Wednesday, 23 March 2022

AM — Cabinet approves outline of austerity budget as talk rises of another IMF program in the works

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, friends, and welcome to another exceptionally heavy news day, so as we did earlier this week, let’s jump straight in:

The EGP eased another 1.6% against the greenback yesterday, settling at EGP 18.57. The currency has now slid 17.7% since the devaluation on Monday. Two senior bankers we spoke with yesterday suggested the rate may have overshot somewhat, as it did after the 2016 float, with one of them saying it was encouraging that some high-value customers have begun selling FX to the bank. Consensus among international analysts prior to the float on Monday was that the EGP was 15-16% overvalued.

Savers are pouring money into the new 18% CDs launched by Banque Misr and the National Bank of Egypt in the wake of Monday’s rate hike. More than EGP 50 bn has been invested in the certificates since their launch on Monday: EGP 37 bn with the NBE and EGP 14 bn with Banque Misr.

If you care about housing or infrastructure, you’ll definitely want to read this morning’s Hardhat (below), which takes a deep dive into what our new FX reality, rising interest rates and spiraling global commodities prices mean for builders here in Egypt. Hardhat is presented with the generous support of our friends at Orascom Construction.

PSA- It’s cool outside again today, with a forecast high of 18°C in the capital city. Don’t expect the mercury to move any higher tomorrow — and enjoy every last minute of it. Temps in Cairo are on track to rise to the high 30s by the end of next week and to 41°C on Saturday, 2 April (the first day of Ramdan), according to our favourite weather app.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY-

Price cap here, price cap there… The Supply Ministry is planning to announce in the coming days price caps for wheat milled by the private sector, Al Mal quotes Minister Ali El Moselhy as saying. The announcement comes as private mills — which produce 72% extraction-grade flour used to make bread and other baked goods — face difficulties in importing wheat due to the supply crunch caused by the war in Ukraine. The price at which unsubsidized flour will be sold to private bakeries will be announced once the wheat price has been set, he said.

The announcement comes after the government imposed price caps on unsubsidized baladi and fino bread in a move to tamp down on rising bread prices.

COMING UP-

Ghazl El Mahalla FC’s IPO will kick off by the end of the month, Public Enterprise Minister Hisham Tawfik told Al Borsa. Bookrunner Prime Holding plans to publish the Public Subscription Notice prospectus in the coming days, allowing the retail offering to take place before the end of next week, the newspaper reported.

Refresher: Ghazl El Mahalla is selling a 67.5% stake to investors, and expects to raise EGP 135 mn. It has already attracted EGP 37 mn from institutional investors during the private placement. The transaction will mark the first time a football club is taken public in the Arab world and could pave the way for more IPOs of this sort.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

There’s no MPC meeting tomorrow: The Central Bank of Egypt has canceled (pdf) Thursday’s regularly scheduled Monetary Policy Committee meeting after enacting a surprise 100 bps rate hike at a special meeting early Monday morning.

Do you need to dive deeper into e-invoicing? Lynx Strategic Business Advisors are hosting a webinar today 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. You can register for the event here.

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

enterprise

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

In today’s issue: Key raw materials used in infrastructure projects have seen substantial price hikes in the last few weeks, with expenses being further driven by energy prices, freight and shipping costs. And the CBE’s decisions earlier this week to hike interest rates, and let the EGP slide against the USD, have added to the pressure for infrastructure players. We ask analysts how these developments could impact Egypt’s infrastructure projects, with most anticipating that large — and in particular, small — contractors will see their margins squeezed. Some also believe they could affect project deliverability, though probably not for high-impact infrastructure projects in key sectors.

enterprise

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ECONOMY

Cabinet approves austerity budget, trims GDP outlook

GDP forecast downgraded as cabinet signs off on 2022-2023 budget: Egypt has revised downwards its GDP forecast for FY 2022-2023, according to figures in the draft budget that was approved by ministers yesterday. The government sees the economy growing at a 5.5% clip in the coming fiscal year, according to a cabinet statement, down from the 5.7% figure that was forecast before the Ukraine conflict shook global commodity markets and hit state finances.

Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly had directed the Finance Ministry to restructure the FY 2022-2023 budget to “reassess priorities” amid rising basic commodity and oil prices on the back of the Russia-Ukraine war, an earlier readout from Cabinet had said.

Translation: A combination of austerity and increased social spending. The revised budget will prioritize social protection programs to help support the populations most affected by fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine. But the Finance Ministry will also need to be disciplined in its spending and should enact austerity measures if necessary, Madbouly said. Each ministry will review its spending in light of current events, he added.

That message was reinforced by cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad last night, who declared that “government austerity is the main headline of the budget” in an interview on Al Hayah TV channel (watch, runtime 9:58). Saad provided no further details on where spending cuts might come.

None of this is surprising given the state is facing bns of EGP in extra costs due to rising commodity prices. The government expects to spend an additional EGP 15 bn this fiscal year due to heightened wheat prices, while oil prices are now in the triple figures — far above the USD 65 price assumed in the state budget.

The statement is light on numbers, but this is what the budget outline looks like:

It turns out that the government is still targeting a 6.1% budget deficit at the end of 2022-2023. This was the preliminary figure announced by the Finance Ministry earlier this year, but just three days ago Minister Mohamed Maait said that the target had been revised to 6.3%. The deficit is expected to narrow to 6.9% at the end of the current fiscal year.

The primary surplus is expected to come in at 1.5%, down from the 2% penciled in for the medium term in the initial draft budget and in keeping with the Finance Ministry’s revisions earlier this week.

The government plans to focus spending on strengthening the social safety net, education, and healthcare, as well as supporting manufacturers and exporters, the statement says, without providing a breakdown of spending.

It’s not going to be investing as much as planned: Public investments in 2022-2023 will rise by 15.2% from the previous year, down slightly from the previous 16.2% target, according to a separate statement.

Still no word on debt: 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.

This is the latest in a series of moves that remind us of March 2020. The government also announced yesterday EGP 130 bn package of tax incentives and social safety measures that looked a lot like the stimulus and bailout measures introduced in March 2020 to manage the fallout from the covid-19 pandemic. Egypt also revised its budget at the time to factor in the likely impact of the pandemic, cutting the GDP growth forecast to 5.1%.

WHAT’S NEXT? The document should make its way to the House of Representatives, where it will be discussed in committees at the same time as various ministries lobby FinMin for allocations. The final document typically goes up for a vote at the general assembly before the start of the new fiscal year. If the budget doesn’t pass before 30 June, the current budget rolls forward to direct state spending until the new document is passed.

ECONOMY

More chatter that we are, indeed, going to talk to the IMF about a new program

More analysts are speculating that the fiscal stimulus package and monetary policy measures announced Monday will pave the way for a fresh IMF program as the ongoing commodity price shock puts strain on the economy. Since the start of the war in Ukraine, sporadic reports that the government is in discussions with the Fund have surfaced in the press, but the central bank’s decision to devalue the EGP and raise interest rates this week has intensified speculation that the government will soon agree terms for another round of financial assistance.

Many analysts ⁠— including at Goldman Sachs, Moody’s and Capital Economics ⁠— all floated the possibility of a program yesterday after the CBE allowed the EGP to fall 16% and hiked interest rates by 100 bps. If those two moves are not preconditions to landing support from the Fund, they certainly show maturity in policymaking that will make the talks go smoother.

JPMorgan joins the chorus: “This would be in line with what is needed … to potentially reach yet another IMF program, especially as it would be under exceptional access to IMF resources,” JPMorgan said in a note picked up by Reuters.

Exceptional access means more scrutiny: Egypt has exceeded its IMF borrowing quota, meaning any financial assistance will be lent under exceptional access criteria, a person with knowledge of discussions with the IMF told the newswire. This will mean that Egypt will face greater scrutiny from the Fund, they said.

And RenCap: “We agree with consensus that this is a move that the IMF will welcome and could pave the way for some additional support from the Fund within the next month or two,” Charles Robertson, chief economist at Renaissance Capital, wrote in a note yesterday. “I suspect Saudi and other Gulf states will help out too,” he added.

An IMF loan is of “paramount importance” if Egypt is to maintain access to international debt markets, Hootan Yazhari, head of MENA and global frontier markets equity research at Bank of America Securities, told Bloomberg Daybreak yesterday (watch, runtime: 6:05). Egypt has become increasingly reliant on capital inflows for funding in recent years, and an agreement with the IMF now would “go a long way to giving some comfort to international investors” and increasing inflows, he said.

So far, there aren’t any official confirmations that we’re in talks of the fund: IMF and Egyptian government officials have in recent weeks played down the possibility of fresh aid, but an unconfirmed report in Bloomberg last week suggested that the two sides were in talks over either a precautionary and liquidity line or a non-financial support package.

Egypt has turned to the Fund three times in the past six years: It took out a USD 12 bn Extended Fund Facility in 2016 that was tied to a package of economic reforms, among them was the floatation of the EGP. In 2020, it borrowed USD 5.2 bn under a Stand-by Arrangement and USD 2.8 bn under a Rapid Financing Instrument following the outbreak of covid.

DEBT WATCH

Samurai bonds coming on Thursday

Our inaugural Samurai bond issuance is back on: The Finance Ministry plans to sell USD 500 mn in JPY-denominated Samurai bonds in Japan on Thursday, Mohamed Hegazy, head of the ministry’s debt unit, told Enterprise yesterday. The issuance was announced by Finance Minister Mohamed Maait earlier this year, who said that it would take place before the end of the fiscal year in June. The issuance will be in JPY, but the transfer currency can be in JPY or USD, he said at the time.

Doubts about the sale going ahead were cast last week by Vice Minister of Finance Ahmed Kouchouk, who said that the ministry might have to delay its plans due to poor global market conditions caused by the conflict in Ukraine.

Background: The issuance would come a few months after meetings between officials to take the issuance to market in Japan, as part of Egypt’s debt diversification strategy. The government had been mulling selling JPY-denominated bonds back in 2019, as well as RMB-denominated Panda bonds, but Maait said in late 2020 that the planned sales were being delayed until at least FY2021-2022 because of complications caused by the pandemic. Marketing foreign bonds in Asian markets is a different ball game and also requires new ratings assessments by Asian agencies, a senior government official told us in 2020.

OTHER DEBT NEWS-

Planned corporate green bond issuance delayed: A USD 400 mn corporate green bond issuance could take place before the end of the year, Financial Regulatory Authority head Mohamed Omran told CNBC Arabia yesterday (watch, runtime: 3:28). Omran had said earlier this year that the sale — which would be Egypt’s second corporate green bond issuance after CIB sold USD 100 mn of the climate-linked securities last year — would go to market in 1H2022. The issuance will be cross-listed between the EGX and the German or Luxembourg bourses, he confirmed. Omran did not name the issuer.

SUEZ CANAL

Suez Canal transit fees to rise in May

Transiting the Suez Canal is about to get more expensive: The Suez Canal Authority will raise fees for ships transiting the waterway from the beginning of May, it announced yesterday. Vessels carrying crude and petroleum products will pay a 15% surcharge as of 1 May, up from the 5% currently, the authority said. The decision comes on the back of “significant growth in global trade, the improvement of ships' economics, the Suez Canal waterway development and the enhancement of the transit service," the authority said.

Also increasing: The tolls on laden and ballast liquefied petroleum gas tankers, chemical tankers and other liquid bulk tankers will be raised to 20% of normal dues, from 10% currently. The additional charges levied on laden and ballast dry bulk vessels will increase to 10% of normal transit dues, from 5% currently, while other vessels will have to pay surcharges of 14%, up from 7%.

The surcharges are “temporary” and revised or scrapped based on global shipping conditions, the SCA said.

The fee hikes come as public finances come under pressure from rising international commodity prices caused by the conflict in Ukraine. The government is having to find an extra EGP 15 bn to cover the heightened cost of wheat, while oil prices are way in excess of the level the Finance Ministry budgeted for.

The move will further increase Suez Canal revenues, which hit a record high of USD 6.3 bn last year.

Egypt has already hiked tolls once this year: The SCA raised fees by 6% for most ships at the start of February.

And other pandemic-era discounts have been phased out: Earlier this month, it removed a discount for LNG carriers amid rising natural gas prices.

enterprise

INVESTMENT WATCH

Catalyst Partners launches EGP 1 bn SME-focused fund, expects first close in April

Catalyst Private Equity has launched a EGP 1 bn impact investment fund that will target Egyptian SMEs, it announced in a statement (pdf) yesterday. The Catalyst Capital Egypt Fund has received commitments from some of Egypt’s largest state-owned financial institutions and is working with the UN Development Program to measure the social and environmental impact of its portfolio companies, it said.

First close next month: The fund expects to reach its first close of EGP 400-450 mn in mid-April, Catalyst Chairman Maged Shawky told Enterprise. The fund should reach its final EGP 1 bn close within the next five years, he said.

Who’s involved? Misr Ins. Holding Company, Misr Life, Misr Ins., Post for Investment, Misr Fund for Finance and Investment, Banque du Caire, Attijariwafa Bank, Ahli United Bank, Suez Canal Bank and Al Baraka Bank are all taking part in the fund as limited partners, Catalyst said, without detailing the size of their commitments. Attijariwafa contributed EGP 30 mn to the fund, Marwa Nabil, head of structured finance at the bank, told Al Mal.

The fund is already studying several potential investments, with a focus on sectors that are defensive in terms of growth and profitability, namely agricultural manufacturing, pharma, and logistics, Al Borsa quotes Shawky as saying. It plans to exit its investments within 5-7 years, with an exit strategy focused primarily on IPOs, he said.

SPEAKING OF FUNDS-

  • Banque Misr launched the “Egyptian Sports Fund” on Monday after receiving commitments from local and regional lenders totalling EGP 51 mn, the fund’s managing director Suzan Hamdy told Al Masdar. The fund will support different sports entities across the country, as well as Olympic athletes and national teams, in cooperation with Egyptian Sports Federations, according to a statement (pdf).
  • Evolve Investment Holding could double the size of its gold-backed investment fund to EGP 1 bn, CEO Sameh El Torgoman told Al Mal.

IN OTHER INVESTMENT NEWS- Emirati investor eyes Egypt’s retail sector: Emirati businessman Saeed Eid Al Ghafli told Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly yesterday that he wants to invest in the Egyptian retail sector through malls, hypermarkets and logistics areas, according to a cabinet statement.

CABINET WATCH

Charter flight incentives extended until October + contractors on state project get two-month buffer on late projects

Charter flights landing in Egypt will continue to receive cash subsidies from the government until the end of October after the cabinet yesterday agreed to extend incentives designed to boost tourism. The program pays out between USD 1.5k and USD 3.5k per flight to airlines and was supposed to expire at the end of April, but according to a cabinet statement ministers have agreed to extend it until 31 October.

Tourism under pressure: The government is looking for ways to support the country’s tourism industry as it deals with the loss of Russian and Ukrainian tourists. The two countries together account for about 30% of inbound tourist arrivals in Egypt, making us particularly exposed to the fallout from the conflict in Ukraine. Occupancy rates in Egypt’s Red Sea resorts have reportedly fallen by almost half since the start of the year.

The Tourism Ministry is also mounting a new international ad campaign as it tries to attract visitors from other countries. The eight-week “Follow the Sun” campaign has been deployed on social media platforms, targeting people in the UK, Germany, Italy, France and the US.

ALSO FROM THE MEETING-

National projects won’t be delayed because of the commodity price shock, but companies won’t be fined for 2 months for late delivery: Companies that fail to meet deadlines on state infrastructure projects will be exempt from fines for two months in light of rising commodity prices caused by the Ukraine conflict and shipping disruptions. Faced with higher input costs, contractors have called on the government to delay the delivery of some lower-priority projects for three months, a measure which they say may take some of the pressure off as it allows them to hold off on buying materials at current prices.

Decent Life is an exception: The government is considering extending deadlines for the initiative in light of the global situation, and will not impose fines on contractors, according to a separate statement.

STARTUP WATCH

Fintech outfit FlapKap raises USD 1.2 mn in funding

MEA fintech startup FlapKap has raised USD 1.2 mn in a funding round led by tech fund A15, according to a company press release (pdf). FlapKap, which bills itself as the first company of its kind in the region, offers AI-based insight to “help optimize advertising spending” for e-commerce and SaaS businesses. FlapKap is designed to help businesses grow without financial constraints, offering them revenue-based flexible payment terms on advertising spend.

FlapKap is already eyeing new regional markets: The company is currently operating in Egypt and the UAE, with an imminent launch in Saudi Arabia and plans for a “wider MEA expansion and rapid merchant acquisition” in the pipeline, the statement said.

Founders: FlapKap is currently led by co-founder Ahmed Coucha, co-founder of MENA digital agency Kijami. Khaled Nassef is the company’s CTO and co-founder.

WAR WATCH

Biden to unveil new Russia sanctions on Europe trip

US President Joe Biden will announce new sanctions on Russia when he travels to Brussels today to meet with European leaders and Nato officials, the White House said yesterday. The “announcement will focus not just on adding new sanctions, but on ensuring that there is joint effort to crack down on evasion,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at a briefing. The allies will also announce new action on “enhancing European energy security and reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas,” said Sullivan, without disclosing further details.

Intense diplomacy: Biden will join an emergency Nato summit and speak at a meeting of the European Council, before traveling to Poland for talks with the country’s president.

Ukraine wants the Pope to mediate: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a tweet that he spoke to Pope Francis about the “difficult humanitarian situation and the blocking of rescue corridors by Russian troops,” urging him to mediate in the crisis.

ON THE GROUND-

The battle for Mariupol is raging: Civilians said that Russian and Ukrainian forces were engaged in street battles in the middle of the city yesterday, signaling that Moscow could be close to taking the strategic city, according to the Wall Street Journal. Mariupol has faced heavy bombardment from Russian artillery since the start of the war, and there are reports of widespread destruction in the city.

PLANET WAR FINANCE-

Russia’s local currency bonds dropped on their first day of trading, but not by much following a nearly month-long suspension of the Moscow stock exchange, the Financial Times reports. The partial resumption of trading in government-issued bonds, which is part of a phased reopening of Russian capital markets, saw yields on the benchmark 10-year rouble bond climb 19.7% in pre-market trading before settling back to 13.9%, nearly 1.7 percentage point higher than the last trading day before suspension on 24 February, according to Refinitiv data.

This came despite Russia narrowly averting a default with two payments to bondholders made in the past couple of weeks, with both going through successfully in spite of Western sanctions that aimed to cut off the country from the global financial system. Fears of a potential Russian default have spurred outflows from emerging markets, with Bloomberg reporting this week that outflows reached USD 14.3 bn YtD.

EARNINGS WATCH

Orascom Construction net income up 29% in 2021

Orascom Construction (OC) reported USD 113.4 mn in net income attributable to shareholders in 2021, up 29% y-o-y, according to its financials (pdf). Revenues rose 5% from 2020 to USD 3.5 bn. In 4Q, the company reported a 43% increase in net income attributable to shareholders to USD 37.1 mn, on revenues of USD 1 bn, up 8% on 4Q 2020, the company said in its earnings release (pdf).

OC’s consolidated backlog rose 12% y-o-y to USD 6.1 bn in 2021, with new awards rising 22% for the year, but dipping 13% y-o-y in 4Q 2021. Egypt accounted for the lion’s share of the company’s backlog, comprising 71% of the total, followed by the US (22%) and Saudi Arabia (3%). Pro forma backlog including OC’s 50% share in Besix rose 10% y-o-y to USD 8.9 bn in 2021.

“We maintained our record backlog achieved in the previous quarter, highlighting our successful efforts in pursuing quality projects across sectors,” company head Osama Bishai said. Egyptian projects played a major part in the growth, with the company signing contracts for transport projects, water infrastructure, and the Egypt-Saudi interconnection project. OC signed USD 2 bn-worth of new awards in the Middle East during the year.

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LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

The airwaves were all about prices last night, as the impact of the state’s policy decisions continues to unfold.

First up, we have bad news if you’re looking to buy a house: Property prices could increase by around 15-20% in the coming days due to an increase in the prices of building materials on the back of the war in Ukraine and the EGP devaluation, MP Tarek Shoukry, member of the House Housing Committee told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi in a phone-in (watch, runtime 10:55). We’re already seeing an increase of more than 40% in cement and steel prices, for example, he said.

What about units that were sold but not delivered? Real estate developers will bear the losses of units contracted by clients before the price increases, Shoukry told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa in a phone-in (watch, runtime 10:57). A request for a three-month deadline extension for project deliveries has been submitted to the Prime Minister, he said, which would allow developers to assess the current situation and its impact on the real estate sector.

** Check out this morning’s Hardhat where we break down how rising building materials prices are affecting companies in the sector.

Next up: Better news on food prices. The price of flour dropped by EGP 1k per tonne in the past two days, following the government's decision to impose price caps on unsubsidized bread, Abdallah Ghorab, head of the bakery division at the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Commerce, told Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa in a phone-in (watch, runtime 5:19). Flour will be supplied to private bakeries at the price of EGP 8.6k per tonne within 2-3 days, he said, expecting the price to continue to fall to below EGP 8k per tonne over the upcoming period.

There is no decrease in each eligible beneficiary’s share of subsidy ration cards after the EGP devaluation, said Abdel Moneim Khalil, head of internal trade at the Supply Ministry, Ala Mas’ouleety in a phone-in (watch, runtime 10:07). “These are malicious rumors,” he said, adding that there have not been any changes to subsidies.

There are no immediate plans to expand the export ban of staple food commodities to include more goods, but the government is keeping its options open in case of further disruption, Cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad told Al Hayah Al Youm’s Mohamed Sherdy in a phone-in (watch, runtime 9:58). The government will not hesitate to take similar action, if needed, to ensure supplies and maintain price stability, he said. The Trade Ministry has banned the export of basic food commodities — like wheat, flour, oils, and corn — for three months as it looks to shore up supplies amid turmoil in the global food market caused by the conflict in Ukraine.

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

Leading the conversation in the foreign press this morning: Monday’s three-way summit between Egypt, the UAE and Israel is getting attention by foreign journos. Reuters, Bloomberg and the New York Times all have coverage. We have more on the summit in this morning’s Diplomacy section, below.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Al Tamimi & Co is opening a new office in Morocco’s Casablanca on 1 April, marking the law firm’s 17th office in 10 markets, according to a statement (pdf). The office will be headed by Nesrine Roudane, who is joining Al Tamimi as a partner as of the beginning of next month.

PLANET FINANCE

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Fuel rationing could be coming to Europe — and that’s before it goes cold turkey from Russian gas: Europe faces a “systemic” shortage of diesel due to sanctions on Russia that could force governments to ration fuel, three of the world’s largest energy traders have warned, according to the Financial Times. The heads of Vitol, Gunvor and Trafigura said that western sanctions on Moscow could remove as much as 3 mn barrels of oil and petroleum products from the market, producing a global supply crunch and potentially necessitating drastic measures in Europe, which imports half of its diesel from Russia.

Saudi Arabia’s Nahdi, the country’s biggest retail pharma chain, surged in its trading debut after raising almost USD 1.4 bn in the country’s biggest IPO since oil giant Aramco, Bloomberg reported. Shares surged 21% to an intraday high of SAR 158.40, up from their SAR 131 IPO price, before settling 14% higher at SAR 150. The IPO comes as equities in the oil producer outperform other emerging markets, which are seeing heavy outflows due to the Ukraine crisis.

The neverending debacle that is Evergrande: Lenders to Evergrande Property Services — China Evergrande’s property services unit — have claimed c.USD 2.1 bn in cash, according to a filing (pdf) to the Hong Kong stock exchange by the unit. The move is set to reduce the value of the failing developer’s bonds even further, says the Financial Times. The deposits had been pledged as security for lenders, the developer wrote in the filing, adding that it is now investigating the incident and “assessing its implications.” The developer’s bonds had already been trading at a fraction of their USD 20 bn initial face value following its default last year. The exchange halted trading in the developer and its subsidiaries following the news.

Up

EGX30

11,663

+1.3% (YTD: -2.4%)

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USD (CBE)

Buy 18.45

Sell 18.55

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USD at CIB

Buy 18.45

Sell 18.55

None

Interest rates CBE

9.25% deposit

10.25% lending

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Tadawul

12,881

+0.4% (YTD: +14.2%)

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ADX

9,632

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DFM

3,350

-0.3% (YTD: +4.8%)

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S&P 500

4,512

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FTSE 100

7,477

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USD 115.48

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Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 5.14

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Gold

USD 1,925.80

-0.1%

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BTC

USD 42,822

+3.7% (as of midnight)

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 rose 1.3% at yesterday’s close on turnover of EGP 2.0 bn (52.5% above the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 2.4% YTD.

In the green: Fawry (+5.4%), ADIB Egypt (+4.5%) and CIB (+3.1%).

In the red: Orascom Development Egypt (-7.5%), CIRA (-4.2%) and GB Auto (-3.1%).

It’s green as far as the eye can see this morning: Asian markets are comfortably in positive territory this morning and futures suggest all major European and North American indexes will follow suit at the opening bell.

DIPLOMACY

New details from Egypt-UAE-Israel meeting: We have more details on Monday’s three-way meeting between President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed after Ittihadiya yesterday released a read-out of the discussion. The three leaders discussed the effects of the Ukraine conflict on energy, market stability, and food security, as well as a number of other international issues, Ittihadiya said. The talks focused on “bolstering global energy security and market stability” as well as regional stability, an Emirati statement carried by WAM said. The status of the Iran nuclear talks was a topic of discussion, diplomatic sources said on Monday following the meeting.

Is Egypt now part of a contain-Iran axis? “We clearly see the strengthening of an axis that offers another narrative in the Middle East, that we can work together and cooperate on economic and defense matters,” Reuters reported Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll as saying in a radio interview. “Israel is committed to build a good partnership with anyone possible against the radical axis of Iran.”

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price welcomed the three-way talks in a press briefing yesterday. “It’s yet another example of what is possible with normalized relations,” told reporters.

MEANWHILE-

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has met with Pakistan President Aref Alvi in Islamabad, the ministry said in a statement yesterday. The visit came as part of Shoukry’s tour of Asia, during which he also stopped by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

AND- The Biden administration appears to be cozying up to KSA, amid supply crunches and heightened oil prices as a result of the war in Ukraine. The two sides are working to arrange a phone call between President Joe Biden and Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, sources told Bloomberg. Relations between the two sides have been strained as during his presidential campaign in 2018, Biden had called Saudi a “pariah,” following the murder of critic Jamal Khashoggi.

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How rising raw + building material prices and higher borrowing costs are expected to impact Egyptian infrastructure players, according to analysts: Building material prices in Egypt have been soaring over the past few weeks, pushed up by higher energy prices, raw materials, and freight and shipping costs, with both manufacturers and contractors feeling the pinch, we reported last week. These rapidly rising prices have extended beyond steel and cement, touching other key raw materials used in infrastructure projects — including iron ore, copper, aluminum, coal, limestone, wood, clay, brick, and sand. Add to that the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) decisions earlier this week to raise interest rates by 100 bps and let the EGP slide against the USD, and infrastructure players are going to be under pressure.

Prices are already up — but probably haven’t peaked yet: Locally, cement prices have increased “somewhere around 10%” since the war in Ukraine began at the end of February, Arabian Cement CEO Sergio Alcantarilla told us. Globally, “cement price inflation this year could average 70-100%, while steel could be north of 40%,” Ahmed Soliman, head of the industrials sector at CI Capital, tells Enterprise. We’ve already seen rising inflation domestically, impacted by global price increases. “Now we’re going to see a second wave coming from the local front from the EGP devaluation,” Noaman Khalid, associate director at Arqaam Capital, tells Enterprise.

These price movements are due in large part to market uncertainty and panic, which then leads to supply disruptions, Mohamed Magdi, vice president of investment research at Beltone Financial, tells Enterprise. Many commodities are being hoarded — almost everything from coal to steel — notably in Europe, off the back of supply shortage fears. Very high energy costs will also lead to industrial production shutdowns, as we saw last year with urea production plants being shut in Europe, Magdi says.

Egyptian infrastructure companies exposed to the price changes work across several sectors: Companies working on infrastructure essentially comprise real estate companies; manufacturers producing industrial goods used in infrastructure projects — like Elsewedy Electric, Ezz Steel, or cement manufacturers — and contractors working on development projects in areas like bridge construction, desalination, or transport — usually contracted by the government, Khalid says.

Different industries will feel the impact of cost increases differently, making it difficult to accurately quantify cost increases across the board, says Soliman.

For instance, raw material costs make up only 30-50% of real estate projects’ costs, so raw material price inflation of 50% won’t translate into a 50% increase in total project costs, Soliman says.

But utility infrastructure projects will likely see a large cost increase from raw material price hikes, he says. Utility projects — like sewage treatment, desalination, power distribution and transmission — have cost structures that rely more heavily on raw materials. “Within power projects, in particular, you’d expect to see a substantial rise in the cost of the project, aligned with raw material cost increases,” says Soliman.

Within each sector, the price shock will likely hit smaller contractors the hardest, “with their margins under pressure,” Mohamed Saad, vice president of research at Prime Securities, tells Enterprise. If the situation continues into 2H2022, several smaller contractors could face bankruptcy, predicts Magdi. Many will struggle to sustain their projects in a high-price environment, associate vice president at EFG Hermes Ali Afifi tells Enterprise.

Larger contractors — like Orascom Construction or Hassan Allam — are expected to see a measure of protection, since they generally have fixed margins, meaning they won’t really be hit, says Afifi. But what could be affected is their working capital: “They’ll still have the same profitability profile, but maybe with higher debt. They might use some debt to close the financing or cashflow gap, but they’ll recover.” This is what we saw last year, when copper and aluminum prices soared, he adds.

This then raises two big questions: Who will absorb the price shock? And will projects be delayed?

Most believe larger contractors will take a big hit from the price shock, and see sizable margin pressures. “I don’t think the government will change the investment cost or contract value for its infrastructure projects,” says Magdi. Still, precisely gauging the impact on margins is challenging, because no one knows how much companies may have stockpiled building materials, he adds. One analyst who had previously thought inflation costs would be passed on to the end consumer — generally the government — reviewed their stance in light of this week’s rate hikes and devaluation. “Cost inflation is likely to be shared in the short term given the sharp cost increases,” they said, speaking off the record.

Non-government end consumers may not yet be feeling the impact of higher prices, especially if companies are repricing, notes Khalid. We’ll see very different prices in the coming months, he adds.

Expectations about how this all impacts project deliverability vary: Smaller construction projects like new malls or compounds will likely continue, but with completely repriced offerings, says Khalid. But the government’s main infrastructure projects could be delayed by a couple of months, or a year, he says. Afifi essentially predicts the opposite: That real estate projects are most likely to slow down. Larger infrastructure projects with signed MOUs, that haven’t yet started, could be delayed by three-six months, but those that have started will continue, he says.

High-impact infrastructure projects in key sectors are too high a priority to be put on hold: The Sisi administration simply won’t allow some projects, like the high-speed rail, to be delayed, believes Magdi. Water projects — including desalination and revamping our aging water network — are essential, believes Afifi. These and transportation projects are too important to see a slowdown, he adds. Any water infrastructure projects are now key to our security, and highly unlikely to be delayed, says one source speaking on condition of anonymity. Infrastructure spending remains a big priority, says Soliman.

What happened last year in the face of (admittedly milder) price hikes seems to back this up: Building material price increases seen last year didn’t actually impact contractor project deliverability, notes Soliman. Large contractors like El Sewedy and Orascom even saw an estimated increase of around 20-40% to their key project backlog last year — even with raw material price hikes, Soliman says. Orascom’s pro forma backlog increased 15% y-o-y to USD 8.9 bn as of the end of 3Q2021, while proforma new awards rose 85.8% y-o-y to USD 1.7 bn, according to the company’s earnings release.

But the impact of the price hikes on the broader macro climate could affect infrastructure project spending — at least in the short-term, some believe. Higher spending on importing raw materials will increase our current account deficit, says Saad. And now the CBE has hiked interest rates, we could expect more of a contractionary approach to fiscal policy, to control inflation. “So we could see the biggest infrastructure funding source — the government — slowing down spending, to try to temper potentially alarming inflation rates,” Saad adds. Both the government and consumers will likely temporarily reduce spending, says Soliman. We might expect new investments and new project awards to slow for a while, until there’s further clarity on global economic dynamics, he adds. “And then later, spending could resume.”


Your top infrastructure stories for the week:

  • French shipping company CMA CGM is reportedly looking into making an undisclosed investment in the Ain Sokhna port.
  • The Transport Ministry signed several agreements with Abu Dhabi Ports Group that will see it manage and operate a multi-purpose terminal in Ain Sokhna port and a river port in Minya Governorate.
  • MB Engineering EV charging subsidiary Sha7en has signed an agreement to manage and operate 30 EV charging stations owned by Revolta Egypt.
  • The 114-km canal carrying agricultural wastewater to the El Hammam treatment plant is expected to be completed in a year, said Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty.

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): 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.

1 May (Sunday): Suez Canal Authority raises tolls for different vessels.

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.

Early July: Polish President to visit Egypt.

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.

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