Monday, 21 March 2022

AM — State banks, institutions commit USD 85 mn to Global Ventures’ Egyptian fintech fund

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, wonderful people, and welcome to a business-heavy issue of Enterprise as a flood of fundraising, M&A and investment news pushed the local fallout from the war in Ukraine further down our metaphorical front page.

Four stories really stand out: Global Ventures’ new, USD 85 mn Nclude fund, to be sure. But also the increasing (and quite welcome) acquisitiveness of Emirati players (as lender FAB eyes a potential acquisition of GB Lease), burgeoning interest in all things green (ammonium, this time) and the rollout of future flow securitization.

That last bit — future flow securitization — is a mouthful, but don’t gloss over it. It could be a game changer for many businesses. Imagine you run a school (or a SaaS business or a sports club or anything else with recurring, subscription-like revenues). You have tuition coming in at regular intervals, including from families that are on payment plans. But you want all the cash now to fund innovation, or build an expansion, or simply to smooth out your cashflows. Future flow securitization would effectively allow you to get a big chunk this year’s total tuition paid to you today, in a lump sum — if you’re willing to give up a bit of the total value to the investors who will front you the cash today.

BUT, BUT, BUT… Excited as we may be this morning about business news, war in Ukraine will be back at the top of the front page later today or tomorrow. That’s when the Madbouly government will announce new measures in response to the negative effects of the Russia-Ukraine war, Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi said yesterday (watch, runtime 3:25). President Abdel Fattah El Sisi yesterday instructed the government to immediately put together a package of measures to soften the economic and social impact of rising inflation caused by the conflict.

MEANWHILE- Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s Asian tour continues today. The FM held talks yesterday with his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, according to a ministry statement. Shoukry has in recent days made whistle stops in Indonesia and Malaysia and is scheduled to attend a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Islamabad on this Tuesday and Wednesday.

PSA- “Wintry” weather ahead: The cold is staying with us this week, according to the latest forecast by the folks over at the Egyptian Meteorological Authority. Expect highs of 18°C and lows of 8°C in Greater Cairo and Alexandria through Friday. There’s also a 20% chance of light rain this week, it added. Don’t worry, though: We’re still looking at the mercury entering the 30s by the first day of Ramadan, according to the long-range forecast on our favourite weather app.

It’s day two of the maritime logistics conference Marlog, which is taking place at the Hilton Green Plaza hotel in Alexandria. The event closes tomorrow.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

It’s interest rate week: The Central Bank of Egypt will hold its policy meeting to review interest rates this Thursday, 24 March. Six of the nine analysts we polled last week expect the central bank to raise interest rates in response to rising inflation and tighter financial conditions. There was a lack of consensus on the size of the potential hike, with some forecasting rates to rise by 50 bps and others predicting an aggressive 150 bps increase.

Actually, make that seven of nine (no, not that Seven of Nine): Arqaam is calling a 250 bps rate hike — “well above consensus” when the Monetary Policy Committee meets on Thursday, Head of Research Jaap Meijer said in an email yesterday. “With inflation possibly reaching close to 10% in March, to keep the carry trade continuing, and a low tolerance to see FX reserves slip, we now expect a rate hike in the range of 200-300bps at the next meeting,” Meijer wrote in a research note (pdf) yesterday with Aliya El Husseini.

MEANWHILE- Is Israeli PM Naftali Bennett planning a trip to Cairo? That’s the assertion in the Times of Israel, citing an unconfirmed report in the Israeli press, which suggests Bennett could meet President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in Sharm El Sheikh this coming September if the plans firm up. The newspaper points to the potential meeting as the latest sign of warming ties between Israel and Egypt.

ALSO- Do you need to dive deeper into e-invoicing? Lynx Strategy Business Advisors are hosting a webinar on Wednesday, 23 March to discuss the system. The Arabic-language gathering will take place 12:00-1:30pm with speakers from the Finance Ministry and the Tax Authority and a panel discussion including the CFOs of PepsiCo, Talabat and Unilever.

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

enterprise

*** It’s Blackboard day: We have our weekly look at the business of education in Egypt, from pre-K through the highest reaches of higher ed. Blackboard appears every Monday in Enterprise in the place of our traditional industry news roundups.

In today’s issue: Since the September 2020 suspension of the SAT, alternative tests — namely the ACT and EST — have been used for American Diploma students to enter university in Egypt. Though the alternative tests have overcome initial capacity strain, they don’t appear to be completely filling the gap left by the SAT — with schools citing difficulties obtaining information as a particularly significant challenge. But perhaps the biggest challenge of all is that the market position of all three tests remains unclear, with some sources noting that greater clarity would offer consistency for both schools and students hoping to sit these tests.

enterprise

Mothers are God’s gift to us on earth and as Mother’s Day approaches, it’s time to plan something exceptional. Enjoy an extra special Mother’s Day at Somabay. For more information, visit www.somabay.com

STARTUP WATCH

Introducing Nclude: Global Ventures’ new USD 85 mn fintech fund

Global Ventures, state banks launch USD 85 mn fund: Three of Egypt’s state-owned banks are investing in a new USD 85 mn fintech fund launched by Dubai-based VC Global Ventures, according to a statement (pdf) out yesterday. The fund, dubbed “Nclude,” will invest in Egyptian startups specializing in fintech and working to accelerate financial inclusion.

Who’s in? Banque Misr is acting as an anchor investor in Nclude, while NBE and Banque du Caire are on board as strategic investors, Global Ventures said. NBE has contributed USD 30 mn to the fund while Banque du Caire stumped up USD 25 mn, NBE Vice Chairman Yahya Aboul Fotouh told Al Masdar. e-Finance’s parent company e-Finance Investment Group has made a USD 10 mn commitment to the fund, 30% of which will be deployed this year with the remainder to be invested quarterly over the next four years, it said in a statement (pdf). Egyptian Banks Company (EBC) also made undisclosed investments to the fund. Set up by the state and Egyptian banks back in the 1990s, EBC is the OG Egyptian payments firm — it runs the 123 ATM network and serves as the automated clearing house for electronic fund transfers between banks, among other duties. Nclude will also be supported by global ventures builder Shipyard Technology Ventures, the statement said without providing further details.

The targets: Nclude will target early- and growth-stage fintech startups based in Egypt, as well as regional firms looking to expand into Egypt. The fund will invest 90% of its capital into existing startups through seed, series A and series B rounds, and the remainder towards co-creation and venture building activities, e-Finance said.

The fund has already invested in four local startups:

  • Khazna: The fund has made an undisclosed investment in Khazna. Founded in April 2019, Khazna is one of the nation’s hottest fintech players and provides online financial services to Egyptians who don’t have a bank account through its salary advance app. The Cairo-based startup aims to increase their paper money advance service to cover 20 mn Egyptians with limited credit access.
  • Lucky: Nclude led Lucky’s USD 25 mn series A round, which also attracted investments from PayU, Endeavor Catalyst, Venture Souq, Oman Technology Fund, Arzan Capital and Disruptech Ventures, it said in a statement (pdf) yesterday. The round is Egypt’s largest fintech series A to date. Founded in 2018, Lucky has connected over 6 mn customers to a range of credit products, price reductions, and cashback rewards.
  • Mozare3: It has deployed funds to Egyptian agri-fintech startup Mozare3, the statement said without disclosing the amount. Mozare3 supports small farmers by providing them with agricultural inputs of pesticides, fertilizers or seeds. Last year it landed a seven-figure pre-seed investment and has regional expansion in its 2023 plans, with an eye on Sudan and Morocco.
  • Paymob: It has also invested in payment gateway Paymob. The startup was founded in Egypt in 2015 and has since expanded to several other markets — including Jordan, Palestine, Kenya and Pakistan — making it Egypt’s first fintech firm to expand overseas.

There’s more funding on the way: Nclude is expecting further investment from “prominent regional and international investors,” the statement said.

Global Ventures is no stranger to the Egyptian startup scene, having deployed USD tens of mns in local firms including Sympl, Paymob, Yodawy, Thndr, Minly, and Elmenus.

The announcement is getting coverage in the foreign press: Reuters | Bloomberg | Al Arabiya.

ALSO FROM PLANET STARTUP-

Lebanon-based beauty e-commerce platforms SohatiCare and Loolia Closet have expanded to Egypt, according to Waya. SohatiCare, an online pharmacy offering beauty and personal care products, and Loolia Closet, a marketplace for makeup, skincare and other cosmetic products, currently operate in Lebanon and Jordan.

INVESTMENT WATCH

Intro Group to invest EGP 1 bn in waste management this year

Intro Group subsidiary Intro Sustainable Resources (IRS) is looking to invest some EGP 1 bn in waste recycling this year, Mostafa Khairat — the CEO of Intro’s waste management arm and BariQ, told Al Mal. IRS was established in 2020 to develop clean energy, waste management and recycling projects through its subsidiaries, Intro Power and Utilities and Intro Waste Management and Material Recovery. Intro Waste Management acquired recycling company BariQ from Raya for EGP 571 mn last year.

Last we heard, IRS was in line to receive USD 5.3 mn from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to finance projects including combined heat and power plants, renewable energy generation, electricity distribution, and waste management. The USD 5.3 mn funding will finance around a quarter of the total project cost — USD 18.7 mn — which will include two combined heat and power plants.

Cross-border acquisitions on the menu: IRS has set aside EGP 500 mn for acquisitions this year, including in Egypt, Africa, and the Gulf, Khairat said. He didn’t provide further details on the specific targets, but said they would all be in the recycling sector.

IPOs in the works: BariQ could also be looking at an EGX debut in 2023, Khairat is quoted as saying. The recycling company’s potential IPO would depend on it reaching a certain critical mass and meeting governance and structural requirements for offering shares, Khairat added. IRS is considering IPOing BariQ on its own or alongside other subsidiaries, or taking the parent company to market, according to the CEO.

M&A WATCH

FAB eyes GB Lease takeover

First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) is in advanced talks with GB Auto to acquire 100% of its leasing arm GB Lease, Al Shorouk reported Saturday, citing sources familiar with the discussions. The two sides have not yet settled on a valuation but an agreement is supposed to be finalized some time during 2H 2022, the sources claimed.

No agreement yet: GB Auto has not entered any “definitive agreements” on a stake sale in subsidiary GB Lease, it said in an EGX disclosure (pdf) yesterday.

FAB on a buying spree: The Gulf lender recently made an offer to buy a majority stake in leading frontier emerging markets financial services corporation EFG Hermes as part of its wider plans for regional expansion.

IN OTHER M&A NEWS-

Palm Hills Developments (PHD) has upped its stake in Incolease for the second this month, purchasing a 5.76% stake in the company for EGP 47 mn, according to an EGX disclosure (pdf). The company now owns 15.36% of Incolease after it bought more than 1.1 mn shares at EGP 41 apiece. The transaction comes less than two weeks after PHD purchased a 7.97% stake in the company for EGP 65.4 mn. El Tarek Automotive also acquired a 23% stake in Incolease in an EGP 189 mn transaction earlier this month.

GREEN ECONOMY

EDF Renewables among six consortiums eyeing USD 1 bn SCZone green ammonia plant

Another green ammonia plant in the SCZone? France’s EDF Renewables and Egypt’s ZeroWaste are together one of six international consortiums currently in talks with the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) to establish a USD 1 bn green ammonia plant that would produce green fuel for ships, SCZone head Yehia Zaki told Enterprise, confirming a report from Al Borsa. Zaki declined to name the other companies and consortiums that are eyeing the facility. The plant would have an annual production capacity of around 220k tons.

This is the second green ammonia plant we’ve gotten wind of over the past week: Norwegian renewable energy giant Scatec announced last Monday that it had signed an MoU to build a USD 5 bn facility in the SCZone backed by the Sovereign Fund of Egypt (SFE) that would have an initial production capacity of 1 mn tons per year.

The SFE could be getting on board with the latest project: The EDF-ZeroWaste consortium is looking at partnering with the SFE on the plant, Zaki told us. Al Borsa’s sources also claim the consortium has already reached preliminary agreements with international banks for the plant’s financing, and is hoping to sign final contracts sometime this year.

EDF Renewables is already active in Egypt, with a stake in Egyptian solar player KarmSolar, and two 65-MW solar plants at Benban.

There’s growing interest in green ammonia in Egypt: Abu Qir Fertilizers is also currently studying the establishment of a green hydrogen and green ammonia project in cooperation with Total, while British energy services company Petrofac will conduct a feasibility study on a new green hydrogen / ammonia facility for a subsidiary of low-carbon energy firm Mediterranean Energy Partners.

The government is trying to lure investors into the industry with tax incentives: The government recently widened the number of companies eligible for tax incentives under the Investment Act to encompass investments in green ammonia projects.

INVESTMENT WATCH

CMA CGM eyes investment in Ain Sokhna port

French shipping company CMA CGM is reportedly looking into making an undisclosed investment in the Ain Sokhna port, Al Mal quotes the head of the company’s Sudan and Egypt unit, Tariq Zaghloul, as saying. The company is studying projects related to the Ain Sokhna port to assess whether it aligns with its objective, Zaghloul said, without disclosing further details.

Tahya Misr all-purpose terminal to open in 4Q 2022: The company recently signed an agreement to operate and manage the Tahya Misr all-purpose terminal in Alexandria port, in which it has invested USD 175 mn so far, Zaghloul said. The terminal is expected to be fully operational by the end 2022, receiving its first container ship in October and its first cargo ship next April, according to Al Mal.

Eyes on the Tenth of Ramadan dry port: The company is also bidding alongside Elsewedy Electric for the contract to establish the EGP 3.5 bn Tenth of Ramadan dry port. It is competing with at least three other consortiums.

IN OTHER LOGISTICS NEWS-

The Transport Ministry signed several agreements with Abu Dhabi Ports Group yesterday that will see it manage and operate a multi-purpose terminal in Ain Sokna port and a river port in Minya Governorate, the ministry said in a statement. The Emirati ports operator is bidding for contracts to establish the Tenth of Ramadan dry port and a new cargo terminal at Safaga. If successful, it could invest around USD 500 mn, the company said last year.

ECONOMY

Gov’t lowers FY 2022-2023 budget targets as Ukraine conflict strains finances

FinMin trims budget targets as Ukraine conflict weighs on state finances: The Finance Ministry has revised downwards its fiscal targets for FY 2022-2023 as rising commodities prices put pressure on public finances, according to figures published in an Ittihadiya statement yesterday evening.

Deficit still on course to narrow: The government now sees the budget deficit contracting to 6.3% of GDP in the upcoming 2022-2023 fiscal year from an expected 6.9% in the current FY. Preliminary figures released by the ministry in January had targeted a 6.1% deficit in the coming fiscal year.

This will mean a slimmer primary surplus: The ministry has lowered its primary surplus target to 1.5% in 2022-2023 from 2% previously.

No word on debt: Finance Minister Mohammed Maait didn’t disclose the ministry’s debt-to-GDP target for the coming fiscal year. The minister said in January that public debt levels were expected to fall to below 90% of GDP in 2022-2023.

Or GDP: The statement didn’t disclose whether the government has altered its growth forecast in response to the conflict and the resulting inflation. The ministry is currently targeting a 5.7% growth rate in 2022-2023.

Revised targets were in the cards: Maait said earlier this month that the ministry would likely have to reassess its fiscal targets in light of the war in Ukraine and its impact on the Egyptian economy.

The government had already lowered its deficit target for the current fiscal year: The ministry originally targeted reducing the deficit to 6.7% this fiscal year from 7.4% in 2020-2021 but has now lowered this to 6.9% due to the fiscal impact of the Ukraine conflict.

Government spending to rise 12% next year: The government expects to spend EGP 2.07 tn in 2022-2023, up from its EGP 1.84 tn projected spend this year, according to the statement. This includes EGP 400 bn for wages, EGP 365 bn for public investments, and EGP 323 bn for state subsidies.

Revenues are forecast to rise 17% to EGP 1.45 tn during the year, according to the statement.

GREEN ECONOMY

Sha7en to operate + manage Revolta Egypt charging stations

MB Engineering EV charging subsidiary Sha7en has signed an agreement to manage and operate 30 EV charging stations owned by Revolta Egypt, MB Engineering announced in an EGX disclosure (pdf) yesterday. The stations could generate up to EGP 18 mn in revenues per year, and are located across Greater Cairo, Alexandria, Fayoum, the Red Sea, Sharqia, Qalyubia, and Port Said.

Revolta Egypt stopped doing business in Egypt a few years ago, leaving its 65 charging stations up for grabs.

The stations will be connected to Sha7en’s larger network of charging points across Egypt, and will be up and running before the end of the month, according to the disclosure.

About Sha7en: The EV outfit launched its first charging station in January, and is planning to set up 100 charging points across five governorates by the end of the year, Zawya recently reported.

IN OTHER GREEN NEWS-

Alexandria Port to introduce energy-saving mechanism: The Alexandria Port Authority is working to apply the OPS mechanism, which automatically stops ships’ engines when they are anchored at port.

LEGISLATION WATCH

Make way for future flow securitization

Future flow securitization is officially here: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has ratified amendments to the Capital Markets Act that introduce future flow securitization, according to a decree published in the Official Gazette (pdf).

What is future flow securitization? Future flow securitization differs from traditional securitization in that it allows the securitization of payments that aren’t yet on the company’s balance sheet, giving companies access to liquidity without needing a big portfolio of accounts receivables (think: home and car financing, leasing portfolios and the like). Future income — whether from club memberships, phone bills, utility payments, tuition fees or rents — is packaged into securities and offered to investors in order to raise capital. This gives public- and private-sector companies such as utilities providers, healthcare companies, telecom players, and education outfits a new way to access liquidity.

Background: The Financial Regulatory Authority approved the instruments for use in Egypt last May, and the House of Representatives voted the amendments through last month.

IN REGULATORY NEWS-

The Financial Regulatory Authority wants to broaden its toolkit to identify risks in the non-bank sector and is looking to introduce new mechanisms to assess market conditions and gauge lenders’ exposure to risk, it said in a statement (pdf) yesterday. The regulator began stress-testing non-bank financial institutions (pdf) in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, and last year began working with Sanad Fund and the Frankfurt School of Finance to develop new tests to assess sector risks.

WAR WATCH

Progress in Ukraine-Russia peace talks, says Turkey

Turkey optimistic on peace agreement as Russia issues ultimatum to Mariupol: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has claimed that Russia and Ukraine are “close to an agreement” on key areas, in comments picked up by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. Turkey is acting as a mediator between the two sides and earlier this month hosted direct talks between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers. “There is convergence on the two countries’ positions on the critical issues,” Cavusoglu said, adding that four of the six points of disagreement are close to being settled.

Where there’s progress: Turkish presidential adviser Ibrahim Kalin told Hurriyet on Saturday that Russia and Ukraine have made progress on four key points: Kyiv’s relationship with Nato, mutual security guarantees, protection of the Russian language in Ukraine, and what Russia refers to as “denazification.”

The sticking points: Russia and Ukraine remain far apart on the future status of Crimea and the separatist regions in the Donbas, he said. Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in 2014 following the Maidan revolution, and has sponsored breakaway republics in the east of the country which is recognized as independent states prior to its invasion.

ON THE GROUND-

Moscow issues ultimatum to surrender Mariupol: Russia has given Ukrainian forces in the besieged port city of Mariupol a deadline today to surrender their weapons. A statement from the Russian Defense Ministry carried by RIA Novosti said that Russian troops would abide by a ceasefire to open humanitarian corridors and allow aid into the city but demanded that Kyiv tell Moscow in writing by 5am Moscow time that its fighters would leave the city. The Ukrainian deputy PM rejected the deadline, saying that there would be “no question” of surrender.

EARNINGS WATCH

Cleopatra Hospitals (CHG) reports record 4Q2021 results: Cleopatra Hospitals Group’s (CHG) net income grew 6% y-o-y in 4Q2021 to EGP 122.6 mn, according to the company’s earnings release (pdf). The company’s bottom line was underpinned by its highest-ever quarterly revenues, rising 6% y-o-y to EGP 648.7 mn. On a full-year basis, CHG’s net income rose 38% y-o-y to EGP 410.7 mn, with revenues growing 28% to EGP 2.54 bn.

Growth was “balanced” across CHG’s facilities, with its polyclinics delivering 70% top line growth and fertility-specialist Bedaya Hospital recording a “steady increase in patient volumes,” boosted by a growing demand in medical tourism. The group served 1 mn cases across its facilities throughout the year, which allowed it to deliver on its long-term targets. The group’s covid-related revenues grew 49% to EGP 274.6 mn, contributing to 11% of its total revenues for the year.

“2021 was a transformational year for CHG which saw us deliver robust financial and operational results while taking important strides forward on our longer-term growth and development strategy,” CEO Ahmed Ezzeldin said.

Looking ahead: The group launched a new multi-specialty surgical model in its El Katib Hospital, the results of which it expects to see reflected on revenues later this year. “Our overarching goals for 2022 remain unchanged as we look to drive new organic and inorganic growth, further optimize all aspects of our operations, and, most importantly, continue serving our patients and their families to the best of our abilities,” said Ezzeldin.


Ibnsina Pharma’s net income more than tripled y-o-y in 4Q2021 to EGP 74.4 mn, according to the company’s earnings release (pdf). The company booked revenues of almost EGP 6 bn, rising 20% y-o-y. On a full-year basis, the company’s bottom line rose 40% y-o-y to EGP 315.7 mn, on the back of a 16% y-o-y increase in revenues to EGP 21.7 bn.

Price hikes, OPEX cuts drive growth: Ibnsina reported sales growth of more than 7% during the year, which it said was “mainly driven by increases in the average selling price.” The company also said it had managed OPEX growth, cutting OPEX to sales to 3.8% from 4.4% in 2020.

Looking ahead: Ibnsina is forecasting double-digit retail sales growth in 2022 as strong economic growth and a rising population supports consumer demand. It also expects non-retail sales to grow this year in anticipation that public procurement processes will become more efficient.

enterprise

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

It’s not just food prices that are going up

The nation’s talking heads took a break from discussing food price inflation last night, and instead turned their attention to the rising price of cigarettes. British American Tobacco Egypt yesterday announced that it will raise its prices between EGP 1-3 per pack, a hike that Federation of Egyptian Industries cigarettes division head Ibrahim Embaby said was the result of the central bank’s decision to require letters of credit (L/Cs) from importers. During a phone-in with Al Hadath Al Youm’s Hadret Al Mowaten (watch, runtime 3:24), Embaby said the decision to raise prices was caused by a decrease in supply on the back of fewer raw materials being imported by manufacturers. As of the beginning of March, banks have stopped documentary collection as part of the import process after the CBE instructed them to only accept L/Cs. Embaby called for raw materials used in tobacco products to be exempted from the decision due to a lack of local alternatives.

Then again: Maybe it isn’t exactly a public health disaster if cancer sticks get a bit more expensive? Just a thought. (Also: Nothing is more self-righteous than an ex-smoker. We admit that…)

No plans to increase the prices of meds: The pharma industry is staying strong in the face of global price surges and will work on decreasing production costs to avoid any price increases for consumers, Gamal El Leithy, head of the pharma chamber of the Federation of Industries, told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi in a phone-in (watch, runtime 5:00). “These are tough times, but I want to reassure Egyptians that there will not be any medicine shortages across the country,” he said.

Manufacturers want the Consumer Protection Agency to reconsider its recent decision requiring companies to include expiration dates on product labels from May. In a phone-in on Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime 2:32:51), Federation of Industries board member Mohamed El Bahy said that it didn’t make sense to include a shelf life on durable goods and called on the agency to only apply the decision to medical products.

There’s a new covid strain on the block: The new BA.2 variant is a "sublineage" of the omicron variant that appears to be even more transmissible, said Hossam Hosny, head of the committee to combat the coronavirus, in a phone-in with Al Hekaya’s Amr Adib (watch, runtime 5:18) However, its symptoms appear to be just as mild as omicron, with fewer hospitalizations so far, he said.

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

The war in Ukraine and its effect on our wheat supply is continuing to get ink in the foreign press this morning: The Madbouly government’s move to ban exports of key staples including wheat, flour and lentils for three months comes as more Arab nations veer towards food protectionism amid the Russia-Ukraine war’s impact on food security, Bloomberg reports. The New York Times also name-checks Egypt in a story headlined Ukraine war threatens to cause a global food crisis.

Egypt is the world’s biggest wheat importer, and relies on Russia and Ukraine for more than 80% of its wheat supply.

PLANET FINANCE

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Saudi Aramco plans to hike spending this year as it looks to ramp up oil and gas production in the coming years, the oil giant said in its latest earnings release yesterday. Rising oil prices last year helped Aramco stage a dramatic turnaround from 2020, with the company reporting yesterday that its net income more than doubled to USD 110 bn in 2021. The state-owned company said it will likely raise spending to USD 40-50 bn this year, up from USD 32 bn in 2021, helping it to increase its output of oil and gas, and develop its blue hydrogen production capacity.

Qatar to help Germany ease its reliance on Russian gas: Germany has reached a long-term deal to receive gas from Qatar to help end its reliance on Russian gas, which currently accounts for more than half its annual supply. A delegation of German energy industry representatives accompanied the German economy minister to Doha, and it will be up to individual companies to finalize detailed agreements with the Gulf state’s LNG firms. Bloomberg and the Financial Times have the story.

Up

EGX30

10,974

+2.3% (YTD: -8.2%)

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

12,876

+0.8% (YTD: +14.1%)

None

ADX

9,607

0.0% (YTD: +13.2%)

Down

DFM

3,350

-1.8% (YTD: +4.8%)

Up

S&P 500

4,463

+1.2% (YTD: -6.4%)

Up

FTSE 100

7,405

+0.3% (YTD: +0.3%)

Up

Brent crude

USD 107.93

+1.2%

Down

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 4.86

-2.6%

Down

Gold

USD 1,933.90

-0.7%

Down

BTC

USD 41,365

-2.1% (as of midnight)

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 rose 2.3% at yesterday’s close on turnover of EGP 820 mn (11.6% below the 90-day average). Local investors were net buyers. The index is down 8.2% YTD.

In the green: Orascom Development Egypt (+8.8%), Rameda (+6.7%) and CIB (+3.9%).

In the red: Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank Egypt (-0.1%) and Egypt Kuwait Holding-EGP (-0.1%).

Asian markets are marginally in the green in early trading this morning and futures suggest that shares in Europe are in for a mixed open. Wall Street is on course to open in the red.

AROUND THE WORLD

Houthis launch drone attacks on Saudi energy infrastructure: Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched drone and missile strikes on Saudi Arabia that targeted a liquified natural gas plant, a water desalination plant, a power station and an oil refinery owned by Aramco and China’s Sinopec, the Saudi Press Agency said yesterday. The attacks caused a temporary drop in output at the oil refinery, but no casualties, it said.

Also worth knowing this morning:

  • The brother of Lebanon's central bank governor Riad Salameh has been arrested as authorities step up their probe into alleged money laundering and embezzlement by senior officials at the bank, Reuters reports.
  • US classifies Rohingya violence as genocide: The Biden administration has ruled that the ethnic cleansing carried out against Myanmar’s Rohinigya minority by the country’s military constitutes a genocide and crime against humanity, US officials told Reuters.
blackboard

With SAT suspensions continuing in Egypt, are alternative tests filling the gap? Partially, but problems remain: SATs were canceled indefinitely in Egypt at the beginning of September 2020, with nonprofit organization College Board — which develops and administers them — citing “persistent test security incidents.” Since then, the ACT — another prominent US-designed standardized test run by nonprofit organization ACT — and the homegrown Egyptian EST — launched in mid-2020 by the Education Ministry in collaboration with the UK’s Pearson — have been used as part of the mandatory university entry requirements for American Diploma students in Egypt. Both the ACT and EST are online tests.

Where is each test recognized? International universities like AUC accept both SAT and ACT results. The EST will be the only recognized exam for admission into local Egyptian universities, Education Minister Tarek Shawki announced early last year, and is currently only valid in Egypt.

Initially, the 2020 SAT suspension left students and parents scrambling, because the ACT was largely unknown here, and faced capacity issues, while the EST also faced many initial infrastructure-related challenges, El Alsson’s head of Guidance and Student Services Angie Shalaby tells Enterprise.

The ACT saw demand change virtually overnight, seeing “an explosion of demand,” Andy Taylor, ACT’s vice president for market segments and project management, tells Enterprise. “In scholastic year 2020, we probably served around 5k tests in Egypt. In 2021, it was around 70k.”

At first, this strained the new systems’ capacity and infrastructure, which weren’t “quite ready for the volume of students trying to get slots to sit these tests,” says El Alsson American School Principal Allison Fleet.

And impacted university enrollment: American Diploma admissions to Badr University took a hit in 2020 and 2021, falling to their lowest in September 2021 to 32% below normal numbers, CIRA CEO Mohamed El Kalla tells us. Sometimes, the admission window opens but applicants haven’t yet finished their SAT or ACT exams, because of these logistical problems — so then universities run out of seats for them, he explains.

The ACT and EST haven’t completely filled the SAT-shaped hole: After the SAT suspension, many students flew to Jordan, Lebanon, and Dubai to sit the SAT there, says Shalaby. AIS students who specifically want to sit the SAT because they feel they’ll do better at it, and are able to travel outside Egypt, will do so, Director Kapono Ciotti tells Enterprise. This phenomenon is gaining steam, “especially for those who want to attend universities outside of Egypt,” notes El Kalla.

Why? With the ACT, there have been reported difficulties in obtaining information and all-important practice tests: Since the ACT has been in widespread use in Egypt, El Alsson has generally not known where to address questions or get preliminary test results, Fleet tells Enterprise. El Alsson ordered the ACT’s practice exam, “but it never arrived.” This is a problem, Fleet explains, because benchmarking is an important part of the overall assessment and preparation process. This test was withdrawn at the end of 2020, which may be why El Alsson had difficulties accessing it, Taylor says.

Very little is known about the EST either, including the content or nature of the exam. “Most of what I know is what I’ve heard from the students who’ve taken it,” says Shalaby. Ciotti notes that his unfamiliarity with the EST is unsurprising, as demand among AIS students is currently low, as access to the SAT and ACT is “all they need” to enter their target universities.

Communication is also a commonly cited challenge: Both testing systems rely on third-party representatives to assist with communication and logistics, but this hasn’t been smooth. The ACT has changed its third-party representative in Egypt three times since late-2020, notes Shalaby. Since 2020, ACT and EST third-parties have primarily communicated through social media, she says. And generally, the onus was on her to contact these third parties for information about the testing and registration processes, and then share this with other schools in her network as a courtesy. SAT-related communication, which was always directly with College Board, was never problematic, she adds.

Though this could be changing: Both the ACT and EST’s third-party representatives were responsive to inquiries, and the process of communication with each has become more straightforward with time, Shalaby says.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is that the market position of all three tests remains unclear, sources suggest.

No one knows if the SAT will resume. “SAT testing remains paused in Egypt until further notice, including all testing in the 2021-22 school year,” College Board told Enterprise in a statement. College Board was reportedly discussing how to resume SAT testing in Egypt with the government over the last year, but so far hasn’t reached a solution that satisfies both parties, says one source speaking on condition of anonymity. College Board did not respond to further requests for comment from Enterprise.

ACT’s approvals are being renewed annually: The ACT received Education Ministry approval in 2019 to be used for admission into higher education, or as a capstone exam for secondary education — putting it on equal footing with the SAT and enabling it to effectively challenge what the ACT saw as College Board’s monopoly in MENA — but this approval still gets renewed annually, Taylor says.

And the government is said to be pushing for the EST to be recognized outside Egypt, several sources noted, although they stress that their knowledge is purely anecdotal and they don’t have any details on what steps the government might be taking.

ACT says that any initial challenges are well on the way to being resolved, with some issues that were there in the past now being addressed effectively, Taylor says. Initial capacity issues were an inevitable byproduct of such a sudden flood of demand, but they appear to be resolving fairly organically, he says. Fleet agrees, saying the new testing systems have improved capacity and infrastructure issues.

Information and practice tests can be accessed on their website: There is information for students on the ACT website, along with multiple practice tests — some of which can be accessed at no charge, and schools or candidates with questions can always contact ACT directly, Taylor says.

It’s also pushing for its approval in Egypt to be permanent — which would offer some consistency for schools and students to plan and take the test, Taylor notes.

Some feel this kind of decisive action would be a vast improvement: “The primary thing I want is clarity — just for a decision to be made and then stuck to, so schools can use that information to advise and support their students,” says Fleet.

Others, including El Kalla, argue that resuming the SAT in Egypt is the only real solution, as it’s still the most widely accepted standardized test for American Diploma students.

ACT wants to be able to compete for market share alongside the SAT and EST, with students permitted to take whichever test they feel suits them best, says Taylor. “Yes, we’re competitors. But we see the value in each other’s products,” he says, speaking about the SAT.


Your top education stories for the week:

  • The Education Ministry announced the opening of applications for enrollment in Egyptian-Japanese schools for the 2022/2023 academic year.
  • The Higher Education Ministry’s Metallurgical Development Research Center and the Swedish Luleå University of Technology signed an MoU for cooperation in the field of metals and mining.

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: 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.

15 February-15 June (Tuesday-Wednesday): ITIDA’s Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center is organizing the first Metaverse Hackathon.

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.

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

14 March-30 June: The “Escape to Egypt” exhibition at the Coptic Museum, in celebration of its 112th anniversary.

20-22 March: International Maritime and Logistics conference Marlog kicks off.

22 March (Tuesday): Egyptian German Green Energy Forum, 5:30-9:30pm CLT, 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 Meetings, 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.

4-6 November: The Autotech auto exhibition kicks off at the Cairo International Exhibition and Convention Center.

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.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2022 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

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