Sunday, 27 March 2022

AM — From samurai bonds to the price of your new car and a big SME fund of funds, it’s a busy start to the last week before Ramadan

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, friends, and welcome to the last workweek before the start of Ramadan, which begins this coming Saturday. We hope you had a relaxing weekend and are looking forward to what is already shaping up as a busy week. Though hopefully not _quite_ as busy as last week, between a snap rate hike and devaluation, a massive stimulus program, bns of USD in investment announcements, and confirmation that we’re in talks with the International Monetary Fund once again.

Market watchers are pleased with how we’re handling things so far, with Goldman Sachs MENA economist Farouk Soussa telling Bloomberg TV the moves should boost confidence and bring fresh inflows from foreign investors (watch, runtime: 5:56). Last week’s move on the EGP will take off the board investor concern about the risk of further devaluation — and even raises “the possibility of some appreciation in the coming months,” Soussa said last week.

Meanwhile, folks are continuing to throw money at NBE + Banque Misr: The new 18% CDs launched by Banque Misr and the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) attracted deposits worth a combined EGP 153 bn was invested in the four days following the Central Bank of Egypt’s 100-bps rate hike, Al Mal reports. Some EGP 102 bn has been invested with NBE, while Banque Misr has seen EGP 51 bn in inflows.

PSA #1- Devaluation shouldn’t affect the price of your new car if you’ve already signed on the dotted line. The trade and supply ministries have agreed with the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce that its members will abide by the original value of contracts signed before the EGP’s depreciation and the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war, according to a cabinet statement. The Trade Ministry has received “a large number” of complaints in recent days that retailers have been hiking the price of cars, electronic gadgets and white goods for which consumers had already signed and paid deposits, Trade Minister Nevine Gamea said. Supply Minister Aly El Moselhy urged buyers to reach out to the Consumer Protection Agency, which he said would take action against unjustified price hikes.

If last week was all about the economy, the start of this week has a distinctly diplomacy bent to it:

IT’S A BIG WEEK FOR DIPLOMACY-

Egypt is taking part in another landmark Middle East summit. There are reports that Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry will be in Israel today to join the two-day Abraham Accords summit, alongside the foreign ministers of Israel, the UAE, Morocco, Bahrain and the United States. While the Israeli Foreign Ministry made no mention of Egypt, the US State Department said yesterday that Egypt is attending, confirming reports in the Israeli press that suggested Shoukry would be involved in the talks. Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, is also being pushed to attend, the reports said.

This comes less than a week after President Abdel Fattah El Sisi hosted Israeli PM Naftali Bennett and UAE Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed for three-way talks in Sharm El Sheikh that covered rising energy / food insecurity and regional geopolitical issues including the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Another major summit on Friday brought together El Sisi with leaders from Jordan, Iraq and the UAE to discuss the economic repercussions of the Ukraine conflict.

SPEAKING OF DIPLOMACY- It’s that time of the year again: AmCham’s Doorknock mission is kicking off “within days,” according to a cabinet statement. The typically-annual corporate diplomacy tour has been on hiatus for the past two springs due to the pandemic. AmCham delegations accompany several members of cabinet to Washington, DC, to meet with members of the US administration, Congress, think tanks, and the media in a bid to attract private sector investment and raise Egypt’s profile on the Hill. Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly recently sat down with AmCham members to discuss Egypt’s priority sectors for investment, including tech, green and renewable energy, transport, water treatment and desalination, and manufacturing, specifically EV manufacturing in light of the upcoming automotive strategy.

AND- Cyprus Energy Minister Natasa Pilidou is in town this week heading a delegation of Cypriot companies to discuss business ties with ministers and Egyptian firms, according to an official statement. The delegation will be in town from 28-31 March.

TODAY IN LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS:

  • The Senate will continue debating the Unified Ins. Act today, reports Ahram Online. The bill, which has been at least three years in the making, will make the Financial Regulatory Authority the primary regulator for the sector and make ins. compulsory for SMEs and freelancers, among other things.
  • The Senate will also discuss amendments to the law regulating NGOs in Egypt, and is set to decide on giving another one-year extension for NGOs to legalize their work in the country. If approved, the amendments will be sent over to the House of Representatives for discussion.

WATCH THIS SPACE -The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) is working to streamline import procedures for a list of essential commodities agreed upon by the supply and finance ministries, amid pressure on imports caused by the Russia-Ukraine war, according to a cabinet statement. While the statement was scant on details, it could be that the CBE is considering exempting more goods from the new requirement for importers to submit letters of credit. We’ll keep you posted as and when we hear more.

The Pharaohs are halfway to getting their revenge against Senegal and qualifying for the World Cup after edging the first leg of the World Cup playoff 1-0 on Friday night. Played in front of a 75k-strong crowd in Cairo International Stadium, the Pharaohs had to rely on an unlucky own goal in the fourth minute to hand them the advantage in the tie, which was played just six weeks after Senegal beat them on penalties in the final of the African Cup of Nations. The second leg will be played in Dakar on Tuesday night.

PSA #2- Summer (not spring) is in the air: Prepare to shed the layers this week as the Egyptian Meteorological Authority (EMA) forecasts (pdf) a gradual rise in temperatures. Our favourite weather app is forecasting a high today of 24°C in the capital city (29°C in Alexandria) rising to 35°C on Saturday, the first day of Ramadan (25°C in Alex).

PSA #3- So, when do we eat? Maghrib prayers are at 6:14pm CLT on the first day of the holy month (6:20pm in Alexandria), while you’ll have until 4:15am CLT to caffeinate or otherwise consume the sohour of your choice ahead of fajr prayers (4:18am in Alexandria).

PSA #4- All individual taxpayers have until this Thursday, 31 March, to submit their 2021 tax returns to the Egyptian Tax Authority. The deadline for companies with January-December fiscal years is 30 April.


FROM THE DEPT. OF GOOD NEWS-

The number of women in Egypt who have bank accounts has risen 171% since 2016, the central bank said this weekend in a statement (pdf). Some 16 mn women had bank accounts at the end of 2021, compared to 5.9 mn in 2016, it said. The CBE also noted that its requirement that all banks have at least two women on their boards resulted in a 67% increase in female representation on bank boards.

MARKET WATCH-

Traders are again predicting that oil could breach the USD 200 per barrel mark this year due to Russia’s growing isolation imposed by Western sanctions and a shortage of alternative supply sources, according to the Financial Times. A Europe and US-led boycott of Russian oil could cause the market to lose as many as 3 mn barrels of oil per day, while any alternative suppliers — including other OPEC+ members such as GCC countries — would need at least a year to ramp up output enough to plug the gap, traders say.

COVID WATCH-

Egypt saw an average of 625 new covid-19 infections per day last week, down from 788 per day the week before — and a daily average of eight covid-related deaths, down from 12 per day the previous week, according to Health Ministry figures released yesterday. Around 32 mn people are now fully vaccinated, and more than 1.9 mn have had their boosters, the statement added.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Afreximbank and the Angolan Embassy in Egypt are hosting (pdf) an Angola-Egypt investment roundtable on Wednesday at the Hilton Cairo Heliopolis Hotel. Click here to RSVP to join the discussion.

The Egypt International Mining Show (EIMS 2022) kicks off on Monday. The virtual event will wrap on Tuesday.

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


IN MEMORIAM: President of the Lawyers' Syndicate Ragai Attia has passed away at the age of 84, Al Masry Al Youm reports. Attia suffered a heart attack during an ongoing trial at a Giza court. In addition to his notable career in law, Attia was the author of dozens of published books in the literary, religious, and legal fields, including The renewal of religious thought and discourse.

enterprise

*** It’s What’s Next day: We have our weekly deep-dive into what makes and shapes pre-listed companies and startups in Egypt, the UAE and KSA, touching on investment trends, future sector insights and growth journeys.

In today’s issue: Last week, we talked to the CIT Minister advisor on AI Sally ‘Golestan’ Radwan and took a deep-dive into the ministry’s national strategy on the sector. Today, Radwan tells us about the practical applications of the strategy and its development.

enterprise

Let’s Footgolf and go on an adventure. Explore a Floodlit 9 Hole Footgolf Course at Somabay Golf, the first of its kind in Egypt. From Friday to Monday, 6pm-10pm. For more information, kindly visit: https://somabay.com/golf/

DEBT WATCH

We made our Samurai bond debut + PHD closes its EGP 3.25 bn sukuk offering

Egypt successfully closed its maiden Samurai bond issuance, selling USD 500 mn (c.JPY 60 bn) of the JPY-denominated bonds in Japan today, the Finance Ministry said in a statement Thursday. The ministry took the issuance to market despite the spillover from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the sale makes Egypt the first in the region to issue JPY-denominated bonds in the Japanese market, the ministry said.

The five-year bond carries an annual coupon rate of 0.85%, the ministry said, making it more attractive in comparison with average coupon rates of 2.33% for USD-denominated bonds. The statement did not include details on the bonds’ subscription rate. It received a credit guarantee from Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Banking — which also managed the issuance — and coverage from Nippon Export and Investment Ins. (NEXI).

Tapping the international bond market in spite of topsy turvy global markets: The issuance reflects Egypt’s ability to successfully close a sale on the international bonds market, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said, despite “unprecedented challenges seen by global economies.” The issuance went ahead in spite of doubts that suggested it could be postponed due to poor global market conditions caused by the Ukrainian war.

Background: The issuance comes 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.


Palm Hills closes landmark EGP 3.25 bn sukuk: Palm Hills Developments (PHD) has closed its first sukuk issuance worth EGP 3.25 bn, issuance manager Sarwa Capital said in a statement (pdf). The sharia-compliant bonds — which the real estate developer’s general assembly greenlit a couple weeks back — carry a 10-year tenor and will be used to finance its Badya project in Sixth of October.

This is our first corporate sukuk sale of the year and comes after a very quiet 2020 for shariah-compliant debt issuances. By our count, 2021 witnessed a single EGP 2.5 bn sale from Contact Financial Holding (formerly Sarwa Capital) back in July.

Advisors: The sale was managed and promoted by Contact Financial subsidiary Sarwa Capital. Banque Misr and its investment arm Misr Capital acted as underwriters and promoters. Our friends at ALC Alieldean Weshahi & Partners were legal advisors, while KPMG Hazem Hassan served as auditor.

More sukuk sales ahead? Wadi Degla Developments’s EGP 2 bn sukuk sale and Amer Group’s EGP 1.1 bn offering — both quarterbacked by Contact — should take place during the first half of the year, Sarwa Promoting and Underwriting head Ayman Elsawy told us in January.

COMMODITIES

No int’l wheat tenders before mid-May, -El Moselhy

Egypt won’t be tapping the international wheat market with new tenders before the middle of May after having received all its backlogged orders of Russian wheat, Supply Minister Ali El Moselhy said Thursday, Bloomberg and Reuters report. The government is focusing for now on the local harvest, which begins at the start of April, through which it expects to procure between 5 mn and 6 mn tons of wheat, the minister told Bloomberg.

The suspension of further international wheat tenders comes as the war in Ukraine roiled global wheat markets. Egypt’s last international wheat purchase was in mid-February after the conflict forced state grain buyer GASC to cancel two tenders due to high prices and a dearth of offers. This has pushed authorities to ramp up its local wheat buying and issue both incentives and punitive measures to maximize production and boost farmers’ wheat sales to the government. Prior to the conflict, around 80% of Egypt’s wheat imports came from Ukraine and Russia.

Argentina talks to start this week: Egypt will hold talks on wheat imports with the Argentinian government this week, El Moselhy said, as the Madbouly government goes in search of alternative suppliers. Egypt has already held talks with the US and France, he said.

Fertilizer for wheat? Egypt is also looking into a potential barter agreement with Romania that would see us trade fertilizer for Romanian wheat, the minister said.

Kazakhstan wants to set up a logistics zone at Ain Sokhna port that would be used to ship its grains and other foods to Africa, Kazakhstan’s ambassador to Egypt said yesterday in a meeting with Agriculture Minister El Sayed El Quseir, according to a ministry statement.

INVESTMENT WATCH

NBE launches EGP 2 bn SME fund of funds

State-owned banks launch EGP 2 bn SME fund of funds: A group of banks and financial institutions led by the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) have launched Egypt’s first fund of funds (FoF), which has reached a EGP 905 mn first close, the state-owned bank announced in a press release (pdf). Avanz Manara for Private Equity will invest in funds focused on SMEs, the statement read, without adding how many funds the firm is looking to back, the expected size of its investments, or when it plans to reach its targeted EGP 2 bn final close.

Avanz Manara has doubled the size of its targeted final close to EGP 2 bn since it was first announced last year. DC-based asset manager Avanz Capital — an affiliate of I Squared Capital with over USD 13 bn in assets under management — has been tapped to manage the fund, the statement confirmed.

Who’s in? The NBE is the largest single shareholder, having paid in EGP 300 mn, followed by Banque Misr, Banque du Caire, Ahli United Bank, Misr Ins. Holding, and Suez Canal Bank, which each stumped up EGP 100 mn. United Bank of Egypt contributed EGP 50 mn, private-sector outfit Attijariwafa Egypt committed EGP 45 mn, and fund manager Avanz Capital contributed EGP 10 mn. The firm is targeting an EGP 2 bn final close, according to the press release, which did not lay out a timeline.

Where will it invest? The fund plans to invest in SMEs in healthcare, education, fintech, agribusiness, renewables, fast-moving consumer goods and IT, a BdC source previously told us.

And what’s a fund of funds? In basic terms, a FoF chooses to invest in other funds — whether equity or debt — rather than individually vetting specific companies or debt issuances it may want to back. The fund managers to whom the FoF hands AUM are then trusted to generate returns that pass back to the managers of the fund of funds.

The Madbouly government and CBE have tagged SME finance as a priority going forward: State institutions including MIH, BdC and Suez Canal Bank last week made commitments to Catalyst Private Equity’s EGP 1 bn impact investment fund targeting Egyptian SMEs. They were joined by private-sector actors Attijariwafa and Ahli United Bank.

Advisors: The banks’ legal advisor for the launch was Zaki Hashem & Partners, while White & Case advised Avanz Capital.

BUDGET WATCH

The search for budget cutbacks starts in April, PM asks us all to drive a bit less

Ministries and government agencies will start looking at ways to trim spending from the beginning of next month as the cabinet tries to get its fiscal house in order amid spiraling international commodity prices and the war in Ukraine. Sources have reportedly told Al Shorouk that Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly has notified ministers, governors and state officials that in April they will need to review their budgets and cut costs where necessary. This comes a few days after the prime minister warned of potential austerity measures to balance out the increased social spending and rising import costs caused by the conflict in Ukraine,

Reportedly on the chopping block: Any new projects that have not yet been implemented and that require USD-based payments will be postponed and foreign travel for government officials will be prohibited unless absolutely necessary, the sources said.

Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly reiterated the challenges ahead on Thursday, warning that the surge in oil prices “presents very big pressure on the currency and the state.” Speaking at the opening of the Ahlan Ramadan supermarket expo, the PM called on members of the public to limit their fuel use, noting that the doubling in the price of oil to around USD 120 per barrel means the state is now also paying double for imports at some USD 1 bn per month.

STARTUP WATCH

Shorooq Partners launches USD 150 mn Bedaya Fund II to back startups

UAE-based VC firm Shorooq Partners has launched its USD 150 mn Bedaya Fund II to back early-stage startups operating in fintech, software, platform verticals, and digital assets in the MENAP region, according to a press release (pdf). The fund is backed by Abu Dhabi wealth fund ADQ’s venture firm, DisruptAD, the Dubai Future District Fund, Bupa Ins., and others. Bedaya Fund II will soon announce its first investments, which have already begun being deployed.

Shorooq has invested in Egypt’s grocery delivery startup Breadfast, with the commitment to the homegrown platform among 80 tickets it has written to more than 50 companies with a gross equity value of USD 1.5 bn.

Background: Shorooq launched last year the region’s first focused venture debt fund, Nahda Fund 1, with the VC firm hitting its fundraising target in just four weeks.

WAR WATCH

El Sisi holds talks with Zelensky

El Sisi calls for diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine in call with Zelensky: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi received a phone call from his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday, according to an Ittihadiya statement, marking the first time the two leaders have spoken since Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February. El Sisi stressed the importance of diplomacy and dialogue to solve the crisis, according to the statement, adding that Egypt is following with concern “the deterioration in the humanitarian situation” in Ukraine. “We agreed on the need to restore peace” in Ukraine, Zelensky wrote on Twitter following the conversation, adding that he thanked El Sisi for help provided to Ukrainians.

Shoukry was also in talks: Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry also discussed ways to achieve a lasting peace with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in a call on Thursday, according to a statement.

Egypt is walking a delicate line on the war. Russia and Ukraine are both important strategic partners, together providing some 80% of our wheat imports and around a third of our inbound tourism market. Russia is building a nuclear power plant and an industrial zone here, Ukraine is involved in our national railway upgrade, and both countries are longstanding defense partners.

Two weeks since El Sisi-Putin talks: The call came two weeks after El Sisi offered to help mediate an end to the conflict during talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

El Sisi wasn’t the only Arab leader Zelensky reached out to this weekend: The Ukrainian leader joined the Doha Forum on Saturday and urged Qatar and other gas exporters to increase shipments to Europe and help it reduce its reliance on Russian energy, Bloomberg reported.

Europe is getting more gas from the US: The US will ship 50 bn cubic meters of LNG to Europe each year until at least 2030 under an agreement signed during President Biden’s visit to Europe last week. The supplies will cover about a third of the gas the EU receives from Russia, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Reminder: European nations are soon going to have to cough up some RUB if they want to keep importing Russian gas. Putin last week gave his government a week to put into place a mechanism for accepting RUBs rather than EUR or USD as payment for gas, which would mean Europe not only propping up the currency but helping Russian banks to skirt sanctions.

Biden seems to have inadvertently called for the overthrow of Putin, breaking with official US policy which has avoided publicly calling for regime change in Moscow. “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” the US president said in an unscripted remark at the end of an address in Poland yesterday. Cue clarifications from the White House press team.

EGYPTIANS IN UKRAINE-

An Egyptian citizen has died in Mariupol: Yehia Hassan Yehia Hamed was killed in the attacks on the city of Mariupol, which has seen some of the worst shelling and airstrikes since the onset of the war, according to a statement by the Egyptian community in Ukraine.

EARNINGS WATCH

EFG Hermes’ net income rose 12% y-o-y to EGP 1.5 bn in 2021, the universal bank said in its earning release (pdf) on Thursday. The bank’s bottom line growth was supported by a 12% rise in revenues which finished the year at EGP 6.1 bn.

Revenue growth of 19% in 4Q2021 was underpinned by strong performance at its non-bank platforms and the acquisition of the Arab Investment Bank in the quarter, which contributed EGP 306 mn to the group’s top line in the period. Revenues at EFG’s non-bank arms rose 33% y-o-y during the October-December period to EGP 537 mn: Microfinance platform Tanmeyah recorded a 25% increase in revenues to EGP 372 mn, while revenues at the bank’s consumer finance arm valU almost doubled to EGP 84 mn. EFG Hermes is a universal bank in Egypt and the leading investment bank franchise in frontier emerging markets.

Diversification was key to EFG’s success this past year: “As I look back, I am confident now more than ever that our strategies over the last five years — from expansion into FEMs, to the diversification into NBFIs, and the entrance into the commercial banking space — have not only borne fruit but have given us the ability to withstand very tough and turbulent market conditions,” said Group CEO Karim Awad.

MOVES

Egyptian Media Production City (EMPC)’s board of directors has appointed Abdel Fattah El Gebaly as its new chairman, replacing former information minister Osama Heikal, according to an official statement. El Gebaly was recommended by the EMPC’s mother company, the National Media Authority (NMA). El Gebaly is a journalist and economic expert who was previously chairman of Al Ahram Foundation and chairman of Al Watan newspaper, according to El Dostor.

enterprise

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Food prices were once again a topic of conversation on the airwaves last night: Abdel Moneim Khalil, head of internal trade at the Supply Ministry, phoned-in to Al Hayah Al Youm, telling show host Lobna Assal that last week’s price controls on unsubsidized bread have now been implemented and the ministry is conducting a nationwide awareness campaign to make sure bakeries understand the changes (watch, runtime 7:56). The three-month price controls on baladi and fino bread — announced last week to put a lid on inflated prices caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine — have set different price caps depending on the weight of the bread. Anyone found to be violating the rules will face hefty fines between EGP 100k to EGP 5 mn.

Community immunity: Our covid numbers have been declining over the past few weeks due to a higher number of fully-vaccinated citizens — around 32 mn — as well as stronger immunity, Acting Health Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar told El Hekaya’s Amr Adib in a phone-in (watch, runtime 2:43). Healthy Ministry spokesperson Hossam Abdel Ghaffar relayed the same information in a phone-in with Al Hayah Al Youm’s Lobna Al Assal (watch, runtime 5:56).

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

The foreign press are still focusing on how the conflict in Ukraine is impacting us here at home: Bloomberg, CNN and Deutsche Welle are out with pieces looking at how ordinary Egyptians are struggling with rising food prices ahead of Ramadan.

Why is the UAE investing that USD 2 bn? To bolster stability in Egypt, Bloomberg suggests

AND- Israel wants us to get those F-15s: Israel is lobbying for a major arms export sale from the US for Egypt, in the latest show of strengthening Egypt-Israel ties. (Axios)

ALSO worth a read: Moon Knight director Mohamed Diab criticizes Wonder Woman 1984's portrayal of Egypt in AV Club.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Egypt is working on an energy transition plan for Africa alongside the African Union which will be launched during the COP 27 climate summit in November, Oil Minister Tarek El Molla said last week. The minister was speaking during the International Energy Agency’s 2022 ministerial meeting which took place on 23-24 March.

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

  • Axa plans to set up a micro ins. company: Axa is currently working on the feasibility study and the final decision will likely be decided based on the final version of the Unified Ins. Act, which is currently at committee-level discussions in the House.
  • UK-based SDX Energy announced a gas discovery at an exploration well in its South Disouq concession. The well will start contributing to production in June.
  • US railway equipment provider Wabtec plans to make an offer to supply Egypt with the world’s first battery-powered electric freight trains, which Wabtec unveiled last year. The US railway equipment provider is already supplying the Egyptian National Railway (ENR) with 100 new locomotives at an estimated cost of EUR 248 mn.

PLANET FINANCE

Powered by
EFG Hermes - https://efghermes.com/

EM funds are seeing heavy outflows on the back of the global uncertainty: Emerging-market equity funds have lost a combined USD 8.1 bn over the past four weeks, while USD 5.7 bn has been drained from EM bond funds, Reuters reports, citing data from Refinitiv Lipper. War in Ukraine — and the resultant squeeze on food and energy prices — has seen investors pull back from risky EMs, with bond outflows as of last week hitting USD 14.3 bn since the beginning of the year. It’s all a far cry from 2021, when EM equity and debt funds recorded combined inflows of more than USD 300 bn.

JPMorgan has downgraded EM local currency debt to “underweight” and recommended selling, according to Reuters. Analysts at the investment bank reckon that EM fixed income assets have lost 6-9% of their value since the onset of the war, which has added to pre existing concerns about rising interest rates and surging inflation.

Global IPOs have plunged 70% y-oy so far in 2022 as the war in Ukraine and rising interest rates put a lid on investor appetite, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “This is probably the worst time in five years in terms of market sentiment,”said Li Hang, a senior official at CLSA brokerage.

But guess who’s bucking the trend? The Middle East is the “one bright spot” in global capital markets, said Andree Chakhtoura, head of investment banking for MENA at Bank of America. “There is a wider and deeper market now than there has ever been before,” she said.

FROM THE REGION-

Dubai’s main utilities firm could raise some USD 2.2 bn in the country’s biggest IPO in 15 years, Bloomberg reports.

The IPO kicks off Dubai’s plans to list 10 state-owned companies in a bid to close the gap with neighboring markets Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, which saw listings soar last year on the back of an IPO boom.

More and more from ADQ: The Abu Dhabi wealth fund has a USD 300 mn VC fund with Turkey Wealth Fund (TWF), according to a press release. The Turkey Technology Fund-ADQ TWF will “invest in venture capital funds and high-growth potential companies in Turkey,” including existing or new firms operating in major sectors such as energy and utilities, healthcare, food and agriculture, mobility, and logistics. This comes a week after the sovereign agreed to invest USD 2 bn into EGX-listed companies.

Down

EGX30

11,709

-0.3% (YTD: -2.0%)

Up

USD (CBE)

Buy 18.26

Sell 18.36

Up

USD at CIB

Buy 18.25

Sell 18.35

None

Interest rates CBE

9.25% deposit

10.25% lending

Up

Tadawul

12,948

+0.0% (YTD: +14.8%)

Up

ADX

9,769

+0.3% (YTD: +15.1%)

Up

DFM

3,412

+1.0% (YTD: +6.8%)

Up

S&P 500

4,543

+0.5% (YTD: -4.7%)

Up

FTSE 100

7,483

+0.2% (YTD: +1.3%)

Up

Brent crude

USD 120.65

+1.4%

Up

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 5.57

+3.2%

Down

Gold

USD 1,960

-0.4%

Up

BTC

USD 44,452

+0.1% (as of midnight)

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 fell 0.3% at Thursday’s close on turnover of EGP 1.36 bn (29% above the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 2.0% YTD.

In the green: Sidi Kerir Petrochem (+5.0%), Eastern Company (+4.4%) and Orascom Development Egypt (+2.7%).

In the red: Orascom Construction (-2.9%), Ezz Steel (-2.8%) and TMG Holding (-1.9%).

DIPLOMACY

El Sisi talks with MbS following Houthi attacks: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi stressed Egypt's solidarity with the Saudi government during a phone call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman on Saturday, Ittihadiya said in a statement. The call came shortly after the KSA’s Energy Ministry confirmed that the Houthi militia attacked two Saudi oil stations in Jeddah. No injuries or casualties were reported.

MEANWHILE- El Sisi signed several cooperation agreements with Rwandan president Paul Kagame at Ittihadiya palace yesterday, according to an official statement. The two leaders discussed several issues, including economic and commercial matters, and they agreed to increase cooperation on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). El Sisi emphasized the need to reach a legal agreement that would enhance regional stability

AROUND THE WORLD

Three countries are apparently ready to sign a nuclear agreement with Iran: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said his country has agreed with France, Germany and the UK on a draft text to revive the 2015 nuclear pact, while the US has “accepted” that it has to address “a few key remaining issues,” he said in a televised interview, according to Bloomberg. Iran has made it clear that it has one condition before finalizing the agreement: The US has to take the Revolutionary Guard off of its terror list, a demand that Washington is reportedly considering.

North Korea on Thursday said it had launched a long-range test of a “new kind” of intercontinental ballistic missile, in the first such test since 2017, reports Reuters. The move comes as a way for North Korea to flaunt its military and nuclear prowess at a time where global tensions are at a high. The missile landed off the west coast of Japan, within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), leading Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to call the test an “unacceptable act of violence.”

You’ve GOT to watch the video North Korea released to go with it.

whatsNext

How the gov’t plans to grow the AI sector: A sitdown with Comms Ministry AI advisor, Sally Radwan (Part II): Last week, we talked to the CIT Minister advisor on AI Sally ‘Golestan’ Radwan and took a deep-dive into the ministry’s national strategy on the sector. The strategy aims to serve four main pillars, serving government, development, capacity building and international relations. Today, Radwan tells us about the practical applications of the strategy and its development.

A number of projects in agriculture, healthcare and government have already been implemented. The ministry already implemented a few AI applications in the agriculture sector, as well as AI solutions for government bodies. Furthermore, the ministry is opening its resources up to the private sector to help reduce the barrier to entry for AI applications in various sectors, Radwan tells us. More needs to be done, however, on the legislative front in order for wide adoption to take place.

AI applications in agriculture: One project was chosen to be presented at the Paris Peace Forum and supported by a grant from Microsoft, which entails using satellite imagery to identify land plot boundaries in the Nile Delta. Land plots there are very small and therefore, ownership is hard to determine. The project helped with identifying where the plots start and end and what is being planted there, in order to provide irrigation recommendations. This allowed for better water management. The second part of the project helped identify what was planted on these plots. “What we’re working on now is to calculate the amount of irrigation water required for each of those plots,” Radwan says.

Another agritech AI solution aims to become the farmers’ best friend. The Hudhud app, the smart farmer’s assistant, was launched with the Agriculture Ministry. The aim is to help small-hold farmers by giving them proactive advice on their crops via a chatbot, based on Agriculture Ministry announcements, as well as weather notifications. Farmers can ask the chatbot about a variety of issues, such as which crops to plant at which time of year, how to irrigate them, where the prices of vegetables and fruits stand in different markets etc. The chatbot can also help farmers identify pests on their crops and how to fight them.

In healthcare, the CIT Ministry is working on a project about the long-term effect of type 2 diabetes on vision with the Health Ministry. Patients suffering from type 2 diabetes stand the risk of going blind in the long-term; hence, they are advised to check with an eye doctor once a year so that needed interventions can be done in time. However, Egypt has between 10 – 20 mn diabetes patients and a limited number of eye doctors. The deep-learning solution takes a picture of the patient’s eye and analyzes it for early signs of blindness, after which it informs the patient’s doctor treating diabetes, who can then intervene accordingly with medication. So it saves the time of physicians and makes up for the lack of eye doctors. There’s another project that looks at automating cancer radiotherapy treatment, as well as one tackling chronic disease management to reduce the burden on the healthcare sector.

Applications in tourism: The Egypt Post Museum now has two AI-driven apps, which can be used for other museums as well. One is an avatar that chats with the museum visitors, answers their questions and gives them hints on how to best navigate the museum. The other one is a semantic search engine for researchers that helps them understand the relationship between the different displayed artifacts.

Facilitating tax collection and other gov’t functions: Other projects explore applying AI to the tax collection system in partnership with the Finance Ministry. “We are also working with the Justice Ministry on how to use AI to expedite repeated, civil, non-criminal verdicts, like alimony payments for instance,” she says. These take a long time to process in the courthouse, but can be easily automated. There is also a project in the works focusing on a smart correspondence management system for the government, document processing products to accelerate the paper cycle, and smart procurement processes.

Smart cities are also a natural priority: A national strategy for smart cities and how AI can be best utilized in them is also being developed. “The main focus is to engage the AI ecosystem as a whole, so we’re working with TIEC’s eight Creativa Innovation Hubs across Egypt’s university campuses to come up with new creative AI applications in partnership with local startups,” she adds. You can catch up on the nation’s smart cities strategy and the players involved here.

Across the board, public private partnerships are essential: They are necessary on at least a project-basis. It is essential to have the government mandate but also to have the innovation, product-centered perspective and sense of urgency found in the private sector. The projects are usually built on a trilateral partnership between the beneficiary who wants to adopt AI, the company that is building the application, and the government.

Egypt is also building an online AI center of excellence for Egypt, to facilitate building AI projects in an efficient, repeatable, and cost-effective way. “When we create a project, we want to make sure that its components are reusable and scalable for others,” Radwan tells us. These components are tested, certified and trusted and having them available on a platform enables the industry and builds an ecosystem.

Startups and researchers and academics can use the platform to build applications in an easy, cost-effective and quick way. “It will include details on how we liaise with the beneficiaries of our different projects and how we involve technology partners to encourage the private sector,” she explains. Egypt signed a twinning agreement with Singapore to replicate the AI Center of Excellence they have. The aim is to encourage AI adoption in the government and private sector. This includes an assessment tool to determine the AI readiness of companies.

The ministry future plan is to reduce the barriers to private sector adoption by derisking investments: A big barrier to AI adoption amongst the private sector is risk. “We try to derisk the process by having the Center of Excellence help them build a minimal viable model of what they want to build,” Radwan says. The Center of Excellence helps identify the problem a beneficiary wants to solve and builds a prototype, or minimal viable model, of the AI application. Once the prototyping is done, the beneficiary starts investing to implement the full-fledged solution. So there is no risk in the primary phase of the project.

More still needs to be done for widespread adoption: Legislation still needs to be created to encourage investment in AI, providing incentives to companies to enter the space, she tells us. Laws need to be in the books to provide greater support to startups, while building bridges with academia and having a pipeline of applied research for applications on-ground. Mechanisms need to be in place for importing technology, reducing bureaucracy, accelerating government involvement in high-tech projects, and relying more heavily on pilot projects. An Egyptian charter for responsible AI is also expected to be published in summer 2022. The charter includes guiding principles around ethics and responsible development, as well as technical guidelines, with the aim of enabling the local ecosystem. “The process is ongoing, but it will take some time,” Radwan concludes.


Your top stories on future trends for the week:

  • Three of Egypt’s state-owned banks are investing in a new USD 85 mn fintech fund launched by Dubai-based VC Global Ventures, dubbed Nclude.
  • Lebanon-based beauty e-commerce platforms SohatiCare and Loolia Closet have expanded to Egypt.
  • Sequence Ventures is looking to invest EGP 150 mn in 10 tech companies this year via its Egypt Deep-Tech fund. The fund plans to reach its first close of EGP 150 mn after Ramadan.
  • Catalyst Private Equity has launched an EGP 1 bn impact investment fund that will target Egyptian SMEs.

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.

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.

30 March (Wednesday): The Angola-Egypt Investment Roundtable discussion (pdf), the Hilton Cairo Heliopolis Hotel.

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.

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.

Enterprise is available without charge thanks to the generous support of EFG Hermes (tax ID: 200-178-385), the leading financial services corporation in frontier emerging markets; SODIC (tax ID: 212-168-002), a leading Egyptian real estate developer; SomaBay (tax ID: 204-903-300), our Red Sea holiday partner; Infinity (tax ID: 474-939-359), the ultimate way to power cities, industries, and homes directly from nature right here in Egypt; CIRA (tax ID: 200-069-608), the leading providers of K-12 and higher level education in Egypt; Orascom Construction (tax ID: 229-988-806), the leading construction and engineering company building infrastructure in Egypt and abroad; Moharram & Partners (tax ID: 616-112-459), the leading public policy and government affairs partner; Palm Hills Developments (tax ID: 432-737-014), a leading developer of commercial and residential properties; Etisalat Misr (tax ID: 235-071-579), the leading telecoms provider in Egypt; and Industrial Development Group (IDG) (tax ID:266-965-253), the leading builder of industrial parks in Egypt.