Thursday, 10 March 2022

AM — Gov’t to shoulder the burden of “unprecedented” food, energy price spikes -Madbouly

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, wonderful people. We’ve made it through another week together — and it has been a doozy. (Does anybody use that word anymore? “Doozy”? It has nothing to do with the Duesenberg Motor Company — long defunct — and the folks who run the dictionary suggest it’s actually a corruption of “daisy” from the late 1800s, which at the time was slang for something or someone considered “the best.”)

THE BIG STORY THIS MORNING remains the war in Ukraine, a file on which Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly led by example yesterday. At a presser yesterday, the PM bluntly noted that (a) Egypt is uniquely squeezed between the two combatants and (b) that the fallout for our country is very real. Madbouly’s meeting with the press comes after Mohamed Maait (finance), Tarek El Molla (oil) and Ali El Moselhy (supply) spent much of the past two weeks delivering very much the same messages. As we noted early this week, cabinet has really stepped up to manage — and communicate to the public — the impact on Egypt of this conflict, which has thrown already tricky global commodity markets into disarray and seen speculation among the Grand Wizards of High Finance that Egypt may consider opening talks with the IMF on a facility to help us through if markets don’t stabilize soon.

Also yesterday: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi spoke with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and called for a diplomatic solution to the conflict. We have chapter and verse on the latest developments from Ukraine and Russia in this morning’s news well, below.

MEANWHILE- Inflation figures for February will be released today: Annual urban inflation hit its highest level in almost two and a half years in January due to rising food prices and an unfavorable base effect.

PSA- Brace yourself for sweater weather this weekend. The Egyptian Meteorological Authority is predicting a slight drop in temperature starting today through Saturday, with daytime highs of 19°C and overnight lows of 8°C across the capital and Alexandria. There’s also a slight chance of light to medium rainfall in Cairo and the northern coasts.


WHAT’S ALSO HAPPENING TODAY-

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will be in town for two days starting today. Sherman will meet with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and “other senior officials,” including National Council for Human Rights chief Moushira Khattab.

Our fellow coffee nerds may wish to attend the three-day 2022 National Barista Championship, which gets underway today at the Egypt International Exhibition Center. Hit up IG for more.

Petchem complex tender goes live this month: Anchorage Investments will launch the tender to choose the main contractor for its USD 2 bn petrochemical complex in the Suez Canal Economic Zone in mid-March, the company announced in a press release. The Anchor Benitoite Project will produce a range of petrochemical products and natural gas derivatives, and is set to be completed within 36 months after funding is secured.

MARKET WATCH-

Stocks surge, oil crashes on Ukraine hopes: US and European stocks had their best day since 2020 on hopes of a diplomatic solution to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Following two weeks of almost constant losses, Germany’s DAX surged 7.9%, while the S&P 500 recovered from Monday’s hefty sell-off, finishing 2.6% in the green. The rally came as a partial ceasefire was implemented in some areas of the country and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signaled a potential compromise with Russia to end the conflict.

We think traders might have been reading a bit too much into it though, for reasons we explain in this morning’s War Watch, below.

The rollercoaster in the global energy markets didn’t stop as oil endured its worst day for two years: Following a historic spike at the start of the week, Brent and US crude tanked yesterday on hopes that oil producers would soon act to fix the escalating supply problem. WTI plunged 15% to USD 105 and Brent fell 12% to USD 112 a barrel after the UAE’s US ambassador suggested that the country would push OPEC+ to increase supply.

But wait: The UAE’s energy minister said later that the country remains committed to the current framework, which sees the cartel increasing production by 400k barrels a day every month.

Prices still remain elevated, with Brent still up some 15% since the beginning of the war.

US wheat futures fell back yesterday after a government report (pdf) forecast global stockpiles to rise, despite the war, Bloomberg reports. Chicago wheat fell by 6.6% during trading after the Department of Agriculture said larger production in Australia would boost stocks this year. The benchmark contract remains up 50% year-to-date due to supply fears caused by the conflict.

Asia is picking up where Wall Street left off, with most indexes in the region seeing strong gains this morning. Europe and the US look to follow suit later today, according to the futures markets. Oil is continuing to dip, and was down c. 1.7% just before dispatch.


CORRECTION- We incorrectly said in the TL;DR section of yesterday’s EnterpriseAM that First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) were considering a potential merger. The story body of the story correctly noted the potential merger between FAB and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB). We apologize for the typo — the entry has been updated on our web edition.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Contemporary art and culture center Darb1718 is hosting its 3031 Art Festival until this Saturday, 12 March on its premises in Fustat, Old Cairo.

Green energy forum: The German Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce is hosting the Egyptian German Green Energy Forum on Tuesday, 22 March. Planning Minister Hala El Said, Vice Minister of Finance Ahmed Kouchouk and German Ambassador Frank Hartmann are among those slated to attend. The event runs 5:30-9pm CLT at the InterContinental Cairo Semiramis.

Interest rates: The Central Bank of Egypt will hold its next monetary policy meeting on Thursday, 24 March.

(Much) further afield: Egypt will host the World Urban Forum in 2024 in cooperation with UN Habitat. Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly yesterday met with the regional director of the UN Habitat, Erfan Ali, to discuss preparations for the event, the two sides announced (here and here). The forum aims to discuss rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies. This year’s edition will be held in Poland this June.

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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COMMODITIES

Gov’t to shoulder the burden of “unprecedented” food, energy price spikes -Madbouly

The world has seen an “unprecedented” increase in the prices of strategic goods over the past two weeks on the back of the conflict in Ukraine, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly said in a press conference yesterday laying out the government’s response to the crisis (watch, runtime: 40:41).

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is upending global food supplies and sending commodity prices soaring: The two countries provide around a third of the world’s wheat, almost 80% of sunflower oil production, and about a fifth of corn exports. Global wheat prices have surged 48% over the past two weeks, adding more than USD 100 to the price per ton, Madbouly said. In addition, sugar prices have risen 7%, frozen meat by 11% and poultry by 10% over the same period, he said. Oil prices have risen 15%.

Inflation was already on the up: Annual urban inflation reached a near two-and-a-half-year high in January, underpinned by rising food prices and a declining base effect.

No sugar coating: The government is “fully aware” of Egypt’s unique exposure to rising commodity prices — and the cost of living is certain to rise, he said. Prices of unsubsidized bread have already increased by up to 50% since the start of the conflict.

The state will try to shoulder the burden: The government will try to absorb the costs “as much as possible” and relieve the inflationary impact on the public, the prime minister said. Finance Minister Mohamed Maait this week outlined the potential impact of the crisis on state finances, saying that the government may have to spend an extra EGP 15 bn to cover wheat imports. The Finance Ministry is revising its budget targets for the coming fiscal year in light of the situation, he said.

But what about the subsidy taper? The prime minister didn’t say anything about government plans to partially lift bread subsidies, a plan that was in the works long before Russia invaded Ukraine. The Supply Ministry is supposed to announce its proposals at the end of the month, which could involve targeted cuts that ringfence the most vulnerable people.

The government is working to secure at least 3-6 months of reserves in all basic commodities, Madbouly said. Egypt currently has enough wheat to cover the next four months, and after the local harvest begins in April a further 5.5 mn tonnes will be added to supply, giving the country enough wheat to last it until the end of the year, he said.

And it’s working on measures to step up wheat production: The government is preparing new incentives for farmers to increase the production of wheat, Agriculture Minister El Sayed El Quseir told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa last night (watch, runtime 10:55), without disclosing details.

It’s not just food prices that are rising: Other areas of the economy such as manufacturing and construction will face higher input costs as the prices of raw materials rise. Iron ore prices have been climbing over concerns that the conflict could curb global supply of the key steelmaking ingredient, while steel prices in Europe surged 22% last week to their highest since August. Ezz Steel is now selling a ton of steel for EGP 17k after raising its prices by EGP 2k over the past month, while the Suez Steel Company hiked its prices by around EGP 1.5k, according to Masrawy.

The government has formed a crisis committee to manage the implications of the Russian-Ukrainian war, similar to the covid crisis committee that was formed in 2020, Madbouly said, adding that the government, private sector and the public “are able to overcome this crisis together.”

WAR WATCH

Ukraine neutrality + Sisi talks to Putin

Ukraine “ready for diplomatic solution”: Ukraine is considering Russia’s demand for neutrality in return for security guarantees but won’t give up a “single inch of territory,” a senior aide to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Bloomberg yesterday. “We are ready for a diplomatic solution,” said Ihor Zhovkva, Zelenskiy’s deputy chief of staff.

Neutrality has been a key Russian demand: Irked by the country’s drift towards Nato and the EU, Moscow has demanded that Ukraine make constitutional guarantees that it will remain neutral and not aligned with the West. Kyiv had agreed to amend its constitution as part of the Minsk accords signed following the 2014 conflict, but did not follow through.

But Kyiv won’t give on Russia’s territorial claims: The Ukrainian government will not hand over a “single inch of territory” to Russia, Zhovkva said, rejecting Moscow’s demands that it accept Russian sovereignty over Crimea and recognize the breakaway states in the Donbas as independent territories.

And demands a total ceasefire: “Our first and foremost pre-condition for having such kind of negotiations is immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of Russian troops,” he said.

Zelenskiy’s hand isn’t getting any stronger, with the southern city of Mariupol likely to fall in the coming days and a renewed assault on Kyiv expected this week. Putin hasn’t indicated any willingness for a total ceasefire and has insisted that troops will continue with the operation.

EGYPT IN THE WAR-

Egypt calls for diplomatic solution: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi called for dialogue and offered to help mediate an end to the conflict during talks with Putin yesterday, Ittihadiya said in a statement. During the call, El Sisi told the Russian president that Egypt is ready to step in to help find a political settlement to the crisis,

Ties remain cordial: The two leaders emphasized the strength of “deeply-rooted and historical relations” and El Sisi thanked Putin for helping to evacuate Egyptian nationals from the country.

There are good reasons why Egypt isn’t going to be joining the West in ostracizing Moscow: “The presidents discussed further development of the strategic partnership between Russia and Egypt, including major joint projects in nuclear energy and industrial production,” according to a readout of the conversation from the Kremlin.

Russia and the Ukraine together account for about 80% of our wheat supply (with Russia being the larger of the two suppliers) and a third of our inbound tourism market.

ON THE GROUND-

There has been slight progress on evacuations: More than 40k people were evacuated yesterday though people struggled to escape from conflict hotspots around Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol, Ukrainian negotiator said yesterday, according to Reuters. Shelling continued in a number of places in the country despite Moscow agreeing to a 12-hour ceasefire to evacuate civilians. It remains unclear which side breached the ceasefire, with both sides trading blame for the continued fighting.

Fighting has been most intense in the southern city of Mariupol, which has been surrounded by Russian forces for over a week, with Ukrainian authorities describing conditions as “apocalyptic.”

Russia bombed a childrens’ hospital in the city yesterday: Russian airstrikes hit a maternity hospital in Mariupol yesterday, injuring at least 17 people, according to Ukrainian officials. The attack drew condemnation from US and other Western leaders after troubling footage and photos of the attack were shared on social media and in the press.

THE HUMAN TOLL-

The number of refugees from Ukraine has grown to more than 2.1 mn, according to the latest UN tally.

SANCTIONS-

The US could move to sanction Russian state nuclear company Rosatom, people familiar with the matter tell Bloomberg. The Biden administration has not taken a final decision on the move and is consulting with experts on the potential effects, the people said. Uranium was conspicuously absent from Washington’s energy ban announced Tuesday, which blocks the import of Russian oil, gas and coal.

This could be disruptive: The company enriches around 35% of the world’s uranium and ships the fuel to Europe and elsewhere around the world.

With potential blowback for us: Rosatom is the driving force behind the Dabaa nuclear plant, and is expected to begin construction on the facility later this year.

The EU’s sanctions list grows ever longer: The EU has added another 14 Russian business people and 146 lawmakers to its sanctions list, according to documents seen by the Financial Times. Among the individuals targeted are executives at some of the country's biggest energy and banking companies and the CEO of flag carrier Aeroflot.

EXODUS-

Western companies continued to announce pulling out of Russia yesterday: Amazon, Nestle, Sony, Mondelez and Philip Morris all said they would be scaling down their operations in Russia yesterday in response to the invasion. Following Unilever and Procter and Gamble, Nestle said it would stop its investments in Russia, while Mondelez will reduce its nonessential activities in the country. Amazon and Sony are now longer shipping products to Russia, and the US ecommerce giant has also switched off Amazon Prime to Russian customers.

Meanwhile, French hotelier Accor, which operates the Fairmont, Sofitel and Banyan Tree brands, is keeping its Russian hotels open but suspending future developments in a similar move taken by Hilton and Hyatt. Reuters and Bloomberg have more.

Italian energy group Eni has halted the purchase of oil from Russia, as EU leaders look to set up a plan to phase out the bloc’s dependency on Russian energy sources. European oil giants Shell and BP announced they would sever business ties with Russia earlier this week.

BANKING

Banks have until September to comply with new capital requirements

Banks now have until 14 September to comply with the new capital requirements in the 2020 Banking Act after the central bank agreed to extend the deadline by a year, according to a decree published in the Official Gazette (pdf).

The rules: Under the legislation, banks have to have at least EGP 5 bn in liquid assets, a tenfold hike from previous rules. Foreign lenders’ minimum capital was raised threefold to USD 150mn, while forex bureaus’ increased fivefold to EGP 25 mn.

Why the extension? After the bill was signed into law in September 2020, banks were initially given a year to comply with the rules, but the legislation allows the central bank to extend this period by another two years. The CBE has not publicly commented on the reasons for the extension.

DEBT WATCH

EFG Hermes signs EGP 600 mn sale and leaseback agreement with LMD

EFG Hermes Corp-Solutions has signed a EGP 600 mn sale and leaseback agreement with real estate developer LMD to finance its multi-purpose 3’Sixty project in New Cairo, it announced in a press release (pdf) yesterday. The developer received the funding in two equal tranches, which were disbursed in January and early March.

LMD will direct the funds to “ensure fast-paced construction and on-time delivery” of the project, CEO Amr Sultan said in the release. The EGP 4 bn business and leisure park is set to include offices, clinics, and retail space.

EFG likes real estate: This marks the latest of several agreements in real estate for EFG’s leasing and factoring arm, which is looking to make further inroads in the sector. “The real estate sector in Egypt continues to be one of the most attractive and fast-growing sectors,” CEO Talal Elayat said, adding that the company plans “to continue to offer our premium financing opportunities to real estate developers in order to add high-quality, income-generating assets to our portfolio.” EFG signed two separate EGP 750 mn leaseback agreements with real estate developers Misr Italia and Madinet Nasr for Housing and Development in the fourth quarter of 2021.

INVESTMENT WATCH

Carrefour Egypt to spend EGP 250 mn on Egypt expansion

Carrefour Egypt plans to invest EGP 250 mn and build 10 new stores in Egypt this year, Masrawy quotes Carrefour Egypt head Philippe Peguilhan as saying. The Majid Al Futtaim-owned retailer is eyeing new locations in Cairo, Alexandria, the North Coast, the Red Sea, the Delta, and New El Alamein. Carrefour currently has 59 stores nationwide, including 14 hypermarkets and 45 supermarkets.

Ramadan prep amid the commodities crunch: At a recent meeting with government officials, Carrefour pledged to ensure all its product lines are available at reasonable prices ahead of Ramadan, despite Russia’s war on Ukraine, Peguilhan said. The war has knocked out a good chunk of global wheat supply, sending prices soaring and threatening widespread food inflation.

Continued expansion: The chain saw sales rise 40% — exceeding its targets — and built seven new stores last year. Peguilhan said. Carrefour had reportedly targeted investing EGP 400 mn to set up 20 new branches in 2021, backed by expectations for a rapid recovery in consumer demand.

OTHER INVESTMENT NEWS-

Saudi tech firm Brmaja plans to increase its investments in Egypt by 20% this year, Al Mal reported CEO Hatem Bakheet as saying, without disclosing figures. The company and its two subsidiaries, Brmaja IT and Brmaja Innovation, are all looking to expand in the Egyptian market this year, he said.

The company’s Egyptian arm has said it is eyeing an IPO on the EGX as early as this month, but we’ve seen little to suggest the offering by Brmaja Innovation is imminent. The company registered its shares with Misr for Central Clearing, Depository and Registry last month and is has said it could list 20% of its shares in an EGP 400 mn sale. It has plans to acquire its Saudi parent company in a reverse merger ahead of the listing.

STARTUP WATCH

Shatablee receives USD 1.2 mn investment

Interior design startup Shatablee has received a USD 1.2 mn investment, the company announced in a press release, without disclosing the investors. The money will be used to fund the company’s expansion plans, founder and CEO Moustada Amer said, without providing further details.

About Shatablee: Founded in 2021, the company gives people the ability to design the interiors of their homes via a digital 3D platform. Users are given the option of a number of design packages which can then be customized to their personal tastes.

LEGISLATION WATCH

Migrant smugglers could face life imprisonment in proposed law changes

The House of Representatives approved in principle amendments to the law combating illegal immigration. The proposed rules would increase penalties for anyone found guilty of attempting, mediating, or committing the act of smuggling migrants, handing out fines of EGP 200-500 mn and undisclosed jail time. If the crime is committed by an organized criminal group or for terrorism-related purposes, or if the migrants die in the process, the perpetrators could face up to life in prison, and fines ranging between EGP 500 mn – 5 mn, according to Sada El Balad.

Next steps: The amendments will head back to the House for a final vote, and if passed, will be handed to President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to be ratified into law.

EARNINGS WATCH

E-finance’s net income up 84% in 4Q2021

E-finance’s net income jumped 84% y-o-y in 4Q 2021 to EGP 139.3 mn, according to the company’s earnings release (pdf). Revenues rose almost 60% during the October-December period to record EGP 663.7 mn. Annually, the company’s bottom line grew 47% to EGP 519.7 mn on revenues of EGP 1.96 bn, up 59% y-o-y.

The breakdown: The state-owned tech firm’s flagship digital operations subsidiary, and its smart cards arm eCards, together accounted for around 95% of top-line growth in 2021. E-finance for Digital Operations’ revenues were up 23% last year to EGP 1.5 bn, driven by a “rapid expansion” in its financial cloud services. Revenues increased more than fourfold at eCards to reach EGP 375.8 mn as the subsidiary ramped up its new card management and smart solutions businesses. The company spent EGP 14.4 mn on one-off IPO-related expenses, including EGX, Financial Regulatory Authority, consulting fees, according to the release.

Looking ahead: E-finance aims to expand its client base “beyond government agencies and banks to grow the group’s exposure to retailers and corporates.” The company also aims to increase its share of wallet from digital banks, including by investing more in its cloud services, and to up its spend on tech in general.

New e-Finance shareholders will be paying close attention: This is the company’s first full-year release since it made its blockbuster EGX debut last year, raising some EGP 5.8 bn. Earnings fell in 3Q2021, but most investors will have been waiting for the 2021 release for a fuller picture on whether the firm can live up to the expectations generated in the IPO. E-finance shares closed down 2.9% at EGP 17.61 yesterday.

ALSO FROM E-FINANCE- The firm has appointed Sayed El Waraky (LinkedIn) as investor relations manager, according to a disclosure to the bourse (pdf). Former IR head Ahmed El Sayed is still onboard, now as senior investor relations manager.

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LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Everything is getting more expensive. Incoming inflation thanks to the Russia-Ukraine conflict dominated the airwaves last night. Our commodities section (above) has all the details.

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

It’s a ghost town in the pages of the foreign press this morning.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

East Delta Electricity Production Company will establish a 125 MW combined cycle power unit at the El Arish plant, Al Mal reported, citing sources at the Electricity Ministry. The company hopes to complete the EGP 2 bn project during FY 2022-2023 after acquiring the land, which is currently being negotiated with local authorities, they said.

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

  • Abu Qir Fertilizers will study (pdf) the establishment of a green hydrogen and green ammonia project in cooperation with Total.
  • The Arab Organization for Industrialization, Si-Vision and British firm Promethean have signed a contract to manufacture interactive screens for the Education Ministry.
  • The Electricity Ministry and Citigroup are looking into cooperation on energy investments with a focus on renewables and green hydrogen.
  • Egyptian digital financial services platform Paynas has partnered with Swvl to provide financial services to Swvl captains.
  • Nafeza and CargoX sign for another five years: Egyptian Company for E-commerce Technology (MTS), which set up the Nafeza digital customs system, has renewed its agreement with blockchain provider CargoX for another five years, Crypto News reports.

PLANET FINANCE

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BTC jumps after Biden takes first step to regulation: BTC surged as much as 9% to almost USD 42k last night, after US President Joe Biden signed an executive order outlining a “national policy for digital assets.” The order requires the government to look into the potential benefits and risks of bringing crypto assets into the fold of the traditional economy — including by creating a central bank digital currency. “The market has clearly been heartened by talk of supporting responsible innovation and a constructive approach to regulating the evolving digital token economy,” crypto exchange Bitfinex told Reuters.

Uber’s Middle East ride-hailing subsidiary Careem is looking to raise USD 500 mn from investors to fund expansion plans, Al Mal reports, citing people familiar with the matter. The firm will approach sovereign wealth funds in the Gulf, including the Saudi Public Investment Fund and Abu Dhabi-based ADQ, to invest in the firm, the people said. Bank of America is reportedly advising on the transaction.

Up

EGX30

10,416

+0.2% (YTD: -12.8%)

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

Down

Tadawul

12,739

-0.9% (YTD: +12.9%)

Down

ADX

9,523

-2.2% (YTD: +12.2%)

Down

DFM

3,385

-0.8% (YTD: +5.9%)

Up

S&P 500

4,278

+2.6% (YTD: -10.3%)

Up

FTSE 100

7,191

+3.3% (YTD: -2.6%)

Down

Brent crude

USD 112.66

-12.0%

None

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 4.53

0.0%

Down

Gold

USD 1,996.90

-2.3%

Up

BTC

USD 41,974

+8.9% (as of midnight)

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 rose 0.2% at yesterday’s close on turnover of EGP 864 mn (7.8% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 12.8% YTD.

In the green: Rameda (+4.2%), Cleopatra Hospital (+3.6%) and AMOC (+3.5%).

In the red: e-Finance (-2.9%), Orascom Construction (-2.5%) and Telecom Egypt (-2.3%).

DIPLOMACY

El Molla discusses gas exports with US officials: Oil Minister Tarek El Molla discussed Egypt’s gas exports with US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and State Department energy advisor Amos Hochstein during the CERAWeek International Energy Conference yesterday, according to a cabinet statement.

Egyptian gas exports have taken on a new level of importance in recent months, amid an energy crisis in Europe and Lebanon. Egypt is one of the countries that Europe is looking to to help decrease its reliance on Russian gas, while a plan to ship Egyptian gas to Lebanon is still to be green-lit by the US, which hasn’t confirmed whether it will apply sanctions for transporting the supplies via Syrian territory.

AROUND THE WORLD

Last ditch Russian demands threaten Iran nuclear agreement: Negotiators trying to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear pact are trying to resolve last-minute Russian demands that are threatening to upend talks, Reuters reports. Negotiations are close to being finalized with several participants saying there is a broad agreement in place. But following the introduction of widespread US sanctions on the Russian economy, Moscow is now asking the US for written guarantees that its trade with Iran will not be impacted.

South Korea has a new president: Conservative opposition candidate Yoon Suk-yeol will become South Korea’s next president after beating left-leaning rival Lee Jae-myung in a closely-fought election yesterday. (FT)

MY MORNING ROUTINE

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Mahmoud El Said, co-founder and CEO, Wasla: 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 Mahmoud El Said (LinkedIn), co-founder and CEO of Wasla. In February, internet browser turned e-commerce superapp Wasla bagged a USD 9 mn investment from Contact Financial Holding, which it will use to introduce secure checkout and expand into Nigeria. Edited excerpts from our conversation follow:

My name is Mahmoud El Said, and I’m cofounder & CEO at Wasla browser. I’m an investment banker and I’m married to a lawyer.

I always wanted to go into banking as an extended education. It’s quite demanding and you deal with a lot of seasoned and experienced people. I recommend it to anyone at the start of their career. I always had my eyes on moving away from that and starting my own thing, so when the idea of Wasla came up, me and my co-founders decided to jump ship and pursue it full-time.

As CEO, I’m responsible for the overall success of the business. On a day-to-day basis, I would say that my main responsibility is developing the strategy and making sure the team is aligned on it. I tend to think that I don’t manage people, I manage the process, which shows how I expect things to be completed. I tend to assess a lot of the risks facing the business, manage the board and shareholders, and develop strategic partnerships.

I actually like to think that my morning routine starts the day before. I check stuff at night to have a clear picture of my goals for the next day. I wake up at 6:30-7am, make coffee, and do the same thing that I did the night before with a higher level of engagement. After that, I spend some time on social media. I tend to read up on messages or emails from the day before, and typically scan Enterprise headlines. I spend some time on Wordle, which is quite fun. Then I wake up my wife, shower, and we both head to work at 7:30-8am.

I like to be the first one to the office, even though I would like to allocate some time to health in the morning. There is a whole other morning routine at the office — including a deeper dive in Enterprise. I believe that mornings set the tone for the day. I usually leave the office at 6:30-7pm.

My routine is extremely important for me. I really appreciate simplifying my life to make sure I’m not occupying my brain with small tasks, so I do things in the exact same sequence every single morning.

I stay focused through a lot of thinking and a lot of brain-dumping. If you open my notepad, you’ll get a glimpse of what I think about. I’m very organized with my time, calendars, and what I think about. I make a lot of to-do lists and schedule a lot of stuff on my calendar. I try to put a process in place for anything that is routine for me so I can handle the ad hoc. I’m the person who is always two minutes early.

We always had our eyes on fintech and an e-wallet, but we wanted a unique way to go to market that would resonate with emerging markets. When we first started Wasla in 2018, we wore hoodies that said “Do you want [no-charge] Internet” on them and stood in front of Cairo University until we got kicked out. From there, we built out the browser and created an app-sponsored model, and using that revenue, we subsidized the user’s internet cost. Fast forward to 2020, we were getting ready to go to market, when covid hit. That’s when we saw e-commerce traffic grow. Since there are two main use cases — content and e-commerce — we decided to shift the model from helping people save data to optimizing online shopping in general. Today, our mission is to enable e-payments for online shopping audiences in emerging markets, integrating price breaks, and buy-now-pay-later models.

We were lucky to be pushed toward this new direction because of covid. During covid, the number of e-commerce visits rose from two to 16 per month. We always wanted to pivot to a more transactional business and fintech, so we’re happy that this happened.

In the evenings, I like to sit with my wife. We tend to cook together every day when we get back home, watch TV, sit in a comforting environment — basically anything to decompress.

I recently read an interesting book called 6 Bn Shoppers: The Companies Winning the Global E-Commerce Boom that one of my co-founders bought for me. It’s very interesting and shows how ecommerce is adapted in different parts of the world and how each model was built and what allows each model to survive. I generally like nonfiction and shy away from fiction.

I’m the type of person that has Friends, Brooklyn 99 and Two and a Half Men on repeat, but I recently watched The Tinder Swindler.

The best piece of advice I’ve heard is: “You can’t rely on motivation because it won’t always be there. You need to rely on discipline because you can always control that.” It was an inspirational quote on Instagram but it really resonated with me.

CALENDAR

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.

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: Contracts for last two phases of Egypt’s USD 4.5 bn high-speed rail line to be signed.

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.

March: The new multi-purpose station at Dekheila Port and the revamped Ain Sokhna Port will start operating.

March: General Authority for Land and Dry Ports to issue the condition booklets for the operations of the Tenth of Ramadan dry port.

9-18 March (Wednesday-Friday): The annual Cairo International Fair.

Mid-March: Bidding for the construction of Anchorage Investments’ petrochemical complex in the Suez Canal Economic Zone starts.

15 March: The first edition of Export Smart at Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski

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

20 March (Sunday): Applications close for Visa’s global startup competition, the Visa Everywhere Initiative.

22 March (Tuesday): Egyptian German Green Energy Forum, 5:30-9:30pm CLT at the InterContinental Cairo Semiramis.

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

24 March (Thursday): GB Auto Extraordinary General Assembly (pdf).

24 March-1 April: Ahlan Ramadan Supermarket Expo, Cairo International Convention Center.

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).

28 March (Monday): The court hearing for a case brought by Arabia Investments Holding (AIH) against Peugeot has been postponed until 28 March.

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.

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

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.

5-7 June (Sunday-Tuesday): Africa Health ExCon, Al Manara International Conference Center, Egypt International Exhibitions Center, and the St. Regis Almasa Hotel, New Administrative Capital.

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.

3Q2022: Ayady’s consumer financing arm, The Egyptian Company for Consumer Finance Services, to release first financing product.

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.

August: Work to extend the capacity of the Egypt-Sudan electricity interconnection to 300 MW to be completed.

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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