What we’re tracking on 24 February 2020
THE STORY OF THE DAY- The covid-19 virus appears to have become a global pandemic: Italian cities are on lockdown, Iran is struggling to curb infections and South Korea is shutting down schools and bracing for an economic slowdown:
- Italy has put 10 cities on lockdown, sealing off the towns worst affected by covid-19 after the number of infections rose to more than 150, according to Reuters (link above). Currently the biggest outbreak of the virus in Europe, Italy has banned public gatherings including conferences and football matches and canceled the last two days of the Venice carnival.
- Iran has the highest infection numbers in the wider region, Bloomberg reports, and its neighbors are closing off their borders.
- South Korea’s business community is braced for the worst after an infected worker turned up at a Samsung plant. Six people have died in South Korea and more than 600 people have been infected, according to BBC.
The total number of cases worldwide is nearing 80k with almost 2.5k deaths, according to a live Bloomberg tracker. The story is front page news in the global business press, including the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.
Scientists are now concerned they don’t know how the virus is spreading: As the virus rapidly spread in Italy, Iran and South Korea, a World Health Organization spokesperson noted that “infections that are now emerging in people who haven’t traveled to China or come into contact with confirmed cases show ‘it’s not clear how the virus is spreading.’”
Pundits think the global economy will “shudder as [the] coronavirus threatens the world economy,” the Wall Street Journal writes, quoting one business leader who described the impact of covid-19 on his business as a “once-in-a-generation event.”
The Dow could open down more than 400 points as the market gets its head around the extent of the contagion, CNBC reported near dispatch time this morning. Nasdaq and S&P500 futures also pointed to lower opens this morning. Oil prices are down 3%.
So where does Egypt stand? It’s a mixed bag, but mostly good (so far). There are no new cases in Egypt as of this morning, and the country’s one patient has tested negative for the virus for days now. Worth noting: A study in the British medical journal The Lancet found that while Egypt, Algeria, and South Africa “were at the highest risk [in Africa] of importing a COVID-19 case from China,” all three countries “have the most prepared health systems in the continent and are least vulnerable.”
EGP WATCH- The EGP rally against the greenback is still going strong, bringing it to EGP 15.49 yesterday. The currency has now risen 51 piasters so far in 2020. You can check out our breakdown of the rally and what it means for industry here.
Our friends at EFG Hermes are holding their annual One on One conference on 2-5 March at Atlantis, Dubai. The gathering is the world’s largest frontier- and emerging-market-focused investor conference.
Other dates for your diaries during the first week of March:
- Business Today’s bt100 awards ceremony (pdf) takes place on Tuesday 3 March.
- The two-day Women Economic Forum (pdf) gets underway on Wednesday, 4 March in Cairo.
- The Union of Arab Banks will hold a three-day forum for risk officers on 6-8 March in Hurghada.
- A one-day investment conference for the Suez Canal Economic Zone will take place on Saturday, 7 March.
Located on the North West Corner of Somabay, lies Mesca Beach, stretched out onto 1.5km of silky sand. Mesca Beach is best known for its big tidal changes, shallow sandy waters and mounds of mangroves, in addition to the 7Bft Kite House, famously known as one of the best surfing spots on the planet. Combining luxury and adventure, the beach will be welcoming its very own Mesca Hotel, making its debut later this year.
It’s the final day of the G20 summit in Riyadh, where finance ministers and central bank governors focused on the global economic slowdown fueled by the covid-19 outbreak, but appeared to struggle to find common ground on a “coordinated response,” sources told Bloomberg. The communique from the summit only referenced the epidemic once. Delegates from 20 countries also talked about digital taxation, with the EU spearheading a drive to regulate Big Tech, while the US is still dragging its feet out of fear that taxing tech companies could hinder innovation, CNBC says. The final communique will be here once the summit wraps.
Meanwhile, central bank governors had the price growth challenge on their minds, with the US, Japan, and the EU discussing how aging populations are preventing inflation from meeting their 2% target despite stimulus measures, according to Reuters. The Fed is looking into allowing inflation to run above target to make up for the economic downturn.
Two Finland-based pension funds holding USD 108 bn are racing to hedge against global warming repercussions. The “Massive Risk” of climate change is driving the two funds to limit investments to companies that are seriously considering environmental, social, and governance aspects to reach the 2035 climate goals, Bloomberg reports. One fund, Varma Mutual Pension Insurance, has a plan to offload stocks with thermal coal exposure by 2025.
US Democrats are scrambling to keep up with Bernie Sanders in the primary election race after the senator won the Nevada Caucus by a landslide, earning some 48% of county convention delegates, Reuters reports. The results of the Nevada vote have placed Sanders as the frontrunner in the race to become the official party candidate in this fall’s presidential election. The possibility of having Sanders face off against Donald Trump is concerning to more centrist Democrats, who think the senator’s far-left policies would be a death sentence for the party’s “chances of winning back the White House and Senate and holding on to the US House of Representatives,” the Financial Times says.
Two must-reads about work to liven up your commute this morning to … work:
- AI is coming for your job if you’re a marketing type, financial advisor or computer programmer, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- Companies are putting food at the center of their offering to staff, the Financial Times suggests in a piece in its (rather good) special on the Future of the Workplace.
*** It’s Blackboard day: We have our weekly look at the business of education in Egypt, from pre-K through the highest reaches of higher ed. Blackboard appears every Monday in Enterprise in the place of our traditional industry news roundups.
In today’s issue: We look at the costs and benefits of the growth of Egypt’s high-end preschool industry.