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Tuesday, 18 February 2020

What we’re tracking on 18 February 2020

Apple will miss its revenue guidance for the current quarter thanks to the impact on global sales of the coronavirus, and there’s a chance that electronics players the world over will follow suit as stores stay closed, Chinese tourists stay home and supply chains are disrupted. The story tops the global business press today: FT | WSJ | NYT | Reuters | Bloomberg | CNBC.

There are no new cases in Egypt, the global death toll rose again overnight to stand 1,868 at the end of 17 February, and there are now more than 72k cases worldwide, although the rate of new reported patients has slowed the past couple of days.

One hopeful note: Most cases of Covid-19 are mild, a report by Chinese health officials suggests (pdf).

One ominous note: “Doctors studying a 50-year-old man who died in China last month from the new coronavirus found that the disease caused lung damage reminiscent of two prior coronavirus-related outbreaks, SARS and MERS,” according to Bloomberg.

Egyptian event organizers are distancing themselves from China to cool covid-19 fears: Some 250 Chinese companies originally slated to attend three upcoming textiles exhibitions in Cairo are no longer eligible to attend, Vision Group Egypt’s head of expos Haitham Rady tells Al Mal. The move is meant to contain fears over the spread of the covid-19 virus, Rady says.

EGX-listed companies continued the parade of regulatory filings outlining their exposure to China. The companies, which include Raya Holding, Delta Printing and Packaging, and Misr Fertilizers Production Company, have said that no direct contact has been made with Chinese products and manufacturers and there remain no reported cases of covid-19 among their employees, the local press reports.

AUC is celebrating its centennial this week with several events, exhibitions, and conferences. You can find the full list of events here.

The Central Bank of Egypt meets on Thursday to review interest rates: Our poll earlier this week revealed a split among analysts about whether the central bank will leave rates unchanged for another six weeks or resume its easing cycle.

The CBE offered EGP 7 bn-worth of treasury bonds yesterday, including one tranche of 3-year bonds worth EGP 3.75 bn and another 7-year tranche worth EGP 3.25 bn, according to official data.


DP World will go private to tackle swelling debt pile: Dubai plans to privatize port operator DP World to ease its public debt and protect the company from the economic slowdown, Bloomberg reports. The emirate will pay a 29% premium to delist the 19.55% stake from the Nasdaq Dubai stock exchange, valuing the company at USD 13.9 bn. This comes as the company looks to restructure a portion of its USD 23 mn debt pile that matures at the end of 2021.

It remains unclear what implications (if any) this will have on the company’s projects in Egypt: Last we heard, DP World was expecting to finish its USD 520 mn Ain Sokhna port expansion during 2Q2020 and was planning to bid for an upcoming tender for a logistics zone in Tenth of Ramadan.

The UAE is almost ready to fire up the Arab world’s first nuclear reactor: The UAE has the go-ahead to bring online Barakah, the Arab world’s first commercial nuclear power plant and the first of four civilian reactors the UAE plans to bring online by 2023, according to Bloomberg.

The gender gap in the workforce is costing the MENA region around USD 575 bn, World Bank Group President David Maplass said at the Global Women’s Forum in Dubai, which wrapped up yesterday, according to Zawya. Bumping up women’s participation in the region’s labor force to reach parity with men could boost its collective GDP by 47%, Malpass said. The world is also missing out on some USD 172 tn of wealth that could be achieved with 100% gender parity.


The World Bank has offered a bleak prognosis for Lebanon’s financial situation: The Lebanese economy faces “implosion” unless the government takes steps to increase transparency and tackle corruption, a World Bank official said yesterday, according to Bloomberg. “Politicians need to stop and listen,” said Ferid Belhaj, the World Bank’s MENA VP. “You cannot continue doing what you’ve been doing for years when you see what the reaction on the street is and when you see what the state of the economy is.” Protests against the deteriorating economic conditions have been ongoing since October, leading to the resignation of then-prime minister Saad Hariri and increasing pressure on government finances and the country’s teetering financial sector.

Is an IMF bailout on the cards? The global lender of last resort will reportedly begin technical talks with Beirut on Thursday, after the government formally requested assistance from the IMF to address its financial crisis, Reuters reports, citing a source familiar with the matter. The fund may give the financially-stricken country assistance “if we are convinced that there is a seriousness in the approach the government is taking,” IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva told Bloomberg.

UN official unloads on “joke” Libya arms embargo: The arms embargo designed to calm the ongoing civil war in Libya “has become a joke,” a senior UN official has said, accusing several countries who agreed to stop sending weapons into the country last month of breaching the pact.

It’s Groundhog Day — Impeachment Edition: US House Democrats are mulling further investigations into potential wrongdoing from President Donald Trump, who they believe may have influenced the Justice Department to secure a reduced sentence for one of his confidants, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Democrats in Nevada will be voting on Thursday for their pick of contenders to face off against Donald Trump in the US presidential elections this fall. An early voting period — in which voters are being asked to rank the five candidates in order of preference — wraps up today. Vox has a primer on how the voting process will unfold in the Nevada caucus.

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