Sunday, 23 May 2021

CBE to issue digital banking regs as early as July

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, wonderful people, and welcome to the last full week of May as we continue our post-Ramadan sprint to the end of the first half. We hope you enjoyed the beautiful weekend weather as much as we did — and that you’re looking forward to a pleasantly productive week.

THE BIG STORY of the day is the same at home and abroad, as pundits emphasize that Egypt has again underscored its “relevance” to the “Mideast peace process” by brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, bringing to a standstill the latest conflict between our neighbors to our east. Critically, Egypt’s diplomatic intervention saw President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the phone with Joe Biden, who had come under pressure from top advisors to distance his administration from Cairo. Everyone from the Washington Post to Bloomberg and the Christian Science Monitor has picked up on the shift.

You can catch the Ittihadiya and White House readouts of the conversation between the two leaders here, and we have chapter and verse in this morning’s news well, below.

FROM THE DEPT. OF REALLY GOOD NEWS- New data suggests that two jabs of Pfizer / BioNTech or of the Oxford / AstraZeneca provide good protection against the B.1.617.2 “Indian” strain of concern, according to new research out of the UK. The story tops front pages from Reuters to the Financial Times. The news comes as AstraZeneca’s chief executive gave his first interview following a “string of setbacks” including the emergence of very rare fatal side-effects from the jab.

On a down note: The country bade farewell this weekend to veteran actor Samir Ghanem and business leader Ahmed Bahgat. We take note of their passing this morning in On Your Way out, below.

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

  • IDH comes home: Shares of Integrated Diagnostics Holding have started trading on the EGX in the country’s first-ever technical listing.
  • EFG Hermes is well on its way to becoming a universal bank: EFG Hermes and the Sovereign Fund of Egypt have signed an agreement to acquire a 76% stake in the Arab Investment Bank.
  • Zabaleen are getting new competition: Four ministries signed contracts with Ertekaa Integrated Services & Waste Recycling and Enviro Master Environmental Services to handle solid waste management in eastern and western Cairo.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

Will a court decision release the Ever Given today? We’re going to hear today from an Ismailia court on whether the Suez Canal Authority will be ordered to release the Ever Given, which it has impounded as it seeks compensation from the vessel’s owners. The mega-vessel paralyzed global shipping for days earlier this year after it ran aground in the Suez Canal. We have the story in this morning’s news well, below.

The House of Representatives has a stacked agenda to start the week. On the general assembly’s docket today:

  • A bill to bring a minimum wage increase into effect as of 1 July, after the Madbouly Cabinet signed off on the move last week;
  • A bill to set up an investment fund for endowments;
  • A bill allowing employers to automatically dismiss civil servants who fail dope tests, eliminating the need to refer the employees to court before sacking them.

Housing Minister Assem El Gazzar will also make an appearance at the House on Tuesday to respond to MPs’ inquiries about his ministry’s sewage and potable water projects.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

The third edition of Egypt's Green Economy Forum will be held on 14 June, according to a statement (pdf). Among the speakers: CIB Chief Sustainability Officer Dalia Abdel Kader, CDC Group's Egypt Coverage Director Sherine Shohdy, and Mayada Magdy, chief program officer of Japan International Cooperation Agency in Egypt.

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

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BANKING

CBE to issue regulatory framework for specialized banks by July?

Specialized banks could have a regulatory framework by July under proposed amendments to the newly passed Banking Act which would see the issuance of licenses for banks focused on SME, digital, and payments banking, unnamed banking officials told Masrawy. The framework, to be issued by the Central Bank of Egypt, would clearly outline the approach the CBE plans to take to the still-nascent sector.

So, what’s a “specialized bank”? Think “digital.” Broadly speaking, it’s a term that has come to include upstarts that would (a) be “digital first” by eschewing brick-and-mortar branches; or (b) focus on small and medium-sized businesses or (c) reach out to the unbanked, including through services including small savings accounts and remittances.

The CBE has so far received five applications from banks wishing to launch a digital banking arm — including the National Bank of Egypt, Banque Misr, Emirates NBD, QNB Al Ahli and Bank ABC — but will begin studying them once the law is approved, sources previously told Masrawy. Media reports also suggested Baraka Bank and the Suez Canal Bank were interested in getting in on the digital banking space.

Specialized banks are exempt from new capital requirements in the proposed Banking Act: Under the legislation, the amount of capital these banks would be required to hold would be set on a case-by-case basis, exempting them from complying with the EGP 5 bn in reserve mandated by the law for local commercial banks. Banks that apply for the license would need to submit a market study and risk assessment, after which the CBE would set reserve capital requirements, deposit limits, and their ceiling for lending.

Already-licensed commercial banks won’t automatically be granted a specialized banking license, meaning that only new banks and subsidiaries of existing ones can be defined as digital-first entities, with all banks currently operating in Egypt defined as commercial banks under the 2003 Banking Act, a CBE official previously told us.

Need a refresher on the new Banking Act? We have a rundown of the key provisions here.

COVID WATCH

500k Sinopharm doses + raw materials to manufacture Sinovac land in Egypt

State-owned Vacsera can now begin manufacturing China’s Sinovac vaccine after the first batch of raw materials used to produce the jab arrived in Egypt on Friday, Health Minister Hala Zayed said in a statement. The shipment is enough to produce 2 mn doses of the jab, which Vacsera aims to begin administering within two months. Egypt also hopes to begin manufacturing the vaccine’s raw materials locally in the coming period, and will export any excess vaccine supplies to African countries once local needs are met, the minister said. Egypt has already established a production line for the vaccine through Vacsera, with a second manufacturing facility set for completion “soon” in Sixth of October City. Expect as many as 40 mn doses of the locally-made Sinovac vaccine to be produced during the coming period, Zayed said, without disclosing a specific timeline.

VACCINE SUPPLY UPDATE- Egypt received on Friday another 500k-shot shipment of Sinopharm, China’s other covid-19 vaccine, the Health Ministry said. Egypt has so far received 3 mn doses of a 20 mn dose agreement, Zayed said. A new 1.9 mn-jab batch of Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccines is also expected to be delivered through the Gavi / Covax program during the first week of June, while a shipment of 1 mn doses of China's Sinovac vaccine will arrive by the end of May or during the first week of June.

The Health Ministry reported 1,151 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 1,148 the day before. The ministry also reported 59 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 14,670. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 252,690 confirmed cases of covid-19.

The Health Ministry will be able to add 1k ICU beds and 500 ventilators to its emergency covid-19 response arsenal thanks to an additional EGP 260 bn from state coffers for the current fiscal year, according to a Planning Ministry statement.

Pfizer and BioNTech have pledged to deliver 2 bn doses of their jab through Covax as calls for equitable vaccine distribution increase, Reuters reports. Vaccine batches will be provided “through bilateral agreements, agreements with supranational organizations, as well as our partnership with Covax,” a Pfizer spokesman said at the G20 Global Health Summit in Rome Friday.

Covax will also acquire 200 mn shots of Johnson & Johnson’s jab to be sent out to dozens of low- and middle-income nations under an agreement signed between the two on Friday, according to a statement. Johnson & Johnson is already sending Egypt 20 mn doses of its single-shot jab, head of the Egyptian Authority for Unified Procurement Bahaa El Din Zidan said last week. These doses would be separate from the shots we could be receiving through Covax and from the 4 mn doses that are said to be delivered in 4Q2021, which will likely be received through the African Union.

The IMF’s USD 50 bn plan to end the pandemic: A multi-bn USD plan unveiled by the IMF on Friday aims to fully vaccinate the world’s population by the first half of 2022. The Fund thinks it is possible to fully inoculate at least 40% of the world’s population by the end of 2021, and the remaining 60% in the front half of 2022. A rapid end to the pandemic could add USD 9 tn to the global economy by the middle of the decade, the IMF estimates.

Breakdown: The USD 50 bn is a combination of at least USD 35 bn of grants, USD 15 bn from national governments and low-cost lending from multilateral lenders, the IMF said. Rich nations are being asked to contribute most to this effort, but would see the bulk of the benefits, chief Kristalina Georgieva said as she presented the plan to world leaders at the G20 Summit, Reuters reports.

*** A MESSAGE FROM IDG ***

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TAX

Not so fast, FAANGs

Multinational tech firms would be made to charge VAT on e-commerce sales in Egypt in two phases under amendments to the VAT Act being considered by the government, El Watan reports, citing a source at the House Economic Committee. The changes would be phased in over two years and would see international companies that don’t pay tax in Egypt required to collect and remit 14% VAT on transactions for digital goods and services, the source said.

Phase #1: Providers of digital services would be first to comply with the amendments. Under the proposals, platforms would begin collecting VAT and filing returns a maximum of six months after the law comes into effect.

Phase #2: Businesses that sell goods online would be next up, and would be expected to start complying with the amendments up to two years after they become the law of the land.

The goal is for offshore digital services firms to start paying their fair share. This comes a few months after Egypt ratified an international convention designed to make it harder for multinational companies to avoid tax in countries where they aren’t registered. There’s a growing move to do this everywhere from Europe to Canada, and the Biden Administration seems to have stepped back (a bit) from its predecessor’s blanket opposition to the move.

Keep an eye on the upcoming E-Commerce Act, which should set a tax framework for online ads and online product sales, as well as the operations of FAANG companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Alphabet), which could also be affected by a proposed 15-20% stamp tax on social media purchases. The bill has been under cabinet review, and is expected to be passed to Parliament soon.

The gov’t is looking to broaden its tax base: The government is looking to increase its tax takings by 18% in the coming fiscal year, which will raise revenues to EGP 983 bn compared to the EGP 830 bn forecast for FY2020-2021. VAT revenues are currently expected to fall, with the draft budget forecasting EGP 390 mn in VAT receipts during FY2021-2022, down slightly from a projected EGP 401 mn this year.

REAL ESTATE

Not a developer? No land for you.

Looking to put up a building in a new city? You’ll need to be a real estate developer to get the land. New city authorities are no longer permitted to sell land earmarked for construction to individuals after the Housing Ministry issued a decree limiting sales to real estate developers, Al Mal reports. The decree also allows the land to be used for government projects, the newspaper says, without providing further details.

Is this part of the new construction regulations we’ve been waiting on? It’s not entirely clear, but it appears to be part of the government’s wider effort to crack down on wildcat and disorganized construction in the country. The government had ordered a ban last May on construction permits in urban centers as it works on new regulations that are expected to govern everything from building height, ratios, and usage to urban coordination and red tape. Last we heard, the Local Development Ministry began trialing the new regulations at the beginning of this month.

DIPLOMACY

Egypt-brokered Israel + Hamas ceasefire takes hold

Israel and Hamas agreed to an Egypt-brokered ceasefire starting 2 am on Friday. The quiet followed 11 days of violence, Reuters reports. The terms of the ceasefire are still unclear, according to the Associated Press, which stressed Egypt’s instrumental role in brokering the agreement. The ceasefire came into effect a day after reports had suggested Israel and Hamas rejected an Egypt-led ceasefire proposal that was supported by the US and EU.

The halt was conditional on reciprocity: Hamas said the ceasefire would be "mutual and simultaneous,” and that it would abide by the truce so long as Israel did the same. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu’s office, however, said the Israeli security cabinet was in favor of a “mutual and unconditional” truce.

There was a bit of a … hiccup on Friday as Israeli forces “suppressed riots” from Palestinians at Al Aqsa mosque on Friday, though this does not seem to have affected the ceasefire agreement, the BBC reports, which was still in effect as of Saturday evening.

An Egyptian delegation has been working to firm up the truce since Friday, engaging in shuttle diplomacy to “secure a long-term end to the violence,” according to VOA News. The delegation is also working to include an aid package for Palestinians in Gaza as officials assess the extent of the damage of the violence, Reuters reports. The Associated Press also had the story, and Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi took note (watch, runtime: 2:10).

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Palestine, Israel, Egypt, and Jordan as Washington also seeks to build on the ceasefire, Reuters reports, citing an unnamed source with knowledge of the matter. Blinken will be in Israel and Palestine’s West Bank on Wednesday and Thursday, but it is unclear when he will be in Amman and Cairo. Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa suggests Blinken will land in Egypt on Wednesday before making his way to the other countries on his itinerary (watch, runtime: 6:30).

The US will support Gaza’s reconstruction: In a televised address, President Joe Biden said his country would cooperate with the United Nations to provide “rapid humanitarian assistance” for the reconstruction of Gaza, but “in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal.” Egypt had earlier pledged USD 500 mn in aid to rebuild Gaza, as well as a dedicated account number to receive donations for the Tahya Misr fund’s provision of aid to the strip.

Taking stock of the losses: Israeli airstrikes left some 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, dead and over 1.9k injured. More than 72k Palestinians in Gaza were displaced by the fighting, while some 12 Israelis were reportedly killed, with hundreds others suffering various injuries.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi tweeted his thanks to the US for supporting Egypt’s ceasefire initiative, following a phone call with Biden — their first since the US president took office earlier this year. The two presidents said they want to cooperate more closely in the coming period to address "unprecedented regional and international challenges," according to an Ittihadiya statement. The White House also confirmed that both leaders agreed to “stay closely in touch.”

The successful ceasefire bolstered Egypt’s diplomatic credentials: Egypt’s “unique” role in the ceasefire showcases “its regional relevance and influence to all parties concerned, including the United States,” Michael Hanna, the US program director at the International Crisis Group, told the Associated Press. Political analyst Mustafa Kamel El Sayed said El Sisi had already shown to the US that “he could be an effective actor on the Middle East scene,” the Washington Post reports. The successful mediation has also reaffirmed the expectation that Cairo will continue to be Washington’s go-to ally to troubleshoot any further problems between Israel and Hamas, New York-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations’ Middle East expert Steven Cook tells the Wall Street Journal.

And could help thaw testy Egypt-US relations: Earlier reports suggested that the US could suspend annual military aid to Egypt due to concerns over human rights, but “Egypt’s hand in the truce could shift the narrative in Washington,” analysts told the Washington Post.

Shoukry takes a victory lap: Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry spoke on Friday with his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi, who thanked him for Egypt’s work in mediating the ceasefire. Shoukry had similar calls with the foreign ministers of Bahrain and Norway. Egypt’s role also garnered praise from Europe, which France described as “absolutely key” in stopping the violence, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

SUEZ CANAL

Suez receipts rise in April following Ever Given debacle

Suez Canal revenues rose almost 16% y-o-y in April, coming in at USD 551.5 mn from the USD 476.2 mn recorded during the same month last year, the Suez Canal Authority said in a statement Thursday. The number of ships passing through the Canal also rose by some 4.8% to 1,814 ships, compared to 1,731 during the same month last year, the authority said.

A rebound from a dismal March: The rise in revenues from the Suez Canal — a key source of foreign currency that was already hit hard by the pandemic — came after the Ever Given mega container vessel blocked the waterway for six days at the end of March, causing the government to miss out on an estimated some USD 90 mn in revenues. Receipts fell to USD 439.4 mn during the month from USD 474.1 mn in February.

Receipts hit pre-covid levels at the end of last year: Suez Canal revenues were only fractionally below pre-pandemic levels in 4Q2020, coming in at USD 1.51 bn from USD 1.52 bn in the same period in 2019.

The recovery in receipts comes as an Ismailia court is due to announce two separate verdicts related to the Ever Given today: The first ruling is on the Suez Canal Authority’s (SCA) USD 600 mn compensation claim for the losses incurred by the mega vessel blocking the waterway, while the second is the court’s verdict on Ever Given owner Shoei Kisen’s appeal against the ship’s seizure, Bloomberg reports.

Could things go Shoei Kisen’s way? The ship owner’s lawyers argued at a court hearing yesterday that the SCA was at fault for allowing the ship to enter the canal in the midst of a storm and without tugboats accompanying it through the route, Reuters reports. The lawyers also argued that dislodging the Ever Given from the canal’s banks was part of the SCA’s responsibilities as per their traffic contract, meaning the entire ordeal should not be technically classified as a “salvage operation,” and the SCA should not be seeking compensation. The ship’s black box also reportedly showed the ship’s captain and the SCA’s pilot — who was on board the ship — were at odds over how to steer the ship through the canal, according to Al Shorouk.

STARTUP WATCH

Tays lands seven-figure pre-seed investment

Egyptian networking app Tays has raised a seven-figure pre-seed investment from multiple angel investors, the startup said in a statement (pdf), without disclosing whether the sum is in EGP or USD. The company’s investors include Google Ireland business development manager Karen Sewasa, Re/max Middle East CEO Khaled Nasser, O7 Therapy founder and CEO Ashraf Bcheet, and Ahly Capital facility and procurement director Joseph Hanna. The startup will use the funding to launch its operations in Egypt and the MENA region.

About Tays: Tays connects users based on their professional interests and aspirations through a machine learning algorithm, helping them to grow their professional networks and develop social relationships.

EARNINGS WATCH

CIB net income up 20% in 1Q

Leading private-sector bank CIB’s net income was up 20% y-o-y to EGP 2.87 bn in 1Q2021 compared to EGP 2.4 bn the year before, according to the bank’s earnings statement (pdf). Revenues for the quarter came in at EGP 6.27 bn, a 2% y-o-y dip. An 8% y-o-y decline in net interest income due to the maturities of high yielding bonds was offset by an almost threefold increase in non-interest income to EGP 590 mn. “This quarter witnessed favorable balance sheet growth, especially on the local currency front,” the bank said. “This … contributed broadly to upholding top line performance, amidst declining interest rates and consequent pressure posed on spreads.”

Credit quality looks good, with loan loss provisions slashed by more than 40% from last year, as the economic uncertainties caused by the pandemic dissipated, the bank said. The bank had set aside EGP 702 mn to cover potential losses, down from EGP 1.24 bn in 1Q2020 as concerns over client creditworthiness and the economic environment abated. CIB’s gross loan portfolio grew 2% y-o-y to EGP 138 bn, driven by local-currency loans, while the percentage of non-performing loans on its balance sheet rose to 4.4% from 4% in 1Q2020.

Looking ahead: “Management remains positive that CIB will continue to sustain its profitability and solvency against current and potential macroeconomic variations amid the global pandemic, drawing largely on its resilient coverage and strong balance sheet fundamentals,” the bank said in a press release (pdf).

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ENTERPRISE+: LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

The Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was in the limelight on last night’s talk shows. Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies Deputy Director Maj. Gen. Mohamed Ibrahim El Dewery explained to Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi how Egypt mediated the ceasefire, noting that Cairo’s involvement in the issue began with Israel’s ethnic cleansing campaign in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah before Israel and Hamas began exchanging fire (watch, runtime: 13:41). Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa also recapped the incidents and said that Egypt’s success has received global praise (watch, runtime: 2:07).

What now? Palestine needs to move towards holding legislative elections as soon as possible to set up a strong, united front moving forward, particularly as Israeli airstrikes in Gaza resulted in an “unprecedented” sense of unity among Palestinians, Palestinian politician and activist Mostafa Barghouti said (watch, runtime: 10:29). The ceasefire is a “golden opportunity” for Egypt to leverage its diplomatic momentum to find a permanent solution to the Palestinian crisis, after proving its chops at managing a short-term crisis, Lamees said (watch, runtime: 3:17).

Egypt’s humanitarian aid also got coverage from Al Hayah Al Youm’s Mohamed Sherdy (watch, runtime: 5:05).

Also on the airwaves last night:

  • Health Ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed tried to explain how black fungus — a type of fungal infection — differs from covid-19. The infection is not caused by covid-19, but is more likely to be lethal for individuals recovering from covid-19 and others with weak immune systems, Megahed said. (Ahmed Moussa on Ala Mas’ouleety | watch, runtime: 20:54)
  • Public Enterprises Minister Hisham Tawfik recapped Egypt’s planned production of El Nasr-Dongfeng’s electric vehicles, the first 100 of which will be ready to hit the road by 2022. (Amr Adib on El Hekaya | watch, runtime: 12:15)

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

It’s a pleasantly quiet morning for Egypt in the foreign press, after a weekend that was dominated by coverage of Egypt’s central role in brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Elsewhere, the Financial Times’ How to Spend It series features Italian fashion designer Gioia Bini, who says she wants to visit Egypt again, while Dame Minouche Shafik tells Bloomberg she will be in Egypt soon for a family wedding. And the Grand Egyptian Museum’s potential to inspire archaeological tourism is getting more digital ink, this time in international travel publication Globe Trender.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

The listing of Egyptian Iron and Steel’s mining spinoff edged closer last week after the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) gave the all-clear for the company’s registration and trading on the EGX, the regulator said in a bourse filing (pdf). The EGX is yet to announce a date for when the new company’s shares will be listed. Egyptian Iron and Steel is being liquidated in a two-year process that includes spinning off its mining operations into Iron and Steel for Mines and Quarries.

PLANET FINANCE

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Wall Street was mixed on Friday, with the S&P closing flat to turn in its first back-to-back weekly decline since February, the Nasdaq inching down 0.5% and the Dow advancing 0.4% thanks to a jump in Boeing shares, CNBC reports

BTC chaos ripples across financial markets: A violent week in the crypto markets was felt in other asset classes, raising questions about the potentially destabilizing effects of a huge Bitcoin sell-off, the Financial Times says. As BTC crashed 30% on Wednesday, government bonds and the safe-haven JPY gained, while S&P 500 futures and oil slipped.

This has left some analysts scratching their heads: “The catalyst for these moves appears to have been a sudden rout in BTC,” Rabobank analysts wrote in a note, while adding an important caveat that it “seems hard to conceive of how there can be a direct link between BTC’s gyrations and movements on the part of the global financial market.”

For others, it was very simple: “For people to say BTC shouldn’t influence equity prices on a short-term basis, that’s crazy,” Bloomberg quoted a former Merrill Lynch trader as saying. “We live in a 24/7 market and at least in the short term, it’s run by algorithms and they all trade the same stuff. When you get a negative headline you’re going to see it all sell.”

BTC had another rough day on Friday, after Chinese regulators reiterated their intention to regulate the mining and trading of cryptocurrencies. The price of BTC fell more than 8.5% during the day, leaving it down more than 40% from its peak, according to CNBC. The currency has plummeted 37% since 9 May on comments made by Elon Musk and Beijing’s threat of a crackdown.

Down

EGX30

10,732

-0.7% (YTD: -1.04%)

None

USD (CBE)

Buy 15.63

Sell 15.73

Up

USD at CIB

Buy 15.63

Sell 15.73

None

Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

Down

Tadawul

10,340

-0.3% (YTD: +19.0%)

None

ADX

6,518

– (YTD: +29.2%)

Up

DFM

2,751

+1.5% (YTD: +10.4%)

Down

S&P 500

4,156

-0.1% (YTD: +10.6%)

None

FTSE 100

7,018

– (YTD: +8.6%)

Up

Brent crude

USD 66.44

+2.0%

Down

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 2.91

-0.7%

Down

Gold

USD 1,878.90

-0.3%

Up

BTC

USD 38,048.25

+0.7%

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 fell 0.69% on Thursday on turnover of EGP 1.56 bn (19.5% above the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 1.04% YTD.

In the green: EFG (+2.1%), Crédit Agricole (+1.3%) and Emaar Misr (+1.3%).

In the red: Elsewedy Electric (-4.2%), MM Group (-3.1%) and Fawry (-2.8%).

AROUND THE WORLD

Chevron will restart operations at its Tamar natural gas field in Israel, which supplies natgas to Egypt, after halting operations for over a week, due to the ongoing conflict, Reuters reports.

IN DIPLOMACY- Egypt and Cyprus’ common interests in the Eastern Mediterranean and their cooperation with Greece were on the agenda for President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides during a meeting in Cairo yesterday, according to an Ittihadiya statement.

Cairo + Khartoum flex their military muscles amid GERD tensions: Egypt’s Armed Forces are in Sudan for a joint drill, dubbed “Guardians of the Nile,” to be held from 26 to 31 May, SUNA reports. The exercises come against the backdrop of the ongoing impasse in negotiations over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Egypt previously beefed up its military ties with upstream countries including Uganda and Burundi. The Associated Press took note of the story.

Egypt separately kicked off another two-week joint military exercise with the UAE on Friday dubbed “Zayed 3,” the Egyptian Armed Forces said in a statement. Both sides will exchange military training expertise as well as develop joint combat skills.

ON YOUR WAY OUT

Famed Egyptian actor and comedian Samir Ghanem passed away on Thursday, aged 84, following complications linked to covid-19, the local press reported on Thursday. He had been in hospital care since last week and was laid to rest on Friday. From his famous character “Fatouta” to being member of the stand-up comedy trio Tholathy Adwa'a El Masrah (Trio of Stage Lights) alongside George Sidhom and El Deif Ahmed, Ghanem enjoyed a prodigious career. Spanning six decades, he took part in more than 250 cinema, TV, stage and radio productions. His last public appearance was in Ramadan, when he starred in an ad for local mobile network operator We (watch, runtime: 1:23). Ghanem's wife, Dalal Abdel Aziz, is reportedly also in critical condition due to the virus.

Egyptian businessman Ahmed Bahgat passed away on Friday at the age of 70 due to kidney failure, Masrawy reports. Bahgat rose to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s, building Dreamland (one of Egypt’s first gated communities in Sixth of October) and Dreampark (which was at the time the Middle East’s largest amusement park). He also founded Egypt’s first private satellite TV station, Dream TV, in 2001 building it out into a constellation of entertainment properties.

CALENDAR

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

24-26 May (Monday-Wednesday): British Egyptian Business Association virtual healthcare week.

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.

7 June (Monday): British Egyptian Business Association hosts event featuring Oil Minister Tarek El Molla.

14 June (Monday): The third edition of Egypt’s Green Economy Forum.

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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