Thursday, 7 April 2022

AM — Can regulatory changes make it attractive for VCs to invest directly in Egypt?

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, wonderful people, and HAPPY THURSDAY. We have plenty of news with which to send you off into the first full weekend of Ramadan.

THE BIG STORY THIS MORNING- It’s all about Planet Startup today, starting with news that key regulators have agreed to work together on regulatory changes that could make it much more attractive for venture capital (and private equity) to invest directly here. The regulations could formally allow for things like founder-control clauses, drag- and tag-along rights and the like. We have an initial rundown on what’s happening (below, in the news well) and will bring you more next week.

Also this morning, we’re happy to have exclusive news about Shift EV closing a landmark funding round. Shift is a startup that aims to change the physical world around us — and it is exiting “stealth mode” this morning. The company retrofits delivery fleets, converting them into electric vehicles here in Cairo using proprietary, home-grown battery tech. Shift has global ambitions, as you’ll find when you read this morning’s Coffee With… column.

Last, but not least, all of you fintech folks out there will want to check out our weekly What’s Next vertical on Sunday. That’s when you’ll be able to read or listen to our podcast interview with the founders of hot startups Khazna and Kashat, two of the VCs that have backed them (our friends at Cairo Angels and Accion), along with special guest Dr. Rasha Negm, who leads on fintech and innovation at the Central Bank of Egypt.

OH, AND SPEAKING OF RAMADAN, consider this a gentle reminder that you have 24 days left until Sunday, 1 May, when it will (a) still be Ramadan but also (b) be a national holiday in observance of Labour Day. 2 May looks set to be a workday, while 3-5 May is likely to be Eid Al Fitr.

SO, WHEN DO WE EAT? You’ll be breaking your fast at 6:17pm CLT this evening in the capital city. Fajr prayers are at 4:08am tomorrow morning.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD- The business press is indulging in more Fed talk this morning. Minutes (pdf) from the US Fed’s last get-together in March, released yesterday, confirmed that the US central bank plans to take drastic measures to curb inflation at its upcoming May meeting. The bank’s plan is to slash its USD 9 tn balance sheet by about USD 95 bn/month starting in May, while “many” officials back one or several steeper-than-usual 0.5-point rate hikes in tandem. The markets weren’t especially rattled by the news, given that they’ve already priced in up to 2.5 points worth of hikes this year. The Financial Times and Reuters have more.

SMART POLICY- Abu Dhabi will ban single-use plastic bags starting June, the Emirate announced yesterday. The Abu Dhabi Environment Agency plans to implement measures to slash demand for about 16 single-use plastic products that include cups, stirrers, lids and cutlery. Dubai had said in February that it would outlaw their use within two years; it also plans to phase out single-use styrofoam cups, plates and food containers by 2024.

We did something similar a few years back: The Red Sea governorate banned single-use plastic products back in 2019 in a step designed to protect marine life and the coastal environment.

Now, the attention turns to the rest of the country: The new Waste Management Act contains provisions to restrict the distribution of single-use plastics nationwide but stops short of laying out a roadmap to ban their use entirely.


CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Last chance for brokerages to join the new securities federation: The Financial Regulatory Authority is again extending the deadline for brokerage firms, asset managers and financial advisors to sign up to the Egyptian Securities Federation to 18 September, ahead of the convening of its first general assembly, according to Al Borsa. The regulator said this would be the last time the deadline is extended. The federation has struggled to attract members since it was launched in 2019. Membership is mandatory only for new firms.

Expect movement on fuel prices this week or the next: The government’s fuel pricing committee is due to have its quarterly meeting at the beginning of this month, when it will likely opt to hike prices in 2Q. If it does so, it would be the fifth time in less than a year. The committee increased prices of 80, 92 and 95-octane by EGP 0.25 when it last met in February in response to rising international prices, and since then, the war in Ukraine has sent Brent up yet again, with a barrel of the stuff going for almost USD 103 at dispatch time this morning. Prices at the pump have risen by up to 16% since April last year.

ALSO THIS WEEK AND NEXT-

  • Foreign reserves: March’s foreign reserves figures will be announced in the next few days;
  • Inflation figures for March are expected on Sunday, 10 April.

Companies have just under two weeks to file their first quarterly ESG compliance report: Listed firms and non-bank financial services companies need to submit their first quarterly ESG report by 20 April, the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) announced last week. The regulator is making it mandatory for corporates to publicly disclose their performance on key environmental, social and governance metrics each year when they submit their annual financial statements, starting 2023. Reach out to Moustafa Taalab at InkankIR, our parent company, if you need some help.

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

enterprise

The Spring Edition of Somabay Endurance Festival takes place from May 26th – 28th, featuring a host of different races suitable for all ages and abilities. Join this family-friendly sports event by signing up at www.thetrifactory.com and get ready to #ExperienceEndurance. Book now: www.thetrifactory.com/somabay

STARTUP WATCH

Egypt wants VCs to invest here directly — and is looking at regulatory changes to make it possible

A cooperation protocol signed yesterday could be a first step toward making it more attractive for VC firms to directly invest in Egypt, if our read on a cabinet statement is right.

What’s the news? Three key regulators have agreed to work together to make it easier for both local and international VCs to invest in Egyptian startups. On board are the General Authority for Investment and Freezones (GAFI), the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA), and the Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA), according to a cabinet statement.

Why does it matter? VCs and private equity investors — local and international alike — have long invested in Egyptian companies via offshore structures that see them structuring funds as special purpose vehicles (SPVs) domiciled in other countries. They do this for tax efficiency (allowing each party to pay taxes in its own jurisdiction), but they are also very much driven by the unique terms in shareholder agreements they’ve negotiated with the company in which they’re investing.

Uh, Enterprise — what do you mean, shareholder agreements? VC and PE investors alike demand minority rights protections, whether those are rights to invest in future rounds, the right to ride along on any future transaction (a “tag along” option), guaranteed board seats, etc. And company founders will often want rights including, for example, the ability to control a company long after they stop owning 50% plus one share.

The problem is that those types of arrangements are either (a) untested in Egyptian law or (b) flat-out impossible. A study (pdf) a few years back by the EBRD, PwC and the Egyptian Private Equity association noted that as matters stand today, the enforceability of “tag-along rights, drag-along rights, call options and put options is untested … In Egypt, minority shareholders generally lack rights and cannot affect the day-to-day activities of a company. They are often unable to influence the strategic direction of a firm, unless they act as a voting bloc.” All of this is anathema to venture investors, PE types and company founders alike.

What’s next? Lots of consultations with VCs (and PE firms), we hope. GAFI has been tapped to prepare a “standard shareholder agreement” for startups (we hope this is a model agreement and not a one-size-fits-all prescription). Minority rights will be at the center of that contract. Meanwhile, the FRA is working on regulations that will allow the use of convertible notes to invest in startups. (A convertible is a debt instrument that converts into equity at some point in the future based on pre-agreed triggers.)

Wait, wait — there’s more. The memorandum also sets the stage for the regulators to explore ideas including:

  • Founder claw-back clauses
  • Preferred shares
  • Reserved matters
  • Employee stock options
  • And looking at valuation methods (and funding instruments) that are common globally, but not yet provided for in Egyptian law.

Smart lawyering and good policymaking are responsible for this: Our friends at Shahid Law Firm’s Venture by Shahid worked with a team at ITIDA headed by Amr Mahfouz that helped lead a process that brought things to this point, the firm said in a statement (pdf).

COFFEE WITH…

Electric mobility startup Shift EV has closed a total of USD 9 mn in funding, putting it on the road to transform the EV landscape not just in Egypt, but across emerging markets with home-grown battery technology. Cairo-based Shift’s Series A round was joined by existing investors Union Square Ventures, Algebra Ventures, and Wamda as well as first-time investor Oman Technology Fund, bringing the company’s total cash raised to date to USD 9 mn, according to CEO and co-founder Aly Eltayeb (LinkedIn).

The investment is the first in the Middle East and North Africa for Union Square, a tier-one US venture capital investor.

What does Shift EV do? Imagine being able to convert your full delivery fleet into EVs in a matter of days — at no up-front cost, all here in Cairo. The company, founded by young PhDs with global industry experience, has developed a retrofitting process based on proprietary Lego-like, locally manufactured batteries that can turn any conventional vehicle into an EV. Shift isn’t interested in converting any old car, though. Its October plant takes an assembly-line approach to convert fleets of minivans and tricycles and will soon do pickup trucks and microbuses— the backbone of Egypt’s last-mile delivery and passenger fleets — into EVs. It takes less than a few hours per vehicle to do the conversion, a figure Eltayeb says is “falling rapidly.”

How does it generate income? “We have a simple value proposition for logistics fleets: save 30% of your operating costs with no upfront charge,” says Eltayeb. “We have a subscription business model, a batteries-as-a-service approach.” They have a team of more than 50 people on the ground today.

We love Planet Startup, but it’s a rare Egyptian company that sets out to build something out of atoms, not bits. For all of his public pushing of the envelope, Elon Musk is alone among the so-called Paypal Mafia to have set out to transform the physical world in which we live.

Think of Shift EV in a similar way: It’s deep tech with massive real-world implications. It’s not localizing an idea (say, a marketplace / payments outfit / delivery service) that’s been proven to work abroad — it’s setting out to do something that’s never been done before. Ever. Anywhere.

We sat down for a pre-Ramadan chat with Eltayeb to discuss the company’s plan to dominate emerging markets, its origin story, and the future of climate — which we expect will turn out to be the biggest market in the world over the next 30 years. Edited excerpts from our conversation follow.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Shift EV is looking to do 1 mn kilometers on the road this year with last-mile delivery fleets converted using proprietary battery tech at the company’s October factory;
  • The company delivered its first batch of vehicles in December 2021, but declined to name client names right now;
  • They make money on a subscription model — and are helping creating a new climate-finance product that’s getting traction with DFIs, commercial banks and equity investors alike;
  • Its next fundraising round will be to take its proven battery tech and manufacturing process outside of Egypt;
  • The ministries of finance and industry are playing a constructive role driving the buildout of a domestic EV industry

ENTERPRISE: Why did you set out to convert fossil-fuel-fired vehicles instead of building your own EVs?

The cost of a new electric passenger car is just stunning in emerging-markets terms. I mean, some are just beautiful pieces of angled, carbon-fiber art — but on a cost basis, they don’t yet make sense. Big global startups such as Tesla and Rivian will spend a decade making money selling high-priced passenger cars in the United States, Europe and China. They’re markets where both personal incomes and government subsidy budgets exist on a scale that can make EVs attractive.

Think about it. At the price of a Rivian [starting prices in the US are the equivalent of EGP 1.3 mn apiece), they’re luxury items for consumers — and they’re certainly not going to be moving packages or groceries around Giza anytime soon.

Big global players will spend the next decade eating up market share outside EM before they’ll start to wonder whether costs have come down enough to build affordably for emerging markets consumers.

But the cost of retrofitting? It turns out that it’s a fraction of the cost of a new EV — and it’s a cost that can be financed. Our customers own fleets of vehicles. They pay nothing to convert them — and they get 30% savings immediately. They love that.

Why did you guys start with commercial vehicles when there are significantly more passenger cars on the market?

If you’re a car owner, you know where you’re going to go most days and where you’ll charge — but 10% of the time you need the flexibility to go anywhere and charge anywhere. There’s very little of what when it comes to commercial vehicles: You know exactly where you’ll start, where you’ll end, and what your daily range is — meaning there’s no need to rely on public charging infrastructure.

Last-mile delivery is a killer application for electric mobility.

E: And the market is big enough?

ELTAYEB: There are at least 25 mn commercial vehicles on the roads in emerging markets and 1.5 mn in Egypt alone. The implication is that we have two options: Wait a decade or two during which we emit CO2 like crazy, over-spend on operational costs, and continue to destroy the air quality of our cities. Or find a different option.

E: What was the signal that the time was right for you guys?

When we started looking into this in 2019, batteries were down an order of magnitude in cost. It’s the same thing that happened in semiconductors and then in solar panels. And we knew that both global capital and governments are keenly looking at the transition from conventional vehicles to EVs.

We went around the world looking for lessons learned from people who had tried to build businesses around conversion and found they failed for two reasons: The batteries were too expensive in the absence of subsidies — and they took existing tech and tried to ram it into vehicles just to make it fit, making terrible design tradeoffs in the process.

So we knew we had to do something different. We had to make batteries that are designed from scratch to fit existing chassis. That’s what lets us move at industrial scale and automotive speed.

E: Tarek Assaad at Algebra likened your tech to Lego: You pull the engine and drive train, then snap together a battery package out of Lego-like blocks that make optimum use of the engine compartment.

ELTAYEB: That’s a beautiful way of putting it. Our process starts with a specific chassis platform. We don’t want to do bespoke work — you need to work at an industrial automotive rate when you convert a fleet. It’s not one big battery, but rather smaller modules like Lego packs that we combine in different sizes, form factors and voltages — all of it unique to each chassis platform.

E: How do you make money?

ELTAYEB: The short answer is that it’s a subscription model: We convert your vehicles. You save money. We take a piece of the savings.

And what’s really exciting is that in the process, we’re creating a new asset class. Going from gasoline to EVs at the fleet level needs a new type of renewable energy finance that’s distinctly different from the facilities that financed the switch from coal to renewables. We’re lining up transactions now with big development finance institutions, climate funds, commercial banks and leasing companies. We’re also getting traction with equity investors who can deploy debt.

E: What’s the biggest challenge you guys have faced building a manufacturing business in Egypt?

ELTAYEB: It’s certainly not government policy. We’re in line with government goals on FDI, mobility and electrification, and that’s helped a lot. We’ve gotten a lot of support from government institutions. We’re certified as safe and road-ready by the main regulatory bodies and there’s a lot of credit due to the ministers of industry and finance. They’re being really forward-thinking and progressive in how they’re helping build a local EV industry.

One of our biggest challenges was dealing with the China container crunch. We had huge issues getting our stuff to Egypt. It was like something from a comedy: Ex-Intel, GM, and MIT people trying to move stuff from port to port around the world, trying desperately to find a way to get it to Egypt.

Another interesting challenge is that there’s not a lot of capital out there in the world looking to invest in technology in Egypt. New tech investors go to Munich and Boston and San Francisco.

Luckily for us, we met Albert Wenger from Union Square and the teams at Algebra and Wamda and the Oman Technology Fund. What we’re doing is really different, but they understood what we were doing and put their money where their mouths were despite it being so unusual to fund deep tech in Egypt. Other investors were super-excited, but kept coming back to “Why Egypt?” We wanted to show that you can do this in Egypt.

E: What’s next for you on the fundraising front?

We’re far beyond the “Why Egypt’ questions, I think. For our next round we’ll be raising capital to go regional and we’ve had a great set of larger scale investors that are lining up to write much bigger cheques.

E: Okay, let’s backtrack a bit. What’s your origin story?

ELTAYEB: My co-founder and CTO, Amr Helmy (LinkedIn) have known each other for about 20 years. We share a best friend, which is a great way to get to know someone well enough to start a company with them. And we both went to Cairo U before getting PhDs abroad, so we have a lot of shared experience.

In 2019, we started asking a question the sent us down the rabbit hole: Why aren’t there EVs everywhere in Egypt? Across emerging markets? I was coming from Form Energy, a US battery startup founded by the former vice-president of Tesla — Form raised USD 350 mn in capital — and Amr had a really promising career on the faculty at Zuweil University. He’s a PhD in semiconductor design from Grenoble University and an alumnus of Intel. Our vice-president of engineering, Sherif Nassef (LinkedIn) was VP of manufacturing at GM and then worked with Schneider Electric.

To this day, one of our biggest successes as a business was convincing Sherif to join us last year after a decade at GM, where he led engineering and manufacturing on so many vehicles dominating Egypt before he managed the expansion of Schneider’s manufacturing facilities in Badr City.

Shift has one of those Silicon Valley-style garage origin stories: We literally started in the corner of a friend’s warehouse.

E: And you? Where were you before Shift?

ELTAYEB: I have a PhD in chemical engineering from MIT and led business development as employee number eight at Form.

M&A WATCH

Saudi last-mile delivery firm acquires local startup Gallop Express

GLT Express steps into Egypt with local acquisition: Saudi logistics company GLT Express has made Egypt its first expansion destination outside the Kingdom, acquiring Gallop Express for an undisclosed sum, according to a statement (pdf).

What’s GLT Express: It’s the logistics delivery arm of Global Logistics and Technology (GLT) Holdings, which also offers scaling solutions, fintech and payment services, and digital support to e-commerce and F&B businesses, among others. Founded in 2016, the holding company operates in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Uzbekistan, and Sudan. Subsidiary GLT Express provides B2B fulfillment, last mile delivery, customs clearance and freight services in KSA.

Gallop Express is an Egyptian startup courier service for individuals and companies, founded in 2020.

“The acquisition of Gallop Express in Egypt was a no-brainer,” GLT Express CEO Mark Humphries said, given the potential in the Egyptian market.

This is the second Saudi mid-market acquisition in the local market this week: GLT’s takeover comes hot on the heels of Saudi Telecom’s bid for an 89.5% stake in local systems integrator Giza Systems. Our GCC neighbors have been stepping up activity in the local market of late, including M&A, investment and (in the case of KSA) deposits at the central bank.

ECONOMY

We’re getting EUR 100 mn from the EU to tackle food insecurity

The EU is providing Egypt with EUR 100 mn in support to help us tackle rising food prices amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, according to an EU statement. The funding is part of a freshly announced EUR 225 mn Food and Resilience Facility for MENA countries.

What will the money go toward? The aid aims to address commodity shortage emergencies and sustain social safety nets in the short term, and support sustainable agriculture going forward. The funds will focus on “the most vulnerable people and / or the partners most severely affected by the crisis,” the statement read.

We’re not the only ones in the region getting a helping hand: The EU will hand out by far the biggest chunk of the funding to Egypt, with additional packages worth EUR 5 – 25 mn each allocated to Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia. Countries were chosen for funding due to their heavy reliance on Ukraine and / or Russian food imports or nitrogen fertilizers, the bloc said.

“The EU stands by its partners in these difficult times of economic ordeal caused by the Russian aggression,” said EU ambassador to Egypt Christian Berger in a Tweet.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is upending global food supplies and sending commodity prices soaring. Headline inflation here at home reached a 31-month high in February, as rising global prices caused the cost of local food items to accelerate at a rate not seen since 2018.

The EU funding will help — but the IMF is likely to provide us with heftier assistance. The government is currently in talks with the international lender on a fresh round of assistance, having tapped it for a total USD 20 bn since 2016.

REAL ESTATE

Gov’t eyes more support for contractors

The government could look into rescheduling debt payments for developers, Housing Minister Assem El Gazzar said after a sit-down with Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and real estate players yesterday, according to a cabinet statement. The price of local building materials including steel and cement has soared since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, eating into contractors’ margins and leading them to lobby for government support to help absorb the shock.

Developers used the meeting to call for higher dumping fees on some building materials to bring market prices back into balance, saying that the negative impact of the devaluation, interest rate hike, and rising costs amid the war in Ukraine meant the sector needed “rapid intervention.” They also called for the government to provide financing for private players and to allow for delays on the completion of all projects. Cabinet recently announced that developers who fail to meet deadlines on state infrastructure projects will be exempt from fines for two months.

A CPA crackdown on cement and steel price hikes in the works? Major cement and steel companies are being called in for an “urgent” meeting with the Consumer Protection Authority to discuss the recent price jumps, Madbouly said. Steel prices have jumped to around EGP 19.9k/tonne from EGP 15.5k in recent weeks due to a significant rise in imported scrap metal prices, while cement went up by at least 10%, currently sitting at EGP 1.4k/tonne following the war.

CABINET WATCH

Cabinet gives final approval on Income Tax Act amendments

Ministers green-lit a number of decisions at yesterday’s cabinet meeting, including amendments to the Income Tax Act and the date at which the new hotel price floor will be applied across the country.

The mystery income tax changes were approved: Cabinet green-lit amendments to the Income Tax Act announced last month as part of a wide-ranging stimulus program to support the economy and the financial markets amid the interest rate hike and EGP devaluation.

The trouble is: We still don’t know what they are. The cabinet statement didn’t shed any new light on how the government plans to tweak the tax, saying only that the amendments are designed to attract investors into the stock market. The government previously said it would include a yet-to-be-revealed formula that would reduce the withholding tax on dividends.

The minimum hotel charge will be rolled out nationwide starting November 2022, according to the statement. The minimum charge is set at USD 40 per night for five-star hotels and USD 28 per night for four-star establishments.

We also got some details on the body that will regulate billboards: Ministers yesterday approved a draft bill on the National Authority for Regulating Advertisements on Public Roads, which is set to regulate the issuance of licenses for new roadside billboards (good) as well as ad content (meh). The bill tasks the authority with ensuring ads “preserve the urban landscape” and observe “public order, morals and respect for religions.” It gives the regulator responsibility for determining fees for billboard licenses, which will last for only three years and can be revoked. Its board will be headed by the prime minister and include other cabinet members. The law setting up the authority was passed by the House back in 2020.

ALSO GETTING THE NOD-

  • The Cabinet has exempted imports of 20k tons of frozen poultry from custom duties as part of efforts to increase supply and lower prices, which have spiked in recent weeks.
  • Additional USAID grant funding was approved: The money has been allocated to education, health, and agriculture, among other fields.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Gov’t grants freezone status to Alexandria port cargo terminal

New freezone at Alex port for state-owned terminal: Cabinet approved yesterday the establishment of a freezone for the state-owned Egyptian Group for Multi-Purpose Terminals (EGMPT) at Alexandria port, according to a statement. The USD 500 mn project will establish a new 540k sqm multi-purpose terminal for handling containers and general cargo.

EGPMT shareholders are fully funding the project: The Alexandria Port Authority (a 34% shareholder in the company), the Suez Canal Authority (33%), the Holding Company for Maritime and Land Transport (20%), and the EGX-listed Alexandria Container and Cargo Handling Company (13%) will put up all the money, according to the statement.

About the company: The holding company was established by the Transport Ministry in 2018 to design, construct, operate, and maintain multipurpose platforms.

WAR WATCH

Ban Russian energy to make sanctions count -Zelensky

Ukraine wants its allies to hit Russia where it really hurts — in the energy sector. Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelensky called on Western nations to stop dragging their feet and quickly agree on a complete ban on Russian oil, as well as cut off Russian banks from the international system entirely. “Some politicians are still unable to decide how to limit the flow of petrodollars and oileuros to Russia so as not to put their own economies at risk,” he said. The EU has signaled it will look to ban Russian coal and oil, though members are divided on all-important gas.

Chinese state refiners tread carefully with Russian oil: Chinese state-owned firms — including Sinopec, CNOOC and PetroChina — aren’t making new purchases of Russian oil despite cheap prices, sources told Reuters. China has so far refrained from condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has made a diplomatic show of its friendship with Russia, but is nevertheless wary of being caught in the sanctions crossfire.

Russia inched closer to a default on its international debt as Moscow said it would be forced by US sanctions to pay holders of USD-denominated bonds in RUB, the Financial Times reports. The move would amount to a default or “default-like” situation, analysts say. “I think it’s a default if the bondholders are not paid in USD,” one EM debt expert told the salmon-coloured paper.

But the RUB has staged a comeback, defying sanctions: Russia’s currency has staged a surprising recovery to pre-war levels, Bloomberg reports. The RUB closed at 79.7 to the USD on Wednesday — signaling that waves of measures against Russian banks, businesses and individuals are “largely toothless” as long as Europe and others continue to spend massive sums on Russian energy imports, the business information service says.

Sanctions get personal: The latest package of US sanctions, triggered by the Bucha atrocities, target President Vladimir Putin’s two daughters as well as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s wife and daughter, according to a statement. Major Russian banks Sberbank and Alfa Bank will also be completely blocked.


Surprisingly, it doesn’t look like the AL will be brokering peace in Ukraine: An Arab League delegation reiterated its call for a ceasefire and said it stands ready to support direct negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, after meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Warsaw on Tuesday, according to a statement. The delegation, which includes Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, had offered to mediate ceasefire negotiations earlier in the week in Moscow, following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

KUDOS

KUDOS- The Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) has adopted the UN’s women’s empowerment principles (WEPs), according to a press release (pdf).

Mastercard recognized two Egyptian women at a recent awards initiative: Gehad Hamdy (LinkedIn), founder and managing director of feminist initiative Speak Up, snagged the change maker and humanitarian awards, while Art D’Egypte founder Nadine Abdel Ghaffar was also recognized, according to a press release.

enterprise

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

SMART POLICY- Marrying a second (third, fourth or fifth) wife could get significantly more complicated after the House of Representatives proposed a draft law which would require any man who wishes to marry again to inform a judge, who would in turn inform his spouse(s) and request her approval before the marriage could proceed, MP Nashwa El Deeb told Yahduth Fi Masr (watch, runtime: 5:40).

Yet more Ramadan drama chat: Tasea held phone-ins with Rageen Ya Hawa’s Anoushka and Jazirat Ghamam’s Tarek Lotfi (watch, runtime: 6:02 | 5:17).

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

On a very quiet day for mentions of Egypt in the international press, the only news was good news: Swimmer Omar Hegazy just broke two Guinness world records for the longest distance swam underwater with one breath. Hegazy, who lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident in 2015, was also the first amputee to swim across the Gulf of Aqaba from Egypt to Jordan a few years back. (Saudi Gazette)

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

No more USD payments on cargo handling? The Finance Ministry has directed the General Authority for Investments and Freezones to study the possibility of introducing a ban on foreign currency payments for transactions between shipping agencies and cargo handling companies as part of efforts to de-dollarize the sector, according to Al Mal.

Chinese devicemaker Oppo has partnered with EFG Hermes’ consumer finance arm valU to provide installment solutions to customers (statement, pdf).

Medical professionals can now take out government-backed 5% interest-rate loans: Doctors, physiotherapists, and dentists authorized by the Medical Syndicates Union are now eligible for the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) 5% interest rate loans for SMEs, the bank said in a statement (pdf). The central bank wants to help doctors set up their own clinics and equip them in cooperation with the Authority for Unified Procurement, the statement read. The financing class was introduced in 2016, with the aim of helping young people establish SMEs.

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

  • Tripadvisor has ranked Cairo #2 in its list of most trending destinations globally and the Red Sea resort of Hurghada the 10th most popular destination (Tripadvisor).
  • Heliopolis Housing and Development (HHD) will sell a 243-feddan land plot in New Heliopolis for EGP 1.7 bn (disclosure, pdf).
  • The World Bank is keen to provide Egypt with support to host COP27 (statement).

PLANET FINANCE

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DEWA pulls off one of the biggest IPOs since Aramco: Dubai’s main utilities firm DEWA has raised USD 6.1 bn in its stock market debut, making it the biggest IPO in Europe, the Middle East and Africa since Saudi Aramco in 2019, Bloomberg reported. The state-owned company sold 9 bn shares at the top of its price range of AED 2.48 apiece, valuing it at around USD 33.8 bn, DEWA’s stock will begin trading in Dubai on 12 April.

Russia-Ukraine war knocks global trade: Global trade fell an estimated 2.8% between February and March due to the conflict in Ukraine, according to a report by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. Sanctions imposed on Russia, the world’s second-largest commodities exporter and 11th-largest economy, are isolating it from global trade and have led to an “abrupt decline” in the number of container ships moving through its ports.

FROM THE DEPT. OF THE OBVIOUS- European trade was hit hardest. EU imports fell 3.4% and exports declined 5.6% last month. US exports fell 3.4% and imports slipped 0.6%. China’s exports, unsurprisingly, were down only 0.9%, while its imports rose 0.9%.

In other financial news:

  • The Chinese economy is being battered by covid: Activity in China’s services sector saw its sharpest decline since 2020 in March as outbreaks of covid-19 hit demand, according to a purchasing managers’ survey. The Caixin PMI dropped to 42.0 in March, down from 50.2 a month earlier, well below the 50.0 mark that separates expansion from contraction. The composite PMI, which measures both services and manufacturing, also fell to two-year lows.
  • Another American tech firm flees Russia: Intel has suspended its operations in Russia, becoming the latest tech firm to join the exodus out of the country following its invasion of Ukraine. (Statement)

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Tadawul

13,256

+0.4% (YTD: +17.5%)

Down

ADX

10,068

-0.2% (YTD: +18.6%)

Down

DFM

3,500

-0.1% (YTD: +9.5%)

Down

S&P 500

4,481

-1.0% (YTD: -6%)

Down

FTSE 100

7,588

-0.3% (YTD: +2.8%)

Down

Euro Stoxx 50

3,825

-2.4% (YTD: -11%)

Up

Brent crude

USD 102.18

+1.1%

Up

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 6.13

+1.6%

Up

Gold

USD 1,930

+0.3%

Down

BTC

USD 43,851

-4.6% (as of midnight)

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 fell 0.3% at yesterday’s close on turnover of EGP 232.55 mn (76.2% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 5.0% YTD.

In the green: Qalaa Holdings (+6.7%), Rameda (+3.5%) and Eastern Company (+1.4%).

In the red: EKH (-3.9%), MM Group (-3.4%) and ADIB (-1.4%).

It’s red all across Asia this morning and futures suggest shares in Western Europe and North America will also face selling pressure at the opening bell later today.

MY MORNING ROUTINE

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Sherif Hashem, CEO, BasharSoft: Each week, My Morning Routine looks at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Sherif Hashem (LinkedIn), CEO of BasharSoft.

My name is Sherif Hashem, and I’m the CEO of BasharSoft. I started my professional career as an M&A lawyer. I transitioned into the business side because my experience working on mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures, always piqued my interest. The business angle of the work was always the most exciting part of the job for me. Two of my former bosses encouraged me to jump to the business side of the fence, so I followed in one of their footsteps: He stopped practicing law twice — once to get into investment banking and the other time to get into the private equity field.

I started off in BasharSoft’s investor relations and corporate development department in 2020, and became CEO in September 2021.

BasharSoft is a tech firm specialized in developing web-based online employment marketplaces and platforms. Our aim is to help solve the persistent problem of talent acquisition. As the multiplication and diversification of fields and specialities continues to grow, so do the challenges businesses face with finding the right talent. There is always a growing demand that outstrips the supply of talent. Our aim is to enable organizations to fulfill their growth goals by matching job seekers with the entity that best fits their potential.

BasharSoft owns Wuzzuf and Forasna: Wuzzuf, which has become a household name with regard to talent recruitment, helps white collar job seekers and university graduates to find knowledge economy jobs, whereas Forasna focuses on helping blue collar job seekers find jobs.

My daily routine is extremely important to me. I wake up between 5:30 and 6:30am, even though I’m not a morning person. I need that precious “me time” early on in the day before I kick off and engage with the rest of the world. I use that time to hit the gym everyday. I also read Enterprise, Reuters, BBC, and Bloomberg to catch up on the news in the morning.

One thing that I have to do everyday is listen to articles and audiobooks. Traffic no longer bothers me because I always use that time to enjoy an audiobook.

I divide my workweek into three equal parts. As a numbers person, thinking in terms of weeks, instead of days, is ideal for me — it enables me to see patterns and trends as they arise. A day is too short and a month is too long. One third of my typical workweek is focused on strategy, which involves looking at quantitative and qualitative data. Another third entails day-to-day management activities, including enhancing internal processes and a focus on building the company’s culture. I use the third part of the week to engage and interact with external stakeholders, whether they be customers, partners, or other players in the market.

I care about maintaining a healthy work-life balance, both for the team and myself. Personally, I can’t say that I was able to have that balance last year. I was a workaholic who used to burn the midnight oil to get work done. Over the past couple of months, however, I have managed to restore a routine that allows me to have healthy energy levels. Now, I go to bed early and wake up early. I sleep better and don’t need extra time to decompress from stressful work days like I used to before.

We’ve adopted a hybrid work environment at BasharSoft to make our team’s lives easier. We usually work from home and have meetings either at business-friendly coffee shops or at the office. We have bi-weekly or monthly management meetings at the office, but otherwise we handle a significant portion of our workload remotely and in a very flexible way. This is one of the reasons I love the company.

To relax and switch off from work, I go out with my friends or call them over the phone to catch up. Good company and a change of scenery always takes my mind off of work. I often use a guided meditation app called headspace to unwind and reduce stress as well. Traveling is also very therapeutic for me. If I have some time off of work, I like to travel and get away from the hustle and bustle of Cairo.

To stay focused and organized, I take good care of myself, both mentally and physically. If you don’t focus on your wellbeing, you can’t expect yourself to take complex challenges without compromising your productivity and empathy levels. Another factor that helps me stay focused and on top of things is having an executive coach, who I can turn to for business advice. His name is Amr Yehia, and he helps me set my priorities and navigate the many challenges I face as a CEO. The job of a CEO is a lonely one and it comes with a price. No one prepares you for this position — it can be an emotional rollercoaster and I believe that getting help from a professional mentor can help you become more resilient.

The last great thing I watched was Ozark on Netflix. I’m eagerly waiting for the upcoming season. It’s one of those mesmerizing TV shows that has a great mix of crime drama and very interesting, complex characters. I love the character portrayals and how the series delves into the psyche of the characters. On occasion, I also like to kick back and watch mountaineering documentaries. My favorites include: 14 peaks, FreeSolo, and North Face. I find them fascinating: You get to watch brave, resilient individuals battle the elements and embark on exhilarating and incredibly dangerous adventures.

CALENDAR

OUR CALENDAR NOW APPEARS into two sections:

  • Events with specific dates or months are right here up top
  • Events happening in a quarter or other range of time with no specific date / month appear at the bottom of the calendar.

APRIL

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

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

April: A delegation from a major Belgian shipping company will arrive for talks on building an international shipping supply center in Egypt.

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

18-24 April (Monday-Sunday): World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings, Washington D.C.

20 April (Wednesday): Deadline for listed companies and NBFIs to submit quarterly ESG reports.

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

21 April (Thursday): EGX-listed Taaleem will hold an extraordinary general assembly to discuss the mechanism to build and own nonprofit and private universities.

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 through 15 May: 1Q2022 earnings season

MAY

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).

15 May (Sunday): Last day for EGX-listed companies to file 1Q2022 earnings

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

JUNE

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.

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

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

JULY

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

August: Work to extend the capacity of the Egypt-Sudan electricity interconnection to 600 MW to be completed.

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

SEPTEMBER

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.

18 September (Sunday): Deadline for brokerage firms, asset managers and financial advisors to register with the Egyptian Securities Federation.

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

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

OCTOBER

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

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.

DECEMBER

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

JANUARY 2023

January 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.

EVENTS WITH NO SET DATE

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.

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

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.

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

**Note to readers: Some national holidays may appear twice above. Since 2020, Egypt has observed most mid-week holidays on Thursdays regardless of the day on which they fall and may also move those days to Sundays. We distinguish above between the actual holiday and its observance.

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

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