Thursday, 17 February 2022

AM — Six European banks lend USD 1.5 bn to finance Assiut refinery’s mazut hydrocracking complex



Well, friends, we’ve nearly made it through another workweek together. We hope you’re looking forward to a relaxing weekend with family and friends as much as we are.

THE BIG STORY here at home this morning? It’s got to be energy, with news of everything from USD 1.5 bn in financing for a refinery in Assiut to a USD 1.5 bn solar-powered desalination plant that underscores how serious the state is about shoring up water security amid the twin challenges of climate change and Ethiopia’s dam. We have more on those stories — and lots, lots more — in this morning’s news well, below.

PSA #1- We’re just over six weeks (44 days) away from Ramadan. We hope you’re planning accordingly. And that if you’re in the ad industry, things are going smoothly for you in this silly season.

PSA #2- Your commute is going to be much worse on Sunday. Public universities begin the second term of their 2021-2022 academic year this Saturday, 19 February.


The two-day EU-AU summit kicks off in Brussels today, where President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is set to meet with Prime Minister Alexander De Croo to talk diplomatic relations and regional issues.

Also on the agenda for the summit: Look for El Sisi to speak about the integration of African countries into the global economy, ramping up foreign investment across the continent, and supporting developing countries in their green transition — all of which are key action points for COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh this November.

In Brussels ahead of the summit: El Sisi discussed yesterday the protection of Egypt’s coastline from erosion, cooperation in defense-related industries and the production of green hydrogen in meetings he held with Belgian business leaders, according to an Ittihadiya statement. He also spoke with European Council President Charles Michel about Libya and with Belgium’s King Philippe about Belgian investment in Egypt as well as ways of boosting trade and commercial ties, according to another Ittihadiya readout.


THE BIG STORY ABROAD- It’s still Ukraine — and it could be for a while, as the international papers tell us with one voice this morning that Russia is growing, rather than drawing down, its military presence along the border with its neighbor. Russian officials had earlier this week said that some of the c. 150k assembled troops were being withdrawn — claims that US officials are now describing as false. The US estimates Russia to have mobilized another 7k troops — and alleges the country is still looking for a pretext to invade. The news is making headlines across Bloomberg, Reuters, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.

CLOSER TO HOME- More ways the Ukraine crisis could directly affect us: Any sanctions on Russia in the event of a Ukraine invasion should also prohibit the country from exporting arms, the head of Ukraine’s center for defense reforms, Oleksandr Danylyuk, writes in a letter to the Financial Times. Egypt is both a major non-Nato ally of the US and a top-five buyer of Russian arms, Danylyuk points out. He adds that Russia should be barred from owning uranium deposits abroad — again namedropping Egypt for its under-construction Dabaa nuclear plant, which is contracted to Russian state-owned nuclear company Rosatom. (It’s not clear to us, though, that anyone is actively mining uranium here, though there are known deposits in Sinai.)

If you care about oil prices, keep your eye on the crisis: Market watchers are now near-certain that international benchmark Brent crude will cross the USD-100 threshold, CNBC reports. And it’s likely not stopping there: “There is a scenario where we could vault past USD 120, even as high as USD 150,” one analyst was quoted as saying. Brent settled 1.6% up at USD 94.81 yesterday, as the threat of war in Ukraine continues to pressure an already tight market.


The Nebu Expo for Gold and Jewelry 2022 kicks off this Saturday, 19 February and wraps on Monday, 21 February.

A call for tech startups: The Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) and US-based VC firm Plug and Play have launched an incubator and accelerator program for digital transformation-focused startups in partnership with our friends at USAID. The newly launched “Smart Cities” innovation hub will select 20-30 Egypt-based companies for its inaugural three-month program, which starts in March. Startups can apply here before applications close on 28 February.

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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Diesel refinery gets USD 1.5 bn financing + lots of other energy news from Egyps

Several of Europe’s biggest banks are providing us with USD 1.5 bn to finance the construction of the new mazut hydrocracking complex at the Assiut refinery, the Oil Ministry said in a statement yesterday. A syndicate of six European banks put pens to paper on the sidelines of the Egypt Petroleum Show yesterday to lend money for the project, which is expected to produce around 2.8 mn tonnes of petroleum products each year.

What’s mazut? It’s a heavy, low-quality fuel oil that that is particularly thick, usually full of pollutants, and can be burned to produce electricity or fire boilers. The refinery in Assiut will turn this into Euro V-grade diesel, gasoline, and other refined fuels, helping to reduce the amount spent on oil imports. Egypt spent USD 8.3 bn on oil imports during the previous fiscal year, according to official figures. Euro V diesel is the cleanest-burning diesel standard in the world, so the refinery should deliver a net reduction in our national sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide emissions if the experience at Qalaa Holdings’ Egyptian Refining Company is anything to go by.

Who is ponying up the money? The funding will be led by Crédit Agricole, which is acting as general coordinator, along with HSBC, which is acting as general agent. UniCredit Italia, BNP Paribas, Société Generale France, and Italian state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) round out the list. Italian Export Credit Agency Sace will back the funding. An alliance between the National Bank of Egypt and the National Bank of Kuwait acted as financial advisor.

The complex has been a while in the making: Initial contracts to establish the facility were signed in early 2020 with local contractors Enppi and Petrojet and French construction firm Technip, which inked a USD 1 bn EPC contract several months later. The complex will be built and operated by the Assiut National Oil Processing Company.

INVESTMENT WATCH- Apache Egypt expects to spend more than USD 3.5 bn in Egypt over the next five years, Vice-President & General Manager David Chi told Bloomberg Alsharq on the sidelines of the conference (watch, runtime: 2:32). The company expects to spend an extra USD 250 mn on Egypt this year, in addition to its annual investments.

FAST FACT- Apache’s JV here is Egypt’s largest oil producer. The Oil Ministry inked a USD 3.5 bn, 20-year production agreement with the Apache-Sinopec JV in December.

Egypt will be receiving newly announced additional natural gas exports from Israel via a new route through Jordan, rather than the Arish-Ashkelon pipeline that Israel usually uses to ship gas to Egypt, Reuters reports. The route is likely the Arab Gas Pipeline, Bloomberg notes, which runs through Jordan and Syria. The pipeline has been under renovation and is expected to be up and running within weeks.

Aramco to supply new Ain Sokhna refinery: Saudi Aramco signed an agreement with the Red Sea National Petrochemicals Company for long-term supply of Arabian light crude to the petrochemical complex set to be built in Ain Sokhna, according to a ministry statement. The Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation also signed a contract with Aramco’s Luberef to import base oil.

EGPC teams up with Tenaris on digital infrastructure: The Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) signed a memorandum of understanding with manufacturing firm Tenaris, for digital solutions to help the authority plan and manage resources, according to a ministry statement.

Military-affiliated Enppi will cooperate on MENA-based projects with Abu Dhabi’s National Petroleum Construction Company, after the two firms signed an MoU according to an Oil Ministry statement. Ennpi also signed an MoU with US-based Honeywell to boost cooperation on energy conversion, sustainable development, and digital solutions, among several other agreements with local and international firms.


Metito, Scatec, OC eye USD 1.5 bn desalination facility

USD 1.5 bn solar-powered desalination plant in the works? A consortium made up of UAE-based Metito Holdings, Scatec Solar, and Orascom Construction (OC) is in talks with Egyptian authorities to build a USD 1.5 bn water desalination plant that would be powered entirely using renewables, Metito Africa Managing Director Karim Madwar told Bloomberg. The consortium is looking to get the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Egypt onboard as a partner in the project, according to Madwar.

In detail: The solar-powered desalination plant would process 1-2 mn cubic meters per day. The plant would be built under a build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) framework.

Metito and Scatec are no strangers to the market: Metito has worked with OC and Hassan Allam Construction on several local wastewater treatment and desalination plants, and is currently in talks with the Housing Ministry to build floating desalination plants in Egypt, akin to three plants it’s building in Saudi Arabia for around USD 202.6 mn. Norway’s Scatec, meanwhile, is currently working with OC, Nassif Sawiris-backed Fertiglobe, and the Sovereign Fund of Egypt to build the 100 MW green hydrogen plant in Ain Sokhna.

Water security is a key priority for the gov’t: Threats posed to our water supply by Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and by climate change have caused the government to put water at the forefront of its development plans. Egypt recently inaugurated the world’s largest wastewater treatment plant — the EGP 18 bn Bahr Al Baqar wastewater treatment plant — while the El Hammam agricultural wastewater plant is currently in the works.


9% economic growth, hedging wheat, and privatization get air time in PM’s presser

Egypt’s economy grew at a 9% clip in 1H2021-2022, with 8.3% growth during the second quarter of the current fiscal year, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly said at a presser yesterday (watch, runtime: 1:09:38). By comparison, our GDP growth came in at 1.3% in 1H2020-2021, Planning Minister Hala El Said said, according to Reuters.

The 2Q2021-2022 figure is higher than was previously expected: El Said had signaled in December that GDP growth was forecast at 6-7% for the quarter. The government expects GDP growth to exceed 6% for the full fiscal year, with the third and fourth quarters now expected to register 6% or higher growth, Madbouly said.

Full steam ahead for the state privatization program: The IPOs and secondary stake sales of a handful of state companies under the privatization program are moving forward, Madbouly said. The prime minister, El Said, and Finance Minister Mohamed Maait have said in recent weeks that we should see several state listings this year.

MEANWHILE- The government is still studying potentially hedging wheat, Madbouly said, confirming a statement from Supply Minister Ali El Moselhy earlier this week that “uncertainties” in the global wheat market could require us to start hedging the commodity. Egypt first started looking into hedging against rising wheat and oil prices back in 2018.

Litmus test for the international wheat market in the meantime: State grain buyer GASC will issue a wheat tender next week to get a feel for market conditions amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine tensions, El Moselhy told Bloomberg Asharq yesterday. The minister had signaled earlier this week that Egypt will be looking to diversify its sources of wheat imports to protect against supply shocks from Ukraine. Egypt is the largest consumer of Ukrainian wheat, purchasing the equivalent of around 14% of its total wheat consumption from the eastern European country.


We have more details on the CBE’s new import rules

Details on CBE’s new import rules outline exemptions for some goods + small shipments: Imports of goods worth up to USD 5k (or the equivalent in any other foreign currency) will be exempt from the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) decision requiring importers to get letters of credit (L/Cs) for their purchases, according to a Federation of Egyptian Banks (FEB) statement carried by Masrawy and several other local outlets. The decision also exempts shipments delivered via express post, according to the statement.

The CBE is also exempting from the decision the import of meds, vaccines, and the active ingredients required to manufacture them locally. Imports of tea, meat and poultry products, fish, wheat, oil, milk powder, baby formula, fava beans, lentils, butter, and corn are also not subject to the new requirement.

The new rules will come into effect next Tuesday, 22 February, according to the FEB. The CBE had previously indicated that the decision would be implemented from the beginning of March.

Importers should be able to switch to L/Cs without extra bank fees: Banks must lower the fees for issuing L/Cs to match those for the existing process of documentary collection, according to the FEB statement. Banks are also required to raise credit limits for existing customers and set new limits for new customers, depending on their import volumes. The FEB is also instructing banks to provide L/Cs to all customers who request them as quickly as possible.

Refresher: The CBE issued over the weekend new regulations that require banks to begin only accepting letters of credit to facilitate the purchase of imports, and to no longer accept documentary collection from exporters. L/Cs ensure exporters that the bank will pay them if the importer defaults for whatever reason, offering exporters more protection. Trade and industry organizations had objected to the move, suggesting that it would drive up the price of goods in the local market and hurt the competitiveness of Egyptian exports. Among the challenges presented by the decision: Complexity for SMEs unexperienced with navigating the bureaucracy needed to obtain an L/C — and a cashflow hit for importers of all sizes, given banks typically freeze funds in importers’ accounts equivalent to the full value of the L/C until the L/C is wound down.


ValU taps new partnerships in sports, aviation, and education ahead of first cross-border expansion this quarter

EFG Hermes’ fintech platform ValU has teamed up with Al Ahly Sporting Club to offer financing plans on new memberships, the company announced in a press release (pdf). The partnership covers Al Ahly’s Gezira, Nasr City, Sheikh Zayed and New Cairo branches, and will offer financing with up to ten-year tenures for membership payments. ValU has similar partnership agreements in place with SODIC’s Club S and New Giza sports clubs, Al Borsa quotes ValU CEO Walid Hassouna, who also leads the firm’s sprawling non-bank financial services platform, as saying.

The airline industry is also on ValU’s radar: The company has signed a contract with Egyptian airline Nile Air to provide installment plans for flight tickets, Hassouna said, according to Al Borsa, and is currently in talks with three other airlines for similar partnerships, one of which it expects to finalize by next week.

As is education: ValU is also in talks with fintech startup Klickit to offer tuition financing, Al Borsa quoted Hassouna as saying. Klickit provides e-payment services for school fees at over 55k educational establishments. EFG Hermes led Klickit’s first investment round in December, which will see it integrate its tech stack with ValU’s platform. ValU has already signed with school operator GEMS and the American University in Cairo to provide tuition financing.

Regional expansion is in the cards for 1Q2022: The company is looking to make its first cross-border expansion into another Arab country before the end of this quarter, Hapi Journal quoted Hassouna as saying. The company had previously said it intends to expand into Saudi Arabia and North Africa this year.

Followed by a fresh securitized bond tranche: ValU is also looking to issue EGP 500 mn of securitized bonds in 2Q2022, part of its EGP 2 bn securitization program, Hassouna added. The company kicked off the program in September with a EGP 323 mn bond issuance.

The company carved out a sizable market share for itself last year: ValU rose to become the third-largest non-bank consumer lender in the country last year, with a market share of 11.3%.


Occupancy rates at Egyptian hotels to rise by 19-29% this year -Colliers

Colliers International maintained its optimistic forecast for Egypt’s hotel occupancy in its January report on MENA hotels (pdf), with all four of its listed Egyptian destinations — Cairo, Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada and Alexandria — expected to see occupancy rates rise by 19-29% this year compared with 2021.

More travelers are expected at our Red Sea resorts this year: Colliers expects occupancy rates in Sharm to hit 60%, up 19% y-o-y, while Hurghada’s hotels are expected to reach occupancy rates of 69%, up 29% y-o-y. The real estate services firm increased its estimates for both cities by 2 percentage points on its last estimate in November (pdf).

The growth partly stems from a favorable base effect: The government lifted a 70% cap on hotel occupancy rates last October, after raising it from 50% in July. The cap was part of covid-19 measures brought in at the onset of the pandemic.

Could escalation in the Russia-Ukraine crisis pose a threat to recovery? “Travel uncertainty in Egypt’s key feeder markets is expected to slow the growth of demand,” says the report. Russia and Ukraine are two of our most important tourism markets in terms of volume. More than 700k Russian tourists visited Egypt last year, boosted by the return of direct flights from Russia to Red Sea resorts after a six-year hiatus, as well as the return of charter flights.

GEM to draw tourists to the capital? “New attractions” in Cairo are expected to push hotel occupancy rates to 69%, marking a 21% y-o-y rise. The opening of the EGP 20 bn Grand Egyptian Museum — the largest museum in the world dedicated to a single civilization — is slated for the second half of this year.

Tourism revenues returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2021, surpassing USD 13 bn, according to the Tourism Ministry, and eclipsing its USD 6-9 bn target. The ministry is anticipating revenues to rise still further this year, on the back of the GEM’s opening, the completion of the EGP 275 bn Sinai Development plan, the inauguration of new destinations such as El Galala and new hotels in El Alamein.


Damietta Port Authority and DIPCO settle long-running container terminal dispute

Damietta Port and DIPCO settle their years-long dispute: KGL International Ports, Warehousing & Transport and Damietta International Ports Company (DIPCO) have reached an agreement with the Damietta Port Authority (DPA) to settle all disputes between them, according to a statement (pdf) from KGL’s transport subsidiary, which owns a 25% stake in DIPCO.

Refresher: The dispute began in 2015, when the DPA scrapped its 2006 contract with DIPCO to build a new container terminal at the port, alleging DIPCO had failed to stick to the agreed time frame. The International Court of Arbitration (ICC) ordered the DPA to pay over USD 494 mn to DIPCO in 2020, but the Cairo Court of Cassation overturned the ICC’s ruling the following year.

Settlement conditions: The DPA will pay USD 100 mn to KGL International, USD 40 mn to DIPCO, and USD 120 mn to other involved parties. After the payments have been made, all sides will drop their cases and the dispute will be resolved.


PHD’s board approves EGP 3.25 bn sukuk sale

Palm Hills Developments (PHD) is taking a EGP 3.25 bn sukuk issuance to market after its board of directors signed off on the sale, according to a company disclosure (pdf). The sale, which will be managed by Contact Financial Holdings’ sukuk arm, will finance the real estate developer’s Badya project.

PHD could issue our first corporate sukuk of 2022: The sale could go ahead this quarter, Sarwa Promoting and Underwriting head Ayman Elsawy confirmed to Enterprise last month. Last year was a quiet one for the sharia-compliant bonds, seeing only one EGP 2.5 bn sukuk sale from Contact Financing Holdings.


You’ve heard of e-commerce. Now we have a c-commerce player in town

UAE-based c-commerce platform Zbooni has launched operations in Egypt, according to a company press release. The company offers tools to help SMEs convert customer interactions through social and messaging apps into transactions, including by allowing businesses to share online shopping baskets and payment links and track sales data.

C-commerce? Connected commerce is a catch-all term for various services and strategies that use digital technologies and data to create a more seamless, personal and targeted shopping experience, boosting sales in the process. The average c-commerce cart is 2.7 times bigger than an e-commerce cart, says Zbooni.

About Zbooni: Founded in 2016, the company has offices in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan and serves around 6k businesses. The firm raised a USD 9.5 mn series A round last year to finance its regional expansion, develop new products and grow its team. Zbooni also partnered with JumiaPay in December to enable payments through Jumia across Zbooni’s platform.


Is Africa’s “highest valued” startup coming to Egypt? Africa and EM-focused fintech Flutterwave is considering expanding into “Egypt or Morocco” through mergers and acquisitions, after it raised USD 250 mn from B Capital Group, Alta Park Capital, Whale Rock Capital and Lux Capital, Bloomberg reports. The latest funding round means the firm has more than tripled its value in less than a year to USD 3 bn, making it the “highest valued” African startup, it says.

ALSO- Flat6Labs is looking to grow in Saudi Arabia with a new memorandum of understanding (pdf) it has inked with university-associated “innovation investment company” Taibah Valley.


Hafez & Partners has tapped Ahmed Saad to head the law firm’s capital markets practice as an executive director, according to a statement (pdf). Saad was previously the executive chairman of the former Capital Markets Authority and chief counselor to the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority (now the Financial Regulatory Authority).



The CBE’s new import rules led coverage on the airwaves for a second day running. We have more on the new rules in this morning’s Trade section, above.

There were advocates: A central bank directive to reduce fees for importers to obtain letters of credit (L/Cs) is key and means that importers will not face any additional charges, said Federation of Egyptian Banks (FEB) head Mohamed El Etreby in a phone-in with Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 26:21). The central bank has told lenders to bring L/C fees down to match those for documentary collection, according to new details circulating in local media that were issued by the FEB.

And there were critics: The CBE should exempt local manufacturers and producers — who import spare parts, machinery and equipment for production — from the new rules, deputy chair of the House of Representatives’ industry committee Mohamed El Sallab said in a call with Yahduth Fi Misr (watch, runtime: 6:16). Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan (watch, runtime: 2:53) echoed his sentiment in his coverage of the story.

El Sisi’s attendance at the EU-AU summit in Brussels also got more airtime: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s sit-down with Belgium’s King Philippe, as well as the agreements he signed with Belgian companies in green hydrogen, energy and defense, got coverage from Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 7:31; 5:46). We have more in this morning’s Diplomacy section, below.


France-backed initiative to fund 200 African startups by 2025: French government-backed initiative Digital Africa will turn to a forprofit model to provide EUR 70 mn worth of seed and series A funding to 200 African startups by 2025, Bloomberg reports. The initiative is looking at ticket sizes of between EUR 20k-200k for each startup in locations “ranging from Ivory Coast to Tunisia,” according to a white paper seen by Bloomberg.

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

  • SMART POLICY- Hassan Allam Holding agreed to a USD 1 mn ins. policy against cyberattacks with US cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike.
  • A subsidiary of Al Khor General Maintenance & Contracting plans to invest EUR 100 mn in a medical city in the new administrative capital.
  • CIB customers can now use (pdf) the Via Drive Thru app to place orders within Via’s vendor network and receive their orders from their cars.
  • The National Authority for Military Production, El Maasara for Engineering Industries and Italy’s Landi Renzo are setting up a JV to manufacture components to convert vehicles to run on natural gas.
  • IHS Egypt — a joint venture between IHS Towers and the government’s digitization arm — will spend EGP 5 bn installing 5k telecom towers over the next three years.


Rapid antigen tests could be coming soon to a pharmacy near you

The Health Ministry reported 2,101 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 2,117 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 461,299 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 54 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 23,519.

The vaccine tally: 29,305,504 people are now fully vaccinated against the virus, while some 9.5 mn people have received only their first shots and 835,270 people have received booster shots.

Rapid antigen tests will be available for purchase in pharmacies, Health Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said yesterday, according to a Cabinet statement. The move is meant to make covid-19 testing more widely available to the public. The tests have so far only been available through laboratories and diagnostics centers.

Merck’s Molnupiravir antiviral covid pill will also be rolled out through ministry-affiliated pharmacies, Abdel Ghaffar said. The antiviral covid treatment, which is currently only available in hospitals, was approved for emergency use in late January, making it the first country in the Middle East and Africa to do so. Five local firms have already been licensed to manufacture the treatment.


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Against expectations, UK inflation accelerated for a fourth consecutive month in January to reach 5.5%, marking a fresh 30-year high, according to the Office of National Statistics. Economists and the Bank of England (BoE) had expected inflation to hold steady at 5.4%. The uptick in prices may push the BoE to raise interest rates by half a percentage point when it meets next month in a bid to tame inflation, Bloomberg says. Rate hikes typically come in quarter-point increments — and the BoE has never made a half-point hike in its independent history.

Saudi sovereign wealth fund-owned digital security firm Elm saw its share price rise 30% in its trading debut on the Tadawul yesterday, Bloomberg reports. The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund has raked in USD 5 bn through fresh listings in just three months, with Elm’s IPO following bn-USD sales of stakes in Saudi Telecom and the Tadawul itself.




+0.0% (YTD: -3.2%)



Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76



Buy 15.66

Sell 15.76


Interest rates CBE

8.25% deposit

9.25% lending




+1.2% (YTD: +10.8%)




+0.7% (YTD: +8.4%)




+1.4% (YTD: +4.1%)


S&P 500


+0.1% (YTD: -6.1%)


FTSE 100


-0.1% (YTD: +3.0%)


Brent crude

USD 94.81



Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 4.64




USD 1,872




USD 44,028

-0.4% (as of midnight)


The EGX30 rose less than 0.1% at yesterday’s close on turnover of EGP 705 mn (32% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 3.2% YTD.

In the green: Credit Agricole Egypt (+4.0%), Oriental Weavers (+1.7%) and Heliopolis Housing (+1.5%).

In the red: Rameda (-3.6%), Ibnsina Pharma (-1.9%) and Elsewedy Electric (-1.9%).


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Dina El-Shenoufy, chief investment officer, Flat6Labs: 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 Dina El-Shenoufy (LinkedIn), chief investment officer at Flat6Labs. Edited excerpts from our conversation follow:

My name is Dina El-Shenoufy, I’m the chief investment officer at Flat6Labs. I’ve been doing it since 2011 and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. My job comes with a lot of responsibilities but if I really have to distill it, it’s portfolio management, fundraising and investor relations.

I tend to wake up at around 5:30 am and I need an hour to drink my coffee. It’s my sacred time. Following that there tends to be an hour or two of working out, depending on whether or not I’m training for a race. And then it's breakfast, email, setting the day, e-commerce browsing, and work.

Now I’m doing triathlons, which is why I tend to start with two hours of training every day. I started out as just a runner and I’ve been doing that my whole life. I started doing marathons around 2013 and at some point I needed to give my knees a break, so I switched to triathlons in 2018. I haven’t had a race in a while because covid has slowed things down. Pre-covid, I did the half Iron Man in Turkey, but the last few races have been here in Egypt

I tend to be a very disciplined person by nature. I have lists everywhere — mostly in my head. But I believe that sports have helped me to be very organized. They help me to organize the day ahead and to start the day earlier.

The origin story behind Flat6Labs is that we want to invest a hundred-mn USD ticket, but whoops, there’s no company that knows how to spend a hundred-mn USD. Flat6Labs is a very early stage investor because we want to eventually have a company that can absorb that. So the question is: how do you make companies investable, how do you get them to understand how to manage a company, not a product? How do you invest while being return-centric, rather than just a support program? We are actually investors, remember. This is why I think that Flat6Labs is actually an institutional investor at a very early stage with a very particular investment thesis to cater for the higher risk associated with such early stage investments.

When you’re investing at or just after the MVP (minimum viable product) stage, the likelihood of companies failing is very high, whereas a series A or series B VC would expect that 75% of the companies that it invests in will succeed. We are the opposite. We probably make 20 investments a year under the assumption that 75% of them will be written off and we have to do the returns on the 25% that succeed, but it becomes profitable on the overall portfolio. We do very small ticket sizes compared to a series A or series B investors, so it has a very different flavor.

The needle has moved a bit, which is also a reflection of the maturity in the market. When we started in 2011, we literally took ideas. It was the equivalent of USD 15k tickets at the time, and we took mostly idea-stage startups, but now more often than not there’s a product, we help them turn it into a company, and take it to market. But for 80% of our companies, we are the first investment they receive.

I hear statistics about global gender bias against investing in female-led startups but I always feel inclined to dig deeper and find out how it’s actually measured. At Flat6Labs we have a mandate and a target imposed by some of our LPs, and the struggle more often than not is finding a pipeline of female-led startups. As an investor, I look for female founders or co-founders, but we don't come across a lot of innovative ideas from female founders that have scalability and traction. But I do understand that there is a shift in mentality when a female is pitching versus a male is pitching, and in our organization it tends to be balanced out by having quite a few female managers. The other thing we put effort into is educating female founders in learning how to pitch. Female founders tend to be less courageous than males when presenting their companies.

I play Boggle and Wordle with my husband every single night. It’s our nerdy guilty pleasure that we have to do every night. And I also have to play Sudoku everyday, so the nerdiness continues.

I’m asleep by 9:30 pm every night, but I usually watch 45 minutes of TV. The series that I recently watched that was mind-boggling is a German show called Dark. It’s difficult and complicated, but it’s fantastic food for thought. Two books that I found to be life-defining are Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, and A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell.

The best piece of advice I got was from a good friend of mine who told me to stop holding myself back and doubting myself. That was an eye-opening experience for me, and I think it’s advice I would give to a lot of females. We tend to have self-doubt and we tend to hold ourselves back.


1Q2022: Launch of the Egyptian Commodities Exchange.

1Q2022: Swvl acquisition of Viapool expected to close.

1Q2022: Waste collection startup Bekia plans to expand to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

1Q2022: Rameda Pharma will begin selling its generic version of Merck’s oral antiviral covid-19 med.

1Q2022: Pharos Energy’s sale of a 55% stake in El Fayum, Beni Suef concessions to IPR Energy Group subsidiary IPR Lake Qarun expected to close.

Early 2022: Results to be announced for the second round of the state’s gold and precious metals auction.

1H2022: Target date for IDH to close its acquisition of 50% of Islamabad Diagnostic Center.

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

1H2022: The government will respond to private companies’ bids to build desalination plants.

1H2022: Egypt’s second corporate green bond issuance expected to be announced.

1H2022: The Transport Ministry to sign a memorandum of understanding with Abu Dhabi Ports to set up a transport route across the Nile to transport products from Al Canal’s Minya sugar factory.

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

February: 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.

February: Ghazl El Mahalla shares will begin trading on the EGX.

Mid-February: End of grace period to comply with new minimum wage for firms who sent in exemption requests.

Mid-February: A Hungarian delegation will arrive in Egypt for talks over a potential investment in an industrial area in the SCZone.

4-20 February (Friday-Sunday): 2022 Winter Olympics, Beijing.

14-19 February (Monday- Saturday): An art exhibition created by marginalized children will be held at Townhouse Gallery. The event is organized by the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development, AlexBank, Townhouse Gallery, Al Ismaelia for Real Estate Investment, and Ubuntu Art Gallery.

17-18 February (Thursday-Friday): G20 Meeting of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, Jakarta.

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

19-21 February (Saturday-Monday): Nebu Expo for Gold and Jewelry 2022.

21 February (Monday): Hearing at Cairo Economic Court (pdf) on FRA lawsuits filed against Speed Medical.

22 February (Tuesday): The Egyptian National Railway is holding a forum to gauge public interest in its plans to delegate the management and operations of freight transport to the private sector.

22-24 February (Tuesday-Thursday): Investment Forum, General Authority For Investments (GAFI) Main Office, Nasr City.

26 February (Saturday): Speed Medical will elect a new board during ordinary general assembly (pdf).

27 February (Sunday): British-Egyptian Business Association (BEBA) green finance event with Finance Minister Mohamed Maait, Semiramis Intercontinental, Cairo

28 February (Monday): Applications close for the incubator and accelerator program run by Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA), US-based VC firm Plug and Play, and USAID.

28 February- 1 March (Monday-Tuesday): The Future of Data Centers Summit.

End of February: Lebanon to receive gas from Egypt via a pipeline crossing Jordan and Syria.

March: Rollout of the government financial management information system (GFMIS), a suite of electronic tools to automate the government’s financial management processes (pdf) that will replace the existing “closed” financial management system.

March: 4Q2021 earnings season.

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

March: World Cup playoffs.

March: The government hopes to sign a final contract between El Nasr Automotive and a new partner for the local production of electric cars.

March: Target date for Saudi tech firm Brmaja to IPO on the EGX.

March: Egypt to host World Tourism Organization Middle East committee meeting.

March: The Salam – new administrative capital – 10th of Ramadan Light Rail Train (LRT) line will start operating.

3 March (Thursday): Fawry’s extraordinary general assembly (pdf) to vote on EGP 800 mn capital increase.

9-18 March (Wednesday-Friday): The 55th edition of the Cairo International Fair.

15-16 March (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

24 March (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

25 March (Friday): Egypt will host Senegal in the first leg of their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers’ playoff (TBC).

26 March (Saturday): Egypt-EU World Trade Organization dispute settlement consultations end.

28-29 March (Monday-Tuesday): The Egypt International Mining Show (EIMS 2022) will take place virtually.

28 March (Monday): The second leg of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers’ playoff between Egypt and Senegal (TBC).

31 March (Thursday): Deadline for submitting tax returns for individual taxpayers.

31 March (Thursday): Vodacom purchase of Vodafone Group’s stake in Vodafone Egypt expected to be completed by this date.

31 March (Thursday): Supply Ministry expected to take final decision on bread subsidies by this date.

April: Fuel pricing committee meets to decide quarterly fuel prices.

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

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

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

14 April (Thursday): European Central Bank monetary policy meeting.

Mid-April: Trading on the Egyptian Commodity Exchange to start.

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

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

25 April (Monday): Sham El Nessim.

25 April (Monday): Sinai Liberation Day.

28 April (Thursday): National Holiday in observance of Sham El Nessim.

30 April (Saturday): Deadline for submitting corporate tax returns for companies whose financial year ends 31 December.

Late April – 15 May: 1Q2022 earnings season

May: Investment in Logistics Conference, Cairo, Egypt.

1 May (Sunday): Labor Day.

3-4 May (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

4 May (Wednesday): 3 February (Thursday): Deadline to send in applications for Cultural Property Agreement Implementation projects to the US Embassy in Cairo.

5 May (Thursday): National Holiday in observance of Labor Day.

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

19 May (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

9 June (Thursday): European Central Bank monetary policy meeting.

14-15 June (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

15-18 June (Wednesday-Saturday): St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), St. Petersburg.

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

23 June (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

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

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

End of 2Q2022: The Financial Regulatory Authority’s new Ins. Act should be approved.

End of 1H2022: Emirati industrial company M Glory Holding and the Military Production Ministry will begin the mass production of dual fuel pickup trucks that can run on natural gas.

2H2022: The inauguration of the Grand Egyptian Museum.

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

2H2022: The government will have vaccinated 70% of the population.

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

July: Fuel pricing committee meets to decide quarterly fuel prices.

1 July (Friday): FY 2022-2023 begins.

8 July (Friday): Arafat Day.

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

21 July (Thursday): European Central Bank monetary policy meeting.

26-27 July (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

30 July (Saturday): Islamic New Year.

Late July – 14 August: 2Q2022 earnings season.

18 August (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

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

September: Central Bank of Egypt’s Innovation and Financial Technology Center to launch incubator for 25 fintech startups.

8 September (Thursday): European Central Bank monetary policy meeting.

20-21 September (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve Finterest rate meeting.

22 September (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

October: World Bank and IMF annual meetings in Washington, DC

October: Fuel pricing committee meets to decide quarterly fuel prices.

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

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

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

27 October (Thursday): European Central Bank monetary policy meeting.

Late October – 14 November: 3Q2022 earnings season.

November: Cairo Water Week 2022.

1-2 November (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

3 November (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

7-18 November (Monday-Friday): Egypt will host COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh.

21 November-18 December (Monday-Sunday): 2022 Fifa World Cup, Qatar.

13-14 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

15 December (Thursday): European Central Bank monetary policy meeting.

22 December (Thursday): Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting.

End of 2022: e-Aswaaq’s tourism platform will complete the roll out of its ticketing and online booking portal across Egypt.

January 2023: EGX-listed companies and non-bank lenders will submit ESG reports for the first time.

January: Fuel pricing committee meets to decide quarterly fuel prices.

**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 above between the actual holiday and its observance.

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