Sunday, 5 April 2015

Visa-on-arrival cancellation is rescinded. Presenter Islam El Behery debates Al-Azhar on national TV. Conditions for Arabtec mn homes project released. Is Alabbar on his way out? Cabinet still tinkering with investment law. IMF ready to help if asked. Sisi, SCAF meet on Yemen.

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

The HSBC / Markit Economics Egypt Purchasing Managers’ Index will be released today 7:30am CLT. You can check it for yourself here, as we will have dispatched at least an hour prior to it being issued. ThePMIs for the UAE and KSA will also be out at the same time.

Also: It is Easter weekend for ‘western’ Christians.

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING THIS WEEK

Is Egypt laying the groundwork for an IMF facility? Or just chuffed at some praise? An overnight statement from Ittihadiya noted that President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has received a letter from IMF MD Christine Lagarde in which the latter “noted the success of the Egypt Economic Development Conference … [and] added that it was a testimony of the confidence the world has in the potential of Egypt. She also praised the reforms that Egypt has implemented and its overall economic plan, which aims to stabilize the economy while supporting investment-led growth… Lagarde asserted in her letter that the IMF stands ready to help Egypt in its endeavors in any way possible.”

Egypt and Ethiopia’s irrigation ministers will announce their selection of the consultancy firm that will be tasked with assessing the impact of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The consultancy firm will carry out new water and environmental studies on Ethiopia’s 6.3 GW GERD, whose findings the recently signed Principles Agreement between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan calls upon its signatories to abide. The timing of the meeting is yet to be specified beyond it taking place “in the first week of April.”

FINALLY: Did we mention that this coming weekend is a long weekend marking Coptic (Eastern) Easter and Sham El-Nessim?

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Lamees El Hadidy commended the Foreign Ministry ‘s decision to continue issuing on-arrival visas for foreigners until a proper system has been put in place to issue online visas for individuals travelers.

“I’m happy that the authorities have made the right decision. We had tourism investors like Samih Sawiris lobbying the government on this. They listened and they did the right thing. Let’s hope that this announcement makes it to the foreign press. We want them to write about this positive move just like they wrote about the announcement that was going to negatively impact our tourism industry,” said El Hadidy.

El Hadidy’s studio guest was Dr. Mohamed Saeed Idris, an expert on Iranian affairs from the Ahram Center of Political and Strategic Studies. He discussed Iran’s nuclear deal with the West and its implications on Egypt and the region.

“I think there is much to be learned from observing the way that the West, particularly the United States has dealt with Iran over the years,” said Idris. “Despite the sanctions Iran persevered and now look at where they are. The entire world has acknowledged that they are a nuclear power whether they like it or not. They have developed not only their nuclear infrastructure but also their manufacturing infrastructure.”

“We, on the other hand, did not have sanctions or embargoes imposed upon us. We were very open to the rest of world, but what have we accomplished? Our nuclear program basically stopped before it started. I think Iran is the winner in this deal. Their foreign policy is like their carpets — the more complicated it gets the more beautiful it gets. They forced the world to acknowledge them,” said Idris. He urged Egypt and the Gulf states to look to the example of Iran.

Osama Kamal hosted Egypt’s recently appointed Minister of Culture Abdel Wahed El Nabawi and veteran Egyptian actor Ezzat El Alaily for a discussion on the Ministry’s recent effort to support Egyptian cinema and theater.

“We are facing serious challenges today because of years and years of accumulated problems, neglect, corruption and a severe lack of funding,” said El Nabawi. “This year we are working with a budget of EGP 1.5 bn, next year we were promised EGP 5 bn by the President and the Prime Minister.”

The highlight of Kamal’s program, however, was a showdown of sorts between Sheikh Abdallah Roushdy,an Islamic researcher representing Al Azhar, and El Kahera Wel Nas presenter Islam El Behery, who has been under fire from Al Azhar for his controversial interpretation of Islamic doctrine. Last week, Al Azhar filed an official complaint to the General Authority for Investment, the government body that is in charge of regulating private television channels broadcast on satellite from free zones, demanding GAFI ban El Behery’s show.

“Tonight I’m in a rather unique position,” said Kamal. “I am a graduate of Al Azhar University, so I do maintain a certain degree of loyalty towards that institution, while I also have deep loyalty towards the television channel that airs my show, and of course Islam El Behery is a colleague for whom I have a great deal of respect.”

From the outset of the debate, El Behery took issue with Roushdy’s assumption that Al Azhar is the only authority when it comes Islamic issues.

“This is a false premise. The constitution states that Al Azhar is the primary source, but not the only source. Saying that they are the only source of information means that there can be no more thinkers. Does this mean that no one else is allowed to think, question and interpret? I find this completely unbelievable. It is against the law and against Islam,” said El Behery. “The kind of harsh attack that I have been subjected to by Al Azhar is unprecedented.”

And that’s the crux of it: More important than the substance of the debate (or the fact of it reportedly having broken viewership records) is that it happened on national television in the first place. If the topic resonates with you — and we think it should — have a look at Samuel Tadros’ argument for (among other things) placing Al Azhar under the supervision of the Education Ministry in this morning’s Worth Reading section. Open debate about the governance of religion is one of the many hallmarks of a pluralistic nation-state.

SPEED ROUND

Egypt’s FSRU has arrived in Egypt along with a cargo of 160,000 cubic meters of LNG, an EGAS official told Reuters.

As noted in our talk show review above, the Ministry of Foreign affairs has retracted its ban on visas-upon-arrival for tourists visiting Egypt without a tour operator. The MFA said the ban was retracted following talks tourism operators, who had voiced numerous concerns about the decision. The Ministry’s statement indicates the requirement is being postponed until an e-visa program is put into place. No timeline for the introduction of such a system has been given.

Final terms for Arabtec’s one mn homes project announced: Cabinet has set seven terms for Arabtec’s one mn units’ project, which will also apply to other affordable housing projects. The price of land will be equal to the price of infrastructure works on it, and will be paid in-kind through units handed over to the state. The project’s profit margin is capped at 7.5%, a unit’s size is limited to 120 sqm, and a developer has to build at least 10,000 units for any project. These regulations apply to affordable housing projects with an exception for those built in New Cairo, Sixth of October, Sheikh Zayed, and Shorouk. Reuters reports that Arabtec gained 5.2% in the wake of the terms being released. (Read in Arabic)

Snack maker Edita saw its share price close up 16.2% at EGP 21.50 in its EGX debut on Thursday, having opened the day at EGP 18.50. Reuters notes that the EGX was down 2.3% for the day on Thursday “as investors rushed to buy shares” in Edita, which the wire says announced on Wednesday that it was targeting a 32% rise in sales to EGP 2.5 bn in 2015. Meanwhile, depositary bank BNY Mellon issued a release as the LSE welcomed Edita to London.

Egyptian contractor at the heart of a dispute between Google and China: The Financial Timesclaims that a Heliopolis-based IT services company may have unwittingly played a role in a brewing fight between Google and China. For the internet geeks among you: Check out Google’s blog post on the matter here and MCS Egypt’s response here.

Where’s the new unified investment law? Apparently, wordsmiths in Cabinet are still tinkering with language on the law’s tax provisions, according to Investment Minister Ashraf Salman, according to an exceptionally brief note by the SIS. Meanwhile, Salman confirmed that the government will release a report tracking the progress of all deals inked at the EEDC (per Al Borsa), while Al Ahram has the minister saying cabinet will discuss listing treasury bills and bonds on the EGX in 2-3 weeks’ time.

Ittihadiya has denied rumors that interest payments on the Suez Canal development bonds have been cancelled, Al Borsa reported, with CBE Governor Hisham Ramez categorically denying any intention to rescind the interest payments.

YEMEN UPDATES: At a meeting of SCAF on Saturday, President Abdelfattah El Sisi reiterated that securing Red Sea navigation was a top priority for Egyptian and Arab security. Speculation in the domestic press is that the president discussed the conditions on which Egyptian troops would enter Yemen. On Friday, Egypt’s Chief of staff of the Egyptian armed forces Mahmoud Hegazi travelled to Saudi Arabia on Friday to attend a meeting with other Arab chiefs of staff to discuss the recently proposed joint Arab military force, according to a statement from the Egyptian military, as reported by Ahram Online. In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yemen Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin said: “We have received information from the ground that Saleh has fled via a Russian plane.” (Asharq Al-Awsat) Meanwhile, coverage in the Chinese and Russian media have been notably unfavorable regarding the airstrikes, a point which is further explored in a piece by Dina Ezzat in our Diplomacy section below. Meanwhile, the Red Cross on Saturday called for an immediate, 24-hour ceasefire in order provide medical assistance.

The new civil service law will bring an end to the practice of hiring on the basis of GPA and academic achievement, according Planning Minister Ashraf Al-Arabi. Rather, explained the minister, hiring would take place through a competitive recruitment process that will be part of the new civil services law. In another article, the minister stated that the new recruitment process would hire candidates based on qualifications and efficiency. Additionally, government employees would be required to work a minimum of 35 hours per week.

EFSA to force financial services professionals to become certified? Some financial services professionals will be required to obtain EFSA certification, according to EFSA chief Sherif Samy. Fund managers, research department heads, financial analysts, and money managers are amongst those Samy hinted would be required to obtain certifications. At present only CEOs are required to obtain EFSA certifications, according to Al Mal. (Read in Arabic)

France has eased its travel advisory on Taba and Luxor, according to statement by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as reported by Ahram Online. A color-coded map is available on the French Foreign Ministry’s website (scroll to the end of the page) which indicates that both Taba and Luxor require only a normal level of vigilance on the part of travellers, while it still classifies travel on the road between Taba and Sharm El Sheikh as unadvisable unless absolutely necessary.

Egyptian Resorts Company announces 2014 results: Egyptian Resorts Company (ERC), developers of high-profile resort community Sahl Hasheesh, announced on Friday its consolidated results for 2014, reporting gross revenues of EGP 113.6 mn, composed of EGP 41.7 mn in services revenues (up 29% y-o-y) and EGP 71.9 mn in activities revenues (up 728% y-o-y). Net revenues came in at EGP 51.3 mn as ERC terminated the land contract of a sub-developer in breach. The company posted a net loss of EGP 41.4 mn in 2014, compared to a net loss of EGP 47.7 mn in 2013. Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Kamel was quoted on the results as saying: “Topping ERC’s priorities for the coming year is to strike a balance between maximizing sales and liquidity in order to better shield the company from any unanticipated turbulence in the general macroeconomic and political climate and in the tourism sector. The company will focus on a small number of developers, while sparing no effort in ensuring the success of Tawaya, its joint project with Palm Hills Developments. ERC also plans to revamp its marketing strategy for Sahl Hasheesh in a concerted effort by the company to better its already lofty position and tourism market share, boost sales and maximize occupancy rates at the resort community. A key component of this new strategy will be to increasingly target domestic and Egyptian tourists to build up a loyal and regular following among this key sector demographic.”

How much does it cost to rent a koushk in Cairo? As much as EGP 15k per month, according to Al-Mal, which takes a look at the economics of the unlicensed convenience kiosks.

Banks will be emphasizing financial inclusiveness in the coming period, said CIB Chairman and MD Hisham Ezz Al-Arab in remarks this weekend.

Is your internet connection about to go down? Telecom Egypt announced a list of areas in which it plans to install fiber optic cables in place of the copper wires. If you live or work in West Cairo, New Cairo, and Giza, check out Al Borsa to see if you’re likely to ace service interruption.

Is Alabbar on his way out? Dubai property king’s outside deals stir investor unrest,’ blares the Reuters headline over a story that notes, “As chairman of Emaar Properties, Mohamed Alabbar has shaped much of Dubai’s skyline, but rapid growth in his outside real estate interests is raising the possibility of a rarity in the Gulf — open shareholder dissent. Speculation persists that Alabbar and Emaar, the company he founded in 1997, could soon part ways despite a categorical denial from the firm last month. His involvement in other firms’ projects, such as a planned USD 45 bn city in Egypt and developments from west Africa to the Balkans, has raised eyebrows.”

‘How the Eastern Mediterranean could supply natural gas to Europe’: Ariel Cohen, director of the Center for Energy Natural Resources and Geopolitics at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and principal at International Market Analysis, argues in WSJ’s Experts blog that the U.S. and the EU should pressure (he calls it “engage”) Erdogan in order to allow the proposed East Med pipeline linking natural gas from Israel and Cyprus through Turkish-occupied Cyprus and Turkey. Among the issues bogging the proposal down, which Cohen does not mention, are the actions of Israel’s antitrust chief David Gilo, in addition to Ankara’s insistence that it not only deserves tariffs on the gas passing through the pipeline, but actual claims on offshore Cypriot gas by virtue of its illegal occupation of northern Cyprus. Both the EU and the United States have thus far failed to take a firm stand on the issue, wavering between recognizing Cyprus’ EEZ to insisting that all parties, including Turkey, must be consulted with regard to the development of Cypriot offshore gas. (Read)

On Friday, the P5+1 states reached a 4-page framework agreement with Iran regarding eventual relief from sanctions in return for a scaling back of its nuclear program, termed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (full text available here via WSJ). The agreement is set to be finalized on 30 June 2015. The Egyptian foreign ministry was quoted on Friday as saying, “Egypt looks forward for the agreement to be a first step towards achieving stability in the region,” although according to one analyst, the statement is more of a product of Egypt attempting not to further estrange its relationship with the United States rather than a reflection of its true thinking on the agreement. In terms of reaction from Israel and the Arab states, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced his opposition to the agreement, as it does not completely dismantle Iran’s program. It is thought that Netanyahu will lobby for better terms before the 30 June deadline, or at the very least have a clause included regarding Israel’s right to exist. In Saudi newspaper Arab News on Saturday, the daily made sure to reiterate: “The Kingdom’s former intelligence chief, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, warned last month that ‘whatever comes out of these talks, we will want the same,’ specifically uranium enrichment capability.” The New York Times quoted an anonymous Saudi diplomat as saying: “Of course, things did not change … The agreement addresses one aspect but not the whole issue of Iranian expansionism.” Iran’s proxies are already gloating, with a Hezbollah MP boasting: “There is a global recognition of Iran as a member of the nuclear club.” Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, offers his take on the agreement on the Energy, Security, and Climate blog at theCouncil for Foreign Relations: “The nuclear limits – particularly those on the Iranian supply chain – are surprisingly strong and significant.” For further analysis, see the second piece in our Worth Reading section below.

Wastewater pumped into bedrock from fracking has been causing earthquakes in Oklahoma for five years, but officials there have been chalking it up to acts of God, The New York Times reports. The earthquakes are centered in a city named Prague (pronounced “prayg”; please find our pronunciation guide here, running time: 22 seconds).

Somalia’s Islamist militant group Al-Shabab on Thursday, with just five militants, stormed Kenya’s Garissa University College, systematically identifying Christians to murder. In all, 148 people were killed, many of them after failing tests of Qur’anic knowledge or after being unable to recite the shehada. Al-Shabab on Saturday threatened more attacks, as reported by the AP. What’s also disturbing is that while the AP explained the basis of the attacks in previous articles, nowhere is there any mention of the students being separated and targeted for being Christian in the AP’s follow-up, meaning the article doesn’t even perform it’s basic function of explaining why an event occurred. It’s disturbing as many Western media outlets rely on AP subscriptions for the newsfeeds, meaning this version is what many people in the United States are going to read. Pretending away Islamist terror will not only not make it go away, but it is incredibly condescending to Muslims everywhere, as if Muslims cannot simply handle reading the news as it happens. From the White House, to the media, to political analysts, the inability to plainly and openly speak about terrorism is absolutely toxic and unhelpful. Muslims are well aware of the nature of Islamist radicals; peaceful Muslims have suffered the most from their violence.

WORTH READING

Samuel Tadros continues to be exactly one of four individuals in the world writing anything worthwhile on Egyptian politics at the moment. That isn’t to say that his writing is without controversy or that he has any love for the Sisi administration. Rather, Tadros is interesting as he actually aims to identify where American and Egyptian interests converge — as each party defines its own interests. This is a dramatic departure from the way most analysts and scholars approach Egypt, continuously repackaging the same failed policy prescriptions they’ve been pushing in various forms for decades: the reduction or elimination of military and economic aid to Egypt. For more of the same, please refer to the two Washington Post pieces in Egypt in the News below. For new thinking on Egypt, see ‘A Reform Agenda For Egypt‘ in The National Interest, in which Tadros advocates for the Egyptian government to bring Azhar University under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, along with a number of reforms which are various degrees of lofty. However, the basic premise of his approach shouldn’t be discounted: there are openings for real reform that can happen in Egypt to help curb radicalism, if only we are willing to entertain new possibilities and ways of thinking on some very old problems.

Max Boot, the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, and described as “one of America’s leading military historians and foreign-policy analysts” by CFR, recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal: ‘Obama’s Mideast Realignment.’ “Mr. Obama is also doing little to contest Iran’s growing imperium in the Middle East, symbolized by the ubiquitous presence of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, which is charged with exporting Iran’s revolution. Tehran backs proxy militias such as Hezbollah, which has moved from its Lebanese base to support Iranian client Bashar Assad in Syria; the Badr Organization, which is leading the charge against Islamic State in Tikrit; and the Houthi militia that has taken over San’a, the capital of Yemen, and is now at the gates of Aden, a strategically vital port near the entrance to the Red Sea. All U.S. officials will say in response is that Iran’s actions are ‘helpful’ as long as they are not too ‘sectarian’—akin to praising Al Capone for providing liquor to the thirsty masses while piously expressing the hope that his conduct isn’t too criminal.” (Read)

WHAT YOU CLICKED ON LAST WEEK

The most-clicked links in Enterprise last week were:

  • Leaked memo on Egypt from Hilary Clinton’s personal spy ring (pdf)
  • Egyptian renewable energy FIT programme: Overview of developer and investor briefing (DNV GL website)
  • Egypt expects building boom in resilient real estate market (FT)
  • Edita investor relations website (Edita)
  • Finance Ministry sets EGP 7.75 as USD rate for upcoming budget year (Al-Shorouk)

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DIPLOMACY

‘Egypt beyond the Iran nuclear deal’: Citing analysts and unnamed diplomatic sources, Dina Ezzat of Ahram Online argues that Egypt is being dragged into a “sectarian religious war it does not subscribe to.” Ezzat argues that while Egypt under President El Sisi’s administration has made positive strides in seeking to improve its relations with nearly all states, especially Russia and China, the state is now being forced into choosing sides with the Yemen conflict, and that maintaining strong ties simultaneously with Saudi, Russia and China will be difficult if not impossible to maintain. (Read)

‘America’s Middle East Challenge’: Seyed Hossein Mousavian, former Iranian ambassador to Germany and former spokesperson for Iran’s team in nuclear negotiations with the EU and the IAEA, writes a real head-scratcher in AUC’s Cairo Review of Global Affairs. A second author is credited in the piece, Mehrdad Saberi, which could explain why the op-ed is so incredibly disjointed and difficult to understand. Mousavian’s main contentions are as follows, (as best as we can discern):

  • The United States aided Iraq in its use of chemical weapons in Iran;
  • Suspicions between Arabs and Iranians are the product of U.S. meddling;
  • The “coup” against Morsi was due to his warming up to Iran (that’s certainly news to Egypt and everyone living here);
  • Calling it the Persian Gulf, as he does in the article, is not the best way to make friends in this neighborhood;
  • Openly boasts that Iran dominates Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen;
  • Despite all of the above, says normalization between Egypt and Iran is of utmost importance and that a regional organization such as the EU should emerge including Iran and the Arab states.

We’ll have to get back to you. (Get lost in Mousavian’s funhouse maze that is America’s Middle East Challenge)

South African President Jacob Zuma recently concluded his official state visit to Egypt, where he announced his nation’s endorsement of Egypt’s bid for a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council on Egyptian state television, as reported by Ahram Online.

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

Egypt must deliver on reform promises, investors urge -WSJ: Nicolas Parasie of The Wall Street Journal notes that while the EEDC was a success, the focus now in Egypt should be on maintaining momentum by following through on promised reforms. “‘The issue now is to make sure you follow up on and implement those reforms,’ said Ahmed Heikal, chairman and founder of Qalaa Holdings, one of Egypt’s biggest domestic investors.” (Read)

The Washington Post offered up two op-eds condemning Egypt and the released hold on U.S. military aid.

‘Obama embraces the Nixon Doctrine in Egypt,’ by Robert Kagan and Michele Dunne. This article continues to put forth the argument that repression equals terrorism. Whether in Kenya on Thursday or in Libya with the beheading of 20 Copts and one African Christian, there’s an element in the West that is a bit squeamish about tackling the concept of Islamist militancy head-on, as if Islamists must have their agency stripped from them in what can only be called ‘Islamist exceptionalism,’ which seeks to treat them as a group incapable of any sort of accountability. The entire op-ed’s argument hinges on their claim that President Abdelfattah El Sisi’s campaign against violent extremists has caused an uptick in terrorism in Egypt. Interestingly enough, if one actually follows the link that the authors provide in their op-ed, (click on the infographic to enlarge) one notices that the uptick in Islamist violence occurred as a result of the ousting Morsi, nearly a full two-months before the Rabaa dispersal. Further, as the number of counterterrorism operations increased, the overall number of terror attacks has dwindled, nearly reaching the same level as before the removal of Morsi. One might still argue that the authors make room for political exclusion as opposed to simply police and military force. But the truth is that this is simply the delayed fulfillment of threats that the Ikhwan, notably Khairat El Shater, made before the announcement of the winner of the presidential elections in 2012, where he threatened that there would be blood on the streets.

The politics of restoring Egypt’s military aid,’ Tamara Cofman Wittes, former deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, The Washington Post. A more appropriate title might be ‘Hindsight is 20/20’ as Wittes points out: “Had the United States, back in July 2013, simply recognized Sissi’s military takeover for what it was – a coup – and suspended aid as required under the terms of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act, it would have angered the Egyptian military a great deal. But Obama also would have been able to resume full assistance much sooner, after Sissi’s election to the presidency in May 2014. Both sides would have understood the aid suspension as a temporary and specific measure required by pre-existing U.S. law and would long since have moved on.” The only problem with this, of course, is that Wittes never said anything like this before. At least not publicly, and Wittes has made her numerous and shifting recommendations on the U.S.’s policy toward Egypt very public. This is not a criticism against changing one’s views; that’s completely justifiable. But if Wittes can’t or won’t elaborate on how her position has changed and why, then each of her policy recommendations comes off as disjointed. Proposals she puts forth, like offering Egypt USD 5 bn in deferred economic aid in return for progress on rights issues and political benchmarks, are made and then abandoned, never to be heard from again. (As an aside, we’re not certain how Wittes arrived at USD 5 bn, or how offering to be paid in 5 years time when Egypt was in the midst of simultaneous crises could be framed as a serious incentive for modifying Egypt’s behavior.)

As a bit of a real-world juxtaposition to the above WaPo pieces, The Post’s travel writer Andrea Sachs gives a positive review of her visit to Egypt. (Read Tourists are trickling back to Egypt)

WORTH WATCHING

Veep Season 4: The Art of the Comeback (Watch, running time: 1:53). Season 4 starts one week from today on 12 April.

ENERGY, RENEWABLE ENERGY & SUBSIDY REFORM

EDEPCO secures EGP 750 mn syndicated loan
Amwal Al Ghad | 02 April 2015
NBE, CIB, and QNB have agreed to provide the East Delta Electricity Production Company (EDEPCO) with an EGP 750 mn loan. The first tranche of the loan is expected to be disbursed in a few days, Amwal Al Ghad said. Banque Misr has withdrew from the loan leaving NBE to provide EGP 450 mn. The loan is payable in eight years following a two-year grace period. (Read in Arabic)

OIL & GAS

Egypt paid IOCs USD 9.37 as of March’s end, USD 3.29 bn still owed
Reuters | 02 April 2015
Egypt owes IOCS USD 3.29 bn after having paid them USD 9.37 bn in the first three quarters of FY2015/16, a Ministry of Petroleum spokesperson told Reuters. The news wire reports that the ministry told it “last month that it aimed to fully repay its debt to energy firms by mid-2016.” (Read)

EGPC announces Western Desert discovery
Al Mal | 03 April 2015
EGPC announced a new oil and gas discovery in the Western Desert. The reserves found at the Abu Senan concession are estimated at 2.2 mn barrels of crude and 11 bcf of natural gas. The well dug on site has so far produced at an average rate of 1,385 barrels of crude per day. (Read in Arabic)

ADNOC issues tender to buy gasoil, gasoline for Egypt
Reuters | 01 April 2015
The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company issued a tender to buy Egypt up to nine cargoes, or 300,000 of gasoil for April delivery. Reuters reports that the tender seeks “up to six 33,000 tonne cargoes of 0.1%-sulphur gasoil for delivery to the port of Alexandria in April, and a further three 35,000 tonne cargoes for delivery to Suez.” ADNOC issued tenders to “buy up to four cargoes of gasoline, two each for Alexandria and Suez, and up to eight cargoes of fuel oil” for April delivery to EGPC. (Read)

Enppi awarded construction contract at Yasref’s Yanbu refinery
Al Mal | 02 April 2015
Enppi was awarded a construction contract at Yasref’s export refinery in Yanbu, KSA. The project includes designs and materials supply to the refinery and aims to build a 35 km road inside the refinery complex. Yasref is a Sinopec and Aramco JV in Saudi Arabia. (Read in Arabic)

EGPC’s output averages 65,000 barrels per day
Al Mal News | 03 April 2015
According to sources within the EGPC, the company’s average production across all its extracts amounted to 65,000 barrels of fuel per day, adding that the company plans to raise the bar further moving forward. The company also announced that it has increased its reserves of natural gas by 11 bn cubic feet, amid news of a substantial discovery in the Western Desert. (Read in Arabic)

BASIC MATERIALS & COMMODITIES

Metallurgical Industries Co. cuts IRON’s debt to El Nasr Co.’s by EGP 565 mn, lowers price of coal imports to EGP 2150 per ton
Al Borsa | 04 April 2015
The Metallurgical Industries Company (MIC) ruled in favor of reducing Egyptian Iron and Steel’s (IRON) payments owed to El Nasr Company for Coke and Chemicals by EGP 565 mn for coal imports running between 2011 and 2014. MIC had determined that the El Nasr Company had overcharged for coal imports over the past three years, charging anywhere between EGP 2400-2500 per ton. After forming an investigative committee to explore coal prices on the international market for those years, MIC amended the fair price value of coal imports to EGP 2150 per ton, thereby causing the reduction in payments. (Read in Arabic)

Ministry of Agriculture to work with ministry of industry and investment to supply gas to fertilizer plants
Al Borsa | 04 April 2015
The ministry of agriculture has redoubled its efforts to secure the 6.3 mn ton supply of urea and nitrate based fertilizers needed to cover the harsh summer planting season, in addition to plugging the supply shortage of 2.5 mn tons. According to sources within the ministry of agriculture, the ministry is teaming with the ministries of investment and industry to boost supplies of natural gas to fertilizer plants, in particular the Abu Kheir and Talkha factories, who are the biggest suppliers of fertilizer to agricultural cooperatives. (Read in Arabic)

REAL ESTATE

Qatari Diar commissions ECG to create a master plan for its Red Sea projects
Al Mal | 02 April 2015
Qatari Diar has commissioned ECG to create a master plan for a Red Sea project that had been on hold for eight years. The project is set to be built on a 29 mn square meter plot of land. Unnamed sources told Al Mal that Diar is planning on beginning construction in five months as all necessary approvals were obtained. The total investment value of the project is expected to be EGP 8 bn. (Read in Arabic)

Housing ministry to rely on private sector to provide services to the Dar Misr Project
Al Borsa | 01 April 2015
The Ministry of Housing will depend on the private sector to provide services to its Dar Misr affordable housing project. Majid Al Futtaim Group is commissioned to build shopping centers in eight new residential cities, beginning with small-sized centers to be built for the units of the first-phase. The ministry is also planning on having sports clubs built in six to eight of the new residential cities. According to another article in Al Borsa, construction on the project has begun. (Read in Arabic)

Ministry of Housing targets 100,000 residential units in partnership with private sector developers
Al Borsa | 04 April 2015
The ministry of housing is currently targeting the establishment of 100,000 new residential units in select recently established communities by partnering with private sector real estate developers. The plan—whose first phase managed to attract investments of EGP 15 bn—will seek to construct 75,000 low income units, with the cost of a unit exceeding other housing projects such as the “Mn Unit” project. The remaining 25,000 units will be included in the Dar Misr housing project. (Read in Arabic)

TOURISM

Cairo, Sharm El-Sheikh most likely to grow in MENA tourist destinations -Colliers
Daily News Egypt | 01 April 2015
Demand on Cairo hotels from March 2015 to May 2015 is expected to grow by 58%, with demand on hotels in Sharm El-Sheikh expected to increase by 29%, according to a report by Colliers International as noted by Daily News Egypt. The report also expects that occupancies in Cairo will reach 51% from the above-stated period at USD 64 per room, while occupancies in Sharm El-Sheikh are expected to be at 69% at USD 30 per room. (Read)

BANKING & FINANCE

New mortgage finance regulations approved
Amwal Al Ghad | 03 April 2015
PM Mahlab’s cabinet approved new regulations for mortgage financing. The new regulations introduce new financing mechanisms and allow for a wider access to the government’s mortgage finance fund for affordable housing. The new regulations also allow the state to allocate more land for affordable housing and open the door for EFSA to begin the process of establishing an association of mortgage financiers. (Read in Arabic)

Al Salam Holding to request listing on the EGX
Al Masry Al Youm | 02 April 2015
Kuwait’s Al Salam Holding Company’s general assembly agreed to request to list the company on the Egyptian bourse. The company is already listed in Dubai and Kuwait. (Read in Arabic)

OTHER BUSINESS NEWS OF NOTE

Government set to develop plastics industrial park in Alexandria governorate
Youm7 | 02 April 2015
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the Governorate of Alexandria have a signed a protocol of cooperation to develop a plastics industrial park in the district of Margham. According to the protocol, the governorate will be responsible for developing the necessary infrastructure for the industrial park. Upon completion, the industrial park should provide 1500 jobs. (Read in Arabic)

Only 0.1 % of Red Sea Governorate inhabited -report
Youm7 | 04 April 2015
The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) released a report titled “Egypt in Numbers” that revealed that the Red Sea Governorate is one of the lowest populated areas in Egypt. Out of a total of 119,000 total kilometers in the Red Sea Governorate, only 71.31 kilometers are currently populated, accounting for 0.1 % of the total area. South Sinai Governorate accounts for the lowest population density in Egypt with 9.9 people per square kilometer. The report stated that the Cairo Governorate had the highest population density in Egypt at 9.2 mn people out of the total population of Egypt at 87.96 mn people, with the populated area representing 190.40 kilometers (6.2%) out of total area of 3085 square kilometers. Egypt’s total populated area reached only 7.8% of Egypt’s area ratio. (Read in Arabic)

EGYPT POLITICS + ECONOMICS

Statement by SCAF: We will remain steadfast in rooting out terrorism in the Sinai
Youm7 | 04 April 2015
In an official statement released on Saturday, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces reaffirmed its resolve to root out terrorism in Sinai in the aftermath of deadly clashes on Thursday which saw five soldiers killed. SCAF went on to offer condolences to the families of those who have died. The statement comes after SCAF held an urgent meeting with the President Sissi exploring strategies to combat the insurgency in Sinai. Also explored in today’s meeting was the ongoing military operation in Yemen. (Read in Arabic)

Government works to resolve investment disputes
Al Borsa | 02 April 2015
According to the Minister of Investment, the ministry’s dispute resolution committee has resolved five longstanding investment disputes with several companies, including, but not limited to, Egypt Kuwait Holding, Indorama Shebin Textile, and Nile Cotton Ginning. Additionally, Egypt Kuwait Holding has suggested a plausible resolution for its land dispute in Ayat with the General Authority for Agricultural Development, added the minister. (Read in Arabic)

Ministry of Agriculture seeks to sign protocol with Italy
Al Mal | 04 April 2015
Minister of Agriculture Salah Helal said that Egypt seeks to sign a protocol with Italy during the Italian Minister of Agriculture’s visit to Egypt in the upcoming weeks. The visit seeks to strengthen relations between the two countries, especially in the fields of agricultural and human resource management to build a coherent and effective agricultural infrastructure in Egypt’s rural regions. In a meeting with Italian Ambassador to Egypt, Minister of Agriculture Salah Helal presented an overview of existing and ongoing projects between Egypt and Italy, including: Marsa Matrouh rural reforms, marine aquaculture development, economic and social development of the Egypt’s north and west coasts, development of Egypt’s rural communities and focusing on green economic investments. (Read in Arabic)

EGX shares hit their lowest point in a year
Al Borsa | 04 April 2015
Share prices of the EGX30 have dropped to their lowest levels in a year on Thursday. Among the shares that were hit the hardest were Pioneer Holdings whose shares dropped 4.13% to EGP 10.22, while Palm Hills Development’s shares plummeted 2.55% to EGP 3.99. (Read in Arabic)

Ministry of Industry and trade hastens efforts to form a unified Arab customs association
Al Borsa | 04 April 2015
According to Said Abdullah, head of the Trade Agreements and Foreign Trade Division at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the ministry is moving forward with negotiations to form a unified Arab customs association earnestly, adding that the executive charter of the draft law defining and governing the new association is currently being drafted. The association seeks to facilitate trade among Arab countries by freeing up the movement of goods, unifying scales, measurements and classifications of goods. He added that an Arab League meeting will be held in April to explore implementing the agreement. (Read in Arabic)

REGIONAL

Israel approves gas deal with Jordan
JPost | 02 April 2015
The Israeli PM and energy minister approved a deal to export natural gas from the Tamar gas field to Jordan. This follows the agreement signed between the operators of the Tamar field and Jordan. “While the signers initially agreed upon the provision of 1.8 bcm of gas at a fixed price, an additional 0.4 bcm has been approved to be provided as needed, using spot pricing,” JPost notes. The energy minister of Israel linked the deal to the “the Red Sea- Dead Sea canal project and the water agreements signed recently.” (Read)

ON YOUR WAY OUT

Tunisia is facing a refugee problem: 10% of its population is now comprised of Libyan refugees and now there are some complaints in Tunisia about moneyed Libyans and their behavior due to the rise of rents and strains on services. The World Bank’s Arab Voices blog presents a Syrian case study that could work in Tunisia.

A large-scale military operation is ongoing in North Sinai after ambushes left five soldiers and 15 terrorists dead on Thursday morning. The attacks were claimed by Daesh affiliate Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, according to Ahram Online, which also published an FAQ about the terror group.

Canada has refused to issue a replacement passport to former Al-Jazeera English bureau chiefMohamed Fahmy, according to Canada’s CBC, saying he has yet to fulfill his bail conditions.

Court adjourns trial of El-Sabagh witnesses accused of protesting: Per Ahram Online: An Egyptian court adjourned on Saturday the trial of 17 people who are charged with taking part in the peaceful protest on 24 January during which activist Shaimaa El-Sabagh was shot dead. … One of those charged, lawyer Azza Soleiman, has denied protesting and said she was having lunch at a café near the protest when she saw the dispersal. She has said that she came forward after witnessing Al-Sabagh being shot and volunteered to testify.”

Meanwhile, the re-trial of former president Hosni Mubarak and his sons on charges of squandering public funds opened on Saturday with prosecutors demanding “the maximum punishment.”

Twitter abides by Turkish court ruling to block Egyptian-British blogger Nervana Mahmoud’s tweet: Twitter has reportedly blocked a tweet written by Egyptian-British blogger Nervana Mahmoud as per a Turkish court’s ruling, as reported by Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman. The tweet read: “I am sorry but this is not the way to honour or vindicate Berkin Elvan” in reference to a picture attached to the tweet of the late Turkish prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz being held hostage by a terrorist. Berkin Elvan was a 15-year old Kurdish boy who died after being in a 9-month coma, which was brought on by being hit in the head with a tear gas canister as he left home to try to buy bread during demonstrations. His funeral was attended by thousands.

BY THE NUMBERS

USD CBE auction (last sale Thursday, 02 April): 7.5301 (unchanged since Monday, 02 Feb)
USD parallel market (Saturday, 04 April): 7.65 (unchanged since Monday, 23 March)

EGX30 (Thursday): 8,891.73 (-2.28%)
Turnover: EGP 795.6 mn (25% above the 90-day average)

WTI: USD 49.14 (-1.90%)
Brent: USD 54.95 (-3.77%)

TASI: 8,733.8 (-0.9%)
ADX: 4,538.7 (+1.0%)
DFM: 3,614.7 (+2.4%)
KSE Weighted Index: 424.8 (flat, 0.03%)
QE: 11,699.0 (+1.5%)
MSM: 6,268.5 (+0.5%)

 

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