Monday, 25 July 2022

AM — Your Russian wheat shipments are safe, Lavrov tells Egypt

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, wonderful people, and welcome to a reasonably quiet (but not dull) Monday morning. It feels a little bit like the summer news slowdown — a feature of both the Western and Egyptian news cycle — may be approaching as more and more people in the northern hemisphere head to the beach.

What news we have is meaty: Russia’s foreign minister was in town yesterday trying to reassure us on wheat supplies — and we have plenty of M&A, debt market, and infrastructure news. All of that (and more) below.

PSA #1- Metro and train fares are getting more expensive starting August, Transport Minister Kamel El Wazir told El Hekaya (watch, runtime: 4:45) last night. El Wazir said the ministry hasn’t decided how big the price hikes will be, but suggested that Metro fares will likely rise by EGP 1-2.

All means of public transport have gotten more expensive recently: Taxis, microbuses and buses across the country raised prices by 5-7% in response to the rising cost of fuel. Private companies including Uber and Swvl have followed suit.

PSA #2- Egypt has not yet recorded any cases of monkeypox amid a global outbreak that has spread to 72 countries, including Arab nations (among them the UAE), presidential health advisor Mohamed Awad Tageldin told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 3:55). The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global health emergency over the weekend. Monkeypox is a rarely fatal, milder cousin of smallpox and is largely being transmitted as an STD.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD-

There’s no single story dominating the global front pages this morning: Reuters leads with the Russia-Ukraine grain agreement (more on this in this morning’s Diplomacy section, below) and the Financial Times has the latest on the race to become the UK’s next prime minister. A report in Axios, meanwhile, suggests that Agent Orange’s political clout is on the wane ahead of a potential 2024 run as the Murdoch empire turns against him — and as GOP rival Ron DeSantis gains in the polls.

FANCY SOMETHING A BIT MORE … SALACIOUS? Tesla and Space X boss Elon Musk and Google co-founder Sergey Brin are no longer besties after Elon allegedly slept with Brin’s wife, triggering a divorce, the Wall Street Journal reports. The front page story is getting plenty of pickup on social media.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

OFH’s board will weigh in on Chimera’s bid to acquire Beltone: Orascom Financial Holding’s (OFH) board of directors will meet today to decide on Abu Dhabi investment firm Chimera Investments’ bid to acquire up to 90% of Beltone Financial, CEO Nils Bachtler previously confirmed to Enterprise. OFH is the majority shareholder in Beltone Financial. Our friends at Chimera Investments submitted a bid in June at EGP 1.485 per share, valuing the company at around EGP 690 mn. The Financial Regulatory Authority gave regulatory approval to Chimera’s offer last week.

US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer is talking GERD in Cairo today: Hammer will a diplomatic resolution to the long-running crisis over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), according to a statement from the US embassy. This is Hammer’s first stop of a three-stop tour that will also take him to the UAE and Ethiopia. Egyptian experts have claimed in recent days that satellite images show that Addis Ababa has started the third round of filling the dam.

Hammer arrives in Cairo one day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in town to talk grain and, in the words of Deutsche Welle, “break Russia’s diplomatic isolation.” We have chapter and verse on the visit in this morning’s Diplomacy section, below.

Contracts for Dekheila Port dry bulk terminal will be signed today: The Alexandria Port Authority will sign today an agreement with a consortium of the Egyptian Group for Multipurpose Terminals, the Arab Group for Supply Chains, Gharably Integrated Engineering Company (GIECO) and Saudi conglomerate Ajlan & Bros for a dry bulk terminal at the Dekheila Port, according to the Transport Ministry.

HAPPENING TOMORROW-

The Federal Reserve starts its two-day policy meeting tomorrow, and the consensus is that policymakers will go ahead with a second-consecutive 75-bps rate hike as it battles to get inflation under control. US 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. The Fed meets after the European Central Bank raised rates last week for the first time in 11 years.

Watch this space: The Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee will have plenty of time to digest whatever the Fed does next — the MPC next meets to review rates on Thursday, 18 August.

The IMF’s updated World Economic Outlook is out tomorrow: The Fund has warned that it will “substantially” downgrade its 2022 global growth forecast as the war in Ukraine, surging global inflation and rising interest rates weigh on the global economy.

MORNING MUST READ-

Missed this week’s Inside Industry? In our weekly vertical exploring all things industry and manufacturing, we looked at a step-by-step guide on how to open up a factory in Egypt, starting from land allocation and all the way through maintaining operating licenses.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Your next national holiday is not likely to be before October when we observe Armed Forces Day. The Madbouly cabinet announced yesterday that Saturday will be a national holiday in observance of Islamic New Year, meaning it is highly unlikely we’ll be downing tools for a weekday replacement day. 6 October will, in turn, be our last holiday until New Year’s Day 2023.

THIS IS WHAT THE FUTURE LOOKS LIKE: With holidays tied to the lunar calendar coming up 10 days earlier each year, we’re going to be frontloading our holiday schedule in the first half of the year for some time to come… It’ll be interesting to see how we all space out our vacation days in response.

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.

enterprise

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

In today’s issue: When hiring fresh grads, Egypt’s private sector companies might look for a range of specific technical skills, but all want individuals with broadly similar work attitudes, we reported last week. So just how are Egypt’s fresh graduates being provided with the employment skills they need? Sources from law firms, startups, and companies in a range of industries tell us that while several Egyptian universities do a good job of preparing fresh grads to enter the workplace, many companies also need to take steps to fill in gaps themselves.

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.

DIPLOMACY

Russia’s Lavrov offers reassurances on wheat supply to Egypt

Shipments of Russian wheat are safe, Lavrov tells Egypt: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sought to ease Egyptian fears of a shortage of wheat and other grains during talks with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo yesterday. The meeting comes amid concern that its agreement to resume Ukrainian wheat exports may collapse after a Russian missile strike on a key port. “We confirmed the commitment of Russian grain exporters to meet their commitments in full,” Lavrov said in a joint press conference with Shoukry following the talks (watch, runtime: 32:11).

The catch: It’s not just Russia’s wheat that we (and other nations) need.

Wheat pact under threat: The UN- and Turkey-brokered agreement to reopen Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and unlock mns of tons of stranded grain was thrown into uncertainty just hours after it was signed when Russian missiles struck targets at Odesa port, appearing to put it in breach of the pact under which Russia had pledged not to target Ukrainian ports involved in shipping grain. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy indicated yesterday that Kyiv will continue to prepare for the resumption of exports, but said the attack showed that Moscow cannot be trusted to keep to the agreement.

The prolonged wheat crisis is costing us: Egypt sourced around 80% of its wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia prior to the war, with more than 20% coming from Ukraine. Record wheat prices earlier this year added an additional EGP 15 bn to the country’s import bill in the final four months of the fiscal year that ended 30 June. Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said in June that wheat imports will cost an additional USD 3 bn this year if prices don’t come down.

Lavrov blames sanctions for food crisis: The Russian minister said “illegitimate” (read: Western) economic sanctions have been responsible for the shock to global food supply chains and called on Western nations to ease restrictions he claims make it difficult for Russia to export food and fertilizer. Ukraine and G7 nations say that Russia is responsible for the crisis due its blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. “We have a common understanding of the causes of the grain and food crises,” Lavrov said, adding that he agreed with El Sisi that the two countries will follow up on Russian exports.

Could Egypt play mediator? During talks with Lavrov, El Sisi reiterated his offer to help find a diplomatic solution to the crisis, according to Ittihadiya.

Lavrov’s visit is part of a wider tour around Africa with stops in Ethiopia, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo as Moscow looks to firm up relations with our neck of the woods.

Also from the presser:

  • Egypt could soon be a SCO member: A decision on whether to admit Egypt to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a dialogue partner will likely be taken during the coming summit in September, Lavrov said.
  • The next Russia-Africa summit will be held in mid-2023, the Russian FM noted.

Lavrov’s visit to Cairo is everywhere in the foreign press this morning. Global media outlets are remarking on the battle of narratives over who is responsible for causing the global food crisis — and the geopolitical significance of the trip as Moscow and the West vie for influence in developing countries around the world. Cue talk of Cold War II, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum. (AP | Reuters | AFP | NYT | FT | BBC | The Guardian | The Times | CNBC)

And it got all of the nation’s talking heads talking: Kelma Akhira (watch, runtime: 11:48), Al Hayah Al Youm (watch, runtime: 5:11), Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 17:38), Masaa DMC (watch, runtime: 4:19) and Hadeeth El Kahera (watch, runtime: 4:53) all had coverage of the meetings last night. Amr Hamzawy, director of the Carnegie Middle East Program, told Hadeeth Al Kahera that the visit sends a message to US President Joe Biden after his meeting with a number of Arab leaders, including El Sisi, that Russia has strong strategic partnerships in the Arab world. Masaa DMC interviewed Egypt's former Ambassador to the Russia Nabil El Oraby.

IN OTHER DIPLO NEWS-

Egypt and Jordan have agreed to work on a joint food security plan the two sides hope to have crafted within a month, the Jordanian Trade Ministry said in a statement, without disclosing details. This came during a meeting between Jordanian Trade Minister Youssef Al Shamali and Supply Minister Ali El Moselhy in Amman yesterday. The two ministers also agreed to activate a memorandum of understanding signed in February that will establish joint logistics areas.

El Sisi + Macron follow up on France talks: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi called his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron last night to follow up on the talks held over the weekend in Paris, which focused on the war in Ukraine, regional issues, and COP27, Ittihadiya said in a statement.

INFRASTRUCTURE

SCCT to invest USD 500 mn to expand East Port Said port capacity

The Suez Canal Container Terminal (SCCT) wants to invest USD 500 mn to expand the capacity of East Port Said port, company representatives confirmed to Enterprise. The company plans to build a 1k-meter container berth, which is expected to raise the port’s annual capacity by almost 40%. The news was initially reported by Al Mal.

The state of play: The company is in talks with the Suez Canal Economic Zone to finalize the details of the contract, including the final investment cost and financing. SCCT is majority-owned by Maersk subsidiary APM Terminals.

More berths = more containers: The new berth is expected to have an annual capacity of 2 mn TEU. This will significantly expand the port’s current capacity, which stands at 5.4 mn TEU a year. The port handled 3.8 mn TEUs in 2021, up 3% from 2020.

SOUND SMART- A TEU is a standard measurement in the shipping and terminal industry and is based on the dimensions of a common twenty-foot shipping container. The acronym stands for Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit. A double-length container, for example, would count as two TEUs.

About SCCT: SCCT operates the East Port Said port, located at the mouth of the Suez Canal on the Mediterranean. The company was set up in 2004 as a joint venture with APM Terminals as the majority shareholder. The Maersk subsidiary currently owns 55% of the company, with the balance held by shareholders including Hong Kong-based shipping line Cosco Pacific, the Suez Canal Authority, the National Bank of Egypt, and Egyptian private sector companies. The company invested more than USD 60 mn in 2020 to modernize its cranes, allowing two ultra-large container vessels to dock at the same time.

DEBT WATCH

O West locks in financing worth EGP 1.5 bn to fast-track construction

O West lands EGP 1.5 bn in funding from CIB: Orascom Development Egypt (ODE) subsidiary Orascom for Real Estate (ORE) has signed a EGP 1.5 bn facility agreement with CIB to partially finance and fast-track construction at its flagship O West project in west Cairo, according to a press release (pdf). The facility will help the developer accelerate delivery of phases at Whyte, Tulwa, Club Residences, Hillside, and the O-Business District, according to the release.

Accelerated construction = early deliveries: The facility will help O West begin delivering units in 1Q 2023 “ahead of our promise to customers,” said Orascom Development Group CFO Ashraf Nessim. The financing was executed independently from ODE, and will give O West an independent capital structure for the acceleration scheme.

O West net sales grew 73.6% to EGP 2.4 bn in the first half of the year, O West CEO Tarek Kamel said, according to a separate press release (pdf). The sales accounted for 51.4% of the company’s total sales for 1H 2022, he added.

Advisors: Our friends at EFG Hermes acted as sole financial advisor, lead manager and sole bookrunner for the transaction, which comes two years after EFG advised ODE on a USD 265 mn multi-currency term loan. MHR & Partners in association with White & Case were legal counsel to ORE.

DEBT WATCH

Pioneers Properties closes EGP 425 mn securitized bond issuance

Pioneers Properties for Urban Development has closed a EGP 425 mn securitized bond issuance, the second in a wider EGP 3 bn program, according to a press release (pdf) from its financial advisor, EFG Hermes. The four-tranche issuance is backed by a EGP 613.5 mn receivables portfolio, with the tranches rated AA+, AA, and A and by ratings agency MERIS.

Who bought in? Banque du Caire (BdC), the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) and CIB.

Pioneers has now completed a third of the program. The real estate developer completed the first EGP 627.5 mn issuance in December.

Advisors: EFG Hermes acted as the sole financial advisor, sole transaction manager and bookrunner, underwriter, and arranger on the issuance. NBE, BdC, and CIB acted as underwriters, with CIB also acting as the custodian bank. Baker McKenzie provided counsel, while KPMG was the auditor.

Structured finance has picked up in Egypt this year: The latest sale takes the total securitization volume this year to almost EGP 16.6 bn, exceeding the EGP 15.8 bn taken to market last year.

M&A WATCH

EIPICO waiting on UP Pharma DD clearance + Agthia hasn’t (yet?) submitted a bid to acquire Obourland

UP Pharma is still studying EIPICO’s takeover bid: Upper Egypt Pharma (UP Pharma) has not yet given Egyptian International Pharma Industries Company (EIPICO) the greenlight to conduct due diligence after it signaled intent to acquire 99.99% of the company’s shares in May, EIPICO said in an EGX disclosure (pdf). UP Pharma is still studying the offer, the disclosure said.

Refresher: EIPICO’s board had approved the start of procedures to potentially acquire a 99.9% stake in UP Pharma in late May. Both firms are owned by the Arab Company for Drug Industries and Medical Appliances (ACDIMA), and the transaction would see EIPICO snag ACDIMA’s stake in UP Pharma to bring it under its umbrella.

OTHER M&A NEWS- Obourland has not received any interest or formal acquisition offers from Emirati food and beverage firm Agthia Group, the company said in an EGX disclosure (pdf) yesterday. The denial followed reports in the local press that the ADQ-owned firm is interested in purchasing Obourland and plans to submit a non-binding offer as soon as it concludes its acquisition of Auf Group. Agthia also denied the news to Bloomberg Asharq.

EARNINGS WATCH

CIB’s net income rose 9% y-o-y to EGP 3.5 bn in 2Q 2022 as demand for short-term credit picked up, according to the bank’s latest earnings release (pdf). The bank recorded revenues of EGP 6.9 bn, up 8% from the same period last year. CIB grew its local currency loan book by 20% during the first half of the year, fueling 16% growth in revenues and a 28% jump in net income which hit EGP 7.8 bn over the six-month period.

What they said: “CIB concluded the first half of 2022 with remarkable performance drawing on a resilient Egyptian economy that was able to control the inflationary pressures and pave the way for an encouraging local consumption and a recovery in investment, despite a much fluid global macroeconomic environment,” the bank said.

enterprise

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Last Night’s Talk Shows: Lavrov is in Cairo + COP27 — and what’s up with alleged damage to North Coast beaches?

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Cairo yesterday dominated the airwaves last night. We have the details in this morning’s Diplomacy, above.

What’s happening with North Coast beaches? The Environment Ministry has hired international specialists to assess whether alleged damage to some North Sea beaches is related to climate change or caused by dredging work for Emaar Misr’s Marassi Marina development, Fouad told Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 7:59). The ministry ordered all dredging work near the north coast compounds of Marassi and Stella to stop after a number of people took to social media to complain about environmental damage they claim is being caused by the work. Al Hayah Al Youm (watch, runtime: 3:44), Hadeeth El Kahera (watch, runtime: 6:07) and Kelma Akhira (watch, runtime: 5:34) also had the story.

The road to COP27: The government is expecting up to 30k people to attend the COP27 summit in Sharm El Sheikh in November, Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad told Kelma Akhira’s Lamees El Hadidi (watch, runtime: 3:31 | 8:35). Global climate goals have suffered a setback due to the war in Ukraine, which has triggered food and energy crises around the world and forced several countries to backtrack on their commitments to green energy, she said. Fouad also joined Ala Mas’ouleety (watch, runtime: 4:48) where she walked us through the government’s preparations to host the gathering.

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Cairo yesterday is dominating the conversation on Egypt in the international press this morning. We have the full story in Diplomacy, above

The family of high-profile activist Alaa Abdel Fattah have accused UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss of ignoring his case since launching her bid on 11 July to succeed Boris Johnson as Conservative party leader, according to the Guardian. The case of Alaa, now a UK national and on hunger strike since April, has drawn significant attention from the international press in recent months. A member of the presidential pardons commission suggested earlier this month that Alaa could be pardoned, though we haven’t heard anything on that since.

The plight of Egypt’s small farmers is getting attention: Despite growing nearly half of the country’s crops, Egypt’s small farms are struggling to make ends meet, often forced to sell their output at a loss because of their debt and difficulties with fragmented infrastructure, AFP reports.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

FRA wants to see serious growth in the non-bank sector: The Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) wants to see NBFS lending more than double to EGP 820 bn by 2026, up from EGP 370 bn last year, the regulator said in a statement yesterday. This comes as part of the FRA’s 2022-2026 strategy, which aims to more than double the EGX’s market cap to EGP 1.6 tn.

BAD NEWS FOR EXPORTERS? Exporting products to Jordan will get more complicated starting September: Jordan will impose pre-clearance fees for Egyptian imports and mandate the use of letters of credit (L/Cs) for financing trade with Egyptian companies, Al Borsa reported, citing a letter from the Jordanian government. The move is reportedly a response to Egypt’s new digital customs system, which charges exporters a fee to file documents on the Advanced Cargo Information (ACI) system. Jordan is a significant importer of Egyptian household goods, electronic appliances and machines, and also acts as a transit country for goods heading to Iraq, Sherif El Sayyad, head of the Export Council for Engineering Industries, told the newspaper. The council has called on the government to appeal to Amman and block the move.

FROM PLANET STARTUP- B2B logistics firm Khazenly is looking to expand to the Gulf and grow its footprint in Egypt, co-founders Mohamed Younes and Mohamed Montasser told Asharq Alawsat. The company is looking to enter Saudi Arabia and the UAE but has no timeframe for the move, they told the newspaper. This comes a few weeks after the startup closed a USD 2.5 mn seed round led by Arzan Venture Capital and Shorooq Partners.

Other things on our radar this morning:

  • External debt rises significantly in 3Q: Egypt’s external debt jumped 17% y-o-y in 3Q FY2021-2022 to USD 157.8 bn, according to central bank figures. Long-term debt accounted for around 83% of the total figure.
  • Saudi German Hospitals Group wants to make its hospitals in Egypt green: The Saudi German Hospital is working on applying new “green” measures to its newest hospital in Alexandria, as part of a wider strategy to establish an environmentally-friendly model for its facilities in Egypt, Regional Manager Mohamed Hablas told Enterprise, confirming a report from Al Mal.
  • The government aims to roll out the universal health ins. system in Suez, Aswan and South Sinai before the end of the current fiscal year, after successfully trialing the program in Ismailia, Luxor and Port Said. (Statement)

PLANET FINANCE

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US shares are rallying this month despite weak 2Q earnings reports and gloomy economic outlooks, the Wall Street Journal notes. The S&P 500 climbed nearly 5% so far in July, after falling 17.4% YTD in 2022. Notably, the S&P’s performance comes after 26% of constituents have have reported earnings having missed analyst expectations, the WSJ reports citing figures from FactSet. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq, which is down 25.3% YTD, has seen its shares rally 7.4% so far this month despite an overall fall of 24% in earnings among those that have reported. Big issuers including Bank of America, Netflix and Tesla posted earnings misses, but saw their share prices rally in the day or two after they announced.

The latest of these was Twitter, which reported (pdf) on Friday that revenues slid 1% y-o-y to USD 1.18 bn, coming in 11% below analysts’ estimates in what was its biggest revenue miss ever. That said, its share price was up 0.81% when markets closed on Friday. In addition to the same economic headwinds that plagued other tech companies, Twitter also blamed Elon Musk’s buyer’s remorse for the decline.

What gives? For one, earnings season isn’t over yet, with reports from traditional top performers such as Apple, Amazon, and ExxonMobil still to come. Apple and Amazon will both report toward the end of this week. Analysts speaking to the WSJ suggest that the pervading sentiment of pessimism could have been exaggerated, with the earning shortfalls not falling to the “train wreck” levels that investors were predicting.

Could this rally be sustained? That depends on the Fed this week: The Federal Reserve is expected to go ahead with another 75 bps rate hike when it meets later this week, which analysts feel is necessary to get a grip on inflation, a major driver of lower-than-expected earnings.

The July rally is even extending to crypto stocks: Shares in crypto companies, which were among the worst-hit assets of the year, appear to have also made a recovery this month, with the NYSE FactSet Global Blockchain Technologies Index now on track for its largest monthly gain since February 2021, Bloomberg reports. The index is up 16.5% over the past 30-days — but down 59.1% YTD. Leading coin exchange company Coinbase, saw its shares rise 12.3% in the past month after earlier falling 17.8% from the start of the year.


CLOSER TO HOME- The Gulf’s market for corporate bonds is going through a rough patch: Market volatility and rising interest rates have caused the corporate bond market in the GCC to grind to a halt so far in 2022 as issuers face a choice between steep issuance premiums now or higher rates later, Reuters says. Bond sales plunged 80% y-o-y in the first six months of the year as companies delayed issuances due to market turbulence. The GCC typically accounts for about 40% of bond issuances in emerging markets in any given year.

Down

EGX30

9,762

-0.2% (YTD: -22.4%)

None

USD (CBE)

Buy 18.89

Sell 18.97

None

USD at CIB

Buy 18.91

Sell 18.97

None

Interest rates CBE

11.25% deposit

12.25% lending

Down

Tadawul

11,975

-0.1% (YTD: +6.2%)

Up

ADX

9,662

+0.7% (YTD: +13.8%)

None

DFM

3,257

0.0% (YTD: +1.9%)

Down

S&P 500

3,962

-0.9% (YTD: -16.9%)

Up

FTSE 100

7,276

+0.1% (YTD: -1.5%)

None

Euro Stoxx 50

3,596

0.0% (YTD: -16.3%)

Down

Brent crude

USD 103.20

-0.6%

Up

Natural gas (Nymex)

USD 8.30

+4.6%

Up

Gold

USD 1,745.30

+0.8%

Up

BTC

USD 22,797

+2.5% (YTD: -50.7%)

THE CLOSING BELL-

The EGX30 fell 0.2% at yesterday’s close on anemic turnover of EGP 566 mn (31.6% below the 90-day average). Foreign investors were net sellers. The index is down 22.4% YTD.

In the green: Ibn Sina Pharma (+6.9%), Credit Agricole Egypt (+6.1%) and MM Group (+4.0%).

In the red: CIB (-1.9%), Housing & Development Bank (-1.5%) and Orascom Development Egypt (-1.3%).

Asian markets are in the red in early trading this morning as concerns about the likelihood of a global recession deepen risk-off sentiment. Shares in Europe and the US are likely to follow them later today, according to the future markets.

blackboard

How are Egypt’s fresh graduates being provided with the skills they need for work? Egypt’s private sector companies seek a range of skill sets in the fresh graduates they hire, with different sectors often having quite specific technical needs, but broadly similar personality traits and work attitudes, we noted last week. Unfortunately, the extent to which fresh graduates emerge from Egyptian universities with the skill sets needed in the labor market can vary considerably, our sources at law firms, startups, and companies in a range of industries tell us.

Which Egyptian universities do the best job of preparing fresh grads to enter the workspace? The short answer is that because of the way Egypt’s university system works, certain universities — public or private — are particularly strong in different technical areas or disciplines. For example, Cairo University — particularly its English section — rates especially high for law graduates, says Zulficar and Partners Managing Partner Firas El Samad, while Shalakany also sees many good candidates from private universities such as GUC and BUE, says Senior Partner Moataz El Mahdy. Wafik Beshara, VP of HR at CEMEX Egypt says Assiut University has excellent mechanical and electrical engineering departments, and a good science faculty. “We see a big talent pool from there.”

Still, each institution comes with its own set of flaws and shortcomings: One major problem with government universities is simply the high enrollment rate compared to private universities, notes El Mahdy. El Samad also notes that a big market weakness is the reliance on rote memorization for law students. “Fresh graduates and even newly-hired junior associates often reflexively cite legal references, as if this is what matters. The client doesn’t care about references, but about what you advise him to do.”

Many fresh grads with technical skills and experience have developed it in spite of — not because of — the university tuition they’ve received: The startup community isn’t seeing many fresh grads with the desired combination of technical skills and practical experience coming out of Egyptian universities at the moment, notes Yousef ElSammaa, managing director of venture studio firm Fibonacci Studio. “We’re in a sector where you need a lot of self-development and self-teaching,” notes Hussein El Kheshen, co-founder and CTO of Sakneen. “I think, almost perversely, because the public university system has challenges, candidates who go through that system end up doing all the self-teaching anyway — to figure things out. No one’s giving handouts.” Candidates who self-teach often end up being the strongest El Kheshen sees, he notes.

And there’s no denying that Egypt’s most prestigious universities give candidates an edge with fine skills: Graduates from universities like AUC and GUC do have a head start in some ways, because the education styles to focus more on things like self-confidence, how students present ideas, and how they put themselves forward, notes PepsiCo Egypt HR Senior Director Naniece Fahmy.

Altogether, companies look for candidates from a broad range of universities: “We don’t put the university as a filter. We do our best to select the best candidates,” notes Beshara. The key thing is to select candidates from accredited universities that don’t just provide a theoretical education, but give their students exposure to different scenarios they will face in work and life, says Tarek Nour, TBS General Manager.

But with a dearth of plug-and-play graduates, many firms are taking steps to fill gaps themselves, including offering internship programs, and providing new hires with on-the-job training.

Internships are popular across industries, offering exposure to the job with the possibility of more permanent work: CEMEX offers a four-six week hands-on internship program targeting some 50 university students — typically from engineering, commerce, or science faculties — annually, says Beshara. After pausing for several years, HSBC is relaunching an internship program that will ask candidates to think about HSBC’s market growth and customer experience, and cultivate soft skills, HSBC head of HR Moustafa Raouf tells Enterprise. The six-eight week program aims to work with 15-25 candidates this year. Internship programs are also essential for law firms to observe interns’ skill sets and behavior, which El Mahdy says “puts us in a better position to judge whether the student has the skills we’re looking for.”

Startups, too, are rolling out internships: Environmental startup Mycelium kicked off in 2020 a three-month internship program for around 15 interns, says CEO Mohamed Fawzy. “We try to involve them as much as possible in our practical work and encourage them to share ideas. Most interns need quite a lot of introductory training on what we’re doing and what a startup really is,” he adds. Rabbit Mobility is also starting an internship program, notes co-founder and CEO Kamal El Soueni. This could eventually lead to permanent jobs for interns, he adds.

On the other side of the equation, students who proactively seek experience through meaningful internships and student activities stand out from the crowd: “If students have done real internships — not just summer internships, but real work experience — it makes a difference,” says ElSammaa. El Kheshen would consider a fresh grad who’s done a lot of part-time work for three years to have three years of experience, he notes.

Once candidates are hired, a training and onboarding process gets them up to speed: TBS offers different kinds of training sessions for new hires, including a three-day entry level training program, providing them with an introduction to the work environment, such as the basics of food safety and hygiene, says Nour. Other training sessions focus on employee leadership and agility, and customer interaction — and some of these are conducted by experts outside the organization, he adds. Rabbit offers three-four days of onboarding for new hires, where they are introduced to the company’s history, vision and values, and why the company is doing what it’s doing, says El Soueni. This ends with some personal feedback on each new hire’s coachability, before they then start work the following week, he adds.

And some invest substantially in longer-term training: Long-term on-the-job training is extremely important for Zulficar and Partners, says El Samad. Investment in training new associates is “a big item on our budget,” he notes, without disclosing precise figures. “Much of the training is focused on helping the fresh hires understand how to approach particular tasks, El Samad notes. “If we have the luxury of time, we set the new associates a task, and then we review the work, discuss it with them, and ask them to redo it if necessary, based on our instruction and feedback.” Sometimes the firm hires external trainers — often US and UK-based professional consultants — to train junior lawyers on how to draft contracts and research, he adds.


Your top education stories for the week:

  • CIRA reports financials: Leading 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. Revenues were up fractionally in the same period. 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
  • Egypt + Serbia to cooperate on higher education: The two countries signed MoUs on trade, support for SMEs, higher ed, agriculture, environmental protection, and arts and culture.
  • Egyptian Modern Education Systems upgrades to EGX: Egyptian Modern Education Systems has completed the move from small-cap index Nilex to the EGX, with an initial market cap of EGP 100.5 mn.

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.

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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