Sunday, 24 July 2022

AM — Russia, Ukraine reach landmark grain export agreement

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Call us Mark Mobius Stans. We don’t care: In life, it is very rare to meet actual living legends that started a field you’re in. It is even rarer when that person actually remembers you. So you can pretty much imagine that it was birthday, Christmas, and New Years all rolled into one when we found an autographed copy of Manga Mark Mobius – An Illustrated Biography of the Father of Emerging Markets Funds waiting for us at the office.

For those who don’t know who he is, the title says it all. As the investment guru at the helm of Templeton Emerging Markets Group for over a quarter of a century, Mark Mobius effectively opened the eyes of the world’s largest financial institutions to emerging markets and almost single-handedly made it the asset class it is today. Many in our part of the world and beyond owe USD bns (and at this point USD tns) in investments and the development of our capital markets to him. His work continues as the founding partner of Mobius Capital Partners.

But don’t take it from us. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. Afterall, how many businessmen get manga biographies (well, Carlos Ghosn, but we won’t get into that).


WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

Egypt, the UAE and Jordan are discussing their new industrial partnership in Cairo: Emirati and Jordanian officials are continuing high-level talks on the joint industrial partnership in Cairo today, the Trade Ministry said Thursday. The talks started yesterday and wrap tomorrow.

What industrial partnership? The three countries agreed in May to partner on a joint industrial strategy to support economic growth, increase industrial production, and strengthen regional supply chains. Abu Dhabi wealth fund ADQ has committed to investing USD 10 bn in industrial projects in the three countries.

On the agenda: The meetings will look into agreements on several projects in various sectors, including agriculture, food, fertilizers and pharma, according to the statement.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet several Egyptian officials in Cairo later today, Bloomberg Asharq reports, citing sources in the know. Lavrov is also set to meet Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and several representatives of the league’s member states. The visit comes as part of the minister’s African tour that includes Ethiopia, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The government’s public consultations on its state ownership policy continue today with healthcare players having their say. Pharma industry representatives are also up next this Tuesday. Every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday see workshops on how privatization plans will affect specific industries. You can find more details on the schedule of the meetings here.

THIS WEEK-

The IMF drops its updated World Economic Outlook on Tuesday — and don’t expect good news. The Fund has warned that it will “substantially” downgrade its 2022 global growth forecast as a litany of headwinds — from the war in Ukraine and soaring food and energy costs, to rising interest rates and a slowdown in China — bear down on the global economy.

It’s Fed week: Expect the Federal Reserve to go ahead with another 75-bps rate hike when it meets later this week. Policymakers meet to discuss interest rates on Tuesday and Wednesday and analysts are expecting the central bank to keep its foot down on the tightening cycle as it battles to get inflation under control. Inflation reached a fresh 40-year high in June, increasing pressure on the Fed to raise rates despite warnings that it could push the economy into recession.

Recession warnings are flashing red: Private sector activity in the US hit a 26-month low in June and contracted for the first time since June 2020, according to the flash PMI (pdf) out Thursday. Activity in the manufacturing and services sectors both contracted during the month, indicating a “worrying deterioration” in the economy amid surging inflation and weakening demand.

All eyes are on preliminary GDP figures out at the end of the week, which the Atlanta Fed is expecting to indicate that the US economy contracted for the second consecutive quarter in 2Q, putting it in a technical recession. In preparation for a disappointing figure, Biden administration officials are briefing that two quarters of negative growth doesn’t necessarily indicate a recession, and some economists are arguing that we shouldn’t be paying too much attention to the GDP figures. Should we treat the figures seriously? Axios and Reuters have more on the debate.

enterprise

This fall, we’re gathering an exclusive group of CEOs, C-suite officers, finance folks and more to talk about how we’ll finance green projects in Egypt in the wake of COP27. The idea is to keep the conversation going post-COP and dive into the nitty gritty of the financing tools, laws, projects, problems and ideas that will be necessary to drive a fundamental shift in our economy.

Want to learn more? Drop us a line. Whether you’re interested in attending or want to discuss how to put your brand front and center, reach out to us on climatex@enterprisemea.com.

Stay tuned for more details…


THE BIG STORY ABROAD-

Russia appears to have broken the wheat export pact with Ukraine just hours after signing it: Ukraine has accused Russia of firing missiles at the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, less than 24 hours after signing a landmark accord with Ukraine on Thursday that is hoped to pave the way for Ukraine to resume exporting grain from its Black Sea ports. Under the agreement, Russia committed not to attacking ports involved with grain exports. The airstrikes were described by Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry as a “spit in the face” to the UN and Turkey, which brokered the agreement. Turkey’s defense minister said yesterday that Moscow denied responsibility for the attack. We have more on the agreement in this morning’s news well, below. (Reuters | AP | FT | Bloomberg | WSJ | CNBC)

Is it officially time to worry about monkeypox? The WHO thinks so: The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared monkeypox a global health emergency and issued a number of recommendations aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, which has spread to 72 countries. The organization has so far recorded 14.5k monkeypox cases, five of which were fatal. The last time the group issued its highest alert was January 2020 at the beginning of the covid-19 outbreak. (AP | Reuters | Bloomberg | NYT | FT | WSJ | CNBC)

SIGNS OF THE TIMES-

#1- Global fintech funding is falling fast: Fintech funding fell by a third q-o-q and 46% y-o-y in 2Q 2022 to USD 20.4 bn, its lowest level since 4Q 2020, according to figures from CB Insights. Blockbuster funding rounds of more than USD 100 mn fell 45% q-o-q while M&As in the sector saw their largest quarterly drop in years.

#2- A common African digital currency? The Bank of Central African States is looking into launching a common digital currency to be used among its six member states: Cameroon, Gabon, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and the Central African Republic, Bloomberg reports. This comes as several African nations — including Nigeria — adopt digital currencies, and shortly after the bank publicly voiced its disapproval of the Central African Republic adopting BTC as a legal tender.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Leaders from across Africa are scheduled to convene in Washington for the US-Africa Leaders Summit from 13-15 December. The summit will bring together leaders to discuss pressing matters including food security and climate change, according to a White House statement.

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


CORRECTION- We incorrectly stated in an article on Thursday that Averroes Ventures acquired local sportswear brand Magma. Mohamed El Sewedy, who was already a partner and investor at Magma, acquired the firm. We’ve since updated the story on our website.

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: As global funding for startups dry up in the midst of global macro turbulence, VCs everywhere have been warning startups to be more prudent about their spending. Egypt’s VCs are no different. Today, we speak with insiders who give us their two cents on how startups at home should go about their belt-tightening.

enterprise

A sizzling summer awaits you by the bay: We’ve saved you the hassle of planning by bringing you a lineup of unmatched energy and fun-packed vacation activities to last you all season long. It’s time to create magical memories with relaxed beachside days and excitingly fresh nights. From pumping up the adrenaline with Footgolf and Go-Karting to turning up the music and heat at Sobar with ladies’ nights, groovy beats, and lots of dancing. From BBQ beach parties at S-cape to riding horses by the sea — there’s a little special something for everyone. We look forward to seeing you at the bay.

COMMODITIES

Russia, Ukraine reach landmark grain export agreement

Good news on the wheat front: Russia and Ukraine have signed a landmark agreement to resume grain exports through the Black Sea, in a move aimed at averting a global food crisis. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov inked the agreement in Istanbul on Thursday following weeks of negotiations brokered by the UN and Turkey. The pact will unblock 20 mns tons of grain stranded at Ukrainian ports, a development that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed as a “beacon of hope” that will alleviate the hunger of mns of people facing record food prices due to the war in Ukraine.

What’s what: Under the agreement, Russia has pledged not to attack cargo ships carrying wheat or Ukrainian ports involved in the shipping of grain, according to a document obtained by the Associated Press. In return, Ukraine will allow the ships to be inspected to assuage Moscow’s concerns that they’re being used to smuggle weapons and troops into the country. A UN-led joint coordination center will be set up in Istanbul, allowing Turkish, Ukrainian and Russian officials to monitor shipping in the Black Sea. The initiative runs for 120 days and will be extended automatically.

Normal service to resume soon: Guterres is expecting grain shipments to restart “within the next two weeks,” the newswire reported, citing statements from UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq. The agreement sees shipments unlocked from Ukrainian ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi. Ukraine would be looking for some assurances about the safe corridors, needing around 10 days to prepare its ports, a senior UN official said. The goal would be to export 5 mn tons of wheat every month to help unload Ukraine’s silos in time for this year’s grain harvest.

Ukraine has a lot to sell: Ukraine has around USD 10 bn worth of grain to sell, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address Friday, according to Reuters. “Approximately 20 mn tons of last year’s grain harvest will be exported. There will also be a chance to sell this year’s harvest … at the moment we have about USD 10 bn worth of grains available,” he said.

Shoukry hails Russia-Ukraine wheat pact: Foreign Ministry Sameh Shoukry welcomed the agreement during a phone-in on Ala Mas’ouleety last night. “It is a positive step that will ease the pressure on many countries that depend on imports from Ukraine and Russia, led by Egypt,” he told show host Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 2:31).

Why this is important for us: Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, is among the countries most affected by the grain shortage triggered by the conflict. Egypt purchased more than 20% of its wheat imports from Ukraine prior to the war, leaving it scrambling to find new suppliers after Russia blockaded the nation’s ports.

It has been costing us a lot: Surging wheat prices added an extra EGP 15 bn to Egypt’s import bill in the final four months of the previous fiscal year, and Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said in June that wheat imports will cost an additional USD 3 bn this year if prices remained at their current levels.

Thankfully, wheat prices have fallen far from recent highs: US wheat futures have plunged more than 40% since peaking in mid-May as supply shortages have eased. The benchmark futures in Chicago fell as much as 6.6% after the agreement was announced on Thursday.

MEANWHILE- State grains buyer GASC has reportedly purchased an additional 120k tonnes of Russian and French wheat on Thursday, Reuters reported, citing traders. The purchase came a day after it booked 640k tonnes of wheat a day earlier. It has canceled a wheat tender on Tuesday due to high prices.

REMEMBER- GASC can now book the wheat directly from commodity traders. The authority typically purchases wheat via international tenders but in May the cabinet gave the go-ahead for the authority to buy directly from suppliers.

M&A WATCH

Let the negotiations over Pachin begin

The board of state-owned, EGX-listed paint maker Paint and Chemicals Industries (Pachin) has rejected Saybad Industrial Investment’s acquisition bid, saying in a filing to the bourse (pdf) on Thursday that it undervalues the company. Saybad earlier this month offered to pay EGP 16.00-16.50 per share to acquire up to 90% of the company, valuing it at EGP 384-396 mn, a price tag that Pachin said “does not reflect the true value of the company and its assets.”

It’s still a premium: Shares in Pachin were up nearly 2% to EGP 15.92 at the close of trading on Thursday.

It’s not over, folks: The company plans to hold talks with the Saybad to negotiate a price that’s more amenable, the statement reads. Pachin will decide on whether to proceed with due diligence on the transaction at the next general assembly meeting.

Refresher: Saybad Industrial Investment is an Egyptian outfit consisting of a group of local investors who are active in the paint industry here and across Asia, according to the EGX disclosure. Around 54% of Pachin is currently owned by state-owned companies and banks, making the sale a part of the state’s privatization plans, a source with first-hand knowledge of the transaction told Enterprise last week.

Even with the current climate, acquisition targets are feeling lowballed: This is the second rejection by a major listed M&A target in as many days, after Madinet Nasr Housing and Development’s (MNHD) board last week said SODIC’s bid was too low, and asked the company to substantially raise its offer.

Advisors: Catalyst Partners is acting as Pachin's financial advisor. Adsero–Raji Soliman & Associates is the firm’s legal advisor.

IPO WATCH

FEMCO eyes EGX debut

Engineering and contracting company FEMCO is looking at potentially IPOing on the EGX within the next two years, Al Mal cites Managing Director Ahmed Hassan as saying. The company would list 49% of its shares on the bourse to finance its expansion plans, which include a foray into real estate development by setting up a new company under FEMCO’s umbrella, according to Hassan. FEMCO is also looking to expand into education, sports, and hotels in a second phase of its expansion plans.

About FEMCO: FEMCO is an EPC contractor working in the oil and gas, petrochemicals, and power industries established in 2016.

FEMCO would need to grow its capital 50x to qualify for entry on the EGX: The company’s capital currently stands at EGP 10 mn and plans to kick off several rounds of capital increases as of the beginning of next year to bring that figure to EGP 500 mn to be able to list on the bourse, Hassan said.

The company might also look at bringing in a strategic investor as an alternative to IPOing, Hassan said. Opting for equity sales to strategic investors is also gaining steam in the state’s privatization plans. Public Enterprises Minister Hisham Tawfik had said earlier this year that the state plans to sell a 25-30% stake in EGX-listed EgyptAlum to a strategic investor, and also plans to offer a stake of up to 25% in the company it will create through a merger of seven or eight state-owned hotels.

EARNINGS WATCH

CIRA profits fall, revenues rise in 3Q 2021-2022

CIRA reports growing revenue, lower bottomline in 3Q 2021-2022: EGX-listed education outfit CIRA reported EGP 149.5 mn in net income in 3Q 2021-2022, down 30% from the same period last year, according to an earnings release (pdf). Revenues during the March-May quarter rose slightly to EGP 520.1 mn, up from EGP 511.2 mn in 3Q 2020-2021. Profits fell 3% to EGP 448.3 mn during the first nine months of the year, while revenues increased 15% to EGP 1.46 bn on the back of higher enrollment rates across its K-12 and higher education segments. CIRA attributed the drop in net income to increased financing costs and debt incurred as a result of the group’s continued expansion plans, as well as a 31% y-o-y increase in operating costs such as rising salaries and wages.

Strong financial performance despite rising inflationary pressure + global turbulence: “We are without doubt going through a challenging period given recent market turbulence and uncertainty on both the global and local level. However, we believe that CIRA has the right fundamentals and risk controls in place to weather current economic challenges and deliver on its growth objectives, as we have done year over year, demonstrating the strong potential and conservative nature of CIRA’s business model,” said CEO Mohamed El Kalla.

Looking ahead: CIRA plans to kick off shortly its EGP 2 bn future flow securitization program to finance investments over the next three years, El Kalla noted. These expansions include adding two new nurseries to its portfolio, after launching KidzGround in Suez earlier this year. CIRA is also expecting to break ground on its Cairo Saxony University “by early September of this year with plans to launch the university’s first phase by September 2023.”

enterprise

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

It was a diplomacy-heavy night on the airwaves last night, as the nation’s talking heads discussed the Russian foreign minister’s visit to Cairo, the latest on the GERD crisis, and El Sisi’s overseas visits last week.

On the agenda for Lavrov talks: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in Cairo today for the first time since the war on Ukraine broke out for talks with Egyptian and Arab League officials. Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Hossam Zaki told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi that the situation with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and Syria will likely feature in the conversation (watch, runtime: 10:32).

El Sisi’s whereabouts over the past week got some coverage: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s travels over the past week — Saudi Arabia, Germany, Serbia and, most recently, France — reflect his interest to coordinate with Egypt’s many partners, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 8:07). Egypt has the capabilities to provide Europe with gas, electricity and renewable energy but in turn it’s calling for more direct European investments and employment opportunities, Shoukry said. Al Hayah Al Youm (watch, runtime:13:42) also covered the story.

Egypt is balancing its international relations in an increasingly polarized world: “We are maintaining our relations with various partners and will continue to manage these relations in a balanced manner,” Shoukry said. (watch, runtime: 2:31).

Ethiopia has started filling the GERD for the third year running: The country is currently halfway through the third filling which started 11 July, and and has so far stored around 2 bn cubic meters of water, Cairo University water resources professor Abbas Sharaki said on El Hekaya (watch, runtime: 5:10). Ethiopia is set to store an additional 3 bn cubic meters over the coming two weeks, he added.

Emaar Misr under fire: The Environment Ministry has ordered all dredging work happening near the north coast cities of Marassi and Stella to stop after a number of people took to social media to complain about environmental damage, El Hekaya reported (watch, runtime: 3:08). Social media users, including Hisham Ezz Alarab, have accused Emaar Misr’s Marassi Marina development of causing “catastrophic” damage to the shoreline, and called on the ministry to intervene.

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s visit to Paris for talks with Emmanuel Macron led coverage of Egypt in the foreign press over the weekend. We have more on the visit in this morning’s Diplomacy section, below. (AFP | Associated Press | Asharq Alawsat)

Also featuring heavily in the news: A radiographer scanned the head of an ancient Egyptian mummy — found in the UK in someone’s attic — to learn more about its origins. The head was found to have belonged to an adult female whose brain was removed, and is estimated to be around 2k years old. The story got coverage in the UK press: The Times | The Independent | Metro.

Also making headlines:

  • Solid economic growth ahead: Egypt’s economy is forecast to grow at a 5.5% pace next year and steadily over the next three years, while inflation will average 10% this year and 10.4% in 2023-2024. (Reuters)
  • The implications of rising fuel prices for Egypt’s poorest: Egypt’s recent fuel price hike has delivered a blow to the country’s most vulnerable people, with everyone from taxi drivers to regular grocery shoppers having to make changes to adapt. (AFP)
  • Why is Egypt considering a BRICS bid? Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey’s apparent interest in joining the BRICS — a group of major emerging economies including China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa — comes as Moscow and Beijing try to build support around the world amid escalating tensions with the US. (Arab News)
  • Egypt eases its restrictions on street photography: The decision last week to allow amateur street photography without permits is getting attention in the UK. (The Guardian | Telegraph)
  • The 23 July Revolution, 70 years on: On its 70th anniversary, Arab News talks to experts about the historical significance of the 23 July revolution. (Arab News)

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

This Nigerian startup is planning to launch EVs in Egypt: Metro Africa Xpress plans to debut its electric vehicles in eight countries in Africa by 2023, including Egypt, Cameroon and Uganda, CEO Adetayo Bamiduro told Bloomberg. The Nigerian startup, backed by private equity firm Lightrock, raised USD 31 mn last year, which will enable it to increase its vehicles to 100k by 2023 from 8k currently, and grow the percentage of EVs in its fleet to 20% from 4%.

Your Swvl ride is getting 5% more expensive: Swvl is raising its fares by 5% in response to the recent hike in petrol prices, CFO Youssef Salem reportedly told Al Shorouk. The mass transport company follows Uber, which last week raised prices in response to the higher fuel costs, and public transport, which hiked fares by 5-7%.

Qalaa Holdings’ shareholders voted to continue the company’s operations during an extraordinary general assembly on Wednesday, despite incurring losses of more than half of its shareholders’ equity, the company said in a disclosure (pdf) to the EGX. The devaluation of the EGP caused the company’s losses to widen to EGP 584.1 mn in 1Q2022, offsetting a surge in revenues.

The CBE wants exporters to use Buna: The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) is calling on exporting companies to use the Arab Monetary Fund’s regional payment system Buna for cross-border bank transfers, Al Borsa reported. The platform was launched by the AMF in 2020 to increase the use of local currencies in settling payments. It offers instant transfers and charges fixed fees.

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

  • The EU is providing Egypt with a EUR 117.9 mn grant for water and energy efficiency, the International Cooperation Ministry said. (Statement)
  • The National Bank of Egypt is granting real estate developer Ardak an EGP 300 mn loan to restructure its debts. (Al Shorouk)

PLANET FINANCE

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China’s Belt and Road Initiative could be in trouble as debt crises loom in emerging markets: The ambitious overseas lending scheme that sees China pouring investments into countries across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, to further trade and foreign policy is struggling under a mountain of non-performing debt and claims of corruption and mismanagement, the Financial Times reports. The value of projects related to the initiative reached USD 838 bn by the end of 2021, according to data collected by Washington-based think-tank the American Enterprise Institute. However, a record USD 52 bn in loans that finance these projects had to be renegotiated over the past two years, more than triple the USD 16 bn that had turned bad in the previous two years.

The problem: Countries that are already indebted are struggling to meet loan repayments as many of the initiative’s high-profile projects have failed to yield commercial returns, the FT writes. China has now resolved to issue tens of bns of USD in “rescue” loans — short-term liquidity injections that allow debtors to service their loans and avoid default — in an attempt to put out the fire it has helped spark emerging markets.

China doesn’t have much exposure to Egypt: Egypt has borrowed the equivalent of 2.1% of GDP in sovereign and hidden debt, according to data (pdf) compiled by AidData. Egypt is one of 21 emerging markets currently at risk of default, with the number of sovereign bonds falling into distressed territory climbing higher to reach record levels over the past months.

IN OTHER NEWS-

  • Hyundai reports highest net income in eight years in 2Q 2022: Hyundai Motors’s bottom line jumped 56% in the second quarter of the year, recording USD 2.8 tn. (Statement)
  • Abu Dhabi Wealth Fund gets stake in TMF: Abu Dhabi Investment Authority has bought a significant minority stake in CVC Capital Partners’ business service provider TMF Group. (Bloomberg)
  • China’s Evergrande CEO, CFO forced to resign: The CEO and CFO of crisis-hit Chinese developer Evergrande have been forced to step down after an internal probe found they allowed a creditor to take USD 2 bn as the company was trying to restructure its USD 300 bn debt pile. (FT | Bloomberg)
  • China slaps ride-hailing group Didi with a fine of USD 1 bn over data law breach: Chinese regulators said Didi had committed a violation of China’s data collection laws and “seriously impacted national security” with data processing activities. (Financial Times)

Up

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THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 rose 1.9% at Thursday’s close on turnover of EGP 975 mn (15.1% above the 90-day average). Local investors were net buyers. The index is down 22.3% YTD.

In the green: Ibn Sina Pharma (+10.9%), Qalaa Holdings (+9.8%) and EFG Hermes (+6.8%).

In the red: Eastern Company (-0.6%).

DIPLOMACY

El Sisi meets Macron: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi met on Friday with French President Emmanuel Macron in a visit aimed at bolstering security and defense ties. The two heads of state discussed regional issues, the war in Ukraine, and COP27, according to an Ittihadiya statement, in what was their first one-on-one meeting since Macron’s re-election in April.

Human rights issues came up during the visit: The family of a 27-year-old French backpacker who went missing in Egypt last year used El Sisi’s visit to call for an investigation into his disappearance, the Associated Press reported. The family says their pleas to Egyptian police have been met with “silence or stonewalling” for months.

El Sisi also met with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire to discuss French investments in Egypt’s development projects, particularly in the renewable sector ahead of COP27, according to a separate Ittihadiya statement.

US peacekeepers in the Red Sea’s Tiran Strait will be replaced by remote-controlled cameras, which will now be responsible for ensuring uninhibited movement in and out of the Gulf of Aqaba, Reuters reports, citing unnamed officials. Securing the coastline used to be a job delegated to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) as a result of the 1979 US-brokered peace accord between Egypt and Israel.

whatsNext

Startups globally are being urged to cut spending. What’s the advice for Egyptian startups? The pandemic era startup gravy train train is slowing down, with global VC funding plummeting 20% and 16.6% year-on-year in March and April. Consequently, VCs are pushing the message to their founders to forget “growth at all costs.” Here in Egypt, we are already seeing down rounds in the Egyptian startup scene given the economic turbulence, cash drying up and startups being unable to raise at the same amounts and valuations as they used to, General Partner at Algebra Ventures Laila Hassan explains.

Egypt’s startups seem to be getting the same message from their VCs: All VCs will be quite concerned about their startups’ burn rates especially in the coming period given the economic downturn, chairman of Sequence Ventures Karim Helal says. These developments in the local startup scene will drive home the need for prudence in terms of startups’ spending, Helal adds. Now, Both VCs and startups are prioritizing profitability and surviving for as long as possible, startupland insiders tell us.

Which startups will be the most affected? Growth stage startups relying on int’l investors: These include businesses who are at the series B funding stage and have to rely on international investors’ higher funding capabilities to fuel their growth, managing director of Openner Ahmed Elsherif explains. Most affected are obviously companies that did not have strong fundamentals, and companies that have been subsidizing their revenues and offering products at steep discounts just to show their numbers growing, Hassan says.

Early stage startups, however, will not be as affected because businesses in their formative stages rely on local and regional investors for their funding and growth plans, most of our sources agree.

On the contrary, this funding slowdown may serve as an opportunity for early stage startups, Elsherif says. Early stage companies are the least dependent on public markets, he adds. “By the time they find a product market fit and raise a series A round, it will take them 12-18 months at least,” he adds. This would give them enough breathing room to allow for market forces to change, Elsherif adds.

So has the VC tap been shut off? No, but it will be more measured: In the coming period of uncertainty, VCs will likely allocate more capital to their portfolio companies to help them get through this downturn, Elsherif explains. That said, investors will be a lot more prudently and will be looking to invest in startups at lower valuations compared to more stable times, he adds. Companies with the right unit economics will always be able to raise, but their investment rounds may not be as big as they hoped and it may take them longer, especially if they are raising larger rounds, Hassan says. Later stage investors which could potentially have public market exposure may not have as much liquidity as they anticipated, she adds.

What are startups advised to do? Extend their runway: “We advise our portfolio companies to extend runways for 18 to 24 months to be on the safe side until we rebound from this period of funding decline,” Hassan says, adding that startups that extend runways for six months or less may find themselves in a tricky situation. “We do not know how long this funding slowdown will last,” Elsherif says. Therefore, startups should have a 30-month runway, trim sales and marketing costs, and focus on "product-led growth" tactics, so they can drive growth organically and drastically reduce customer acquisition costs.

Sustainable growth does not mean slash costs, but rather spending prudently and automating processes, our sources explain. If you need to hire for tech, continue to do that, Hassan advises. If you need to build a product, build, test, and experiment in that arena, instead of experimenting in the marketing arena and considerably increasing your burn rates, she explains. While startups should retain their existing talent and acquire new essential employees, startups can limit their spending by automating their businesses as much as possible, CEO of Falak Startups Ahmed Hazem Dakroury tells us.

M&As in startupland may be on the rise: The coming period may see an increase in terms of consolidations, mergers and acquisitions, Elsherif says. Startups that have good products, tech, and teams, but are unable to get much needed capital to fuel their growth may be acquired by bigger companies, Hassan explains. “We expect to start seeing more consolidation in the market,” she says. “It makes sense now more than ever to be stronger together, given the tighter liquidity situation for companies,” she adds. Consolidating stronger teams and bigger market share will offer the business a bigger competitive advantage and a stronger footing in the market, Hassan states.

The bottomline is forget growth at all costs and focus on having a solid, profitable business model. Startups should work on building a robust business model that solves real problems for a customer segment that can clearly benefit from it and are willing to pay for this service, Elsherif said. For early-stage startups, the focus should be on attaining a sustainable revenue stream and on practicing financial prudence so they can have positive long-term growth, he adds. Businesses that have good value propositions, and sound business models will not only survive the coming period, they will also thrive, Dakroury explains.


Your top stories on future trends for the week:

  • Swvl expands into Mexico…: Cairo-born mass transport app Swvl has expanded into Mexico in its fourth acquisition this year after acquiring Urbvan Mobility in a share-swap agreement.
  • …but its losses could double this year: The company expects its losses to widen to USD 90 mn this year, from USD 50 mn in 2021.
  • DMZ opens applications: Universities of Canada in Egypt-based incubator DMZ Cairo has opened applications for its second eight-month incubation program for tech startups, which begins in November, according to a statement (pdf).
  • AFS to enter Egypt: Bahrain-based payment solutions provider Arab Financial Services (AFS) plans to expand to Egypt.

CALENDAR

OUR CALENDAR APPEARS in 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.

JULY

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

23-25 July (Saturday-Monday): Egypt, UAE and Jordan discuss industrial partnership in Cairo.

24 July (Sunday): The government hosts public consultations on its state ownership policy document with healthcare players.

26 July (Tuesday): The government hosts public consultations on its state ownership policy document with pharma players.

26-27 July (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

28 July (Thursday): The government hosts public consultations on its state ownership policy document with experts and think tanks.

29 July (Friday): Aleph Commodities shareholder meeting to vote on potential merger with Tenaz Energy Corp.

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.

August: Sharm El Sheikh will host the African Sumo Championship.

14 August (Sunday): Conference of Egyptian entities abroad.

16 August (Tuesday): MNHD’s general assembly meeting to decide whether to allow SODIC to go ahead with due diligence on its takeover bid.

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

SEPTEMBER

September: Naval Power, Egypt’s first naval defense expo

September: Central Bank of Egypt’s Innovation and Financial Technology Center to launch incubator for 25 fintech startups.

September: Egyptian-German Joint Economic Committee.

September: A delegation from Germany’s Aldi will visit Egypt to look at potential investments.

September: Government to launch an international promotional campaign for Egyptian tourism.

6-9 September (Tuesday-Friday): Gate Travel Expo 2022, El Kobba Palace, Cairo.

7-9 September (Wednesday-Friday): African Finance Ministers to meet in Cairo to coordinate an African-led position during COP27.

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.

26–27 September (Monday-Tuesday): The Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) at the Cairo Marriott Hotel.

OCTOBER

October: Air Sphinx, EgyptAir’s low-cost subsidiary to commence operations.

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

1 October (Saturday): Use of Nafeza becomes compulsory for air freight.

6 October (Thursday): Armed Forces Day, national holiday.

8 October (Saturday): Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, national holiday.

10-16 October (Monday-Sunday): World Bank and IMF annual meetings chaired by CBE Governor Tarek Amer, Washington, DC.

18-20 October (Tuesday-Thursday): Mediterranean Offshore Conference, Alexandria.

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.

3-5 November (Thursday-Saturday): Egypt Fashion Week.

4-6 November (Friday-Sunday): Autotech auto exhibition, Cairo International Exhibition and Convention Center.

6-18 November (Sunday-Friday): Egypt will host COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh.

7-13 November (Mon-Sun): The International University Sports Federation (FISU) World University Squash Championships, New Giza.

21 November-18 December (Monday-Sunday): 2022 Fifa World Cup, Qatar.

DECEMBER

13-14 December (Tuesday-Wednesday): Federal Reserve interest rate meeting.

13-15 December (Tuesday-Thursday): US-Africa Leaders Summit.

15 December (Thursday): European Central Bank monetary policy meeting.

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

December: The Sixth of October dry port will begin operations.

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.

MAY 2023

22-26 May (Monday-Friday): Egypt will host the African Development Bank (AfDB) annual meetings in Sharm El Sheikh.

EVENTS WITH NO SET DATE

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 its 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.

2023: Egypt will host the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors in 2023.

**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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