Thursday, 16 December 2021

AM — It’s the final interest rate day of 2021

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, friends, and welcome to the final day of the workweek. We’re looking forward to the weekend, even though our hopes of seeing Egypt in the Arab Cup final match on Saturday were dashed last night after the Pharaohs scored an own-goal in the last few seconds of their semi-final against Tunisia, who will now meet Algeria for the title.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

It’s interest rate day — and the final one of 2021 at that: All 11 economists and analysts we surveyed in our Enterprise Rate Poll expect the Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee to leave interest rates unchanged when it meets later today 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.

Also factoring into the CBE’s decision is the US Federal Reserve’s hawkish turn, which will see the Fed taper its bond-buying program twice as fast as originally expected in a bid to give itself breathing room to enact three rate hikes in 2022, the Federal Open Market Committee said yesterday following its two-day meeting.

The Fed now has a total of eight interest rate increases penciled in over the next three years, including three in 2023 and two in 2024, Fed Chair Jay Powell said at a presser following the meeting (watch, runtime: 1:01:44). The tightening plans come after US inflation in November ran at its highest since the 1980s, while Powell pointed to a recovering labor market and a “much stronger” economy as indicators that the first rate increase would quickly follow the end of the Fed’s asset purchase program.

Mind the yield curve: The treasuries yield curve flattened yesterday as yields on short-term treasuries rose, widening the spread with returns on the long-term government bonds. A flattening yield curve signals the Fed will be “challenged” to get inflation in check, and could constrain the central bank’s tightening cycle.

The market reaction: The faster taper and sooner-than-expected rate hike announcement spurred a rally in US markets, with the S&P 500 closing just shy of its all-time high and the Nasdaq 100 ending the trading day up 2.5%, according to Bloomberg.

The European Central Bank is also set to meet today, but is widely expected to stick to the transitory inflation line — which the Fed has notably left behind.


A new services unit for EGX-listed companies has been set up by the General Authority for Investment and Freezones (GAFI) to expedite services, handle complaints, and help troubleshoot any issues facing listed firms, the authority said in a statement yesterday.

Shoukry + Saudi FM meet today: Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will meet his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud for discussions, followed by a joint presser, Youm7 reports, without disclosing what the topics of discussion are planned to be.

Shoukry is also set to meet International Atomic Energy Agency Director Rafael Mariano Grossi later today.

PSA- School’s out in Alexandria for the Nth time: All schools across Alexandria will be closed today in anticipation of unstable weather conditions reported by the Meteorological Authority, according to a governorate statement. This is the third closure in recent weeks, with a bout of heavy rains and wind prompting Alex Governor Mohamed El Sherif to announce closures twice last week.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

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

It’s the final day of the Arab Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Aswan.

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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LEGISLATION WATCH

Snacks aren’t getting the VAT treatment

Breaking down the VAT Act amendments: Earlier this week, the House of Representatives gave its final approval to amendments to the VAT Act that change up the tax treatment for a handful of services and products, as per a committee report (pdf). Other new stipulations in the newly-passed amendments:

The big news is in what won’t be subject to the VAT in the final version of the bill, including crackers and sweet pastries. An earlier version of the amendments had proposed subjecting these goods to the 14% VAT, but this was scrapped in light of accelerating inflation, Finance Ministry spokesperson Ragab Mahrous confirmed to Enterprise. These goods will continue to be subject to the 5% schedule tax currently imposed on them. Lawmakers had one eye on inflation as they discussed the bill, with House Planning and Budgeting Committee deputy Yasser Omar previously telling us that they were considering postponing the bill altogether because of inflation.

Other VAT exemptions: A handful of medical supplies — meds, active substances, vaccines, blood collection bags, birth control methods, and blood and its derivatives — are all exempt from the tax. The bill also exempts machinery and equipment imported from abroad, production inputs for the paper industry, as well as agricultural products such as seeds, stop-ed-black.com and fruits produced locally. Civil aircrafts, along with their engines, parts, components and spare parts won’t be subject to VAT, either. Shipping companies also won’t be required to pay VAT on transit fees paid to the Suez Canal Authority.

Office and commercial spaces will be subject to a 1% schedule tax on the rent or purchase value, Mahrous said, confirming previous announcements from the Tax Authority.

Ads are subject to VAT — with some exceptions: Under the bill, the 14% value-added tax will be imposed on fully-finished “broadcast” advertisements — advertisements on TV, radio, outdoor billboards and the interwebs — replacing the 20% stamp tax to which they were previously subject. However, the amendments exempt PSA-style ads from the tax, including ads for donations to or medical treatment at government hospitals and institutes; election and job seeking announcements; missing persons announcements; and all ads or announcements that are meant to inform the public about laws or regulations.

Tourists will be able to claim VAT rebates on their way out of the country for any purchases on select items worth more than EGP 1.5k or more (as opposed to the previous EGP 5k threshold for VAT drawbacks).

ECONOMY

Fitch thinks Egypt could be up for another IMF program

Egypt’s high exposure to external financing could lead the government to seek a fresh IMF program, especially in the event of a “liquidity shock,” according to a recent Fitch Ratings report. The report points to less accommodative global liquidity and monetary conditions as being key risk factors for Egypt, despite us having “rebuilt its external financial buffers using non-resident inflows and other external funding.”

This could be a non-loan program, which we were discussing with the IMF before the pandemic: Fitch does not specify what kind of IMF support Egypt might resort to, but a non-loan arrangement was on the table for Egypt in 2019 following the expiration of the three-year USD 12 bn Extended Fund Facility (EFF). The Finance Ministry had suggested it was eyeing a two-year cooperation agreement with the lender and was hoping to secure an agreement by March 2020. There have been no updates on the talks since.

Why could a program be necessary now? Egypt’s recent increased attractiveness to foreign investors has been buoyed by its “record reforms, IMF programmes, high real interest rates and a stable exchange rate.” But with the end of the EFF and the rising pressure on interest rates as a result of inflation driving central banks and the US Federal Reserve to hike rates next year, the factors helping Egypt regain its footing have become less supportive, Fitch says.

Foreign investments had rebounded since the start of covid-19, but they’re still on shaky ground: After faltering at the start of the pandemic, foreign investments have been helping Egypt finance its current account deficit (CAD), which widened due to strong domestic demand and tourism revenues taking a nose dive at the height of the pandemic, although those are now en route to recovery. However, the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) foreign reserves are significantly lower than pre-pandemic levels, Fitch notes. Net foreign assets turned negative in October at USD -4.8 bn.

External shock risk is nothing new: After recently affirming Egypt’s long-term FX issuer default rating at ‘B+’ with a stable outlook, Fitch had warned 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.” Foreign holdings of government debt had reached nearly USD 34 bn by September, rising from less than USD 10 bn in the wake of the covid market crash.

The good news: Egypt has built strong relationships with bilateral and multilateral lenders and proved its mettle with reforms, which it continued to pursue even after the expiry of our last IMF program, Fitch says. Our imminent inclusion in the JPMorgan GBI-EM bond index next month, as well as non-market financing, and improvements to market structure will provide “some structural support to investor demand,” the report reads. “CADs should moderate with recovery in external demand and tourism,” it adds. The government’s economic reform agenda also received a nod and is expected to continue supporting Egypt’s “external resilience.”

M&A WATCH

MNHD GA completes fair value study of Minka

MNHD approves EGP 232 mn valuation of Minka ahead of acquisition: Madinet Nasr Housing and Development’s (MNHD) general assembly has approved a fair value study that will see it shell out a maximum EGP 232 mn to acquire Minka Development and a related special purpose vehicle company, EgyCan for Real Estate Development, according to an EGX filing (pdf). The study, conducted by Baker Tilly Wahid Abdel Ghaffar & Co, pegs the value of the real estate firm 5.5% above the top end of the EGP 200-220 mn that MNHD said it expected to pay when it first announced the acquisition plan in October. MNHD will now seek to negotiate a final price for the company with the current shareholders, according to the statement.

It’s all staying in the family: MNHD appointed Abdallah Sallam, who is also managing director at Minka, as its CEO at the same time as it announced the acquisition in October. Minka is owned by the Sallam family, who are set to use the proceeds from the sale of their company — plus an additional EGP 50 mn — to purchase a minimum 5% stake in MNHD, we were told back in October. This will make the family the third largest minority shareholder in the company after BPE Partners’ managed fund’s 29% and National Company for Construction and Developments’ 15%.

CORRECTED ON 16 DECEMBER-

The fair value study indicates that MNHD will pay a maximum of EGP 232 mn and not a minimum as was said in a previous version of the story. 

STARTUP WATCH

AIM Technologies closes Sequence Ventures-led seed round

AIM Technologies closes Sequence Ventures-led seed round: Cairo-based AIM Technologies has raised an undisclosed amount during a seed round led by local VC firm Sequence Ventures, according to a joint statement (pdf) out yesterday.

This is the first investment in Sequence’s Egypt Deep-Tech fund, which was launched earlier this quarter to channel investment into startups operating in health-tech, fintech, ed-tech, prop-tech, logistics, and software development.

Sequence expects to reach first close in January, raising up to EGP 150 mn, a representative from the firm told us yesterday. It eventually hopes to receive EGP 500 mn in commitments by its final close. A number of other investments in the pipeline will be announced early next year, they added.

“Our mandate is to support young home-grown talent who are developing a solution to some of our own chronic issues as well as new challenges that are stalling our economic growth and our human capital,” said Sequence head Karim Helal.

About AIM Technologies: Founded in 2018, the company is an AI customer experience platform that provides a “multilingual text analytics solution with the world’s highest accuracy in Arabic language,” along with the first automated end-to-end customer research tool.

IN OTHER STARTUP NEWS-

VC firm Innoventures is looking to deploy EGP 30 mn into local startups during 2022, Al Mal reports, quoting partner Rafik Dalala. The investments will happen through the firm’s first VC investment fund, established in 2019 and will be distributed across 20 companies, with the average investment size ranging between EGP 1 mn – EGP 2 mn. Innoventures is an Egypt-based VC firm that has invested in early stage startups across a range of industries.

KUDOS

Celebrating Festivus with the best of us: With 2021 coming to a close and as we reflect on the goings of the past two years, we wouldn’t have been able to get through the tough times without the hard work of our team members and staff. And so, in this special Xmas Kudos, we wanted to give a shout-out to everyone here at Enterprise and our parent company Inktank: All of you have met the challenges of our “covid era” with good cheer, kindness and hard work.

Special thanks to folks who have truly gone above and beyond and represent the best of us — all of whom took home special nods of appreciation from our Christmas / Year End party earlier this week:

  • Mohamed Attia, Inktank Finance Director (Founding Partners’ Award)
  • Ahmed Karama, Inktank Business Analyst (Rookie of the Year, tie)
  • Samar Nabih, Inktank Account Manager (Rookie of the Year, tie)
  • Fahd Omran, Enterprise Staff Reporter (Rookie of the Year)
  • Amro Mokhtar, Inktank Art Director (Inktank Spirit Award)
  • Mariam Ismail, Enterprise Staff Reporter (Enterprise Spirit Award)
  • Ahmed Naguib, Head of Support Staff (Special Recognition Award)

Etisalat Misr CEO Hazem Metwally was named last week African mobile telecom operator CEO of the year at the 2021 Telecom Review Excellence Awards for leading the company towards becoming one of the biggest operators regionally and gaining in excess of over a mn subscribers.

OC named best regional construction company: Orascom Construction was ranked #1 construction firm in the MENA region in the Forbes Middle East list of top construction companies for 2021. It’s joined in the top 10 by Arab Contractors, which was ranked seventh.

Real estate regional recognition: Seven Egyptian companies made it to the Forbes list of top 50 real estate developers in the MENA region in 2021. The list included: SODIC, Palm Hills Developments, Talaat Moustafa Holding Group, Memaar Al Morshedy, Madinet Nasr for Housing and Development, Orascom Development Holding, and Dorra Developers.

Weightlifter Neama Said snagged three medals — two gold and one silver — at the World Weightlifting Championships happening in Taiwan now, Ahram Online reported. This was Egypt’s first run at the championships in two years since the Egyptian Weightlifting Foundation was handed a two-year suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing substances.

Matouk Bassiouny and Hennawy received the “Special Recognition for Regional Advisor in North Africa” award at the Private Equity Africa (PEA) awards, in recognition of the firm’s work as lead counsel to several local and international firms, according to a press release (pdf). The law firm advised on transactions worth USD 2 bn during 2020.

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LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

It was a relatively quiet evening on the airwaves, with no big news story and no single topic driving the conversation.

Infrastructure diplomacy with South Sudan: Egypt is leading three planned infrastructure projects South Sudan, including the rehabilitation of an electricity station, clearing canals in Bahr El Ghazal, and a five-star hotel in the capital city of Juba, Al Hayah Al Youm’s Mohamed Sherdy noted (watch, runtime: 3:07). Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan had a chat with Egyptian Council for African Affairs Vice President Salah Heleima about these projects and prospects for further cooperation between the two countries (watch, runtime: 7:35).

The Prosecutor General’s office wrapped up its inspection of 5k artifacts and other historic and artistic items belonging to a Zamalek resident, and determined that nearly 1,400 of these pieces are artifacts and will be given to the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Sherdy reported (watch, runtime: 2:41). The committee found that the collection also includes hundreds of valuable art pieces, Yahduth fi Misr’s Sherif Amer also noted (watch, runtime: 2:14).

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

A handful of headlines to skim on an otherwise calm morning for Egypt in the foreign press:

  • Egypt’s digital transformation of its health and education sectors is making essential services accessible to refugees and asylum seekers. (African Business)
  • Egypt rejected Turkey’s push for a two-state peace treaty with ethnically split Cyprus, saying that any talks between the countries should adhere to international law rather than come from “aggressive activities or expansionist tendencies.” (Washington Post)
  • Qatar’s increased presence in the EastMed could bring good tidings, as Doha could act as a mediator and facilitate broader political cooperation for Egypt and rapprochement with Turkey. (Al Monitor)

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Real estate development firm Arco is borrowing EGP 720 mn via a financial leasing agreement with a syndicate of Gulf and local lenders, lead arranger ADIFinance — Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank’s leasing unit — said in a statement (pdf). The transaction also features participation from Arabia Investments Holdings’ UE Finance and Banque du Caire’s Cairo Financial Leasing.

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

  • Mitsubishi interested in Egypt green hydro projects? Representatives of Mitsubishi discussed working with the Oil Ministry on clean energy projects such as green hydrogen and carbon capture during talks with Minister Tarek El Molla yesterday, as the government looks to ramp up emission-reducing initiatives ahead of next year’s COP27 summit in Sharm El Sheikh.
  • ADQ sets up shop in Egypt: Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund ADQ has opened a Cairo office to build on a strategic investment platform launched earlier between the fund and the Sovereign Fund of Egypt.
  • A commercial and logistical zone is coming to Dakahlia’s Talkha: Investors will be able to purchase units in the EGP 2 bn, 46-feddan zone in 1Q2022. The zone will be the first of three being launched in Dakahlia next year as the governorate works to create specialized economic and commercial zones.
  • 13k clay fragments engraved with demotic, hieratic, Coptic, Greek and Arabic text were unearthed in Sohag by a German-Egyptian archeological mission.

COVID WATCH

Gavi looks set to rely more on Pfizer / BioNTech jabs in 2022

The Health Ministry reported 879 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 822 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 371,698 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 48 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 21,203.

Morocco has its first Omicron case: The Moroccan Health Ministry announced yesterday that it recorded its first Omicron case — a Moroccan citizen in the city of Casablanca, who is currently receiving treatment in hospital. Two days prior to the case being confirmed, the country had extended its travel ban on all inbound international flights until 31 December.

Pfizer / BioNTech are set to dethrone AstraZeneca as the main global supplier of covid vaccines through the Gavi / Covax program by the beginning of next year, according to Reuters. Covax has so far delivered over 600 mn jabs to around 150 countries, 220 mn of which were AstraZeneca and 160 mn were Pfizer. But jabs manufactured by the US firm will soon take the lead as the program starts to rely more heavily on vaccine donations from rich nations, which are mostly giving away Pfizer shots. Some 150 mn Pfizer jabs will be donated to Covax by the end of 1Q2022, according to documents from the World Health Organization seen by the newswire.

Sanofi is pushing its covid-19 vaccine release to 1Q2022 instead of this year, as the vaccine maker, which has partnered with GlaxoSmithKline on its covid vaccine, waits on the results of its late-stage clinical trials. The French pharma giant was one of the world’s largest vaccine makers before covid but its development of covid-19 jabs has lagged far behind its competitors, and it now hopes it can capitalize on the growing market for booster shots.

PLANET FINANCE

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Dubai-based VC Global Ventures is nearing a USD 100 mn target for its new fund, after attracting liquidity from Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia's state funds, ins. company Bupa Arabia, and unnamed US investors, Reuters reports. The firm’s second VC fund, which has already made 18 investments and could back up to 30 companies, is focused on pre-series A and series A rounds for budding firms across the MENA region, in sectors including digital health, fintech, agritech, and edutech. Global Ventures is a key player in our local VC scene, having made investments totaling USD tens of mns in Egyptian startups including Sympl, Paymob, Yodawy, Thndr, Minly, and Elmenus. The firm plans to invest USD 20-30 mn in Egypt in 2022, general partner Basil Moftah told us over coffee in October.

Keywords for biotech investors: mergers, short-selling, covid stocks. Amid a dismal year for biotech stocks and hedge funds in the sector, three strategies have seen some investors continue to thrive, the Wall Street Journal reports. Analysts and investors expect covid-related companies to continue to outperform the wider sector next year, on the back of a rush for booster jabs driven by Omicron. Small but innovative biotech firms are also a strong call, as big, liquidity-rich pharma companies look to make acquisitions. And there are gains to be made from others’ misfortune: A savvy short-seller can capitalize on the volatile nature of biotech, where one set of disappointing trial results can send a stock into freefall.

The use of libor replacement rates is surging as the benchmark’s switch-off day approaches, with 4Q2021 seeing the majority of volumes of privately negotiated swap transactions using the new so-called “riskfree” rates authorities proposed instead of the discredited benchmark, the Financial Times reports. Libor is the benchmark interest rate for interbank borrowing, and determines borrowing rates for public and private loans, bonds, credit cards and derivatives around the world. Banks will be barred from underwriting new loans using Libor starting 2022, as per a decision following the 2012 Libor scandal that saw some of the world’s largest banks colluding to rig the rate.

European gas prices reached a record high, jumping by over a quarter the past week to hit EUR 127.8 / MWh on the back of winter’s arrival and threats of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reports.

None

EGX30

11,622

0.0% (YTD: +7.2%)

None

USD (CBE)

Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76

None

USD at CIB

Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76

None

Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending

Up

Tadawul

11,143

+1.1% (YTD: +28.2%)

Down

ADX

8,819

-0.3% (YTD: +74.8%)

Down

DFM

3,255

-0.7% (YTD: +30.6%)

Up

S&P 500

4,710

+1.6% (YTD: +25.4%)

Down

FTSE 100

7,171

-0.7% (YTD: +11.0%)

Up

Brent crude

USD 71.67

+1.1%

Up

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 3.82

+0.6%

Up

Gold

USD 1,779.40

+0.8%

Up

BTC

USD 48,998.72

+1.0%

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 rose less than 0.1% at yesterday’s close on turnover of EGP 1.19 bn (14.2% below the 90-day average). Local investors were net buyers. The index is up 7.2% YTD.

In the green: Credit Agricole Egypt (+4.1%), Madinet Nasr Housing (+3.9%) and Ibnsina Pharma (+3.0%).

In the red: Speed Medical (-4.3%), Heliopolis Housing (-2.5%) and CIRA (-2.2%).

Asian markets are mixed so far this morning, with the Nikkei, Shanghai, and Kospi all in the green and the ASX and Hang Seng just slightly in the red. Futures suggest Wall Street will follow with mixed open as well, as the Dow Jones looks set to start the trading day in the red.

DIPLOMACY

Egypt could look to localize water desalination technology with the help of Norwegian renewables player Scatec, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said during a meeting yesterday with Scatec CEO Raymond Carlsen, according to an Ittihadiya statement. El Sisi and Carlsen also talked about Egypt’s growing renewable energy sector.

AROUND THE WORLD

The UAE is threatening to withdraw from a USD 23 bn arms agreement with the US, the Wall Street Journal reports. In a letter written to the US government ahead of negotiations between the two countries, the UAE said it would suspend discussions on the transaction, citing concerns that US requirements meant to protect the weaponry from being used for Chinese espionage were too onerous and ran counter to the Emirate’s national sovereignty. The high-tech arms transaction, which includes F-35 aircraft and Reaper drones, was signed under former president Donald Trump. China has become something of a problem area in UAE-US relations this year, according to the WSJ, after Beijing was caught constructing what US intelligence believed to be a military facility at a port near Abu Dhabi.

And speaking of China: Russia and China are presenting a united front in the face of rising tensions with the West, with the two countries’ leaders agreeing to boost efforts to defend their nations’ security interests, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Meanwhile, the UAE and Turkey let bygones be bygones: Turkey and the UAE want to deepen economic and commercial cooperation, Turkey’s foreign minister and the UAE's prime minister said after wrapping up talks in Dubai yesterday, Reuters reports. The decade-long rivals have been stepping up diplomatic efforts recently, apparently as the result of Turkey’s charm offensive in the region (which hasn’t yet been quite so fruitful when it comes to patching things up with us.) The UAE signed agreements for USD bns of investments in Turkey last month, helping to stabilize the TRY following its historic crash.

MY MORNING ROUTINE

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Assem Memon, co-founder and managing director of AdMazad: Each week, My Morning Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Assem Memon (LinkedIn). Edited excerpts from our conversation:

My name is Assem Memon and I currently lead AdMazad as managing director. I’m a firm believer in the art of building organizations that have purpose and impact and that has been my driver during my 16-year career so far. I graduated from McMaster University in Canada with a degree in economics and worked with student activity for a year before moving back to Egypt for a bit. While in Egypt, I dipped my toes in my first entrepreneurial effort with a company that was aiming to build a product similar to Google Maps — it failed, but it was fun. I then decided to take on corporate life and I went back to Canada where I spent five years in IBM. From there it was The Netherlands, where I did my MBA at Erasmus University.

I moved back to Egypt in 2011 because I wanted to be part of the change I was seeing and joined a political party as deputy managing director. I was tasked with institutional capacity-building which is basically designing and building sustainable organizations from the bottom up. It was a rewarding experience that allowed me to experience Egypt from a different perspective, beyond the Cairo bubble.

I started AdMazad seven years ago alongside friends. AdMazad is basically an out-of-home media aggregator platform that aims to simplify how brands consume this medium. We saw that there was a mismatch in the supply and demand of billboards that was fueled by the economic environment and appetite for investments so we thought, “how do we package this excess inventory in a way that makes it attractive?” We built profiles for over 4k billboards in Cairo and Sahel where we assess how many cars pass by it, for how many seconds, the angle of viewership, and other useful metrics.

We aim to make sense out of the unquantifiable world of billboard marketing and help brands on their planning side. Over the years, we also developed an admetric business which offers pre and post-campaign analysis by providing brands with competitive dashboards, performance analysis, and more that allow them to assess how to launch the campaign as well as how successful it was after completion compared to peers. Everything is data-driven nowadays and using this data, we’re able to marry the information we have with people’s spending habits so that brands have more insight into how to allocate their budgets.

The pandemic was very challenging for our business. We track utilization of ad space across Cairo and pre-covid it was usually around 80-85% but during peak lockdown it went all the way down to 45%. We spent that time building the analytic side of our business and thinking of future ventures to take on.

We’ll soon be launching a financing solution for SMEs to be able to afford billboard advertising. If you’re a smaller business with low liquidity, you might see billboards as a long-term commitment that requires a bulk sum of financing up front. But we’re looking to offer a product that would allow SMEs to pay off billboard costs in installments and we’re hoping to deliver on it in 2022.

Out-of-home media and social media go hand-in-hand. There are studies that suggest that consumers are 90% more likely to engage with a digital campaign if they saw it outside of their home. Both serve different purposes, but they’re complimentary. Billboards raise brand awareness while social media helps close the sale.

As for me, I’m an early riser, especially since I have two young children. Karim joined us six months ago while Rasheed turns three in January. I get up at 6am and put Karim in his stroller to take him with me on my morning jog. We then have a family breakfast and try to get everyone out the door by 8:30am. Most mornings are very rushed [laughs].

I’m a news junkie and I get my local news fix from Enterprise. I also listen to news podcasts in the car, especially those from the Financial Times and BBC.

A normal day at work includes a lot of firefighting [laughs]. I start by checking in with the team and seeing if I need to talk with any clients about ongoing operations. It’s a struggle sometimes to allocate time equally between working on the day-to-day versus strategic long-term planning. I try to spend a day every week looking at the bigger picture and planning future projects.

Work-life balance depends on the stage you’re in. At every stage in your life there will be conflicting priorities all vying for your attention. It’s like that wheel of life where there’s family, health, wealth, career, etc. It’s important to know what needs more time at every stage. In my case, I made a conscious decision when my kids were born that I wanted to be involved in their day to day. The pandemic helped in that sense as it gave me more time to be at home with them. I know that giving more time to my family has come at the expense of other things, but at this stage I think that is what is necessary. But it’s ever changing and with new phases of my life, I could allocate time differently… which is also okay.

I’m currently reading a trilogy called The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin. It’s an originally-Chinese series that is part philosophical, part drama, and part sci-fi. It looks at how humanity is dealing with the threat of an alien invasion that will take 100 years from now.

Meanwhile, I’m rewatching Seinfeld for the sixth time [laughs]. I’m also planning on rewatching The West Wing. At this point, these shows act as background noise to whatever I’m doing.

The best piece of advice I’ve been given is that a take it or leave it attitude doesn’t get you far. You might not get everything you want, but there’s often a compromise that will make things work. I try to apply this on both a professional and personal level and it helps me feel grounded and pragmatic.

ON YOUR WAY OUT

Rapid urbanization and rising sea levels are causing Egypt to lose 2% of its arable land each decade, Nasa’s Earth Observatory highlighted in its ‘image of the day’ spot yesterday. The feature compares satellite images of the landscape as it appeared in 1984, and in 2021, revealing the speed and scale of farmland desertification in the Nile Delta. Urbanization — fueled largely by population growth, as well as unlicensed building on farmland — is one part of the problem. The other is rising sea levels caused by global warming and subsidence, resulting in saltwater intrusion, which has damaged an estimated 15% of Egypt’s most fertile regions.

If not addressed, desertification could lead to serious food security concerns, according to scientists. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that this is a crisis,” said Nasem Badreldin, a digital agronomist at the University of Manitoba .

CALENDAR

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.

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

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

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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