Thursday, 26 March 2015

WAR: Egypt joins Saudi’s military intervention in Yemen — first KSA air strikes launched at 1am CLT. MEANWHILE: “Startup Egypt” lauded in WSJ. Exec regs on coal use await Cabinet approval. Ahmed Kouchouk joins world bank. Fawry to work with CIB.


Egypt is joining Saudi Arabia in military action against Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen. Saudi ambassador to the United States Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir announced at a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday evening that the kingdom has begun airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen as part of a 10-nation coalition to restore the legitimate Yemeni government. The ambassador noted that the strikes began at 11:00 pm GMT, (1:00 am Cairo local time) and that the United States is not involved militarily, but that Saudi Arabia is pleased with their level of cooperation and coordination. The ambassador would not list the states who are party to the coalition, saying that Saudi Arabia will leave it up to them to present their case. (Watch, running time: 12:17. Note that the video transcript is available on the same page in the third tab to the right below the video window.)

The video which immediately follows the above link on autoplay is of White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest making some astonishing remarks during a press briefing where he insists that American strategy in Yemen is a success, to the open incredulity of ABC reporter Jonathan Karl, who clearly cannot believe what he’s hearing. (Watch, running time: 3:20)

Egypt has announced it is participating in the intervention, providing both political and military support to the operation, according to the state news agency this morning as reported by Reuters. Egypt is open to providing air, naval and ground forces if necessary. There is still a degree of uncertainty over whether Egypt has of yet directly participated in the strikes.

All GCC countries have committed to support the strikes, with the exception of Oman, according to a GCC statement as reported by Sky News Arabia. The countries, namely Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, are responding to a request for assistance by Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. (Read in Arabic)

The strikes come in response to the deteriorating situation in Yemen, whose pace of unraveling quickened on Wednesday, following a number of key events:

  • The Houthi rebels captured Al Anad air base, 35 miles away from President Hadi’s location at the time. The Houthis appear to be coordinating their takeover of the country with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was pushed out of Yemen as a result of mass demonstrations in 2011, but who now appears to be attempting a return to power
  • Egypt evacuated its diplomatic staff from Aden, Yemen’s second city, which President Hadi had resettled following his escape from house arrest in Sana’a by the Houthis
  • Aden International Airport fell to the Houthi militias
  • The Houthis managed to capture U.S. intelligence files, compromising operatives, and it is further believed that these intelligence files have already been handed over to Iran, according to the Los Angeles Times
  • The Houthis arrested the Yemeni defense minister and placed a USD 100,000 bounty on the capture of President Hadi, according to the New York Times, while the Los Angeles Times put the bounty at USD 20 mn. President Hadi’s current whereabouts are unknown, with varying reports stating that he has possibly left the country, possibly by small boat.
  • Yesterday afternoon, both the spokesperson for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry had denied that Egypt had agreed to participate in military action in Yemen, despite direct calls by the Yemeni foreign minister for assistance. This point has now been made moot by the state news agency’s confirmation of Egyptian support to the endeavor issued this morning, as noted above
  • President Hadi has also sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council requesting immediate support to the legitimate government of Yemen, according to Al Arabiya

The situation in Yemen is both incredibly fluid and complex, with actors including the Ikwhan’s branch in Yemen (known as Al-Islah), Daesh, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP, who had claimed responsibility for the Hebdo attacks in France), in addition to the aforementioned former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is allied with the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. For now, the backgrounder which came closest to accurately foreseeing the current crisis is that of the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR), albeit their piece is more focused on AQAP. Published on 19 March 2015, it does however paint a broad picture of the conflict and most, if not all, of the players involved. (Read CFR Backgrounder: Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP))

For the more recent wheelings and dealings of former President Saleh and his role in the conflict: Ex-strongman seen pulling strings as Yemen rebels advance, by the AFP.

And while we do not necessarily endorse its assessment, it’s worthwhile reading this dissenting opinion from Politico, which presents a short case against Saudi and Egyptian intervention in Yemen. Adam Baron, visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, who was based in Yemen from 2011-2014, writes: What We Get Wrong about Yemen: Foreign intervention in a local fight would be the worst course anyone could take: “… the solution right now should be more along the lines of: Just stay out of it … The main danger now is that the Western powers, Saudi Arabia or Egypt will overreact and seek to intervene, ostensibly to counter Iranian influence or to quash the efforts of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to gain territory. Yet foreign intervention could very well be the worst approach now—further regionalizing what is still a local fight, injecting a stronger sectarian tone into the conflict while threatening to push Yemen closer to implosion.” (Read)


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The Arab League Summit will meet from 28-29 March in Sharm El Sheikh, where the escalating conflict in Yemen will likely top the agenda. Reuters has a very solid backgrounder on what’s at stake (‘Arab leaders confronted with multiple crises at summit‘), which it closes by asking AL chief Nabil Elaraby how he “interpreted Iran’s strong presence in four Arab capitals — a reference to Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sanaa.” Elaraby’s answer: “With extreme worry.”

We should also know more today about the 2015-16 state budget following the Finance Ministry’s morning press conference to discuss the Sisi administration’s planned spending for the upcoming fiscal year. Despite the looking conflict with Yemen, we’ve received no notification from the powers that be that the presser would be cancelled. In the meantime, Egypt Independent has a pretty solid translation of parent publication Al-Masry Al-Youm’s interview with Finance Minister Hani Dimian provocatively titled “Finance Minister: Subsidies cause poverty.”

WEATHER ALERT: The warming trend that began on Tuesday will spike by tomorrow, with the mercury set to break the 38C mark. That would be an almost-welcome hint of summer. Less welcome: A high probability of sandstorms nationwide, including in the capital city.


Last night’s talk shows witnessed reruns of both Amr Adeeb’s program (yesterday’s episode, rather than having sometimes co-host Rania Badawy take the reins, as she usually does on a Wednesday night) and Al Kahera Wal Nas (Saturday night’s episode with channel owner Tarek Nour turning the tables on Cairo 360 host Ossama Kamal, interviewing him on the occasion of the show’s 3rd anniversary).

Youssef El Hosseiny on ONTV hosted a young man with special needs along with the boy’s mother.

Khairy Ramadan on CBC Egypt hosted a number of randoms, including a traffic police officer, someone in a leather jacket, and someone else, who knows. This guest reviewer is not certain what they discussed due to actually drifting in and out of consciousness given the subject matter. Following his interview segment with the normals, Ramadan hosted the Minister of the newly-created Ministry of Technical Training and Education, Mohamed Ahmed Youssef, along with a panel of industrialists. The industrialists noted a problem faced by many of us across different industries, which is that despite high youth unemployment, companies struggle to find qualified candidates, a gap which the newly-appointed minister hopes to close through new initiatives.


Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab convened the usual weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers yesterday, with major decisions having included:

  • Approving a law regarding online crimes. (Read in Arabic)
  • Approving amendments to the mortgage financing law, with Al Borsa having published the final draft of its decree. (Rear in Arabic)
  • Decreeing an extension to the current term of the workers’ unions’ councils by one year. (Read in Arabic)
  • Closing the bidding for the second phase for the land plots allocated to Egyptian expatriates yesterday instead of 9 April. (Read in Arabic)

KEY TAKEAWAY from the cabinet meeting, per the government: Consumer prices, keeping Matrouh governorate alive economically and ensuring farmers have energy to bring in the harvest, as channeled by Al-Ahram.

Spending on Egypt’s construction sector could exceed USD 7.3 bn by the end of 2015, according to market analysis released by Collaboration, Management and Control solutions (CMCS), as reported by Construction Week Online. (Read)

Ahmed El-Alfi, GrEEK Campus get WSJ nod; Sawari Ventures to invest USD 10 mn this year. In the first of two pieces we’re noting here, an excellent story threatens to be overshadowed by the conflict in Yemen: WSJ editorial page writer Sohrab Ahmari, whose coverage on Egypt has been excellent and non-sensationalist (you can follow him on Twitter @SohrabAhmari) covers the vibrant and growing startup scene in Egypt, centered on the GrEEK Campus, Flat6Labs, and other players, whose story is often overshadowed by news of protests and unrest in the foreign press: “Scratch beneath the surface, and you’ll find a different Cairo populated by tech entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, new-media moguls and high-flying former émigrés who are now flocking home, attracted by the stable new climate and economic reforms initiated by the government of President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. Call it Startup Egypt.” Meanwhile, Al-Borsa reports that Sawari Ventures (the partnership between El-Alfi, Hani Sonbaty and ITWorx founder Wael Amin) announced it will increase investments by USD 10 mn to USD 60 mn this year. This comes after a previous announcement that Sawari would seek to raise a USD 50 mn venture fund. The fund aims to finance small businesses in Egypt and North Africa, Al-Borsa quotes Amin as saying. Also on deck for 2015 for Sawari, which recently opened a Lebanon office: expansion into Tunisia and Morocco.

Executive regs on coal use now await Cabinet approval: Environment Minister Khaled Fahmy says his ministry and the Ministry of Justice have signed off on executive regulations governing the use of coal to produce energy, adding that the rules now require cabinet review. The brief note from Egypt Independentgives no timeline for the review.

The Lawyer magazine published a piece by the Sharkawy & Sarhan law firm about Egypt’s new feed-in-tariff system and how it could provide a solution to Egypt’s energy woes (pdf download).

Listing holding companies on the EGX is primarily a political decision, says Sherif Sami, the head of EFSA. He noted that the legal framework to float the shares of any holding company doesn’t exist currently and strong political will is need to change that.

The electricity crisis that has gripped much of Egypt over the past week shows no sign of abating, with Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (throwback Thursday website here) warning in a press release yesterday that rolling outages are due to circumstances beyond its control, Al-Mal reported. The EEHC called on users to reduce consumption as much as possible — unlikely given the temperatures we’re expecting tomorrow.

FX UPDATE: If you’ve been following the USD rate on the parallel market (which we include in By the Numbers following On Your Way Out) you may have noted that the price has stabilized around EGP 7.65, with traders also reporting that trading volumes have dropped dramatically. Despite convergence in the rates, we’re hearing persistent reports — from three sources now — of a new move afoot by companies with significant hard currency needs offering discounts in return for payment to accounts held outside the country. The problem: official and parallel market rates are converging, but liquidity is still incredibly hard to come by in banks. In tandem, the CBE continues to pressure banks to refuse to honor FCY payments between Egyptian companies regardless of the currency of the invoice tendered — and regardless of the hard-currency component of the tendered invoice. (Read)

Habib El-Adly is a free man: The Mubarak-era Interior Minister who famously withdrew dakhleya forces from the nation’s streets on 28 January 2011 was released after spending four years in prison and / or pre-trial detention, state-run news agency MENA reported yesterday. El-Adly was recently acquitted on graft charges in the so-called “license plate” case alongside former PM Ahmed Nazif; El-Adly had been found not guilty last year of conspiring to kill protesters during the 25 January uprising. The ex-minister’s lawyer told Ahram Online that El-Adly “has served time for all convictions in separate cases, including a three-year jail term for exploiting subordinates and security vehicles for private purposes, and a one-month sentence for failing to uphold an administrative court decision while in office.”

Tourist arrivals to Egypt up 5.5% in January: CAPMAS. Total arrivals stood at 677,500 in January, CAPMAS reported yesterday, per the Cairo Post.

As many as 1,000 support staff at Ain Sokhna Port went on a wildcat strike yesterday, Egypt Independent reports. The workers, employed by a subsidiary of the Red Sea Ports Authority, are reportedly demanding payment of profit shares and allowances. The strike mushroomed yesterday after three workers were fired following labor action on Monday.

Al-Jazeera English trial recessed again; Fahmy could soon get new Canadian passport: The judge overseeing the so-called Marriott Cell trial cleared the way yesterday for former AJE Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy to file a police report that would allow him to apply for a replacement Canadian passport for the first time since he was arrested in 2013, the Globe and Mail reports.

The Ministry of Education moved to cut materials from school curricula that it believes encourage violence, as reported by Israeli news site YNet. The communications advisor to the education minister said the revisions were based on several studies and seek to “improve public morality,” according toAl Borsa.

INTERVIEW: Ahmed Kouchouk of the World Bank: Ahmed Kouchouk, the former head of macroeconomics at the Egyptian Ministry of Finance, whose departure in 2013, along with that of then-deputy minister Hany Kadry Dimian, signaled the beginning of the end for the patience of the talented individuals who were frustrated with working under the ineptitude of the Ikhwan, has now moved on to the World Bank. In this interview published by Daily News Egypt on Wednesday, Kouchouk expresses a renewed sense of optimism with regards to needed reforms and the overall investment climate, while still highlighting the remaining challenges which need to be addressed. (Read)

The Telegraph published on Wednesday a piece on the frustrations of tourists attempting to navigate the newly-announced visa regulations eliminating visas-upon-arrival in ‘Confusion mounts over Egypt visa rules’: “A spokesperson for the Association of British Travel Agents said that they had been advised by the Egyptian tourist office that the visa situation was still ‘under discussion’ and that member tour operators would be updated ‘as soon as we receive further clarification from the Egyptian authorities.’ Red Sea Holidays, one of the main providers of packages to the Red Sea resorts, said that it had not received any definitive statements regarding the visa situation, but that they were expecting to know “by the end of the week”. (Read in The Telegraph, with a pickup of the story also appearing in Travel Weekly)

Egyptian authorities are saying a Spanish team’s discovery of a 4,200 year old skeleton of an adult women shows the world’s oldest evidence of breast cancer. “The study of her remains shows the typical destructive damage provoked by the extension of a breast cancer as a metastasis,” the Minister of Antiquities said.

Borse Dubai to looking to sell LSE stake in USD 1.5 bn transaction. Borse Dubai, the holding company that owns the DFM and Nasdaq Dubai, is looking to sell its 17.4% stake in the London Stock Exchange through an accelerated bookbuilding process, Reuters reports. The exit would leave the Qatar Investment Authority as the largest single shareholder in the LSE. The Reuters piece offers no speculation as to what Borse Dubai would do with the proceeds.


If you need a brief respite from news of regional war, the following video is a must-watch for anyone who drives on Egypt’s roads. You’ll probably want to watch this more than once: How To Channel Your Road Rage Into Cold, Calculating Road Revenge, from The Onion. “He’s human, just like me. He has a family that loves him, and that’s an exploitable weakness.” (Watch, running time: 2:53)

A MESSAGE FROM PHAROS HOLDING: In an unprecedented move to boost investor confidence and the expectations of anchor creditors and donors, the Ministry of Finance published highlights of the FY16 budget three months ahead of the close of FY15. Highlights include an expected real GDP growth of 5% to USD 333 bn and a budget deficit of around 9.5-10% of GDP or EGP 253.3 to EGP 266.7 bn, at par with FY15’s EGP 256 bn. During the period between late 2010 and 2014, banks have been almost fully geared towards financing government requirements where the ratio of EGP T-bills and bonds to total assets at commercial banks jumped from 34.4% at the end 2010 to 45.9% by the end of 2014. Pharos Holding views that the stability in cash deficits in FY16, on the back of the ongoing fiscal consolidation measures and the windfall from lower oil prices, suggests that the percent of deposits channeled to treasuries at the banking sector has reached its cyclical peak. (Continue reading)


The signing of a declaration of principles on Nile water with Sudan and Ethiopia does not mean Egypt has accepted the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a senior government official toldAhram Online yesterday. “The head of Nile Water Resources Division at the ministry, Ahmed Bahaa El-Din, stressed that the principles do not indicate — even implicitly — that Egypt has acknowledged the storage capacity, or any other specifications of the Renaissance Dam.”

Meanwhile: Are we the only ones who see the irony in the fact that the widely used acronym for the dam — GERD — is also the acronym for persistent heartburn: gastroesophageal reflux disease?


Source blames the electricity law’s delay on Sisi’s travels
Al Borsa | 24 March 2015
President El Sisi’s travels are the reason behind the delay in issuing the electricity law, a government source told Al Borsa. The President was supposed to approve the law before the EEDC, but the investment law was prioritized and his subsequent travelling delayed it further still. The new law aims to shift the state’s role from operating the sector to just becoming a regulator. (Read in Arabic)

Alexandria’s power deficit leaves part of the governorate dark
Al Borsa | 25 March 2015
Western and eastern region of the governorate of Alexandria have reportedly been without power for the last two days, according to an article from Alborsa. A representative from the Alexandria Electricity Distribution Company attributed the outages to the governorates peak power deficit, which reportedly reached 2500 MW on Thursday. The source added that the company has been forced to cut power from certain parts of the governorate in order to overcome the shortage. The source concluded by asking Alexandrians to ration their electricity consumption. (Read in Arabic)


Egypt to receive first LNG cargo in the third week of April
Al Shorouk | 25 March 2015
A source at EGAS said Egypt will receive the first LNG cargo at the Sokhna port in the third week of April. Hoegh’s FSRU is expected to dock at the port before the end of the month. Khaled Abdel Badie noted that the government has agreed to earmark an extra USD 2 bn for LNG imports. (Read in Arabic)

Shell and Total offer to supply LNG to Egypt, EGAS tells them to wait for a tender
Al Shorouk | 25 March 2015
Shell and Total have offered to supply Egypt with LNG, according to a source at EGAS. The unnamed source said EGAS replied by instructing the companies to submit formal bids in EGAS’ next tender. EGAS will prepare a new LNG shipment tender once a deal for a second FSRU is finalized. (Read in Arabic)

Natural gas projects to increase in the next period
Al Mal | 24 March 2015
The Minister of Petroleum expects natural gas E&P activities to increase significantly following the new agreements signed at the EEDC. The minister expects that aerial services will increase as well as refining and petrochemicals projects. This will increase operational and maintenance activities, the minister said. (Read in Arabic)


Abu Qir Fertilizers receives financing offer from six banks
Al Mal | 25 March 2015
Six banks have offered to finance Abu Qir Fertilizers’ building an ammonium nitrate manufacturing nitrate. The loan offer has a maturity of 11 years and contains two tranches; a EUR 100 mn portion and another EGP 250 mn one.  The offer was presented by NBE, Banque Misr, AAIB, QNB, Emirates NBD, and CIB. (Read in Arabic)


Triquera BV unlikely to raise its bid for Minapharm
Al Mal | 25 March 2015
Triquera BV is unlikely to increase its bid for Minapharm Pharmaceuticals, a source told Al Mal. This follows speculations of a potential increase following an independent advisor’s assessment that concluded the offer was 4.6% below the fair value of EGP 39.21 per share. Triquera has presented a bid to acquire 46% of the Minapharm’s shares. (Read in Arabic)


HitekNOFAL investing EGP 300 mn in Egypt this year
Al Borsa | 25 March 2015
HitekNOFAL is set to invest up to EGP 300 mn in Egypt in 2015, according to the company’s marketing director. HitekNOFAL expects sales to grow 45% as it signed eight agreements for fiberoptic cables and network solutions with sub-Saharan African business. The agreements also include training on using the cable technology. (Read in Arabic)


Government to restructure PBDAC, curb losses
Al Borsa | 24 March 2015
The government is planning on restructuring the Principal Bank for Development and Agricultural Credit (PBDAC) to curb its losses that have increased over EGP 4 bn, Al Borsa reports. The restructuring process will leave PBDAC under the direct supervision of the CBE and stop having it linked to the Ministry of Agriculture. The vast number of branches the bank controls will also be reviewed with excess one sold. The government also aims to introduce sector-standard corporate governance mechanisms to PBDAC. (Read in Arabic)

Fawry to initiate online and mobile payments with CIB
Al Borsa | 25 March 2015
Fawry announced it is beginning to implement its online and mobile payment solutions with CIB following an agreement signed in January. Fawry is also working with the three local mobile operators on creating a payments solutions that are channeled directly to banks. Apart from a mobile money transfer deal signed with CIB, Fawry also has agreements with Bank Audi and Bank of Alexandria. (Read in Arabic)

NBE receives EGP 200 mn in financing from SFD
Amwal Al Ghad | 25 March 2015
NBE is receiving EGP 200 mn in funding from the Social Fund for Development (SFD) to finance SMEs. A source at NBE said this will be the third financing agreement that the bank secured this year. NBE aims extend EGP 1.645 bn in SME financing in 2015. (Read in Arabic)


HCWW submits request for EGP 400 mn in emergency projects
Al Borsa | 24 March 2015
The Holding Company for Water and Wastewater (HCWW) submitted a request to the housing ministry to approve EGP 400 mn in emergency projects during 4Q2014/15. The projects aim to improve the quality of the water and sewage network infrastructure, and the HCWW wants to tender the project out to contractors as soon as possible. (Read in Arabic)

Egyptian National Railways Authority cancels tender
Al Borsa | 25 March 2015
The Egyptian National Railway authority has cancelled its EGP 3 bn tender for the purchase of 100 train engines. The decision was taken due to a lack of interest from local and international companies. According to a representative from the authority, the Egyptian National Railway Authority plans to reissue the tender after several weeks.  (Read in Arabic)


Housing and Development Bank allocates EGP 4.5 bn for national projects
Al Borsa | 25 March 2015
The Housing and Development Bank has allocated EGP 4.5 bn for the financing of national projects, including the Suez Canal Development Project and  other large-scale infrastructure projects, said a source. The bank, according to the source, does not suffer from a shortage of liquidity and  plans to increase its loan-to-deposit from 40% to  70%, during the current fiscal year. (Read in Arabic)


Jordan signs USD 10 bn nuclear power plant deal with Russia
Reuters | 24 March 2015
Jordan signed a USD 10 bn agreement with Russia’s Rosatom setting the legal basis to build a 2,000 MW nuclear power station. The chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission commented on the deal saying it “suits Jordan’s needs in terms of power generation and the ability to produce electricity at very competitive prices.” Reuters reports that the deal “provides for a feasibility study, site evaluation process and an environmental impact assessment.” (Read)


A 10-year-old girl in Fayoum was killed when a bomb exploded outside her school yesterday.There are no words.

Sitting down with Mahmoud Saad on “Akher El Nahar”, Qalaa Holdings Chairman and Founder Ahmed Heikal was cautiously positive on the outcome of the EEDC. Heikal stressed that the government needs to follow through with investors to not lose momentum, adding that the country needs a yearly influx of USD 45 bn to get back on track. The government needs to work on protecting the rights of businesses and investors going forward. (Read in Arabic)

The Central Bank of Egypt has approved Banque Misr’s EGP 3.6 bn capital increase bringing it up to EGP 15 bn and an authorized capital increase to EGP 30 bn, Amwal Al Ghad reports.

Beltone Financial posted net profits of EGP 15.2 mn for FY14, compared to EGP 74.2 mn the previous year, Al Mal reports.

Suez Canal Authority Head Mohab Mamish expects the canal to generate revenues north of EGP 40 bn in FY2014-15. (Read in Arabic)

Playing Mozart makes patrons stay for longer and order more items: How restaurants can use psychological and behavioral economics tricks to make you eat less and spend more when dining out.  


USD CBE auction (last sale Wed, 25 March): 7.5301 (unchanged since Monday, 02 Feb)
USD parallel market (Wed, 25 March): 7.65 (unchanged since Monday, 23 March)

EGX30 (Wednesday): 9,198.46 (-1.80%)
Turnover: EGP 585.8 mn (8% below the 90-day average)

WTI: USD 49.79 (+1.18%)
Brent: USD 57.42 (+1.66%)

TASI: 8,868.1 (-5.0%)
ADX: 4,371.7 (-0.4%)
DFM: 3,434.7 (-2.2%)
KSE Weighted Index: 433.8 (-0.6%)
QE: 11,503.7 (-1.5%)
MSM: 6,274.6 (-0.1%)


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