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Sunday, 9 September 2018

What we’re tracking on 9 September 2018

**#1 AAIB boss Hassan Abdalla is out after more than a decade as the Egyptian-Kuwaiti joint venture’s vice-chairman and managing director. Abdalla, who was one of the most high-profile bank leaders facing the term limits the central bank has repeatedly mulled imposing, will reportedly serve as an advisor to Central Bank of Egypt Governor Tarek Amer. Accounts differ as to the position Abdalla is taking at the CBE, with AMAY and Al Shorouk saying he will be “first assistant governor,” a title that so far as we can tell does not presently exist at the central bank. (The term used in the press does not equate to the “deputy governor” ranks held by Gamal Negm and Lobna Helal.) The Arab African International Bank is a joint venture between the CBE and the Kuwait Investment Authority.

Sherif Elwy will apparently step in to run AAIB, according to domestic press reports. Elwy was previously deputy chairman at the National Bank of Egypt and country manager for Egypt at Arab Bank.

GERD project manager committed suicide: Ethiopian police have concluded that the project manager of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Simegnew Bekele, committed suicide, Reuters reports. Bekele was found dead in his car in Addis Ababa in July with a gunshot wound under his ear, raising suspicion that the case was a homicide. According to police, the “investigation had shown that the victim had been under pressure from delays in the construction of the dam.” There was widespread speculation in some quarters that Egypt could have been responsible for Bekele’s death.

The EFG Hermes London conference, the fall’s top gathering of frontier and emerging markets fund managers, kicks off tomorrow at Emirates Arsenal Stadium. The conference website is here.

It’s the 10-year anniversary of the global financial crisis this week. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy on 15 September, 2008. Look for plenty of “Where are we now?” and “The world really is going to send soon” stories in the days to come. Start with these:

“The financial crisis made us afraid of risk — for a while” is the headline atop a heavy-hitting piece from the Wall Street Journal this weekend. “The world has retreated from risk. That retreat has reshaped institutions, regulations and attitudes, and in the process the economy: It’s why economic growth has been so durable yet so muted, with less of the risk-taking that both drives booms and busts and raises long-run growth.” But risk is increasingly back on the menu, and “what remains unclear is whether it paves the way for years more of stable, crisis-free growth, or yet another bust.”

Confession of a crisis-era journalist: The FT’s John Authers admits that he knew there was a bank run taking place in 2008, and he neither said nor wrote anything about it. If he had, it might have precipitated a complete collapse of the US banking system.

Speaking of the end of the world: Where are we on the Emerging Markets Zombie Apocalypse? The global business press gave EM something a respite this weekend after currencies including the TRY and the ZAR gained against the USD, “helping the wider EM currency index to snap a three day losing streak to eke out small gains,” Reuters said.

The selloff is just another wave in the cycle: Developing economies are not facing a “systemic crisis,” the Financial Times said in one piece. Despite a recent drop into bear market status, EMs are set for a rebound, with expectations this year seeing aggregate GDP recording a 5% growth rate, despite the situations in Turkey and Argentina.

Can investors tell dogs from angels? The salmon-colored paper’s editorial board notes in another piece that “there are, happily, clear signs that investors are distinguishing between countries that have serious — and largely homegrown — problems, and those that have sounder fundamentals.

Either way, the EM Zombie Apocalypse still hasn’t reached 1997-2002 crisis levels, BlueBay Asset Management’s Timothy Ash also writes for the FT. For starters, most large EMs have freed their currency exchange regimes, which should in time help narrow current account deficits. Unlike in the past, EM debt levels have not reached alarming levels, oil prices are fairly stable, and “despite concerns about trade wars, both global trade and real GDP growth are holding up well” across most EMs. Now as well, foreign investors own a significant portion of EM government debt. “Such holdings tend to be heavily concentrated in favoured EM stories, including Argentina, Egypt, South Africa, Brazil, Turkey and Nigeria.”

Lex also thinks that the EM sell-off is overdone, with the influential page calling the Zombie Apocalypse “uncontagious” and noting that while selloffs in Argentina and Turkey may make sense, there’s “less logic to falls in stocks and bonds from countries with low levels of foreign currency debt and stronger balance sheets.”

Other headlines worth noting in brief:

  • The Donald is ready to slap China with another USD 267 bn in tariffs. (Reuters)
  • Former US President Barack Obama slapped The Donald (rhetorically) as he joined the fall election fray. (Politico)
  • Farewell, Smokey: If you’re of a certain age, you can’t help by have the feels knowing that Burt Reynolds (Cannonball Run, Smokey & The Bandit) died this weekend at age 82. The NYT has a great obit. Esquire looks at where you can stream / download his best movies, re-runs his iconic What I’ve Learned feature, and has a collection of him looking “cool as hell.”

New Apple gear this week: Apple fans will get their first look at what will likely be called the iPhone XS and Apple Watch 4 on Wednesday, 12 September sometime around 7pm CLT when the company’s fall product event kicks off. Also in the pipeline, tech journalists think, are MacBooks and redesigned iPads. You can stream the event here or click / tap here to add it to your calendar. Expect this to be prominent in the global business press all week — the Financial Times is already on it.

**PSA- Tuesday is officially a day off: The private sector will get a day off this Tuesday, 11 September in observance of Islamic New Year, Manpower Minister Mohamed Saafan confirmed in a statement picked up by Al Shorouk. Tuesday will be the first day of Muharram in the Hijri year 1440.

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