offer more if necessary, as Sudan seeks relief and assistance covering its external debt bill, which the Associated Press put at almost USD 70 bn. Germany has also pledged to cover USD 110 mn of Sudan’s IMF arrears, and is offering over USD 470 mn in bilateral debt assistance, France 24 reports.

Sudan’s IMF debt clearance paves the way for access to cheaper international funding under the IMF and World Bank's Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) scheme. The country has already cleared its debt to the World Bank and African Development Bank, but had needed to clear its debts to the IMF as well — in addition to implementing a number of economic reforms — in order to qualify.

Egypt also wants to help Sudan with debt relief: Egypt will take part in an international initiative to clear Sudan’s IMF debt by allowing Sudan to tap into Egypt’s Special Drawing Rights quota at the IMF to settle its debts, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said during a meeting with head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council Abdel Fattah Burhan in Paris Sunday, according to an Ittihadiya statement.

Sudan, Egypt, France talk GERD: El Sisi and Burhan also discussed coordination to reach a fair agreement on GERD before Addis Ababa goes ahead with the dam’s second filling.

In a separate meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, El Sisi reiterated Egypt’s desire to reach a “lawful, fair, and binding agreement” and said Egypt would not tolerate any threats to its water security, according to an Ittihadiya statement. The US said earlier this week that it supports the resumption of negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, but isn’t on board with Cairo and Khartoum’s proposition that it play a mediating role. Ethiopia has insisted that the AU should remain the sole mediator and indicated it would press ahead with the filling of the dam with or without an agreement.


MNHD CEO Ahmed El Hitamy resigns

Madinet Nasr Housing and Development CEO Ahmed El Hitamy (LinkedIn) has resigned to join his family business, the company said in a disclosure to the EGX (pdf). El Hitamy, who joined MNHD in 2016, has also stepped down from the board but will remain a consultant to the developer until the end of the year. Chairman Hazem Barakat (LinkedIn) will step in as the acting CEO until a successor is appointed, the company said.

GEM has a board of trustees: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has named Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, Kyoto National Museum Director Johei Sasaki, Saudi Space Commission Chairman Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum, and the secretary-general of the World Tourism Organization to the Grand Egyptian Museum’s Board of Trustees, according to Hapi Journal. The board, which will be headed by the president, will also include the tourism and antiquities, culture, and finance ministers, along with the director of Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Zahi Hawass, former Culture Minister Farouk Hosny, former Central Bank of Egypt governors Hisham Okasha and Farouk El Okdah, Mansour Group Chairman Mohamed Mansour, and TV host Sherif Amer.



It was another relatively quiet night on the airwaves last night, save for Ashraf Al Saad’s sitdown with Ala Mas’oleety’s Ahmed Moussa to recount his tale.

A throwback to when Islamist pyramid schemes were a thing: Fleeing Egypt to London when faced with charges of financial wrongdoing was “the biggest mistake of his life” because he was proven innocent, claimed Al Saad, whose name is typically mentioned with Al Rayyan and El Sherif as among the highest-profile Islamist Ponzi schemes of the 1980s. He denied having committed fraud and said that his company, Al Saad Investment Group, never failed to repay investors. He did admit that he exploited the Islamist finance wave in Egypt in the 1980s and 1990s to attract money to his company (watch, runtime: 13:24). Al Saad still has assets in Egypt that he’s looking to recover, but expects it will be a lengthy process to prove his rightful ownership (watch, runtime: 11:11).

ALSO ON THE AIRWAVES- The first three wounded Palestinians from Gaza, including a five-year-old child, arrived at Egypt’s Rafah border crossing yesterday, pending procedures for their admission to North Sinai’s El Arish General Hospital for treatment, Masrawy reports. The Health Ministry has shipped some 65 tonnes of meds and medical equipment to Gaza, in addition to preparing a total of 11 hospitals in North Sinai, Ismailia, and Cairo to treat Palestinians passing through Rafah, according to a statement. Ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed recapped these measures in a phone-in to Extra News (watch, runtime: 6:35).


It’s a quiet morning for Egypt in the foreign press: O7 Therapy platform founders Ashraf Bacheet, Nader Iskander and Ashraf Adel get digital ink in Arab News. Meanwhile, Reuters says the government’s road building campaign isn’t sitting well with some who have had their homes expropriated to make way for new roads.


Reduced tariffs on steel rebars + iron billets: The Trade and Industry Ministry reduced import tariffs on iron billets last month to USD 46 per tonne from USD 60, while anti-dumping duties on steel rebars are now at USD 85 / tonne, down from USD 105, Al Shorouk reports. These rates will remain in place until April 2022, when they are expected to be reduced again. The duties on steel rebars and iron billets were originally introduced provisionally in April 2019, with an eye to gradually tapering off the rates over a three-year period from the date of rolling out the tariffs.

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

  • New archaeological discovery: Some 250 rock tombs dating back to the Old Kingdom have been discovered in Sohag.
  • The first direct charter flight from Romania to Egypt since the outbreak of the pandemic landed in Marsa Matrouh yesterday (watch, runtime: 1:13).


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Elon Musk has the crypto markets at his beck and call: Crypto traders appear to be hanging on the bn’aire tech tycoon’s every word, with Musk’s tweets causing huge gyrations in the price of BTC and other crypto assets over the past week. BTC hit new three-month lows yesterday after Musk hinted that his EV company Tesla may dump its holdings only to lurch back later in the day after he claimed not to have sold any, Bloomberg reports. The cryptocurrency clawed back some of its losses as of dispatch time, rising 0.5% to USD 44,978.38. BTC plunged more than 16% last week after Musk tweeted that the electric car company would no longer accept the digital asset as payment, citing the carbon emissions involved in BTC mining.

This came the same week that Musk whipsawed BTC rival Dogecoin, driving the price down after calling the meme-based cryptocurrency a “hustle” on SNL. A day later Musk announced that his company SpaceX would use Dogecoin to fund its mission to the moon in 2022, helping it rise by a quarter on Friday.

Can it really be lawful for Musk to almost single-handedly move crypto markets? Yes, according to regulatory experts, who tell Reuters that nebulous market rules and the absence of evidence of intent to gain from market manipulation make it difficult for regulators to hold him to account.

“Have we reached peak market absurdity?” LA Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik wonders. The increasing unreality of NFTs, Dogecoin and GameStop, coupled with the disappearance of risk-off sentiment, may be the inevitable conclusion of the so-called “Fed Put,” which has conditioned investors to always expect monetary policymakers to bail them out, he writes.

Wait, you mean crypto may not be a riskless asset class? All of the hoopla has “raised new doubts among institutional fund managers over the future of cryptocurrencies as an asset class,” the Financial Times writes with characteristic understatement.

The SPAC market is continuing its slow death: Share prices in special purpose acquisition companies are dropping on takeover announcements, marking a reversal of the surge in enthusiasm witnessed over the past 12 months, the Financial Times reported. Only one of 13 SPACs that announced M&A activity in May is trading above the USD 10 SPAC shares are originally priced at. Just two months ago in March, this number was nine out of 10, according to research seen by the salmon colored paper. Market experts attribute the downturn to dwindling appetite among institutional players and a lack of interest from retail investors.

Up EGX30 10,675 -0.9% (YTD: -1.57%)
None USD (CBE) Buy 15.63 Sell 15.73
Up USD at CIB Buy 15.62 Sell 15.72
None Interest rates CBE 8.25% deposit 9.25% lending
Up Tadawul 10,396 +0.7% (YTD: +19.6%)
Up ADX 6,478 +0.8% (YTD: +28.4%)
Up DFM 2,673 +0.3% (YTD: +7.3%)
Down S&P 500 4,163 -0.3% (YTD: +10.8%)
Down FTSE 100 7,033 -0.2% (YTD: +8.9%)
Up Brent crude USD 69.68 +0.3%
Up Natural gas (Nymex) USD 3.13 +0.6%
Up Gold USD 1,873.80 +0.3%
Up BTC USD 44,978.38 +0.5%

The EGX30 fell 0.9% yesterday on turnover of EGP 1.6 bn (22.9% above the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 1.57% YTD.

In the green: Fawry (+5.0%), GB Auto (+4.0%) and Oriental Weavers (+2.9%).

In the red: CIB (-3.9%), ElSewedy Electric (-3.5%) and Orascom Development (-2.2%).


The death toll in Palestine stood at 212 as of Monday evening as Israel continued to launch airstrikes on Gaza yesterday, saying that it was now targeting an underground tunnel network Hamas uses to move people and weaponry.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden finally said he “supports” a ceasefire in his third call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, according to a White House statement. Biden discussed Washington cooperating with “Egypt and other partners” to work towards a ceasefire, but did not call for an end to the violence. This came as the US blocked the UN Security Council from issuing a public statement condemning the violence, with White House spokesperson Jen Psaki describing the US’ approach to the issue as “quiet, intensive diplomacy.” The UN General Assembly is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss the attacks, according to Reuters.

The Biden administration has reportedly signed off on a USD 735 mn arms sale to Israel, with Congress approval expected to move ahead without objections. Congress was initially informed of the sale last month, prior to the escalation of violence.

Egypt called for an immediate end to Israel’s attacks on Palestine during a meeting between President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris yesterday, in which the two heads of state discussed tackling terrorism and de-esclating the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, according to an Ittihadiya statement.

Gaza will be on the agenda for Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias when he lands in Cairo on Thursday for talks with FM Sameh Shoukry, Greek media reported yesterday. Dendias is in Israel and Palestine today, followed by a visit to Jordan tomorrow before he lands in Cairo. Shoukry, Dendias and Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok discussed in a phone call yesterday efforts to achieve a ceasefire, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said, without disclosing further details.

MEANWHILE- Turkey’s initial efforts to repair ties with Saudi Arabia ended similarly to their Egypt diplomatic offensive: Inconclusively. Bilateral talks last week between the Turkish and Saudi foreign ministers ended with both sides pledging to continue working to solve sources of tension but with little concrete progress. Similar discussions between Egyptian and Turkish officials in Cairo last week ended without a breakthrough.

Also worth knowing this morning: Lebanon has lost almost a quarter of its electricity supply after Turkey's Karpowership stopped operations at two floating power plants due to USD 100 mn in unpaid arrears, Reuters reports, citing a statement by the company.


Where can green economy startups and SMEs turn when the VCs and bankers aren’t there? While conventional wisdom holds that VCs and angel investors are the lifeblood of startups, it hardly applies when those startups are green. In our initial look at why investors have been wary of green startups, we found that VCs and angel investors aren’t too keen on the startup pipeline scarcity and the lack of scalability and exit possibilities. So the question poses itself: without flashy valuations and sparkly exits, where can green economy startups and SMEs turn for financing? The bank? Well, that’s not much to go by either.

Actually, as it turns out, they have a few places to turn. These run the gamut from the altruist investing models of crowdfunding and philanthropy, to curious revenue sharing models, various stakeholders we spoke with tell us. But more can still be done, they say, adding that they would also still like to see more collaboration between the private and public sectors in helping lend credibility to green economy startups.

But first, a refresher: While startups have been seeing more interest from investors in the past months, the lack of a pipeline of startups and investors, exit and scalability options makes emerging green economy companies less attractive. Unlike tech startups, the startup pipeline in the green economy sector is scarce and does not provide enticing local success stories, in terms of impact, exits, scale and ROI, making it seem less profitable, Khaled Ismail, managing partner of early-stage fund HIMangel had told us. Additionally, these startups are mostly plagued by negative cashflow cycles that can take upto 6-8 months to recover and can be very asset-heavy.

Bank finance may sound like the next logical option, but strict loan eligibility criteria get in the way. “Bank finance comes with a lot of restrictions, especially when it comes to eligibility criteria, which makes it difficult for early-stage startups to obtain them,” Ismail says. These restrictions include a number of operation years and steady revenue inflow. Banks would need dedicated teams who look at the investment’s future instead of looking at startups’ bottom line, national program manager for small business support at the ‎European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Reem El Saady says. However, getting to that point will take some time, she adds.

Revenue-based financing is part of the solution, chairman of the Cairo Angels Aly El Shalakany tells us. Locally, Beltone SME has already entered that space through financing SME growth in exchange for a percentage of revenue for a specific period of time, all while offering variable payment. Since the fund is self-liquidating, meaning that the investment is paid back using the income generated from the business invested in, it is de-risked to a certain extent, becoming attractive to investors. This involves no debt or equity, and focuses on development and impact, which comprises the green economy, CEO at Beltone SME Yehia Ashour tells us.

Beltone’s revenue-based financing arm is expecting to close an EGP 1 bn investment fund by the end of 2021. Companies that have proven their concept are eligible for the financing instrument. Currently, Beltone SME is looking to invest in a food and beverage company, as well as an oil recycling startup.

Impact investment funds and philanthropic investors would also add skin to the game, El Saady says. Impact investment — an investment strategy that aims to generate beneficial social or environmental effects, alongside financial gains — has been picking up some moderate steam in Egypt. Just recently, the UNDP and Catalyst Partners joined up to launch an EGP 500 mn impact investment fund to support local SMEs that have an impact angle. The same duo had partnered up earlier to create a toolkit for investment-ready SMEs to help them measure their environmental and social impact. This may be crucial to attract investors, as unlike philanthropists, impact investors are looking for measurable impact returns, Ashour says.

Crowdfunding may be up there, too. Popular crowdfunding websites allow early-stage companies to provide giveaways to these people, but sometimes equity is also distributed in marginal amounts. The EBRD has been consulting the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) on a bill to regulate crowdfunding in Egypt. This could help finance early-stage, impactful companies with not very scalable or conventional business models, El Saady says.

But despite this all, government initiatives are needed. If the government enters the game, it will make investors much more confident because the risk would be shared, El Saady says. She cites the UK’s Clean Growth Fund — a joint private sector-government VC fund that boasts GBP 40 mn to invest in UK-based companies driving green technology in power, transport, waste and building energy efficiency sectors — as an example of a successful government partnership program. “With GBP 20 mn of government investment matched GBP for GBP by CCLA, one of the UK’s largest charity fund managers, the fund could reach GBP 100 mn by autumn 2021 through private sector fundraising,” the government writes.

Private sector still has to lead: While such initiatives are essential for Egypt, Ashour believes that the government will definitely create supply and demand when entering the sector; however, one should not wait for the government to enter the scene in order to start investing.

Globally, alternative investment vehicles are on the rise, El Shalakany says, referring to markets and tools similar to the UK’s AIM. The Alternative Investment Market (AIM) is the LSE’s growth market, dedicated to help smaller companies — who cannot afford the formal listing — raise enough capital to scale. In return, investors receive tax reliefs. “While AIM investments are viewed as riskier than those on the Main Market, the tax incentives on offer can make them more attractive,” UK VC fund SyndicateRoom says.

And green companies can look forward to the ESG investing trend: Despite many global names in finance getting flak for not meeting their climate change investment commitments, it was the growing awareness of a need for these pledges that helped spur the aforementioned financial innovations. Listed companies set to benefit from the transition away from fossil fuels are worth a collective USD 6 tn, with investors getting behind green battery metals, sustainable aviation fuel, lab-produced meat, and low carbon concrete, amidst rising concerns that climate stocks are overheating. VCs have doled out over USD 16.3 bn on climate-tech investments in 2020, according to a PwC report. It stands to reason this will all trickle down here.

Your top climate stories for the week:


16-19 May (Sunday-Wednesday): The Arabian Travel Market (ATM) takes place in Dubai.

17-20 May (Monday-Thursday): Avior-HC Egypt Virtual Conference.

18-20 May (Tuesday-Thursday): Renaissance Capital’s annual MENA Investor Conference.

20 May (Thursday): Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias will be in Cairo for talks with FM Sameh Shoukry as part of a three-day regional tour amid the ongoing escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

20-28 May (Thursday-Friday): Gouna International Squash Open 2021.

26 May (Wednesday): Final day for Africa-based startups to apply for the French government-sponsored AFD Digital Challenge (pdf).

27-29 May (Thursday-Saturday): Informa Markets’ Nextmove real estate exhibition, Cairo International Convention Center, Nasr City.

30 May (Sunday): Al Mal GTM is organizing the Portfolio Egypt conference under the theme ‘Growth under the weight of the pandemic.’

31 May (Monday): Egypt is hosting Trescon Global’s World AI Show with the support of ITIDA.

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.

22-27 June (Tuesday-Sunday): The CIB PSA World Tour Finals for 2020-2021 will take place in Cairo.

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): The IMF will complete a second review of targets set under the USD 5.2 bn standby loan approved in June 2020 (proposed date).

30 June (Wednesday): 30 June Revolution Day.

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

July + August: Thanaweya Amma exams take place.

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.

1 July (Thursday): Businesses importing goods at seaports will need to file shipping documents and cargo data digitally to the Advance Cargo Information (ACI) system.

15 June (Saturday): EGX-listed will have to complete filing their financial disclosures for the period ended 31 March.

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.

30 September-8 October (Thursday-Friday): The Cairo International Fair, Cairo International Conference 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.

14-16 February 2022 (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo, Egypt.

1H2022: The World Economic Forum annual meeting, location TBD.

May 2022: Investment in Logistics Conference, Cairo, Egypt.

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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