Sunday, 24 October 2021

EnterpriseAM — CBE seen leaving rates on hold this Thursday



Good morning, friends, and welcome to a packed issue to start this last full week of October. You can expect lots more newsflow this week: Market watchers are digesting e-Finance’s IPO (and hoping for others to declare their 2022 IPO intentions). The kinks in the global supply chain are getting worse and worse, helping drive inflation in tandem with the global energy crunch. Everyone’s attention is turning to Glasgow, which will host the high-profile COP 26 global climate summit next week. And, of course, we have the Central Bank of Egypt meeting on Thursday to review interest rates.

And that’s just the beginning.

HAPPENING TODAY- EU Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi in in town today for Cairo Water Week and is expected to address climate and environmental issues, the circular economy and clean energy transition, healthcare, digital economy, migration, and other issues on which the EU and Egypt can cooperate, according to a press statement (pdf). Cairo Water Week begins today and will wrap this Thursday, 28 October.

Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty met with water ministers from Iraq, South Sudan, Uganda, and Burundi yesterday, as well World Water Council President Loïc Fauchon ahead of the event, according to a ministry statement.

On a related note: The European Investment Bank (EIB) will hold a seminar on financing water infrastructure (pdf) on Tuesday, 26 October at the Nile Ritz Carlton. Held in partnership with the France’s AFD and Germany’s KfW as part of Cairo Water Week, the session will discuss Egypt’s 20-year water resources plan and how we can obtain finance for desalination and other water projects. Attend in person or online (online registration details here | agenda here (pdf).

AUC is holding a series of panel discussions this afternoon to mark the inauguration of Ahmed Dallal as the university’s new president. Three panel sessions will include discussions of climate change, migration and AI, according to a statement (pdf) out last week. Dallal is replacing outgoing president Francis Ricciardone, who stepped down at the end of June.

It’s the final day of Le Marché, the Cairo Furniture Show, the MENA region’s largest furniture, material and home accessories exhibition.

A high-level delegation of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development arrived in town yesterday to meet with government officials and visit projects. The delegation will be here through Thursday.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD this morning: Saudi Arabia says it will hit net carbon zero by 2060, making the pledge of the COP 26 global climate summit that gets underway in the UK next week. The story leads the front pages of the Financial Times and Bloomberg and is getting ink from the Wall Street Journal as well. It’s going to be a bad week for Facebook, which leads the front pages of the Journal and the New York Times with the suggestion that its services are being used to “spread religious hatred in India.” Other news outlets are piling into the Facebook Papers leak and the company also expected to rebrand this week.

The guy in Ankara is REALLY bent on alienating everyone: “Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he had told his foreign ministry to expel the ambassadors of the United States and nine other Western countries for demanding the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala,” according to Reuters. Look for the ambassadors of Canada, France and Germany, among others, to get the boot, the newswire suggests.

MARKET WATCH- Remember that “transient” inflationary pressure? Well… US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has walked back the Fed’s insistence that inflationary pressure in the US is temporary, saying on Friday that supply chain woes pushing prices higher are “likely to last … well into next year.” The Fed now expects to begin tapering off its crisis-era bond buying program soon, Powell said, reversing the ultra-loose policy that some say has been the culprit behind runaway inflation.

Inflation is spiraling out of control primarily due to a squeeze in supply chains, with widespread shortages owing to a global shipping crisis, according to the the Financial Times, which writes that there is “pressure on every link” from factory closures earlier in the covid-19 outbreak to difficulty finding workers and overwhelmed seaports.

What the chattering class is saying: Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey tweeted yesterday that “Hyperinflation is going to change everything. It’s happening.” The New York Times, meanwhile, confesses that until very recently it didn’t even have a logistics beat. Its primer How the supply chain broke, and why it won’t be fixed anytime soon, is worth a read. So, too, is this excellent thread from Flexport CEO Ryan Peterson.


Fall conference season is still going strong. Among the exhibitions and business events here and throughout the region:

  • The two-day Intelligent Cities Exhibition & Conference takes place this Wednesday and Thursday, 27 and 28 October.
  • The Middle East Angel Investment Network’s Angel Oasis runs from Wednesday to Friday in El Gouna, with separate pricing for in-person and virtual attendance.

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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ENTERPRISE POLL- CBE to keep rates on hold this Thursday

ENTERPRISE POLL- The Central Bank of Egypt will likely leave interest rates on hold when it meets this Thursday as it keeps an eye on rising inflation. All 12 economists and analysts we surveyed for our regular interest rate poll think the CBE will maintain its cautious approach for an eighth consecutive meeting. Policymakers expect continued upward pressure on prices locally and globally inflation — and are also keeping an eye on the US Federal Reserve. If it starts unwinding its stimulus program, that could have an impact on the appeal of emerging market debt to foreign investors.

Where rates currently stand: The overnight deposit rate is at 8.25%, the lending rate at 9.25% and the main operation and discount rates are at 8.75%. The central bank slashed rates by 400 bps last year, including an emergency 300 bps cut in March, to protect the economy from the fallout from covid-19. It has since maintained rates for seven consecutive meetings, including its most recent in September, amid concerns about an increase in inflation.

Inflation is still center-stage: The annual urban headline rate hit a 20-month high of 6.6% last month after inching up to 5.7% in August and 5.4% in July. This came on the back of increasing food, healthcare and education costs. The overall rate in both urban and rural areas, meanwhile, rose to 8% in September from 6.4% a month earlier. “Rising international prices of oil and other commodities impose significant inflationary pressures domestically, especially in light of recent official announcements of the government's intention to reduce its subsidy bill,” HC Securities’ Monette Doss told us.

Inflation looks set to stay strong going forward: “September’s [inflation] reading did surprise on the upside,” said James Swanston, MENA economist at Capital Economics, who forecast that inflation will continue to inch up over the next few months, particularly after a fuel price hike pushes up transport costs. Swanston, however, sees inflation here at home dropping back to the lower bound of the CBE’s target range towards the middle of 2022, which would give policymakers room to resume the easing cycle. “We think the overnight deposit rate will be reduced by a total of 150bps, taking it to 6.75%, by the end of 2023,” Swanston said.

Protecting foreign inflows: With interest rates globally on an upward trajectory, policymakers need to ensure fixed-income securities remain attractive to foreigners, supporting unchanged policy rates, Beltone’s Alia Mamdouh said. “Egypt’s structurally-high financing needs at a time of growing risk of tightening global conditions will keep the monetary authorities cautious,” said Prime Holding’s Mona Bedeir.

Egyptian debt currently offers some of the highest real interest rates in the world, a fact that has kept foreign inflows high and contributed to stability in the EGP to USD exchange rate. Foreign holdings of Egyptian domestic debt rose to USD 33 bn at the beginning of August as the country’s real interest rate kept yield-hungry investors buying into the local’ market. Inflows have surged by some USD 23 bn since the emerging-market sell-off triggered by the pandemic last year, during which holdings of EGP bonds slumped.

Fed policy is already “priced in”: CI Capital’s Sara Saada, meanwhile, says that the downside risk of the Fed tapering its massive bond buying program, expected as early as the end of this year, has already been “priced in” by markets, which means the CBE is likely to only have been looking at inflation this time around. Pharos’ Radwa El Swaify puts it slightly differently, saying that should foreigners shy away from Egyptian debt, it would mean there is a large-scale exodus from emerging-market bonds. The Fed’s repeated assurances that US interest rate hikes are unlikely in the imminent future has relieved pressure on EM treasuries and maintained the appeal of our carry trade — for now.

Could the CBE possibly hike interest rates if inflation remains at record levels? El Swaify rules this out. “It will be the last resort” since such a policy u-turn to alleviate inflationary pressures will have many negative effects including raising the government’s debt servicing bill and putting a lid on private investment and economic growth. El Swaify says that the CBE could still, however, be forced to hike rates if the EGP or foreign portfolio investment take a slide.

The current account deficit is also not helping: Don’t expect the central bank to relax its monetary policy stance in the short term, thanks to both inflationary pressure and a “sizable” current account deficit,” Renaissance Capital said in a research note on Wednesday. The investment bank, however, sees the deficit narrowing to 4% of GDP by the end of the current fiscal year next June, from 4.8% in FY 2020-2021.

And a cut might not be the best way to curb supply-driven inflation, said Arqaam Capital’s Noaman Khalid, with raising interest rates primarily being used as a tool to curb demand. The MPC will face a difficult balancing act in its next two meetings before the end of the year, Khalid said, as monetary policy tightening could raise the cost of borrowing for companies, and ultimately drive up end-prices for consumers.

Interest rates could be on hold until the end of the year, at the very least: Policymakers are likely to maintain current levels to avoid inflation falling above the CBE’s target range, which sees the headline figure at 7% (+/-2%), says EFG Hermes’ Mohamed Abou Basha. Mubasher’s Mohamed Magdy, meanwhile, sees interest rates unchanged until the end of the fiscal year on 30 June, ruling out both a rate hike and cut, as the CBE seeks to maintain the pace of economic recovery — and as inflation remains high.

A number of emerging market central banks have already moved to tighten monetary policy in recent months, with Russia delivering its sixth consecutive interest rate hike just this Friday, raising its key policy rate by 75 basis points to 7.5% in a bid to curb rising inflation. Brazil is also facing increasing pressures to raise rates this week, even after a record 425 bps in hikes this year.


e-Finance shares soar 50% in EGX debut, company looks to M&A, launch of e-health platform

e-Finance shares jump 50% in EGX debut: Shares in state-owned fintech platform and payment infrastructure provider e-Finance jumped 50% in their trading debut on the EGX last Wednesday. Trading under the ticker EFIH, the company rose as much as 79% to EGP 25 per share during the session before closing at EGP 21, giving it a market cap of EGP 33.6 bn (USD 2.1 bn). The transaction was the largest IPO in Egypt since 2015.

The IPO saw significant pent-up demand from institutional and retail investors alike: The company raised some EGP 5.8 bn (c.USD 370 mn) in the IPO, selling a 23.5% stake to institutional investors amid high demand that saw the private placement close 6.8x oversubscribed. The smaller retail offering was 61.4x oversubscribed when it closed on 17 October.

Color on the book: Foreign investors accounted for around 72% of the allocation after having “attracted significant demand from international emerging market and fintech investors, as well as GCC and domestic institutional and retail investors,” said Renaissance Capital’s North Africa CEO Amr Helal.

Watch this space? “EFIH looks to be Egypt’s ‘hottest’ issue so far,” Prime Securities said in a note ahead of Wednesday’s trading session, adding that “it only remains to be seen how it will perform in the coming few weeks and months.”

Advisors: Renaissance Capital, CI Capital and Al Ahly Pharos are quarterbacking the transaction as co-lead managers. NI Capital is acting as the IPO advisor for the listing. Zaki Hashem & Partners has been appointed as counsel to e-Finance, while Norton Rose Fulbright is acting as US counsel to the co-lead managers. Inktank is the investor relations advisor.

More IPOs in the wings? e-Finance’s offering “will undoubtedly pave the way for additional offerings on the EGX,” said Helal, including from the state privatization program, which has been pause since tobacco maker Eastern Company’s secondary stake sale in March 2019. e-Finance is the first of five state-owned companies that could hit the bourse before the end of the current fiscal year in June, with one possibly offering shares before the year is out. Candidates include El Mahalla Spinning and Weaving Company’s Ghazl El Mahalla sports club and Banque du Caire. Macro Pharma also has plans to list, having made a last-minute u-turn on its IPO in April, while the parent company of healthy foods brand Abu Auf is considering floating 49% of its shares on the exchange.

The IPO was good for the EGX, too: The EGX30 dipped on Tuesday and Wednesday but still settled up 2.6% YTD, having risen for ten consecutive days in anticipation of the IPO. The benchmark index was down 4.4% YTD preceding the October rally.

What next for e-Finance? Some of the proceeds from the transaction are earmarked for infrastructure, transportation, ins. and tourism projects in Egypt, as well as expansion plans in Arab and African countries over the next 18 months. Two acquisitions are also in the pipeline, Sarhan told reporters last week. See coverage in Hapi Journal | Al Mal | Reuters | Bloomberg. You can also check out e-Finance’s investor relations microsite here.

Plus EGP 100 mn for eHealth: The company’s newly-launched digital healthcare service platform — which will manage and operate the tech backbone of the government’s universal healthcare scheme — will launch with paid-in capital of EGP 100 mn, partially using funds raised through the IPO, Sarhan confirmed to Enterprise yesterday.


Egyptian economy to grow 5.1% this fiscal year -Reuters poll

Growth of the Egyptian economy will continue to accelerate in FY 2021-2022, expanding at a 5.1% clip before climbing to 5.5% in the following two years as the country continues to recover from the covid-19 pandemic, according to a Reuters poll of analysts. The economy grew 3.3% in FY 2020-2021, according to preliminary figures released last month.

This is slightly below government estimates, which see GDP clocking in at 5.4% by the end of the fiscal year in June 2022. A similar Reuters poll in July predicted 5% growth during the year, while the IMF recently said it expects Egypt to grow 5.2%. That’s down 0.5 percentage points from its 5.7% forecast in April.

Growth in the third and fourth quarters of 2021 will likely fall to “low single digits” due to the base effect, Renaissance Capital said in a note last week. Annual GDP growth came in at 7.7% during 4Q FY 2020-2021 versus -1.7% in the same period a year earlier.

An unbalanced recovery? Economic growth in the second quarter was fuelled by the hospitality sector, which RenCap said accounted for almost 60% of output. Activity in the sector increased fivefold from the same quarter last year, when the government’s lockdown measures brought travel to a halt. Meanwhile, other sectors grew at a more “pedestrian” pace, “implying the economy is still weak,” RenCap said. Manufacturing — Egypt’s biggest economic sector — grew 15.9% y-o-y and extractives were up 6.5%.

Tourism is improving: Central bank data showed earlier this month that tourism revenues rose to USD 1.75 bn during the final quarter of FY 2020-2021, up from USD 1.3 bn in 3Q and USD 305 mn in 4Q FY 2019-2020.

“We expect consumption growth to pick up from a low base post-COVID and public investment to remain strong this year … What will be critical to see is if this growth is sustained in 2022/23, by when the pandemic effects should hopefully subside substantially,” Allen Sandeep of Naeem Brokerage told Reuters.

Inflation to inch up over next three years: Annual urban inflation will average 6% during FY 2021-2022 before climbing to 6.4% in FY 2022-2023 and 7.0% in FY 2023-2024, according to the poll. Rising food and energy prices has been driving up the headline rate of inflation in recent months, hitting a 20-month high of 6.6% in September from 5.7% in August. RenCap has also revised upwards its inflation forecast, now pencilling in 6.5% by the end of the current fiscal year from 5.6% previously.


Fitch Ratings affirms Egypt’s long-term FX issuer default rating at B+; outlook stable

Fitch Ratings affirmed Egypt’s long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating (IDR) at ‘B+’ with a stable outlook on Wednesday. The rating is supported by Egypt’s “recent track record of fiscal and economic reforms,” coupled with its large economy, which has remained stable and resilient through the global health crisis, as “continued economic growth and a modest coronavirus support package limit the pandemic’s impact on Egypt’s public finances.” Weighing on the rating is the country’s “still-large fiscal deficits, high government debt-to-GDP and domestic and regional security and political risks.”

Fitch expects the fiscal deficit to narrow by the end of FY 2021-2022 with government tax revenues rising. The introduction of the new Customs Law and the modernization of the tax system through the digital tax platform, which will help the government increase tax revenue-to-GDP by two percentage points over the next four years. The deficit is expected to have widened to 7.5% of GDP during the previous fiscal year from 7.0% in FY 2019-2020 and 7.9% in FY 2018-2019.

Government debt levels remain a “core weakness” but debt-to-GDP will begin to fall during the current fiscal year, the ratings agency said. Debt rose from 84% of GDP in FY 2018-2019 to an estimated 88% in FY 2019-2020 and FY 2020-2021, but is expected to fall back to 86% by the end of this year in June 2022 due to accelerating growth and continued primary surpluses.

Egypt’s GDP “outperformed the vast majority of Fitch-rated sovereigns throughout the coronavirus pandemic,” on the back of domestic demand, natural gas production and new public-sector investment amid declining tourism and export revenues, Fitch said. Private sector credit growth, which grew from 20% in FY2019-2020 to 21% in FY2020-2021, also helped bolster economic growth. Real GDP is expected to increase to 5.5% by FY 2022-2023 as global economic and travel conditions normalize from the pandemic.

One of the biggest threats to Egypt’s fiscal stability: changing global monetary conditions. Foreign holdings of government debt reached nearly USD 34 bn last month, having increased from less than USD 10 bn in the wake of the covid market crash, but Fitch warns that inflows “could reverse in response to any confidence shock or shift in global liquidity conditions, putting pressure on foreign exchange liquidity, interest rates and the exchange rate.” On the plus side, Egypt’s inclusion in the JPMorgan GBI-EM bond index starting January of next year and the settlement of Egyptian bonds by Euroclear, which is expected to happen later in 2022, will both provide “some structural support” to foreign demand for EGP bonds. Finance Minister Mohamed Maait has estimated that inclusion in the JPM index will result in passive inflows of about USD 1 bn.


We just got another 1.4 mn Pfizer doses from the US

Egypt received 1.4 mn doses of Pfizer’s covid-19 vaccine from the US on Friday under the Gavi / Covax program, the US State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs said on Twitter.

We’ve now received 4.6 mn of the 5 mn Pfizer doses that the US is gifting to Egypt. Last week’s delivery follows two shipments of 1.6 mn doses earlier this month. The US has gifted Egypt a combined 8 mn doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA jabs.

And 1 mn Johnson & Johnson jabs are coming our way on Monday: We’re also set to receive just over 1 mn doses of one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccines tomorrow, Youm7 reported, citing a Health Ministry statement. This is the third batch of J&J vaccines to reach our shores. The vaccines are being sent primarily to travel vaccine centers for those needing to travel abroad.

Are we approaching the peak of the fourth wave? The Health Ministry reported 881 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down fractionally from 885 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 323,733 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 47 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 18,242.


Hotels can now operate at full capacity for the first time in 18 months

Egyptian hotels are now allowed to operate at full capacity for the first time in 18 months after the government lifted covid restrictions introduced in March 2020, according to a decision cited by state media.

Hotels have been operating at 70% capacity since July, when the government eased the 50% limit imposed since June 2020.

This is the first time since March 2020 that hotels have been allowed to operate without an occupancy cap. In the wake of the initial wave of the virus last year, hotels were banned from opening their doors until they implemented new health and safety standards to prevent the spread of the virus. After acquiring the certificate, hotels were only allowed to operate at a 25% occupancy rate until the government raised the limit to 50% in late June.

The decision could have a knock-on effect for Egypt’s tourism sector, which the government hopes will bring in between USD 6-9 bn this year as the global vaccine rollout helps to normalize international travel and visitors return to Egypt. Around 3.5 mn tourists visited the country during the first six months of the year, which is almost the same amount of people who visited Egypt in the whole of last year.

OTHER TOURISM NEWS- Egypt could soon see an increase in German tourism, after representatives of German tour operator FTI Group — in which businessman Samih Sawiris holds a majority stake — told Al Shorouk that the company expected a surge in tourists from the country to Egypt this winter after the lifting of German travel restrictions. Ali Okda, CEO of the company’s local agent, Meeting Point Egypt, said German tourist numbers are expected to hit their pre-covid levels by the end of the summer of 2022.

And Italy could follow suit: A charter flight carrying 150 Italian tourists landed in Marsa Alam Airport Saturday, the first time an Italian flight has landed directly in the Red Sea resort since the start of the pandemic.


Egypt wants to quadruple desalination capacity in 5 years through private sector tenders

Desalination nation: Egypt’s sovereign wealth fund has issued tenders for private companies to build 17 solar-powered desalination plants, part of a USD 2.5 bn plan to quadruple our desalination capacity in the next five years, fund chief executive Ayman Soliman told Reuters on Thursday.

The bid process is already underway and investor appetite is strong for the 25-year concessions, according to Soliman. The agreements will see private firms hire their own contractors to build the plants, which will run on high-yield renewables. “We’ve already solicited offers. What’s happening is a combination between a competitive process and a limited negotiation process,” he said. “We’ve received offers to build whatever capacity we need. There is investor appetite to build three times as much.” EBRD and the IFC will give technical support and advise on the bidding, Soliman previously told Bloomberg, adding that the fund aims to take a minority stake in the plants in partnership with the concession holders.

The government will in effect subsidize the new concessions by guaranteeing to buy the treated water, before selling it on to domestic and industrial consumers at a heavy discount, Soliman told the wire service without giving an estimate of the total cost of the subsidy. The incentive aims to encourage a move away from Nile water, which is cheap but scarce, as well as from more expensive and polluting desalination methods powered by fossil fuels. “If you live in a compound, you’re talking about EGP 13 to 18 per cubic meter, while the government tariffs are a tenth of that. There is a massive subsidy that is being built in,” he said.

Quadrupling capacity by green means: The new plants are initially planned to produce a combined 2.8 mn cubic meters of desalinated water per day, and double that figure in the long term. Current national capacity stands at around 800k cubic meters per day across several dozen plants, while the goal is to boost capacity to 6.4 mn cubic meters by 2050, the sovereign fund told Reuters. The fund plans to deploy renewable energies, economies of scale, and new financing tools including green finance in its aim to reduce the cost of desalinated water by 20-25% from a current USD 1k per cubic meter, Soliman added.


CIRA, Al Ahly Capital to launch EGP 2 bn educational investment platform

CIRA, Al Ahly Capital to launch EGP 2 bn education investment company: Cairo for Investment and Real Estate Development (CIRA) and Al Ahly Capital Holding (the investment arm of state-owned NBE) have agreed to launch a new company to invest in middle-income education providers, according to a joint statement (pdf) out yesterday. Al Ahly CIRA for Educational Services will launch with initial capital of EGP 2 bn, CIRA CEO Mohamed El Kalla told us yesterday, which the two companies say makes it the largest public-private education partnership in the country.

The platform will establish Egypt’s first private technology university, Cairo Saxony University for Applied Sciences and Technologies. The full EGP 2 bn will be deployed towards Cairo Saxony, which will specialize in technology and applied education and is set to start operations in September of 2023, the statement said.

The post-Saxony pipeline: Al Ahly CIRA will be focused on M&As and is in discussions for a couple of greenfield projects, El Kalla said, without disclosing further details. The company will make an announcement regarding its future investment plans within the next six months, he added.

Advisors: Our friends at ALC Alieldean Weshahi & Partners were legal counsel to Al Ahly Capital on the transaction and Zulficar & Partners represented CIRA.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on 25 October to add the fact that Zulficar represented CIRA in the matter.


Egypt, Israel in talks about USD 200 mn gas pipeline

Egypt and Israel are considering connecting their gas grids through a new USD 200 mn onshore pipeline that would run through North Sinai, the Israeli energy ministry said in a statement to Reuters on Thursday. The pipeline, which will be owned by Israel Natural Gas Lines, could be operational within two years and is expected to boost exports by 3-5 bn cubic meters (bcm) annually, the newswire reported, citing industry sources.

One of several options: “Israel and Egypt are holding talks on possible cooperation in the supply of natural gas. One of the options being studied, following a request by Egypt for further natural gas supplies, is an onshore gas pipeline,” the ministry said.

The pipeline could eventually boost supplies to Europe, where supply shortages and a surge in demand have resulted in soaring gas prices.

Egypt became a major importer of Israeli gas in 2020 under a USD 19.5 bn agreement inked by the two countries in 2019 that will see the country purchase 85.3 bcm of gas by 2034.

The Sinai pipeline would not affect plans to lay a second subsea pipeline that could double Israel’s gas exports to Egypt, the sources said. Israel gas firm Delek Drilling in January announced plans to establish a new USD 235 mn Mediterranean pipeline, which Israel’s energy minister said could have an annual capacity of 10 bcm.


The US has promised not to penalize Egypt for shipping natural gas to Lebanon through Syrian territory, Lebanon’s energy minister said on Wednesday, according to Reuters. Cairo last month agreed to send emergency shipments of gas to Lebanon, which is experiencing crippling power shortages brought about by a devastating economic and financial crisis. The gas will be sent through a pipeline crossing Syria, which could have exposed the Egyptian government to sanctions under Washington’s Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Law, legislation introduced last year to deter countries from doing business with the Assad government.



Talk shows were quieter than usual last night: Ahmed Moussa’s interview with Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty to talk GERD and Amr Adib’s phone call with Feathers director Omar El Zohairy were among the highlights.

Still no news on GERD: Egypt’s negotiations with Ethiopia to resolve the GERD dispute are still on hold until further notice, Abdel Aty told Moussa (watch, runtime: 5:35). Separately, Moussa slammed Algeria’s foreign minister, Ramtane Lamamra, for statements yesterday to RT Arabic that GERD politics are complicated and make a resolution difficult (watch, runtime: 5:44).

Omar El Zohairy, the award-winning Feathers director, meanwhile phoned into El Hekaya for his first televised statement since his decorated movie received patriotic backlash for its depiction of an impoverished family in Egypt (watch, runtime: 10:11). El Zohairy’s surrealist drama, which was awarded the Nespresso Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival last summer, still took home the award for best Arab narrative film at El Gouna Film Festival despite some celebrities walking away from its screening last week.


Leading the conversation in the foreign press this morning: Customs officials last week “detained” British-built robot Ai-Da for 10 days. The Guardian suggested the robot’s entry was blocked for reasons that “may include concerns that she is part of a wider espionage plot.” Ai-Da, an abstract robo-artist which uses its robotic arm and cameras to create digital artwork, is visiting Egypt as part of Art D’Egypte’s contemporary art exhibition Forever is Now at the pyramids. The robot was held for 10 days on arrival at Cairo International Airport. Ai-Da’s art will be showcased in its solo exhibition at the Cairo International Art District starting today and will continue to run until Wednesday. The story is getting wide play: BBC | The Guardian | Washington Post | The National | Times of Israel.

Last week’s swearing in of the first 98 women judges to the Council of State (Maglis El Dawla) also received international attention. The “historic” move — which was put in motion after President Abdel Fattah El Sisi issued orders back in March to bring women into Maglis El Dawla and the Supreme Judicial Council — came in for praise, though some noted that there’s still a long way to go to reach equality before the law. ABC News and The New York Times had coverage.

MEANWHILE: Egypt’s vaccine mandate for government workers and university students is getting attention in the New York Times while Reuters notes that the tide has turned in favour of the Armed Forces in Egypt’s battle with terrorists in Sinai.


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French express parcel player acquires 20% of Aramex: Geopost, the express parcel arm of France’s Groupe La Poste, acquired 20.2% of Dubai-listed Aramex for USD 381.2 mn, according to Reuters. The French company purchased a total of 295 mn shares in Aramex.




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The EGX30 fell 0.6% at Wednesday’s close on turnover of EGP 4.78 bn (68.8% above the 90-day average). Local investors were net buyers. The index is up 2.64% YTD.

In the green: Misr Fertilizers Production Company (+5.8%), Speed Medical (+5.0%) and Ezz Steel (+3.2%).

In the red: Gadwa for Industrial Development (-5.0%), MM Group (-4.3%) and Rameda Pharma (-3.5%).


The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is committed to supporting the Egyptian private and public sectors as the two sides begin preparations for the new country strategy, Vice President for Banking Alain Pilloux told PM Mostafa Madbouly and International Cooperation Minister Rania Al Mashat during a meeting last week, the cabinet said in a couple of statements on Wednesday (here and here).

Egypt, Qatar talk economic cooperation: Economic ties and investment were the topics of conversation in a meeting yesterday between Trade Minister Nevine Gamea and Qatar’s ambassador to Egypt Salem Mubarak Al Shafi on Friday, Gamea’s ministry said in a statement. Al Shafi assumed his post last August after Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE ended their four-year blockage of Qatar.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama met with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to discusss regional issues and bilateral cooperation against terrorism and extremism, accorsing to an Ittihadiya statement. Separately, Rama also discussed cooperation on tourism, trade, energy, and other issues with Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, according to a cabinet statement.


G7 enshrines free flow of data in new Digital Trade Principles: G7 countries have agreed on a set of principles to govern data protection in cross-border digital trade, which were published by the British government following a meeting between the seven rich nations on Friday. The agreement could unlock USD hundreds of bns worth of international e-commerce by unifying divergent policies between countries, Reuters reported.

“Data should be able to flow freely across borders with trust,” read the agreement, which aims to reduce costly compliance barriers to SMEs while also protecting digital privacy, security and intellectual property. The new rules set out a middle path between the EU’s strict data protection laws and the laxer approach taken by the US, according to the newswire.

Swedish telecom company Ericsson has been accused of violating the terms of its USD 1.06 bn settlement agreement over allegations of bribery in five countries, according to a company statement. The company had struck an agreement with the Justice Department in 2019 in response to allegations of bribery in the company’s branches in Djibouti, China, Vietnam, Kuwait and Indonesia. At the time, the company’s Egyptian subsidiary also pled guilty to a “related bribery conspiracy charge.”


Mid-October: The Egyptian Banking Institute, the Financial Services Institute, and I-Score will begin airing in mid-October the Digital Credit Scoring Webinar Series, a line-up of webinars on the banking sector and banking regulations.

21-24 October (Thursday-Sunday): The Cairo International Furniture Show, Le Marche, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

23-28 October (Saturday-Thursday): A high-level delegation of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will visit Egypt to meet with government officials and travel to IFAD-supported projects in the country.

24-28 October (Sunday-Thursday): Cairo Water Week, Cairo, Egypt.

26 October (Tuesday): EIB seminar (pdf) on water project financing in Egypt. Nile Ritz Carlton, Cairo.

27-28 October (Wednesday-Thursday): Intelligent Cities Exhibition & Conference, Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski, Cairo, Egypt.

28 October (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

28 October (Thursday): Second tranche of overdue subsidy payouts will be handed to eligible exporters.

30 October – 4 November (Saturday-Thursday): The first edition of Race The Legends, Egypt.

30-31 October (Saturday-Sunday): G20 Leaders’ Summit, Rome, Italy.

31 October (Saturday): World Cities Day, Luxor, Egypt.

November: The French-Egyptian Business Forum is set to take place in the Suez Canal Economic Zone.

November: Egypt will host another round of talks to reach a potential Egyptian-Eurasian trade agreement, which can significantly contribute to increasing the volume of Egyptian exports to the Russia-led bloc that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

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.

2-3 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): The Federal Reserve meets to review interest rates.

7-10 November (Sunday-Wednesday): Cairo ICT 2021, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo.

15-21 November (Monday-Sunday): Intra-African Trade Fair 2021, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

16-17 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): Africa fintech summit, Cairo.

25-27 November (Thursday-Saturday): RiseUp Summit, Cairo, Egypt.

26 November-5 December (Friday-Sunday): The 43rd Cairo International Film Festival.

29 November-2 December (Monday-Thursday): Egypt Defense Expo, Egypt International Exhibition Centre.

7-8 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): North Africa Trade Finance Summit.

8-10 December (Wednesday-Thursday): Global Forum for Higher Education and Scientific Research (GFHS), Cairo, Egypt.

12-14 December (Sunday-Tuesday): Food Africa Cairo trade exhibition, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

13-17 December: United Nations Convention against Corruption, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

14-19 December (Tuesday-Sunday): The Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theater.

14-15 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): The Federal Reserve meets to review interest rates.

15 December (Wednesday): Deadline for joint stock companies and investment companies in Cairo to join e-invoicing platform.

16 December (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

1Q2022: Launch of the Egyptian Commodities Exchange.

7 January 2022 (Friday): Coptic Christmas.

27 January 2022 (Tuesday): National holiday in observance of 25 January revolution anniversary / Police Day.

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

19 February 2022 (Saturday): Public universities begin the second term of the 2021-2022 academic year.

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

2 April 2022 (Saturday): First day of Ramadan (TBC).

22-24 April 2022 (Friday-Sunday): World Bank-IMF spring meeting, Washington D.C.

24 April 2022 (Sunday): Coptic Easter Sunday (holiday for Coptic Christians).

25 April 2022 (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

25 April 2022 (Monday): Sinai Liberation Day.

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

2 May 2022 (Monday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

16 June 2022 (Thursday): End of 2021-2022 academic year for public schools.

27 June-3 July 2022 (Monday-Sunday): World University Squash Championships, New Giza.

30 June 2022 (Thursday): June 30 Revolution Day, national holiday.

2H2022: IEF-IGU Ministerial Gas Forum, Egypt. Date + location TBA.

8 July (Friday): Arafat Day.

9-13 July (Saturday-Wednesday): Eid Al Adha, national holiday.

30 July (Saturday): Islamic New Year.

6 October (Thursday): Armed Forces Day, national holiday.

8 October (Saturday): Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.

18-20 October 2022 (Tuesday-Thursday): Mediterranean Offshore Conference, Alexandria, Egypt.

**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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