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Tuesday, 18 September 2018

What we’re tracking on 18 September 2018

**#9 Robots are going to eat Egyptian jobs at Vodafone: Vodafone will be laying off around 1,700 employees from “shared service centers” in Egypt, India and Romania this year to replace them with robots, incoming CEO Nick Read said in an interview with the Financial Times. The move is part of the company’s plans to cut as much as EUR 8 bn in costs.

You really, really need to think about what this means to your business: Machines will do half of our labor in less than eight years, a new study by the World Economic Forum warns. “Examining large companies in 20 advanced and developing economies, the report said that by 2022, machines will carry out 42% of the labor — and an accelerated 52% just three years later,” Axios notes.

Spotlight on FDI: With portfolio investment outflows reach a high, the Investment Ministry threw a bash yesterday for local and foreign direct investors at which minister Sahar Nasr lined up 25 foreign companies to emphasize how much they’ve invested so far in the country and what they plan to do next. These companies include Schneider Electric, Cargill, and Unilever, according to a ministry statement. Among the local companies present was Qalaa Holdings, whose founder Ahmed Heikal said would be investing EGP 30-32 bn in a variety of sectors in the coming period, according to Al Mal.

Egypt, Cyprus could sign USD 1 bn gas pipeline agreement this week: Oil Minister Tarek El Molla and Cyprus Energy Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis are expected to sign as early as this week an agreement establishing the USD 1 bn pipeline connecting the Aphrodite gas field to liquefaction plants in Egypt, reports Cyprus Mail. The signing will reportedly happen in Nicosia. The high-level political agreement would set the regulatory framework and the technical specs for gas exported through the pipeline, energy analyst Charles Ellinas says. It would not cover the price of the gas, a commercial matter that would be set by the operators of Aphrodite and the Egyptian liquefaction plants. The pipeline is a crucial stepping stone towards Egypt’s bid to become the Eastern Med’s premier energy hub as it plans to re-export a portion of the LNG to Europe after satisfying local demand.

Possible hiccups: The operators of Aphrodite — Noble Energy, Delek, and Shell — are embroiled in tough negotiations with the Cypriot government over the production sharing agreement. The government had agreed last month to continue negotiations, though we have not heard word of a breakthrough.

Also complicating matters is a dispute between Cyprus and Israel over the economic exclusion zone under a maritime border delineation agreement. Egypt had gotten is export hub plan underway by signing a USD 15 bn agreement to import gas from Israel’s Leviathan field.

PSA- Maait visit to AmCham postponed to tomorrow. Folks planning on attending today’s appearance by Finance Minister Mohamed Maait at AmCham now have an open slot on their calendars: The minister’s appearance has been moved to tomorrow (Wednesday, 19 September) due to an unforeseen high-level commitment, we’re told. The gathering will take place at the Cairo Marriott Hotel.

Business idea of the morning: The Donald has taken the trade war with China to the next level, slapping a 10% duty on USD 200 bn worth of Chinese goods and threatening to hike the duty to 25% next year if the two sides don’t come to an agreement. (See more in the FT, the WSJ or Reuters, as you prefer.)

And that may be a great opportunity for Egypt to sell more to China, Livia Yap and Dan Murtaugh write for Bloomberg. With high duties now imposed on imports of US fruits, traders — such as the Singapore-based Sunmoon Food Co — have been looking elsewhere to plug the gap in the market, buying “navel oranges from Egypt, kiwis from Italy and apples from Poland.” China imported fruits worth USD 6.2 bn last year alone, 10x more than in 2015, which serves as a good indication that the figure will continue to rise. “Like with any trade war or political upheaval, there will always be certain re-balancing along the markets,” said Sunmoon CEO Gary Loh. “Companies like ours can take advantage of this and introduce new products into new markets.” Egypt became China’s third largest citrus source market in February and has been looking to expand the range of its agricultural exports to the country by adding crops including dates, potatoes, and mangoes to the list of approved products.

Bankers lovin’ some fintech, take note: Everyone in Washington, DC, is stalking today about a Senate hearing next week that will delve into allegations of [redacted] misconduct levied against The Donald’s supreme court nominee. But the one that matters most to those of us toiling at the salt mines here in Egypt? That would be today’s Senate Banking Committee hearing headlined Fintech: Examining Digitization, Data, and Technology, set to kick off at 4pm CLT. The hearing will pit a consumer rights activist against a senior exec from Fidelity, with academics also offering their two cents.

Why should you care? With banks increasingly jumping on the fintech bandwagon, writes the Financial Times’ Rana Foroohar, “Just imagine if your Facebook page had a checking account attached. What could go wrong?” Today’s hearing is following up on a Treasury Department report from this summer that “talks approvingly of data sharing among technology companies and big banks to create efficiency, scale and lower consumer prices. The report puts rather less focus on the systemic risk and predatory pricing that could emerge if the world’s largest technology companies and the biggest banks on Wall Street share consumer data. You can live stream the hearing here or read Faroohar’s column here.

Other headlines worth a moment of your time this morning:

Goldman’s regional boss has new duties. Richard Gnodde, the firm’s Europe, Middle East and Africa boss, is now “responsible for the rest of the firm’s activities outside North America,” the FT reports.

Business books of the year: The short list for the Financial Times / McKinsey Business Book of the Year is out. Former Fed boss Alan Greenspan’s Capitalism in America (“a sweeping history of US economics and business”) and John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood (on fraud and the meltdown of blood testing outfit Theranos) are on the list.

Applications to top-tier American MBA programs declined this year, with Harvard, NYU, Duke and Berkeley all reporting dips. Why? “blame the decline on conditions in the US market, where a combination of fast-rising tuition fees and a lack of employers willing to fund student places.” (Financial Times)

With nothing new under the sun in the Emerging Markets Zombie Apocalypse, the global financial press is now reporting that “a string of key EM crises still looks unlikely” (Financial Times) and that the “rout is now nearing a turning point” (Templeton, cited by Bloomberg).

iOS 12 is available today. It’s reportedly rock-solid (so far) and will revive phones as old as that iPhone 5s you have tucked away in your drawer. Go to Settings > General > Software Update to get it without charge. (Wall Street Journal | The Verge)

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