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Sunday, 24 June 2018

What we’re tracking on 23 June 2018

** Our apologies for being a few minutes later than usual this morning, but it was a particularly busy weekend on the news front.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has postponed the unveiling of his government’s policy and legislative agenda to an as-yet unspecified later date, unnamed sources in the House tell Ahram Gate. Madbouly had been expected to present his program to legislators yesterday, but reportedly wants his ministers (sworn in only on 14 June) to have more time. The big unveil could come on 30 June, according to House spokesman Salah Hasaballah.

The House will vote today on the government’s EGP 70 bn overdraft request for the FY2017-18 state budget, according to Youm7. The overdraft, in large part to cover higher-than-planned spending on fuel, was originally scheduled to come up for a vote yesterday.

The Tenders and Auctions Act had also been expected to go up for a vote during a plenary session yesterday, but we’ve seen no confirmation the vote took place. The bill aims to streamline the tender process and set quotas for domestic components and SME contractors in state tenders.

The House will vote today on a presidential decree to extend the state of emergency for an additional three months retroactive to 1am CLT yesterday, according to Youm7. The state of emergency has been renewed every three months since April 2017.

Egypt, Greece and Cyprus are holding joint, multi-day military exercises starting today in a span of the Mediterranean between Crete and Egypt, Greece’s Ekathimerini reports.

Abraaj’s key funds are now owned by Colony Capital, an outfit with strong ties to both the ruling elite in the GCC and the Trump administration. Colony acquired on Thursday four funds from the Dubai-based private equity firm, including its North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Turkey and Latin America funds, reportedly paying about USD 250 mn and agreeing to oversee Abraaj’s other funds until they can be disposed of. A rival bid from Cerberus Capital Management had offered USD 125 mn for Abraaj’s asset management business, but not Abraaj’s underlying stakes in those funds. The news prompted blunt questions from the Financial Times’ Lex column and coverage from WSJ, Reuters and Bloomberg.

Background: You can read the announcement from Abraaj and Colony (pdf), explore Colony Capital’s website (it recently changed its name from Colony NorthStar, but that’s not reflected on the website yet), or learn more about Colony founder and Trump pal Tom Barrack in a recent New York Times piece.

The leaders of Ethiopia and Zimbabwe narrowly escaped separate assassination attempts yesterday, Bloomberg reports. An unidentified suspect threw a grenade at Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed “minutes after addressing tens of thousands of supporters at a rally in Addis Ababa.” The attack came just days after Ahmed said he was starting peace talks with Eritrea for the first time since 1998. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa survived an explosion at an election rally. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued statements strongly condemning both assassination attempts (here and here).

It’s a big day for Saudi Arabia as women get the legal right to drive for the first time. It’s front-page news just about everywhere this morning, with some including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times carrying multiple pieces. Both the WSJ and NYT zero in on the notion that men (on the road and through the guardianship system in KSA) will face pressure to change.

Speaking of KSA: Saudi Arabia has won an upgrade to MSCI emerging markets status as of mid-2019, according to Reuters.The kingdom, whose stock market has recently outperformed others in the GCC, should have a c. 2.6% weighting in the index once the deed is done. Hopes are for “current privatization efforts,” which include the initial public offering of state energy company Aramco, to continue expanding the scope of available growth opportunities in the market and increase its weight on the index, said MSCI MD and Global Head of Equity Solutions Sebastien Lieblich. Analysts interviewed by Bloomberg seemed to agree.

Tadawul will be working to make sure capital inflows in the coming months “will not adversely affect the market,” Reuters also says. The news of Saudi’s inclusion on the MSCI could generate as much as USD 45 bn in new capital inflows, much of which could be from “passive” investors, rather than “active” ones, who are likely to be less impacted by market fluctuations (i.e. less likely to flee at the first sign of turbulence).

It’s also a big day for Turkey as opinion polls reportedly show that today’s elections for the presidency and the parliament are both too close to call after 16 years of rule by Erdogan and his Justice and Development (AKP) party. At stake: Another five years in power, threatened by an “unusual show of unity from four opposition parties and their voters as well as the energetic and combative performance of Muharrem Ince, a former physics teacher who is a presidential candidate for the secularist CHP,” the Financial Times suggests. The New York Times’ Carlotta Gall looks at “signs the public is weary of Mr. Erdogan’s building mania” and focus on megaprojects. Meanwhile, Patrick Kingsley, the Guardian’s former Egypt correspondent, and Iliana Magra have an overview, also for the Gray Lady.

Chanel has published its financials for the first time in 108 years despite not being a publicly traded company. The fashion house made the move to end persistent rumors that it was so small it needed to merge with a larger outfit. Its USD 9.6 bn in 2017 revenues make it larger than Gucci and about the same size as Louis Vuitton. It’s not a precursor to a stock market listing, Business of Fashion reports.

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