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Monday, 4 March 2019

What we’re tracking on 4 March 2019

Greetings from Dubai, where a couple of us are attending the 2019 EFG Hermes One on One conference. It’s day two of the largest investor conference in frontier emerging markets, with top execs from some 186 companies hailing from 26 countries in town to meet with investors representing 260 institutions and family offices with aggregate assets under management of USD 11 tn. You can learn more about the conference in EFG Hermes’ press release here (pdf) or by reading Group CEO Karim Awad’s opening remarks (pdf). EFG Hermes also published a macro/sector analysis video to accompany the conference which you can watch here (watch, runtime: 9:50).

Yesterday’s highlight was the 2019 Pulse, the largest real-time poll of companies and top execs in frontier emerging markets. Highlights worth knowing:

  • Investors are very bullish on emerging market equities. Even though EM equities are up 10% since the start of the year, 68% of respondents see them going up by at least another 15% or more.
  • This is probably because of tempered expectations of rate hikes by the US Federal Reserve, with 32% of respondents seeing no change in rates until the year-end and 45% seeing the potential rate increases capped at 125 bps.
  • Investors will take their gains from the Saudi market and move them elsewhere in EM. A quarter plan to park their gains in Egypt and a fifth in the UAE.
  • Expect (roughly) FX stability in Egypt: Investors with eyes on Egypt don’t foresee a big change in the FX rate, expecting the EGP to hover around 18 per USD 1, with low and relatively evenly-split risks between the up and downsides.
  • Respondents favor Egypt and Saudi Arabia in MENA and Vietnam and Pakistan in FEM ex MENA: 65% of respondents said their MENA investments would be in Egypt or KSA. Outside of MENA, Nigeria and Argentina trailed Vietnam and Pakistan.
  • Passive funds are seen taking over: Almost half of the respondents believe that the percentage of EM AUM in passive funds is set to go over 50% from 30% currently. Over a third see them growing to 40%.
  • Business operators and investors see risk factors arising from political uncertainty, 41% of the respondents said. 24% were more concerned over changing regulations and a similar percentage over poor consumer confidence.
  • Don’t expect the Central Bank of Egypt to go for a huge rate cut before the end of 2020. 37% see CBE rates being cut by 2% or less, and 29% cap the cuts at 3%.
  • Where to park your money? CIB in Egypt, 27% of the respondents voted, followed by 20% giving the nod to Emaar in the UAE.

You can check out the full poll results here (pdf).

Stuff worth knowing, Part II: Yesterday’s opening session featured two packed panel discussions. During the first, top execs from Asian microfinance giant ASA International, Mastercard MENA and EFG Hermes looked at the world “beyond banks,” asking how non-bank financial institutions are opening up traditional markets and whether they’re a threat to traditional banks. Then, senior players from Pepsi International and Jumia tackled “The New Consumer” — joined for her on-stage debut by our always-on-point friend Nada Amin, vice-president consumer and retail at EFG Hermes.

A full rundown on both panels is here (pdf) for your reading pleasure.

Coolest fact of the morning: “Ethiopia has appointed a commission to explore opening up a stock exchange,” says our friend Mohamed Ebeid, co-CEO of the investment bank at EFG Hermes. As we’ve said before: More than 100 mn people and more than a passing interest in our share of Nile water. This makes Ethiopia a very, very interesting market indeed.

The gathering continues Tuesday and Wednesday. We look forward to seeing many of our readers here, so don’t be shy if you see us wandering the halls.

Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly is expected to deliver a speech in front of the House of Representatives on the Ramses train crash sometime next week, said House Speaker Ali Abdel Aal, Ahram Online reports.

Egypt’s leading business awards ceremony bt100 takes place today: The ceremony organized by Egyptian Media Group is expected to draw more than 800 business leaders and several notable Cabinet members including Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly, Investment Minister Sahar Nasr, and Planning Minister Hala El Said, reports Youm7.

First Vice President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Jurgen Rigterink is paying us a visit from 4-7 March. During his visit, Rigterink will meet with senior Egyptian government officials and open the EBRD’s “Women in Green Energy” event, which aims to promote increasing the role of women in Egypt’s renewable energy sector.

Trump isn’t happy with how strong the USD is: The Donald complained on Saturday that the USD is too strong, taking a not-so-veiled swipe at US Fed Chairman Jerome Powell for hiking interest rates, which he blamed for the strength of the currency, Bloomberg reports. “I want a strong USD but I want a USD that does great for our country, not a USD that’s so strong that it makes it prohibitive for us to do business with other nations and take their business.”

OPEC’s crude production continued to fall in February, a Bloomberg survey showed. Output from the 14 OPEC members fell by 560,000 bbl/d in February to 30.5 mn bbl/d, as OPEC maintained their production cuts, and output continued to fall in Iran and Venezuela.

Are the US and China about to kiss and make up? The US and China may finally be on the cusp of a trade agreement, avoiding another USD 200 bn of tariffs on Chinese goods, sources with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg.

And peace may be about to break out in Libya: Libya’s rival leaders, Egypt-backed military commander General Khalifa Haftar and Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj, signed an agreement last week to hold national elections, according to the Associated Press.

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