Thursday, 30 July 2015

Salman says 60% of investments pledged at EEDC are now contracted

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

The Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee is set to meet today to set interest rates.

A final verdict is expected today in the retrial of former Al Jazeera English journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste.

BG Group is set to announce 2Q15 results, with Shell to follow on Friday. BP announced quarterly results on Tuesday, posting a USD 6.3 bn loss on the back of lower crude prices and a USD 9.8 bn pre-tax charge to settle the 2010 Deepwater oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Windows 10 upgrade was made available in 190 countries starting from Wednesday, with Wired magazine publishing a very simple but straightforward guide to the upgrade, which is available for all registered Windows 7 / 8 users without charge. However, if your experience was the same as this writer’s, your Windows 10 upgrade icon has disappeared from your taskbar and your OS has yet to upgrade. If your Windows upgrade icon has vanished, you can still check on its status by clicking on the flag icon on your taskbar (the “Action Center”) and click on the Windows Update link in the lower left-hand corner, which gave this writer a message that his upgrade has been reserved along with an assurance of a notification of when it becomes available.

Lifehacker published on Wednesday a workaround for those still waiting for their upgrade that isunsupported and that we have not yet tried, but which we might if the upgrade fails to materialize by this weekend. As always, no matter what you choose to do, backup all of your data, and whatever you do, don’t complain to us if something goes wrong unless you enjoy the idea of strangers gathered around a screen laughing at your problems. Gizmodo has one of the more thorough aggregations of various reviews and tips, with some advice for those who are impatient: Wait to download Windows 10 for a month or two — until all the bugs are resolved.

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WHAT WE’RE TRACKING NEXT WEEK

US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to arrive in Cairo on Sunday, 2 August for the Egypt-U.S. strategic dialogue.

The inauguration of the New Suez Canal will take place on Thursday, 6 August, the same day Global Telecom will announce its results for the second quarter. Also a week from today: The 100,000 candidates running for the Republican presidential nomination will hold their first debate. (There are actually something like 17 declared candidates now; more seem to appear on near-daily basis.)

LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

Lamees El Hadidy on CBC Egypt hosted Ghada Abdelrazek, Egyptian actress and star of Ramadan serialEl Kaboos (The Nightmare). During the hour-long interview, Lamees asked Ghada a series of questions whose sole purpose was to flatter the actress.

Lamees: Did you lose weight?

Ghada: Yes, I lost 18 kg. [Lamees feigns shock] Filming El Kaboos drained me. It took so much energy to prepare myself for this role. I wasn’t happy with the way last year’s Ramadan serial, El Sayida El 2ola (The First Lady) turned out. This motivated me to work hard on El Kaboos.

Ibrahim Eissa on ONTV used his 25/30 show to explore unregulated theological institutes and their role in spreading extremist thought.

“What is the point of all these preaching institutes? The only thing these institutes achieve is to provide channels for extremist thought to spread and fester. They replace the moderate, tolerant Islam of Egypt with a conservative Bedouin version of our religion. We don’t need takfiri thought to spread in our country. Al Azhar should be the sole body responsible for instructing preachers and spreading religion,” Eissa said.

Khairy Ramadan on CBC Egypt discussed the state of the housing market with Housing Minister Dr. Moustafa Madbouly. “We need to build 300,000 housing units for youths annually in order to keep up with demand,” said the minister. Madbouly subsequently provided Ramadan with a run-down on the ministry’s land distribution plans. The ministry, according to Madbouly, has distributed 5,000 parcels of lands, ranging in size from 210 to 280 sqm.

Shortly after Madbouly’s departure, Vice Admiral Mohab Mameesh called-in to update viewers on the status of the Suez Canal. “The dredgers have left the canal; all the work is complete. The canal will be ready to receive ships on 6 August,” said Mameesh proudly.

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SPOTLIGHT on Ashraf Salman’s AMAY interview

Investment Minister Ashraf Salman spoke extensively on a number of key economic issues in an interview with Al Masry Al Youm, including the Economic Zones Law, which he states will be the sole mechanism governing the Suez Canal Development Project, which will be administered under the Northwest Gulf of Suez Authority. Pressed about delays, he added that the law had already been ready since June, but the law which will establish the authority has not been finished. He expects that these issues will be concluded by the end of August and the ministry could begin talking with investors from today, as the licenses to operate would take 30 days after the approval of a project’s feasibility study to be approved.

Speaking on the expected canal zone investments, Salman cited extensive Chinese investment plans for the area, although as of now nothing is concrete. He added that the president will visit China to solidify trade relations. He went on discuss the strategic and commercial advantages of the new canal and the canal area and the services which are offered and those will be a major driver of investment.

The discussion then focused on the agreements signed at the EEDC, with Salman announcing that 60% of the pledged USD 90 bn in investments have been cemented contractually, with USD 5.7 bn in direct investment already on hand. He also spoke on the Siemens projects and reiterated that they have been financed by both the company and German banks, with Egypt paying its share through instalments.

On the issue of the development of rural communities and how our 4.2% growth will trickle down to them, the Minister spoke on a number of policies, key of which was an upcoming “Transferable Benefits Law” which would allow rural residents to mortgage their machinery and other small disposable assets to obtain capital. (Read the full interview in Arabic)

SPEED ROUND

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The Cabinet returned to its customary Wednesday meeting schedule following the holiday break, coming back with a number of legislative decisions and actions. Policy decisions taken at the exceptionally packed meeting included:

  • Establishing a Corps of Engineers under a new department of the Ministry of the Interior whose functions will be similar to those of a sapper corps or any engineering corps in modern militaries, with an aim to facilitate and strengthen anti-terrorist operations.
  • Ratifying the Addis Ababa trade agreement signed between Egypt and Ethiopia on 3 November 2014 — we see the ratification as the latest step in the Sisi administration’s very on-point charm offensive with Ethiopia as it works to defuse tensions over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
  • Approving a USD 500 mn loan from the World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to finance the Social Housing Program Fund.
  • Granting the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) 48,000 feddans of land for the construction of New Al Alamein.
  • Privatizing over 5,300 feddans of government land for development
  • Supporting the Arab Organization for Industrialization and the New and Renewable Authority in their project to build two 2 MW solar power plants worth a combined USD 6 mn in the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of Egypt’s regional development framework.
  • Approving a number of infrastructure projects across Egypt’s governorates

(You can read these decisions and more in Arabic on Al Mal and El Balad)

Legislative decisions include:

  • Approving an amendment to Article 24 of the Insurance Supervision Law, which establishes government-run insurance funds to backstop national projects;
  • Approving an amendment to Article 18 of the Criminal Procedures Law that will require any individual looking to enter settlement talks with the state after facing corruption or other white-collar criminal charges to first return to Egypt to face a competent court with Egyptian counsel before being eligible to discuss what is popularly known as a “reconciliation agreement.”
  • Signing off on an amendment to Law 58 for the year 1978 governing the appointment of local community leaders mayors and elders. The amendment will restructure the national security arm of the committee that appoints mayors and elders in light of the security situation and the ease with which these offices can be allegedly be co-opted by terrorists.
  • Approving an amendment to Article 6 of the Traffic Law, which bans the import, manufacture, and license of any new trailers. Licenses can be renewed for up to one year for only one time. Violators of this law will spend no less than 6 months in prison and pay fines in between EGP 10-40K. This law is meant to facilitate commercial trucking traffic and ease traffic in general. (Read in Arabic)
  • Approving amendments to the articles governing the Maternity and Childhood Care Fund of the Child Law. The amendment calls for a formation of a board of trustees for this fund to be headed by the Housing Minister, who will be joined by General Secretary of the National Maternity and Childhood Council, with the remaining board consisting of sector heads or ministers.

‘Emaar IPO Flop Pops Red Flag for Egypt Bet on Property Boom’: Bloomberg’s Ahmed Namatalla examines the falling share price of Emaar Misr post-IPO, with investors now selling at the IPO price and analysts chalking it up to being a case of “unfortunate timing”. “I don’t think the property market is facing a downturn; on the contrary, there’s still strong demand and new project announcements … The safe haven in Egypt has always been real estate, it’s ingrained in the culture,” according to Arqaam Securities Brokerage executive Radi Elhelw. (Read, autoplay video of an unrelated article starts playing within a minute of following the link).

Iran cancels entry visa for seven nationalities including Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Bolivia, as a means to boost local tourism. Nationals of the seven countries will be able to stay in the country 15-90 days, depending on which passport they hold, AMAY reported.

No objections to importing Iranian oil after sanctions lifted –oil minister: In an interview with Al-Ahram, Minister of Petroleum Sherif Ismail announced that he has no problem importing Iranian crude oil after the sanctions have been lifted, noting that the Sumed pipeline had been negatively impacted by the export ban on Iran. Ismail added that his daily operational cost to supply the power stations is EGP 280 mn, or EGP 8.5 bn monthly. (We note we have been unable to find the story online; it appears to have run only in the print edition.)

New roadmap for Ethiopia’s Renaissance dam talks, next meeting on 20 August in Addis Ababa: The 8th meeting of the tripartite committee on the GERD will witness the signing of contracts with two consulting firms to conduct impact assessments, according to Minister of Irrigation Hossam Moghazi at a press conference on Tuesday, Ahram Online reported. The meeting’s timing gives Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia each a little over a week to go over the preliminary findings of the consultants, with the three riparian states reportedly have agreed upon the impact studies’ methodologies, Moghazi said.

World Bank approves USD 550 mn program to improve sanitation services for 800k rural Egyptians: The program, approved on Wednesday by the World Bank’s BOD, will see enhanced access to sanitation services for the rural poor as well as seek to redress pollution in the Nile stemming from untreated sewage, according to a press release from the WBG. “One of our strategic areas for supporting Egypt is improving service delivery especially for the poor … The program will improve the well-being of rural Egyptians who suffer from poor access to sanitation services and face serious environmental and health threats,” said Asad Alam, World Bank Country Director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti, who replaced the former director Hartwig Schafer, who has since gone on to assume the position of the WBG’s Vice President, Operations Policy and Country Services. (Read the release from the World Bank here)

CIB posts 2Q15 net profit of EGP 1.15 bn, up 23% y-o-y: Market bellwether CIB reported 2Q2015 results on Wednesday, with revenue up 17% over the same period at EGP 2.38 bn and net income surging 23% y-o-y. The bank’s earnings release (pdf) quotes Chairman Hisham Ezz Al-Arab as saying: “CIB continued its strong performance in the second-quarter, turning in record consolidated first-half top and bottom lines of EGP 4.97 billion and EGP 2.26 billion, an annual increase of over 30%. Loans continued their growth trend, with our loan portfolio adding EGP 6.2 billion in the first-half, a 12% year-to-date increase, with 75% coming from corporate clients. Balance sheet growth was driven by strong deposit performance that added EGP 21 billion (17%) in the first-half of 2015. The bank gained market share in both local and foreign currency deposits. More impressively, this growth was achieved while protecting our margins and spreads.”

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi issued a decree on Tuesday annulling a law issued by his predecessor, Adly Mansour, which gave the Supreme Constitutional Court a five-day window to examine and render a verdict on the constitutionality of electoral laws, Ahram Online reports. The Official Gazette published President El Sisi’s decree on Wednesday and the full text was published on Al Borsa. There are currently no outstanding appeals of electoral law waiting to be heard by the SCC.

EFSA is issuing new regulations governing the management of funds held by insurance companies. These regulations require that any investment fund associated with an insurer and having more than EGP 100 mn in AUM be managed by an EFSA-certified fund manager or employ a certified investment firm to manage the fund. (Read in Arabic)

TE Data’s new ADSL price scheme released in effect from yesterday? TE Data was scheduled to begin implementing its new pricing scheme for its high-speed ADSL internet services on Wednesday. A document from the company to distributors (obtained by Al Borsa) outlines the new prices, which will see 1 Mbps going for EGP 50 per month, while 2 Mbps ADSL packages will cost users EGP 140 per month.

24-hour access to East Port Said through new channel: Egypt is planning on allowing smaller ships in the Mediterranean direct access to East Port Said around the clock instead of just eight hours a day by building a side channel near the Suez Canal, reported Reuters. The project would allow vessels to enter and exit East Port Said, and divert traffic from the canal’s entrance, Klaus Holm Laursen, managing director of Suez Canal Container Terminal (SCCT), the company partially financing the project, told Reuters. SCCT is 55% owned by APM Terminals, part of the Maersk group, and is paying USD 15 mn into the project which a senior Suez Canal Authority source said would cost USD 60 mn to build.

As we noted on Sunday, Mubarak era ex-Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif was given a five year sentence, and an EGP 53.3 mn fine on charges of profiteering. In addition to the fine, Nazif has been ordered to pay back EGP 48.6 mn to the Egyptian government, AMAY reported. Nazif was also dismissed on Wednesday from Cairo University where he served as a professor in the Faculty of Engineering. While Nazif has appealed his sentences before, and can appeal this one too, the prison terms he has been handed have gotten longer on successive appeals.

A few hundred Libyans descended on Nasr City, the accidental Venice of Cairo, to hold a rally in support of Qaddafi’s son Seif Al Islam, who was recently sentenced to death in absentia by the Islamist rebels in Tripoli, despite his being held by another faction. Some held up portraits of the late Muammar Qaddafi, while others waved the solid green flag of Qadaffi’s Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. While some Libyans attending the rally demurred when asking by Enterprise staff if the gathering was for Seif Al Islam, choosing to say instead that the rally was “for all Libyans,” but the vast majority asked affirmed the rally was in response to the death sentence handed down.

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EGYPT IN THE NEWS

The Al Jazeera Three verdict “will send a message to [the] world”: Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welles has covered the ongoing re-trial of Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed. The article itself says nothing particularly new but offers an interesting German perspective for the “cracking down” by Egyptian officials against its media, citing a “no tolerance” policy for “independent voices” seen with restrictions placed on reporting official military figures or the total of 18 journalists currently imprisoned. The strain in Egyptian-Qatari relations over the court case is also mentioned. (Read)

Caught Between Egypt, Qatar -Mohamed Fahmy: Al Jazeera English journalist Mohamed Fahmy goes over the turbulent events he’s been through since his arrest on 29 December 2013, on the grounds of being a terrorist and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, in an article for the Huffington Post. He also sheds light on the deteriorating state of freedom of speech in both the West and the region. But most importantly, if Thursday’s verdict is to be negative, he will continue to fight for deportation to Canada as he refuses to be pulled in a “proxy war” between Qatar and Egypt.

The BBC covers the Obour furniture factory fire that left at least 25 dead. Stating that a further 22 were injured when a gas canister explosion ignited the building, the article claims that such accidents are “relatively common in Egypt.” (Read)

Check out photographs of the Suez Canal through the years in a slideshow by CNN titled: Egypt’s ambition: The Suez Canal, then and now.

WORTH WATCHING

The Wiresons – Opening Credits. (Watch, running time: 1:39, H/t Hisham A.).

Speaking of The Wire, the trailer show creator David Simon’s new HBO miniseries Show Me a Hero was released earlier this month, (Watch, running time: 1:42) with the series premiere set for 16 August.

DIPLOMACY

US media criticism will not affect Egypt -MFA: “Criticism in US media outlets will not be taken into consideration as long as they are not official statements … ‘All we care about is that Obama and Kerry have stated the importance to strengthen ties between Egypt and US and need to act accordingly,’” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Badr Abdel Atty told Al-Ahram Arabic, as reported by Ahram Online. The statement came in response to the various media critiques aimed at Egypt, as well as the open letter sent to US Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to press Egypt on reforms and human rights issues.

ENERGY

EGAS extends deadline on LNG tender
Al Shorouk | 29 July 2015
The Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) extended the deadline for the tender on 45 shipments of LNG to 2 August, said EGAS President Khaled Abdel Badei. The original tender issued by EGAS was to end by 27 July, but a number of gas exporters have expressed the need for an extension, said Abdel Badei, hoping to provide 700 mcf daily for the coming two years. (Read in Arabic)

133 mcm daily to generate electricity
Al Borsa | 28 July 2015
A number of neighbourhoods have experienced power cuts in the last couple of days despite a 1200 MW surplus in output. EGAS is pumping an additional 133 mcm daily to account for the rise in temperature. The 133 mcm breaks down into 97 mcm of natural gas, 27 thousand tons of mazut and 4000 tons of diesel, sources told Al Borsa, noting that should demand increase further, no additional gas can be provided and mazut will be given instead. The Ministry of Electricity had requested 143 mcm daily of gas and equivalents, the source says, but the plants have not withdrawn that amount yet. (Read in Arabic)

Badr City Authority to issue tender for power station
Al Mal | 29 July 2015
The Badr City Authority is planning on issuing a public tender to contracting companies to build a 160 MW power station within the coming month. The power station will exceed the demand needed for the industrial zone, in addition to some nearby neighbourhoods, said head of the Badr City Authority Mostafa Fahmy. The authority has placed an EGP 1 bn budget for FY 2015/16 to be used for infrastructure and facilities including roads and sewage. (Read in Arabic)

BASIC MATERIALS & COMMODITIES

Livestock imports from Chile could get green light
Al Mal | 29 July 2015
The General Organization for Veterinary Services is studying adding Chile to its list of approved suppliers of livestock, making it the fourth supplier from South America alongside Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. Chilean livestock is characterized by its high quality, said Sayed Gad, head of the Central Administration for Veterinary Quarantine, adding that veterinary committees have gone to Chile to inspect as a place of origin in accordance to Egyptian standards. (Read in Arabic)

HEALTH & EDUCATION

Egy Vac revenues reach EGP 500 mn
Al Mal | 29 July 2015
The Egyptian Company for Vaccines, Sera & Drugs (Egy Vac), a subsidiary of VACSERA, posted revenue of EGP 500 mn in FY 2014, announced Egy Vac chairman Nabil El-Biblawi. He added that net profit for the year amounted to EGP 22 mn, which he plans to boost to EGP 30 mn in FY 2015. (Read in Arabic)

REAL ESTATE & HOUSING

Tatweer Misr pumps EGP 10 bn into real estate projects
Al Mal | 29 July 2015
Tatweer Misr for real estate development announced it was planning on investing EGP 10 bn into real estate projects to penetrate the local market, said managing director Ahmed Shalaby. The first project is Galala in Ain El Sokhna, which will be built over 2.2 mn acres to be launched next September with an estimated cost of EGP 8 bn an estimated total return of EGP 15 bn over 10 years. All profits in the first five years will be redirected into company projects. (Read in Arabic)

TELECOMS & ICT

Mobinil reduces consolidated losses to EGP 91 mn
Al Mal | 29 July 2015
Mobinil has managed to reduce its consolidated losses by 73.6% to EGP 91.1 mn in 2Q15, down from EGP 344.4 mn in the same period last year. Total revenues by 30 June were EGP 5.6 bn, compared to EGP 5.4 bn last year. (Read in Arabic)

AUTOMOTIVE & TRANSPORTATION

Tuktuks banned in downtown Cairo and seven other neighborhoods
Al Masry Al Youm | 29 July 2015
Cairo Governor Galal Mostafa Saeed issued a decree banning the use of tuktuks in the streets of central Cairo as just a first phase. The neighbourhoods include downtown Cairo, Azbakeya, Abdin, El Mosky, El Waily, Bab El Sheria, and Boulaq Abo El Ela. Any tuktuks in violation of the decree will be confiscated, and will not be returned without proof of ownership, a declaration to not repeat the offence, and an EGP 1,500 fine. (Read in Arabic)

SISCOM Group begins talks with Cairo Metro over Line 3 automation
Al Borsa | 29 July 2015
SISCOM Group has entered into negotiations with the Egyptian Company for Metro Management and Operations (Cairo Metro) over the latter’s EGP 20 mn project to automate Line 3 of its metro system, Al Borsa reports, although the tender for the project has yet to be issued. SISCOM is an Egyptian provider of data products and services, and aims to increase its aggregate sales in Egypt to EGP 30 mn before the end of the current fiscal year, according to company sales manager Ahmed Hassaan. (Read in Arabic)

OTHER BUSINESS NEWS OF NOTE

EGP 100 mn grant to Sudan to develop water resources
Amwal Al Ghad | 29 July 2015
The Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Hossam Moghazi announced on Tuesday an EGP 100 mn grant to Sudan to develop water resources. The grant will cover the building of rainwater storage and freshwater wells, alongside specialized training into irrigation and agriculture technology. (Read in Arabic)

NATIONAL SECURITY

Policeman killed in drive-by shooting at Niger Embassy in Cairo: One police officer was killed and three injured when unknown gunmen opened fire on the Embassy of Niger in Cairo in Giza early Wednesday morning, according to the MOI and as reported by Ahram Online. The attack took place around 1 am local time and marks the second attack on a foreign mission this month following the bombing of the Italian Consulate in Cairo.

REGIONAL

Etisalat posts 2Q 2015 results, net profit down 40% y-o-y: Etisalat’s second quarter net profits declined by 40% y-o-y, falling to AED 1.5 bn. The company attributed the sharp decline “to higher depreciation and amortization charges, the impact of Mobily’s additional provision for accounts receivables, higher net finance costs and incurring forex losses during the period against forex gains in the same period last year,” said Group Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Julfar in an official statement. (Read)

EGYPT POLITICS + ECONOMICS

Political rights and parliamentary laws must be issued quickly, say parties
Al Shorouk | 29 July 2015
Political parties have expressed their surprise at how late the electoral law amendment committee is at issuing the political rights and parliamentary laws, highlighting that the very fact that there’s only one body in charge of this will impact the country negatively. Tarek Sabak, deputy head of Al Wafd party criticized the committee, noting that it is the same body that issued the laws that were considered unconstitutional to begin with. (Read in Arabic)

ON YOUR WAY OUT

Edita’s board of directors has approved a EGP 36.8 mn capital increase for subsidiary Edita for Sweet Production. (Read in Arabic)

Prime Minister Mahlab issued a call to arms to turn around the country’s dilapidated schools and crumbling public school system, announcing that the horrible conditions of old must be addressed by the next term. Speaking after a meeting with the Education Minister, Mahlab insisted that reforms will include shutting down private tutoring centers, fixing broken schools, and having books arrive on time for the next school year. (Read in Arabic)

Real estate financing has grown 93% year-on-year in 1H15, with companies dishing out EGP 542 mn, up from EGP 280 mn in the same period last year, said EFSA head Sherif Sami. Assets these funds have financed have now reached a EGP 2.6 bn valuation. Real state refinancing has grown to EGP 73 mn year-on-year in 1H15, up from EGP 13 mn, Al Mal reports. EFSA also reports that finance leasing has grown a staggering 217% to EGP 9 bn in 1H15 year-on-year, according to Al Mal.

Helwan University researchers innovate energy-efficient system for moisture farming: Material scientist Clara Piccirillo writes in Decoded Science that researchers from Helwan University, who published their results earlier this month in the journal Energy, have created a system that extracts moisture from humid air using calcium chloride, opening up the possibility of aiding those facing water scarcity in remote areas. While vapor collection technology has been around for some time, the Egyptian researchers’ innovative method uses solar energy for water extraction.

No context necessary, or possible: BoHeman Rhapsody. (Watch, running time: 5:19)

BY THE NUMBERS

USD CBE auction (Tuesday, 28 July): 7.7301 (unchanged since Sunday, 05 July)
USD parallel market (Tuesday, 28 July): 7.88 (+0.01 from Sunday, 26 July)

EGX30 (Wednesday): 8,105.69 (+1.96%)
Turnover: EGP 522.9 mn (12% above the 90-day average)

WTI: USD 48.95 (+0.33%)
Brent: USD 53.38 (+0.15%)

TASI: 9,107.4 (+0.2%)
ADX: 4,822.0 (-0.7%)
DFM: 4,131.8 (+0.5%)
KSE Weighted Index: 418.7 (flat)
QE: 11,822.2 (-0.1%)
MSM: 6,555.9 (flat)

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