Thursday, 26 November 2015

Dodging VAT will get you 5 years in prison


Alaa Arafa’s Dolphinus inks agreement to access gas from Israel’s Leviathan field (Speed Round)

Dodging the VAT could land you in prison for five years, but no need to fret if your revenues are under EGP 750K (Speed Round)

The CBE will flood the market with USD 1 bn in FX at the start of December (Speed Round)

Auto industry in an uproar over Customs Authority plan to issue price guidelines? (Speed Round)

Suez Canal Authority inks side-channel agreement in East Port Said (Speed Round)

Our first Unfortunate Quote of the Day (after Worth Reading)

On Your Way Out: President, advisors discuss “morality and conscience” committee + Google marks Asmahan’s 103rd birthday

By the Numbers + the markets on Wednesday


29.83% turnout in second stage of parliamentary elections, ‘For Love of Egypt’ sweeps lists: Turnout for the second round of parliamentary elections was 29.83%, according to the High Elections Committee, who held a press conference on Wednesday, Ahram Online reported. Out of 222 independent seats, 213 will head to runoff votes next week from 1-2 December.

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Tarek Amer takes over tomorrow as governor of the Central Bank of Egypt. We are yet to hear if he will start his official term with a press conference, or an extended interview to explain his policy highlights.


Ibrahim Eissa: Wahhabis, all day, every day: Ibrahim Eissa on Al Kahera Wal Nas recounted a brief history of the spread of Saudi-subsidised Wahhabi thought throughout the world. The Hanbali school, which is more commonly referred to in some circles as Wahhabism, is one of four Sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence, and has traditionally been confined to Saudi Arabia and did not play a significant role in Islamic history and civilization, as Eissa pointed out. While Eissa and others often use the terms Hanbali, Wahhabi and Salafi interchangeably, some Salafis view the term Wahhabi (the traditionalist revision of the already puritanical Hanbali school by preacher Muhammad ibn Abdel Wahhab) as derogatory. Abdel Wahhab’s alliance with Muhammad bin Saud helped forge and maintain the Saudi state. Eissa said that Saudi Arabia has opened 210 Islamic centers throughout the world to spread Wahhabi ideology, including the infamous Islamic Cultural Center of Belgium at the Great Mosque of Brussels.

The mosque has come under renewed interest as being one of several factors which have turned Belgium into a hotbed of militant Islamism. Last week, German outlet DW profiled the history of the mosque. “The Great Mosque of Brussels is financed by the Muslim World League, which receives most of its money from the Saudi Arabian government. The story of the mosque began in 1967, when Belgium’s state coffers were empty and the nation was looking for access to cheap oil. This motivated Belgium’s King Baudoin to cut an [agreement] with Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal Ibn Abd al-Aziz al-Saud: In exchange for cheap oil, Baudoin gave the Saudis a 99-year lease on the former Oriental Pavilion from the 1880 National Exhibition in Brussels, situated in Cinquantenaire Park. At the same time, the Belgians allowed their Saudi friends to train Muslim Imams to preach to the growing numbers of African and Maghrebi immigrants coming into the country. It gave the House of Saud carte blanche to spread the message of Salafism.”

Eissa finished his segment on Wahhabism by concluding: “Terrorism will not be solved by going around in circles without moving one step forward. The [non-Muslim] world is shackled by its financial interests [to Saudi Arabia] while the Arab world is shackled by its cowardice in confronting Wahhabism.”


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Gas from Israel’s Leviathan field will go to Alaa Arafa’s Dolphinus: Delek and Noble Energy, the partners in Israel’s offshore gas field Leviathan, announced they signed an agreement to supply gas to Dolphinus Holdings in Egypt, Reuters reported. The gas will be pumped via an existing underwater pipeline to Sinai built nearly a decade ago by East Mediterranean Gas (EMG). Reuters says the Leviathan will supply Dolphinus with up to 4 bcm of gas per year for 10-15 years priced similarly “to other contracts and is linked to the price of Brent oil.” Per Israeli media: “Dolphinus represents a consortium of large non-government industrial and commercial gas consumers in Egypt, gas distributors and ventures of Dr. Alaa Arafa,” the well-known manufacturer and retailer of ready-made garments. Arafa is also identified as the head of the group in past Delek disclosure documents.

A source at the Oil Ministry told Amwal Al Ghad that the Egyptian government has nothing to do with the signed agreement. The source reiterated that the conditions for private sector companies remain unchanged, and that they have receive prior approval from the government and the agreement has to be seen as beneficial to the economy while also helping resolve the arbitration cases filed against Egypt. Adds Reuters: “The companies said the new [agreement], which is still subject to numerous approvals, would not affect negotiations between Leviathan’s partners and Britain’s BG Group on a potential supply [agreement] to BG’s liquefied natural gas plant in Iduku, Egypt.” We have one question to get things started: The report implies that international arbitration on breach of contract surrounding the EMG pipeline (which had previously allowed Egypt to export gas to Israel) must be settled.

The Leviathan story is also getting significant play in the FT this morning, with the salmon-colored paper calling it a “preliminary agreement” that could be worth USD 10 bn over its 10-15 year lifetime.

Dodging the VAT could land you in prison for five years… The penalties for evading the value-added tax have been toughened to include prison sentences of six months to five years, Abdel Moniem Matar, the head of the Tax Authority said. Amwal Al Ghad reports that the Tax Authority is now working on improving it ability to fight tax evasion, in part through improving data collection and improving connectivity across the different government divisions. Just a friendly reminder here: Finance Minister Hani Dimian, who has maintained a very (very) low media profile in the past few weeks, is on record as promising that the VAT will be enacted before year’s end on zero prior notice.

…But no need to fret if your revenues are under EGP 750K, because the Tax Authority is considering raising the revenue requirement to be included in the VAT to that amount or even up to EGP 1 mn, up from its current EGP 500 mn. The move will be conditional on companies improving bookkeeping and auditing standards, said Matar at a conference organized by the Egyptian Society for Taxation.

…and Eni does not want to pay any VAT on Zohr’s output. A source at the company told Al Borsa that the Italian E&P company submitted a request to Matar asking it be exempted from paying VAT on Zohr. Eni says an article of its agreement with the Egyptian government exempts it from the tax. Unlike regular corporations that are taxed at 22.5% on their earning, oil and gas companies are bound by a 40% tax rate in Egypt.

The CBE will flood the market with USD 1 bn in FX at the start of December to help commercial banks cover their commitments to clients, Al Borsa reported. The funds are the second part of the USD 4 bn the CBE reportedly said it will inject into the market to support importers and help reduce the backlog or goods awaiting customs clearance. Federation of Egyptian Industries board member Mohamed El Bahy said USD 1 bn were already disbursed last week, and the remaining tranches will be injected after Tarek Amer assumes the CBE Governorship officially on 27 November.

The Suez Canal Authority signed an agreement with Suez Canal Container Terminals (SCCT) to dig a side channel at East Port Said, Al Masry Al Youm. The channel is 9.5 km long and will take around seven months to build. The project was agreed to in July and targets speeding up shipping movements in the area by allowing vessels to enter and exit East Port Said, and divert traffic from the canal’s entrance. SCCT, which is 55% owned by APM Terminals, part of the Maersk group, is paying USD 15 mn into the project, which carries a total investment cost of some USD 60 mn. The East Port Said side channel is expected to be completed by June 2016. Reuters and Al Mal list the cost of the project less than does AMAY, saying it will cost USD 36 mn with SCCT providing USD 7.5 mn.

The auto industry is in an uproar over the Customs Authority’s reported plan to issue new indicative price list for all automobile models, with some industry insiders claiming the move will hamper sales in an already difficult year, reports Al Mal.

Supply Minister Khaled Hanafi expects that 20-30 mn people will be removed from the supply subsidies smart card program after being found ineligible, according to Al Ahram. The finding comes as part of the ministry’s review of its database, a process that has been going on for the past few months in collaboration with the Military Production Ministry, said Hanafi at a roundtable discussion on food subsidies.

The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD)’s board approved a USD 100 mn loan to finance the 650 MW capacity expansion of the Cairo West power station, announced Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Egypt Ahmed Bin Abdel Aziz Qattan. The SFD—whose board is headed by the Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf—approved the loan as part of a series of Saudi development projects directed by King Salman, Al Mal.

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail’s cabinet had their weekly meeting yesterday. They started off the meeting with a minute of silence in memory of those killed in the terrorist attack in Arish the day before. The main decisions taken included:

  • Greenlighting procedures to obtain a USD 3 bn loan from World Bank focusing on three reform areas: creating savings that can be directed to social welfare; sustainable energy; and streamlining the investment process by creating the sainted “one-stop investment shop”;
  • Approving a designed to curb illegal migration. The law includes punishments of EGP 50k-200k and goes up to life sentences for human traffickers. Cabinet will also fund a media campaign to promote awareness of the dangers of illegal migration.
  • Approving a USD 50 mn loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to finance the Sharm El Sheikh Airport development project;
  • Approving the AfDB’s decision to allow Turkey and Luxembourg to subscribe to the bank’s capital increase, in addition to approving Egypt’s subscription in said capital increase (Read in Arabic);
  • Approving a EUR 15 mn loan from the French Development Agency (AFD) to fund an informal settlement development project;
  • Tasking the Suez Canal Authority with salvaging shipwrecks in the Alexandria Port area.
  • Allocating the land south of the Cairo-Suez road, meant for the new Administrative Capital, to NUCA and setting up EGP 100 per sqm price on land to speed up construction;
  • Preliminary approval of Sinohydro proposition to build a pumping and storage plant in Gabal Ataka;
  • Postponing overhead fees and social security receivables for tourism sector companies for six months with no interest or fines. Debts can then be paid back over 24 months with no interests.

This doesn’t sound the least bit dubious: Erdogan’s son-in-law appointed energy minister in new Turkish Cabinet: Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu secured approval for his new government from Erdogan on Tuesday — a cabinet that is wall-to-wall with Erdogan loyalists, including his son-in-law Berat Albayrak, who was named energy minister, France 24 reported.


Are Egypt’s brutal prisons incubating extremism? Mohamed Soltan recounts his two-year experience in Egyptian jails to The Intercept. Soltan notes that all walks of life can be found in Egyptian prisons, from hardline leftists to ISIS subordinates, but while they all get tortured and beaten, he says the Daesh crowd was neither discouraged nor distressed; they were, infact, recruiting. Between regular beatings, humiliation, and torture by guards, the prisoners would talk to one another. “The ISIS guys would come and tell everyone these nonviolent means don’t work, that Western countries only care about power and the Egyptian regime only understands force,” Soltan says, “When you’re in that type of situation and don’t have many options left, for some people these kinds of ideas start to make sense.” One notable point brought up so far in comments on the story: Soltan doesn’t identify a single person (named or unnamed) who he saw was actually recruited by Daesh.

Just as Egypt’s economic prospects began to improve, the country was hit with another string of crises, Bloomberg’s Tarek El Tablawy and Ahmed Feteha write. In response to a challenging economic situation, “Egyptian officials now blame the predicament on a conspiracy of events, with Britain and Russia both restricting tourists and raising questions over airport security.” Yasser El Shimy, a Boston University research fellow, criticized the government’s response, saying it “has been one of denial and doubling down on failed policies … All of these factors undermine President Sisi’s ability to maintain his tight grip over government.”

What should Muslims do in the wake of a new mounting wave of Islamophobia following Paris terrorist attacks? The latest answer to the most sophomoric philosophical question of our age came yesterday from political commentator Dr. Abdel Monem Said in Asharq Al-Awsat newspapers. Said says that the attack on the twin towers 14 years ago brought Muslim communities under the attack. Trying to defend themselves, Muslims always asked the West to distinguish between the majority of Muslims who are peaceful, and the few thousand terrorists who claim that their crimes are holy. He believes this time, we need actions rather than words. “The only way is to revolutionize religious speech. We need to fight Daesh by presenting the true version of Islam to the world; a religion that respects humanity and freedom of choice. … So far the Western countries and recently Russia are sending their warplanes to bomb Daesh camps. Muslim countries should participate more effectively, and maybe respond to recurrent calls to send boots on the ground to fight Daesh in Syria and Iraq.”


Samurai, spy, commando: who were the real ninja? Ninjutsu researcher Antony Cummins dispels some popular myths about ninjas, while describing other aspects to the secretive warrior group that are not widely known. The ninja is not a socially unclassified agent who performs deeds the over-romanticised ‘honourable’ samurai will not; instead, he is a bona fide samurai operative trained in propaganda, espionage, counter-espionage and commando tactics, whose place within the Japanese army was clearly understood. (Read)


“I spent an evening with Mohammed bin Salman at his office, and he wore me out.” —Thomas Friedman of the New York Times.


The best victory dance you will ever watch came yesterday from Egypt weightlifter Mohamed Ihab, who won not one, but two bronze medals at the World Weightlifting Championship that took place in Houston, Texas. Ihab who competes in the 77Kg division, lifted 162 Kg in the snatch to win his first bronze medal, and 201 Kg in the clean and jerk to win his second medal in the same day. By lifting a total of 363 Kg, Ihab scored a new Egyptian and African record. Want to bet whether Ihab receive the same attention footballers get? (Read in Arabic)


President Abdel Fattah El Sisi extended an official invitation to Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz to make a state visit Egypt, AMAY reports.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri met with his South Korean counterpart, Yun Byung-se, as part of his Far East trip. SIS said South Korea is looking forward to an official visit by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Shoukri invited Yun to visit Cairo. Shoukri also met with the head of the Korea Eximbank and reviewed planned South Korean investments in Egypt.


MIDOR will not go public, source confirms
The plans to list MIDOR on the EGX were cancelled, a source at the Oil Ministry told Al Shorouk. The source said MIDOR will use the loan agreement it signed with the Italian Export Credit Agency (SACE), which we reported on in July, will suffice to finance its expansion. MIDOR’s shareholders have reportedly also agreed to finance the remaining expansion by pumping USD 280 mn in.


Gov’t to triple industry rescue fund to EGP 500 mn
The Ismail government will more than triple the size of its “factory rescue fund” to EGP 500 mn from the originally announced EGP 150 mn, said Abla Abdel Lattif, the head of the President’s Economic Development Council. The fund will support eligible companies on a list of 871 endangered facilities whose products the state deems are viable in the market. Contributors to the fund include the government-affiliated Industrial Modernization Center, the National Investment Bank, and the Tahya Masr Fund. Trade and Industry Minister Tarek Kabil had announced the development of this rescue fund back in 1 November. As we noted earlier in the month, doubts about the efficacy of the fund were expressed by FEI board member Mohamed El Bahy, who noted that both former prime ministers Ibrahim Mahlab and Hazem El Beblawi had failed to provide ailing factories with support from an EGP 500 mn pool set aside for that purpose. (Read in Arabic)      


Abbvie to begin importing Qurevo Hepatitis-C cure next week
US pharmaceutical company Abbvie will begin importing the Sovaldi generic Qurevo next week. The government had contracted Abbvie to ship in 90K units of the Hepatitis-C cure in four months for EGP 3120 per unit, according to sources close to the [transaction], reports Al Borsa. The government will be paying the company for the drugs in EGP. The treatment course for the drug is expected to reach EGP 9360. The Ministry moved to end an agreement with Gilead Sciences to import Hep-C cure Harvoni, after the Ministry’s testing showed a drop in its cure rate to 53%, down from Gilead’s stated rate of 95%. (Read in Arabic)


Citymax Hotels opens its first hotel in Alexandria
Citymax Hotels, part of the hospitality division of Landmark Group, announced it opened its first international property in Alexandria. The new property is located in Hayat Alex Park and operates in partnership with property development group Marseilia. The hotel has 156 rooms and 46 hotel apartments. (Read)


NTRA issues new regulations for MSAN installation
The National Telecom Regulatory Authority (NTRA) has issued new regulations to Telecom Egypt on installing Multi Service Access Nodes (MSAN) due to losses sustained by ISPs. Internet cannot be cut for a period longer than 48 hours, says Wassim Arsani, CEO of Linkdotnet, while clients must be told ahead of time about the disconnect. Linkdotnet lost 12k customers in 3Q15 due to bad service caused by infrastructure upgrades. (Read in Arabic)


Al Kady Motors to invest EGP 300 mn in the Canal cities
Al Kady Motors—licensed distributors of Opel, Chevrolet, and Suzuki—plans to invest EGP 300 mn in new exhibition rooms, retail outlets and maintenance centers in Suez City, Port Said, and Ismailia, as part of its expansion plans, said the company chairman Ibrahim Al Kady. He adds that the move is in line with government plans to expand development in the Suez Canal region, and hopes the move will increase Al Kady Motors market share from its current 1%. (Read in Arabic)


METLICO receives license to operate in Egypt
Misr Emirates Takaful Life Insurance Company (METLICO) received its license to operate in Egypt early this month, and will begin operations by mid-December, said the company’s managing director Samy Sherif. The company plans to launch eight new products—six of which are group and individual life insurance product and have received EFSA approval. Two medical insurance packages are slated to be launch upon EFSA approval. The company is targeting EGP 10 mn in premiums in Egypt in its first year, and EGP 90 mn over the coming five years, said Sherif. (Read in Arabic)

Al Baraka Bank to promote 13.5% EGP CDs internationally
Al Baraka Bank will market its EGP-denominated certificates of deposit (CDs) internationally through its parent organisation, Al Mal reported. Al Baraka announced last week it was issuing CDs carrying an interest rate of 13.5%. As it aims to bring in more USD domestically, Al Baraka will begin promoting the CDs in the 15 countries where the banking group operates. The bank is specifically targeting Egyptian expats, but the issuance is also available to foreigners. (Read in Arabic)


Russian State Technologies Corporation (ROSTEC) said it is holding pre-contract delivery negotiations with Egypt for the supply of the Antey 2500 and Buk missile systems. The weapons were ordered by Egypt in 2014 and was part of an Egyptian-Russian arms agreement during the year. The sale is worth USD 1 bn and includes auxiliary technological equipment, launchers and other essential equipment to support the system.

“Hundreds” reportedly took to the streets in Luxor on Wednesday to protest police brutality in what they claim is another case of a detainee dying in police custody. Relatives of a 45-year-old man allege he was beaten to death after being arrested on drug charges. The Associated Press has run with the story internationally.

Former Air Force officer Hani Sharaf was reportedly arrested in Cairo Airport on 19 November on his way to Russia to visit his daughter, who studies there, Egypt Independent reported. While the newspaper says Sharaf has not been heard back from since, ONA reports he has been detained for 15 days by military prosecutors. Sharaf’s family alleges Sharaf was targeted on the suspicion he was to form an opposition political party. Geneva-based NGO AlKarama has sent an appeal to the United Nations. (We note Sharaf’s rank is variously given as colonel and major general in various publications.)


President Abdel Fattah El Sisi discussed with his Council of Scientists and Experts forming a “morality and conscience committee” under the auspices of the presidency, Al Mal reports. El Sisi suggested that promoting “correct morals and values” for society will help improve its work ethic and productivity. The president also discussed with the council how to improve pre-university education and the healthcare system.

Google celebrated singer / actress Asmahan’s 103rd birthday yesterday, making her the Google doodle. “Known for her powerful voice, versatility, and commanding stage presence, she earned great fame at a time when society often frowned upon women entertainers. Her success helped pave the way for the female performers who came after her… Today, for her 103rd birthday, we remember Asmahan for her legendary voice and historic career,” Google said.

How the US beat inflation: NPR’s Planet Money interview Paul Volcker, Chairman of the Federal Reserve under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan from August 1979 to August 1987. Following US President Gerald Ford’s famous Whip Inflation Now speech in 1974, along with the absurd 10-point emergency plan, described by Alan Greenspan, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, as “unbelievably stupid,” it was clear previous methods were not going to work. When Jimmy Carter needed a new Federal Reserve Chairman, Volcker was tapped despite telling Carter his method of reducing inflation, reducing the M1, or sum of all currency on the market, could cause a recession. What Volcker did was shift the Fed’s focus from interest rates to M1. It did indeed cause a recession, and it got worse before it got better, with inflation going up 2% in just two months since Volcker announced his plans. But when it took a while to get better, Volcker realized that inflation was becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy where people, in fear of inflation never going away, wanted higher wages, in turn, employers increased prices and the cycle continued.

And just in case you’re wondering if it’s worth having another look at your garden: U.S News reports that a “really old fence” has been discovered in the northern Nile Delta region. While a useful discovery for the struggling tourism sector, we’re not exactly sure it will be the tourist magnet the Antiquities Ministry are searching for.  (Read)

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USD CBE auction (Tuesday, 24 November): 7.7301 (unchanged since Wednesday, 11 November)
USD parallel market (Tuesday, 24 November): 8.60 (+0.05 from Sunday, 22 November, Reuters)

EGX30 (Wednesday): 6391.07 (1.1%)
Turnover: EGP 377.66 mn
EGX 30 year-to-date: -28.4%

THE MARKET ON WEDNESDAY: After strong performance by heavyweight CIB, rebounded from yester­day’s two-years low as it climbed 1.1% today. Regionally, key equity markets were little changed with Saudi’s Tadawul, Dubai’s DFM, and Abu Dhabi’s ADX closing in the green.
Globally, European stocks recovered from yester­day’s selloff with UK’s FTSE 100, France’s CAC 40, and Germany’s DAX all in the green zone.

Foreigners: Net Short | EGP -43.6 mn
Regional: Net Long | EGP +33.5 mn
Local: Net Long | EGP +10.1 mn

Retail: 48.9% of total trades | 48.2% of buyers | 49.6% of sellers
Institutions: 51.1% of total trades | 51.8% of buyers | 50.4% of sellers

Foreign: 28.2% of total | 22.4% of buyers | 33.9% of sellers
Regional: 8.7% of total | 13.2% of buyers | 4.3% of sellers
Domestic: 63.1% of total | 64.4% of buyers | 61.8% of sellers

WTI: USD 43.06 (+0.05%)
Brent: USD 46.17 (+0.11%)
Gold: USD 1,071.00 / troy ounce (+0.09%)

TASI: 7,208.36 (+0.09%)
ADX: 4,230.72 (+0.29%)
DFM: 3,214.52 (+0.17%)
KSE Weighted Index: 393.43 (+0.09%)
QE: 10,511.50 (-0.95%)
MSM:  5,695.80 (-0.81%)


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