Wednesday, 15 December 2021

AM — Aldar and SODIC are hitched. Plus: The latest on the brouhaha in the House over taxes.

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, wonderful people, and welcome to yet another busy December morning. We have a ton of news to get through today, so let’s jump right in with a quick tax update from our elected representatives:

The House of Representatives is going on a short recess until after Western Christmas, with plenary sessions suspended until Sunday, 26 December, according to Al Shorouk.

Before their two-week break, MPs gave final approval to amendments to the VAT Act that had been laid out in a report (pdf) by the House’s planning and budgeting, economic affairs, and legislative and constitutional committees. The full text of the bill has yet to be released.

What we know so far: The changes impose the 14% value-added tax on fully-finished “broadcast” advertisements, replacing the 20% stamp tax to which they were previously subject. The measure defines “broadcast” ads as advertisements on TV, radio, outdoor billboards and the interwebs. VAT is collected and remitted by the seller, whereas it is presently the buyer’s responsibility to remit the 20% stamp tax on any ad they purchased. The measures also make goods and services from special economic zones (SEZ) VAT-exempt, affording projects set up in SEZs the same tax treatment as those in freezones.

What we don’t know: The fate of the so-called sugar tax, which would impose the 14% VAT on crackers and sweet pastries, instead of the current 5% schedule tax.

NOT PASSED yesterday: A barrel of new taxes and development fees the Madbouly cabinet had proposed earlier in the week. The proposal caused a ruckus in the House and led House Speaker Hanafi El Gebali decided yesterday to push the vote until after MPs return from recess on Boxing Day. Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa took note of the story last night (watch, runtime: 38:17).

^^ We’ll have the full details on the bill in tomorrow’s edition of EnterpriseAM.


MEANWHILE- It’s day two of a closely watched Fed meeting, with analysts waiting to parse Jay Powell’s statement later today for signs of whether and when the US Federal Reserve will start to taper its stimulus program — and when it might raise interest rates.

ALSO- The IMF is nudging the Bank of England (BoE) to raise rates at its upcoming meeting in light of spiraling inflation, which the international lender sees rising well above the bank’s 2% target to 5.5% by early next year, the Financial Times reports. A tight labor market coupled with uncertainty over Omicron’s impact on economic growth could allow inflation to continue to rise, the IMF warned.

REMINDER- Tomorrow is Egypt’s final interest rate day of 2021: All 11 economists and analysts we surveyed in our Enterprise Rate Poll expect the Central Bank of Egypt’s MonetaryPolicy Committee to leave interest rates unchanged when it meets this Thursday for its final gathering of the year. The still-unfolding situation with the Omicron variant is giving policymakers everywhere pause and a lower-than-expected November inflation reading could give the MPC some breathing room.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD– It’s all Omicron, all the time. The Financial Times is leading with a report claiming that while Pfizer’s jab provides poor protection against the Omicron variant, it does give 70% protection against hospitalization for those who become infected. The salmon-colored paper also has a good explainer on why covid boosters seem to provide good protection against Omicron. The New York Times and Bloomberg also have Omicron above the first scroll, while the Globe and Mail reports that Canada could impose a ban on entry for non-nationals who aren’t travelling for an “essential purpose.”

ALSO- DC standing up for Muslim rights in China: The US House of Representatives has passed a bill that would ban imports from China’s Xinjiang region as part of what Reuters says is”part of Washington's continued pushback against Beijing's treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority.” Axios is also leading with the story.

MARKET WATCH-

The US Senate voted to raise the government’s borrowing limit by USD 2.5 tn, in a last-minute effort to avert default, the Wall Street Journal reports The Senate shipped the bill to the House for final approval. The move would help the government avoid a stand-off between Republicans and Democrats over the debt ceiling until after next year’s midterm elections. US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen has been raising alarms that the government is at risk of default for weeks, prompting Republicans to concede to a one-time rule change allowing Democrats to raise the debt ceiling should the majority vote accordingly.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

The UN Convention Against Corruption in Sharm El Sheikh is on its third day today. The event wraps this coming Friday, 17 December.

The Arab Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Aswan is underway and runs until tomorrow.

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

enterprise

*** It’s Hardhat day — your weekly briefing of all things infrastructure in Egypt: Enterprise’s industry vertical focuses each Wednesday on infrastructure, covering everything from energy, water, transportation, and urban development as well as social infrastructure such as health and education.

In today’s issue: We look at the current state of play of the Light Rail Train (LRT), which will run from El Salam to the 10th of Ramadan via the new administrative capital. The LRT is slated for inauguration next year and is expected to help bolster development in certain governorates in the country.

enterprise

M&A WATCH

Now make it official

The Aldar / ADQ consortium and SODIC are now hitched: The Emirati consortium of real estate giant Aldar Properties and Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund ADQ officially took ownership of 85.5% of SODIC’s shares after the acquisition was executed during yesterday’s EGX trading session. The consortium acquired last week 85.5% of SODIC in an all-cash, EGP 6.1 bn transaction following the conclusion of the mandatory tender offer.

New board coming, management staying put: A new board of directors will be formed next month, SODIC CEO Magued Sherif said at a presser yesterday. Among the questions it will tackle are where and whether to expand both in Egypt and beyond the nation’s borders. Media reports last week emphasized that Aldar has no plans to change up management, meaning Sherif and his team will remain in place.

Also staying put: SODIC’S name and EGX listing: Aldar and ADQ have no plans to delist SODIC from the Egyptian Exchange or to change the company’s branding, Sherif told reporters yesterday.

The acquisition could be a boon for the real estate market, thanks to the entry of a player as big as Aldar and the transaction being one of the biggest inflows of foreign investment in the sector, therefore bolstering investor confidence, Sherif said. Aldar is a high-metabolism player with experience and systems born in the very competitive UAE market.

The transaction gives Aldar a strong entry point into the Egyptian market, Sherif said. That echoes what Aldar CEO Talal Al Dhiyebi said after the consortium closed the acquisition when he noted that “Aldar has identified Egypt as a priority market for international expansion, driven by a strong belief in the country’s potential and the macro-economic fundamentals driving the real estate sector. After studying the market, SODIC emerged as our desired entry-partner and is a natural commercial fit for Aldar.”

INVESTMENT WATCH

Danone aims to double investment in Egypt over 5 years

Danone is looking to invest EGP 1 bn in Egypt over the next five years, which would double the company’s total investments in the country, CEO Haitham Sadek tells Al Borsa. The company is looking to add new production lines and upgrade existing ones, as well as ramping up exports to Africa in order to capitalize on Egypt’s increased support for exporters to the rest of the continent, Sadek said.

The planned investment comes on the back of the company’s most successful year in over five years, which Sadek credits to the company sourcing 70% of its raw materials from local manufacturers. That’s helped the Paris-listed multinational food company sidestep the supply chain and shipping bottlenecks that have been a hallmark of 2021.


OTHER INVESTMENT NEWS-

Alfa Ceramic is investing EGP 600 mn to add three new production lines and increase exports to African countries, Chairman Wagih Besada tells Al Borsa. The ceramics manufacturer aims to upgrade its current lines of production and ramp up production by 50% and wants to ramp up its exports by 30-50% to countries including Nigeria, Mauritania, Niger, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya. It is unclear whether the investment will be made next year or in two phases over 2022 and 2023, as the story gives contracticting timelines.

ALSO- Fruit and juice company Allord plans to invest USD 15 mn next year to add new lines of production, purchasing manager Gamal Hashem tells Al Borsa. The company plans to ramp up production and increase exports to Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Jordan, as well as Europe and the US.

HEALTH

The doctor will now take your call

EXCLUSIVE- Jordanian telehealth platform Altibbi has launched a dial-a-doc hotline hotline in Egypt, the company said (pdf). The service is aimed at users who do not have access to a smartphone or an internet connection. The company says it is the first in Egypt to allow patients access to offline telehealth services in Egypt.

How it works: Dial the 1130 hotline and ask to be connected to an Egypt-based general practitioner or internal med specialist. Callers are charged EGP 5 per minute against their mobile phone credit or monthly bill. If necessary, doctors can refer patients to a specialist at the end of the consultation. Depending on fluctuations in demand, the number of Egypt-based doctors available to take calls varies from hundreds to thousands, the company told us.

If you’ve ever called a covid hotline, you may already have experience with Altibbi: The company launched two covid-19 hotlines through a PPP with the Supreme Council of Universities in May last year, fielding some 20k calls a day at the height of the pandemic. It is currently the sole operator of the 105 hotline’s “talk to a doctor” option, which helped it book more than 1 mn consultations in Egypt last year. The company hopes to increase this to 2 mn by the midpoint of next year.

Founded in 2011, Altibbi also provides online medical content in Arabic and text- and call-based telehealth services across seven Arab countries.

ENERGY

Step on the gas

Energean expects to increase natgas production through new Mediterranean wells: The Greek energy firm sees new discoveries in its North Idku and North Amriya concessions adding 150 mn cubic feet of gas per day, according to a cabinet statement. The news came as Energean CEO Mathios Rigas discussed the company’s recent exploration activities in Egypt with Oil Minister Tarek El Molla yesterday.

Next steps: Energean will link the new wells to production facilities in its Abu Qir concession, the statement read, adding that plans are also underway for deeper exploration at the two sites. In January, Energean said it expected the development of North Idku and North Amriya to deliver first gas in 2H2022, and could yield 49 mn barrels of oil equivalent, 87% of which is gas. The company is investing some USD 235 mn to develop the concessions, it said at the time.

Edison’s assets start to pay off: The North Amriya and North Idku areas are among six exploration concessions Energean acquired from Edison in 2019 as part of a wider purchase of the Italian company’s total energy portfolio. The transaction also saw Energean snap up three producing concessions in the country, among them Abu Qir.

OTHER ENERGY NEWS-

Egypt is still seeking reassurance from the US government that it will not be penalized for exporting natural gas to Lebanon through Syrian territory, which could expose Egypt to sanctions from Washington, Oil Minister Tarek El Molla told Al Monitor. The US had reportedly promised earlier not to penalize Egypt for the gas export route.

MANUFACTURING

Steel manufacturers call for cheaper licenses

Steel manufacturers interested in new steel licenses from the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) want the authority to slash the license prices, Al Borsa reports, citing unnamed sources close to the matter.

Other industry demands reportedly lodged at a sit-down with the IDA yesterday: The companies requested a more flexible time frame to build out the factories and kick off operations. They also asked for more incentives, including a contractual freeze on gas and electricity prices for at least 10 years and a break on the cost of land. It’s unclear whether the IDA will meet these demands, with the newspaper quoting its unnamed sources as saying the IDA had set prices following “thorough” market studies.

What are the current prices of the licenses, anyway? The prices of the licenses range from EGP 62.8-345.4 mn.

Refresher: The six licenses up for grabs in a tender from the IDA include three permits to set up billet factories with an annual production capacity of 1.1 mn tonnes each, one to manufacture 2.5 mn tonnes of direct-reduced iron a year, and two to make iron ore with a capacity of 8 mn tonnes for each plant. The authority will open the door for bidding in February.

enterprise

SMALL BUSINESS

SMEs get a helping hand from CBE

CBE offers support for financially distressed SMEs: Financially distressed SMEs at risk of default will be given more time — and more avenues — to settle their debts under a raft of new decisions the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) announced this week, according to a press release (pdf). The policy measures come as the CBE looks to alleviate the impact of covid-19 on small businesses.

The decisions involve easing regulations on SMEs…: For starters, small businesses now have a longer time frame to get their ducks in a row before they can be classified by a bank as “distressed.” Credit facilities for the companies will be restructured based on their available funds and their ability to pay, while alternative options — like extending the tenor of their facilities and providing grace periods for payment — will be offered for support.

…and tightening regulations on how banks manage non-performing loans: A unified regulatory framework for managing non-performing loans will be applied to all banks, and will include setting a clear time frame to classify loans as bad debt, as well as clear guidelines for handling them. The statement is unclear on what the new guidelines will be, but they pertain to the scheduling of payments for non-performing loans.

This is the latest in a string of CBE measures to increase SME support: The new measures come as part of the CBE’s financial inclusion strategy, launched in 2019, which outlines SME support as one of its key pillars. The bank had also put in place earlier this year requirements for banks to increase micro, small, and medium enterprises’ share of their loan portfolios.

ECONOMY

GDP could grow 6-7% this quarter -El Said

Egypt’s economy is expected to grow at a 6-7% clip in 2Q2021-2022, Planning Minister Hala El Said told Sky News Arabia yesterday. The forecast for the second quarter of the state’s fiscal year is slightly lower than the 9.8% growth recorded in 1Q2021-2022, El Said noted, but we’re still on track to end FY2021-2022 with a GDP growth rate of somewhere between 5.5% and 5.7%. The minister last month predicted growth of 5.6% during the current 2021-2022 fiscal year, an upwards revision of a previous prediction for 5.4% growth.

Growth figures have impressed so far in 2021: GDP has continued to rebound this year from the covid-induced slump in 2020, expanding by 7.2% in the second quarter, and the third quarter, which was the fastest rate of growth seen in two decades.

MOVES

Samih Sawiris is stepping down from his role as Orascom Development Holding (ODH) chairman and handing the torch to his son, Naguib Samih Sawiris (LinkedIn), ending a 30-year run at the company’s helm, according to a report in Hapi Journal. ODH’s board agreed to formally nominate Naguib as chairman at ODH’s next annual general assembly meeting. Samih will be transferring his entire stake in ODH in the company to his son, save for his shares in Andermatt Swiss Alps, where he will still act as the chairman and majority stakeholder. Naguib — not to be confused with his namesake uncle — will now become the majority stakeholder of Orascom Development Holding and was previously a board member at the company. He also previously founded and managed US-based edtech startup Yup, where he still acts as board member.

IN OTHER MOVES-

Rear Admiral Ashraf Megahed has been appointed as the new commander of the Egyptian Navy by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, according to a statement.

enterprise

SPOTLIGHT

What Capiter’s cofounder Mahmoud Nouh learned from co-founding Swvl

What Capiter’s co-founder Mahmoud Nouh learned from co-founding Swvl: B2B e-commerce marketplace Capiter recently made headlines for raising USD 33 mn in one of Egypt’s largest series A investment rounds. Officially launched in July 2020, Capiter brings a hybrid business model to the B2B e-commerce market combining the operations, marketplace and financing business models with technology, serving MSMEs across the food and beverage, FMCG and electronics sectors. Think of it as a marketplace where MSMEs can order inventory, obtain delivery, and access buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) financing facilities via one single platform.

The company was co-founded by Mahmoud Nouh (LinkedIn), one of the brains behind Swvl, the homegrown mass transport startup heading for its very own SPAC-driven public listing on the Nasdaq.

We sat down for a chat with Nouh, who is still a shareholder at Swvl and is now Capiter’s CEO, to talk about what he learned from his time at Swvl and how it helped him build Capiter.

Edited excerpts from our conversation:

“I'm very grateful and proud of my Swvl journey,” Nouh says, dubbing it as a “turning point” in his life. The lessons he learned at Swvl are now acting as the foundation for his work at Capiter today, he adds. “Now, I can build something with a much more stable structure that can scale faster.”

Capiter addresses a local market worth USD 120 bn. The retail industry controls 87-90% of the economy, Nouh explains. “Egypt has 1.9 mn merchants and SMEs at a market size of USD 120 bn. When looking from Morocco to Pakistan, this number jumps to USD 500 bn,” he tells us. When you look at the market, 70-80% of merchants are underserved, because they either do not have the access to financing or are in remote areas where accessibility to products is more scarce, Nouh says. Additionally, when a product is manufactured, it passes through 4-5 players in order to reach a merchant.

The company tackles these issues through three business models: Retail operations, marketplace and credit. This means MSMEs buy products from sellers and stock them at Capiter’s leased warehouse to then be delivered to merchants via third-party fleets. The company also lists the sellers’ products on the platform and delivers on their behalf. Finally, it offers a credit-based BNPL model, where high-value merchants can access financing facilities in partnership with local banks and financial institutions.

It brings reliability to the market by owning the network and technology of the supply chain. “On the merchant side, we lift the burden of having to call 40-50 suppliers a day to ensure product delivery and having to wait for liquidity due to the lack of financing options,” Nouh says. “On the seller side, we solve the issue of reach to merchants and make the supply chain more cost-effective by optimizing its technology cost.” Through Capiter, manufacturers and sellers also see where the product eventually ends up, which helps them with their go-to-market strategy and identifying their market share.

Capiter has been consistently growing 30x month-over-month since its launch, Nouh says. Today, it has more than 70k merchants on its platform, 10 fulfillment centers, 1.5k white- and blue-collar workers, and is operating out of seven cities in Egypt. Transactions have exceeded hundreds of thousands of EGP a month, and the company is expecting to be present in 9 cities by end-2021, Nouh says.

And now it’s on track for cross-border expansion: “By the beginning of 2022, we will be operating outside of Egypt and we are also aiming to add one or two verticals under our umbrella every quarter to cover everything from construction materials to furniture over fashion by the end of next year,” he adds.

Biggest lesson learned at Swvl: Hiring a team that has built something similar before can go a long way. “We don’t need to re-innovate or reinvent the wheel. Everything has been done before, so all you need to do as a company is bring in people who have done this before and localize the product or service for a different geography and culture,” he says. Capiter employees come from eight different countries and have worked in places like Amazon and Flipkart.

Structure is equally important. Having a clear structure in place that allows people to grow contributes to the culture of the company, Nouh tells us. This is crucial for talent retention and determines how a team will communicate and the employees’ career path, he adds.

Swvl was always reminded that there were bigger, better fish in the sea. Bigger companies had launched their bus-reliant business models while Swvl was starting out, including Uber and Careem. “We’ve had to listen to people tell us several times a day that we would be crushed by the competition,” Nouh says.

But fierce competition is a good sign and brings more awareness and education to the market. Egypt’s B2B e-commerce arena has been witness to the rise of numerous startups, racing to solve supply chain dilemmas through technology, creating a very competitive space. But the concept in itself is still new to the market, and requires diligently raising awareness and educating the market. “This helps us grow faster and keeps us on our toes,” Nouh says. He expects to see consolidations (read: M&A) take place in the future, as startups will start to cluster up to create more powerful entities.

Investor portfolio diversification is key. “We have a very diverse investor list and that’s one of the things I’ve learned at Swvl: To choose investors that will propel you forward,” he says.

And although the availability of capital has increased in past years, raising finance hasn’t necessarily become easier. “Fundraising will always be tough, no matter how many books you read or for how many companies you’ve done it before,” he tells us. Although post-seed investment rounds are bigger today than they used to be, competition among companies and investors is much higher, adding a level of difficulty to the already hard process, according to Nouh.

But the ticket sizes have noticeably increased: 2021 in particular has seen several huge investments, including a blockbuster USD 120 mn round by MNT-Halan, which may be the largest-ever fintech round in the MENA region.

MENA still needs more growth capital funds. Raising at the seed stage is very easy, and it gets harder at series A, but it gets very difficult when looking at series B, he explains. When looking at the region, there are about three investors in that space, of which one is kind of active, so eventually, startups need to raise from funds abroad, Nouh adds.“There are a couple of initiatives in that regard, but investors really need to double down on the growth stage funds, because this is what you need to build the economy,” he says.

Capiter has long-term plans to go public, hopefully within the next five years, Nouh tells us. By that time, it plans to be operating across tens of countries in the MENA region. “We’re also always on the lookout for potential M&A, because we believe that this will better shape the market,” he concludes.

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s tour yesterday of Kafr El Sheikh University and its AI college — the first university division in the country dedicated to AI — led the conversation on the airwaves last night. The talking heads all covered El Sisi’s meet and greet with university students, during which one of the students expressed his concerns over the future of the job market. The president reassured the student that the government is working on keeping up with developments in the job market. Among those taking note: Yahduth fi Masr’s Sherif Amer (watch, runtime: 11:14), Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 4:50), and Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan (watch, runtime: 14:20)

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

We’ve been blessed with yet another ultra-quiet morning for Egypt in the foreign press. Let us all give thanks and praise…

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

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

  • Egypt and Russia are in talks to establish a joint company to supply grains to Egypt and improve its food security.
  • Indian pharma company Syschem will work (pdf) with the state to manufacture pharma ingredients and active raw materials in Egypt.
  • More scrutiny for TVET providers: The parliament gave final approval on a draft law establishing a national authority for quality assurance and accreditation in technical and vocational education and training (TVET).
  • Alexbank will provide the Egyptian Fintech Association with digital services under an MoU signed yesterday.

COVID WATCH

Omicron poses a “very high” global risk, WHO says

The Health Ministry reported 822 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 799 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 370,819 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 51 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 370,819.

WHO warns of “high global risk” from Omicron: Evidence suggests that Omicron is able to override vaccine protection, meaning the new variant poses a very high global risk, the World Health Organization said in a technical briefing (pdf). There are still many uncertainties about how virulent the variant is compared to Delta and just how much it affects vaccine efficacy, the WHO said.

More updates on Pfizer jab efficacy: The two-dose Pfizer shot provides just 33% protection against contracting the Omicron variant, compared to 80% efficacy with previous waves of covid-19, according to South Africa's largest private health ins. administrator, Discovery Health. The data also found that those who have previously been infected with covid are at a higher risk of contracting Omicron and preliminary data showed that children have a 20% higher risk of hospitalization.

But there is a chance that the company’s oral pill works: Preliminary data in trials conducted by Pfizer suggests that its experimental oral pill showed “potential to maintain robust antiviral activity against Omicron,” the company said yesterday.

PLANET FINANCE

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The case for investing in emerging market currencies into the new year is darkening, despite expectations for a surge in interest rate hikes in the coming months, Bloomberg reports. MSCI’s emerging currency index remains 1.6% below its June peak and traders are pessimistic about a recovery even as central banks in at least 13 emerging economies prepare to hold their policy meetings this week. Adding to the pressure is the US Federal Reserve’s upcoming decision on speeding up its stimulus withdrawal, along with global inflationary pressures and Omicron threats.

Omicron or not, currency volatility will likely carry over into next year: Volatility traders are expecting persistent volatility in foreign exchange markets even after concerns over Omicron subside, and last well into next year, Bloomberg reports.

Omicron will likely slow global demand for oil: The International Energy Agency (IEA) has trimmed its 2022 demand forecast by 100k barrels a day for the rest of the year and 2022 due to travel disruptions caused by the spread of the Omicron covid-19 variant, it said in its latest oil market report.

Demand is still expected to return to pre-pandemic levels: The energy watchdog still expects global demand to rise by 3.3 mn bbl/d to 99.5 mn bbl/d, writing that the variant should “temporarily slow, but not upend, the recovery in oil demand.”

But production is expected to outpace demand into 2022, according to the IEA, which forecasts 6.4 mn bbl/d of new supply next year compared to just 1.5 mn bbl/d in 2021. OPEC+ had predicted earlier on Monday that the new covid variant would have only a mild impact on oil markets.

Down

EGX30

11,618

-0.7% (YTD: +7.1%)

None

USD (CBE)

Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76

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USD at CIB

Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76

None

Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

None

Tadawul

11,025

– (YTD: +26.9%)

Down

ADX

8,842

-1.1% (YTD: +75.3%)

Up

DFM

3,276

+0.9% (YTD: +31.5%)

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S&P 500

4,634

-0.8% (YTD: +23.4%)

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FTSE 100

7,219

-0.2% (YTD: +11.7%)

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Brent crude

USD 70.30

-0.6%

Up

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 3.81

+1.6%

Up

Gold

USD 1,773.90

+0.1%

Up

BTC

USD 48,117.56

+2.5%

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 fell 0.7% yesterday on turnover of EGP 1.24 bn (10.6% below the 90-day average). Regional investors were net buyers. The index is up 7.1% YTD.

In the green: Heliopolis Housing and Development (+5.6%), Ezz Steel (+4.3%) and Orascom Development Egypt (+1.7%).

In the red: Egyptian Resorts Company (-9.5%), Speed Medical (-5.0%) and Fawry (-3.8%).

Major Asian benchmarks are uniformly (if gently) in the red this morning, and futures suggest shares in Western Europe, the US and Canada will all open weakly in the green at the opening bell later today. The sole outlier: Paris’ CAC 40.

AROUND THE WORLD

GCC puts up a united front after bringing Qatar in from the cold: Gulf Arab leaders came together yesterday for their 42nd annual GCC summit, in their first meeting since Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain agreed to end their four-year blockade and restore diplomatic ties with Qatar earlier this year. In addition to discussing the Palestinian cause, tensions with Iran, the war in Yemen, the crisis in Syria, and stability in Lebanon, the six Gulf states expressed solidarity with Egypt and Sudan in face of water security tensions with Ethiopia over GERD, according to the Saudi Gazette.

hardhat

Project Profile — El Salam – new administrative capital – 10th of Ramadan Light Rail Train: The Salam – new administrative capital – 10th of Ramadan Light Rail Train (LRT) line is set to become fully operational in April of next year. The new 19-stop transit system has been expected to move some 500k passengers daily along its East Cairo route and has been described by the government as a potential driver of development for cities like Al Obour, Al Mustaqbal, Al Shorouk, New Heliopolis, Badr, 10th of Ramadan and the new administrative capital. In today’s project profile, we look at what we know so far about the new LRT, updates that we got this week, and how it might be an agent for this kind of development in new urban communities.

What’s the status of the project right now? The LRT is so far about 95% complete and trial operations for the electric line currently underway, Transport Minister Kamel El Wazir told Amr Adib earlier this week (watch, runtime: 3:25). The trials are set to wrap by the end of March, with an eye to launch in April, according to El Wazir. The project was initially expected to be inaugurated in January 2022. Some seven trains from China have so far landed at our ports — out of a total of 22 trains we should be getting our hands on to fully operationalize the network, the ministry announced earlier this month.

Where does this new LRT system operate? The 103.3 km network runs primarily through East Cairo’s new desert cities connecting El Salam, by way of the Adly Mansour transit station, to Al Obour, Al Shorouk, Badr, Rubiki, 10th of Ramadan and Belbeis. The train will also be running to the new administrative capital via the outermost regional road and the Suez Desert road, with stops in Badr City, New Heliopolis, Al Shorouk, Al Rehab and Al Mostakbal.

Train tracks for the new system run alongside the Cairo-Ismailia road until Badr City, at which point separate northern and southern routes that move towards 10th of Ramadan city and the new administrative capital begin to branch out. Connections to other forms of transit like Cairo’s Metro Line 3 can be found at the Adly Mansour transit hub, which was completed last year. Connections to the Ain El Sokhna- El Alamein rapid electric train can be found at the new capital’s central station and connections to the monorail will be available at the capital’s Arts and Culture center.

Breaking it down even further: 4 zones, 19 stations: Zone 1 runs between Adly Mansour station to New Administrative Capital central station covering 11 stations over a 65.63 km stretch. Zone 2 runs 3.18 km between the New Administrative Capital’s airport station to its Arts and Culture City with only 1 stop in between. Zone 3 runs 18.5 km South with four stations at the Nativity Cathedral, Strategic Leadership, International Sports City and the Central Capital stations. Zone 4, the construction of which was ordered in a presidential directive issued last March, has been estimated to cost some USD 450 mn and extends 16 km North from Knowledge City (7.5 km on suspended rail, and 8.5 km on regular above-ground tracks) with three stops running from the west of 10th Ramadan to the city’s center.

The Adly Mansour interchange station is at the crux of the project: The 15 acre transit complex connects riders to some five separate forms of transportation and houses its own commercial center. Riders will be able to connect between LRT, Cairo-Suez rail, SuperJet buses and BRT buses at the complex, which serves some 1.5 mn passengers per day.

The price tag on all this comes to about USD 1.2 bn which is being financed through a 15 year loan from the Chinese Import-Export Bank (EximBank). The financing agreement provides a five year grace period after completion before repayment of USD 739 mn of the total sum at a 1.8% interest rate will commence. The remaining USD 461 mn will be repaid at a 2% interest rate.

Other ancillary infrastructure projects supporting the project include the construction of bridges, overpasses and tunnels. Some 4 vehicle overpasses designed to redirect traffic flow away from the LRT network have been undergoing testing since September and another 7 new bridges supporting the electric trains have so far been built. 2 tunnels facilitating LRT movement have been carved out as part of the project and a new tunnel for passenger vehicles has been built out as well.

But who’s been building all this? A mix of Chinese and Egyptian contractors: Chinese consortium CREC-AVIC (which includes China Railway Group Limited and Aviation Industry Corporation of China) was awarded the rights to contracting activities and exclusively supplying the operating systems for the project. A consortium of Egyptian contractors which includes the General Nile Company for Roads and Bridges, the Egyptian Company for Maintenance of Roads and Airports, Arab Contractors, Orascom Construction, Petrojet, Concord and Hassan Allam Holding are working alongside the Chinese. The National Tunnel Authority in 2019 signed USD 571 mn worth of implementation contracts with these companies — which included a USD 110 mn 13-year contract with AFIC to carry out maintenance work on the project’s mobile systems and USD 461 mn with Egyptian contractors to construct the railway portion of the new system.

Overseeing the management of operations is French transit company RATP Dev: RATP Dev was awarded earlier this year the contract to manage the LRT line without disclosing the value of the agreement.

Talk of ticket prices has been muted: There have so far been no concrete announcements about how much tickets will cost but we’ve previously seen presidential directives emphasizing the need for a “sustainable” pricing scheme that covers the cost of the new network.

Other potential revenue streams: Separately, the Transport Ministry has been looking to draw revenues for the LRT line from commercial and advertising activities, according to discussions between Transport Minister Kamel El Wazir and RATP Dev Chairperson, Laurence Battle.


Your top infrastructure stories for the week:

  • The bus rapid transit (BRT) system is nearly complete, with the expansion of the so-called middle Ring Road that runs from the Autostrad through New Cairo, Suez Road, Belbeis, and El Marg to the Shobra-Banha road now 100% complete.
  • More green bonds to fund infrastructure? The Sovereign Fund of Egypt (SFE) is considering issuing green bonds, fund CEO Ayman Soliman told a conference last week.
  • Hassan Allam Construction is setting up a new construction firm with Russia’s Titan-2 to handle construction work on the Dabaa nuclear power plant.

CALENDAR

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

12-16 December (Sunday-Thursday): The 15th edition of the Arab Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy is taking place in Aswan.

13-26 December (Monday-Sunday): Cleopatra Hospitals shareholders can subscribe to CI Capital’s voluntary tender offer for 26% of the company.

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

14-15 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Open Market Committee meeting.

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.

15 December (Wednesday): Target date for snackmaker Edita to wrap up due diligence on its acquisition of the Ole brand owner Egyptian Belgian Company.

15 December (Wednesday): The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will give its final approval for a USD 100 mn facility to state-owned Banque Misr to finance local SMEs working on green projects.

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

16 December (Thursday): SODIC shares will be transferred to Aldar Properties / ADQ consortium by this date.

16 December (Thursday): Inquiry session for the Industrial Development Authority’s licenses to manufacture tobacco products.

16 December (Thursday): Cotton and Textile Industry Holding Company will sign agreements to secure a EUR 540 mn loan from Swiss and Italian banks.

19 December (Sunday): Construction on bus rapid transit (BRT) stops, pedestrian bridges and tunnels on the Ring Road will begin this week.

26 December (Sunday): The House of Representatives returns from recess.

End of December: El Nasr Automotive plans to sign contracts with a new partner to locally assemble EVs.

End of 4Q2021: EdVentures plans to have closed at least one more edtech investment round.

End of 4Q2021: Fawry plans to have launched its MyFawry card.

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

1H2022: e-Aswaaq’s tourism platform will roll out its ticketing and online booking portal across Egypt.

1H2022: e-Finance’s digital healthcare service platform, eHealth, will launch its services.

1Q2022: Egypt will begin exporting natural gas to Lebanon.

1Q2022: Launch of the Egyptian Commodities Exchange.

1Q2022: Swvl acquisition of Viapool expected to close.

Second Half of January: Egypt will host the Egyptian-Bahraini Joint Committee.

The end of January: The Egyptian-Romanian business forum will take place with the aim of strengthening joint investment relations.

January 2022: Tenth of Ramadan dry port tender to be launched.

1 January 2022 (Saturday): Capital gains tax comes into effect on the EGX for local investors.

1 January 2022 (Saturday): Private sector minimum wage introduced.

1-15 January 2022 (Saturday-Saturday): Qualified Industrial Zones (QIZ) Joint Committee.

4 January 2022 (Tuesday): OPEC+ ministerial meeting.

7 January 2022 (Friday): Coptic Christmas.

10-13 January 2022 (Monday-Thursday): World Youth Forum, Sharm El Sheikh.

15 January (Saturday): Target date for the finalization of snackfood giant Edita’s acquisition of the Egyptian Belgian Company, owner of the Ole brand.

17-19 January 2022 (Monday-Wednesday): World Future Energy Summit, Abu Dhabi.

20 January 2022 (Thursday): Kadmar Shipping’s new line transporting agricultural crops between Alexandria and Russia begins its operations.

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

January-February 2022: Construction work on the Abu Qir metro upgrade will begin.

February 2022: Hassan Allam Construction’s new construction firm established with Russia’s Titan-2 to handle construction work on the Dabaa nuclear power plant begins its operations.

11 February 2022 (Friday): Deadline for Anghami SPAC merger.

11-13 February (Friday-Sunday) FIBA Intercontinental Cup, Cairo.

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

15 February 2022 (Tuesday): The Industrial Development Authority’s deadline for receiving offers from companies for licenses to manufacture steel products.

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

March 2022: 4Q2021 earnings season.

March 2022: Deadline for the World Health Organization’s intergovernmental negotiating body to meet to discuss binding treaty on future pandemic cooperation.

March 2022: World Cup playoffs.

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

3 April 2022 (Sunday): Bidding begins on the Industrial Development Authority’s license to manufacture tobacco products.

4 April 2022 (Monday): CDC Group will formally change its name to British International Investment.

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.

Late April – 15 May 2022: 1Q2022 earnings season

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.

July 2022: A law governing ins. for seasonal contractors will come into effect.

8 July 2022 (Friday): Arafat Day.

9-13 July 2022 (Saturday-Wednesday): Eid Al Adha, national holiday.

30 July 2022 (Saturday): Islamic New Year.

Late July – 14 August 2022: 2Q2022 earnings season.

September 2022: Egypt will display its first naval exhibition with the title Naval Power.

6 October 2022 (Thursday): Armed Forces Day, national holiday.

8 October 2022 (Saturday): Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.

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

Late October – 14 November 2022: 3Q2022 earnings season.

**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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