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Tuesday, 31 March 2020

What we’re tracking on 31 March

*** We’ve never asked you for a penny, but we’re doing so today — not to put a coin in our pocket, but to help the folks at the Breathe campaign raise funds to acquire ventilators the nation needs.

The Breathe Campaign is raising funds to purchase mechanical ventilators from suppliers around the world. As the number of covid-19 cases rises in Egypt, so does the need for ventilators across the country. For critically ill patients, mechanical ventilation can be the difference between life and death — all of you reading Enterprise have seen the stories about shortages in developed economies including Italy and the United States. The Breathe Campaign, a pilot project by charity startup Humankind with the aid of the Egyptian Cure Bank, has created a star-studded campaign featuring public figures including Yosra, Amina Khalil and Naguib Sawiris simply inhaling and exhaling.

Keep up to date with the campaign on Instagram and check out the ad (watch, runtime: 1:08).

Want to make a contribution? Hit up the Egyptian Cure Bank, Fawry or the FawryApp or check out the description section of the Youtube page for other options.

Finance Minister Mohamed Mait unveiled the 2020-20201 state budget yesterday. We have chapter and verse in this morning’s Speed Round, below.

It’s interest rate week, with the central bank set to meet on Thursday to review rates — it’s first regularly scheduled meeting since its surprise 300 bps rate cut earlier this month. We’ll have our usual poll of analysts for you tomorrow.

The government committee in charge of setting local fuel prices will hold its quarterly meeting today, the local press reports. Fuel prices look set to fall: The price of oil has plunged since the beginning of the year. The committee has raise or lower domestic fuel prices as much as 10% every three months.

MARKETS TODAY- Asian markets with the exception of India inched into the green this morning as we hurtle toward dispatch time. Futures suggest both European and North American markets should also open in the green later today.


Egypt has now reported a total of 656 cases of covid-19 after 47 new infections, all Egyptians, were announced by the Health Ministry last night. The ministry also reported the death of a 44-year-old woman from Cairo, taking the death toll to 41. It said 150 people have made full recoveries and another 196 people have tested negative after seeking treatment.

The first known instance of a medical professional dying after contracting covid-19 came yesterday as the Health Ministry mourned the passing of Dr. Ahmed Abdou Ellawah, a professor of medicine at Al Azhar University, who died at age 57. His death will bring the toll to at least 42 when it is included in the ministry’s daily update this evening, health ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said last night.

Egypt will roll out new testing facilities nationwide over the coming two days. Some 26 centers are already up and running, according to a cabinet statement released after a meeting between Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly and Health Minister Hala Zayed.

The nation is looking to build a three-month reserve of personal protective equipment (so-called “PPE) for medical professionals amid fears of a shortage. Trade Minister Nevine Gamea is requiring Egyptian producers and importers of PPE to sell directly to the national stockpile at the Egyptian Authority for Unified Procurement, Medical Supply, and Technological Management. Suppliers to the Armed Forces and police service are exempt from the order, according to a cabinet statement.

The government is also adding to its strategic reserve of staple goods in the face of the covid-19 crisis and with Ramadan around the corner. The news came after President Abdel Fattah El Sisi met with cabinet members yesterday, according to an Ittihadiya statement. El Sisi also urged officials to crack down on price gouging and hoarding.

As many as 1k frontline healthcare workers will receive life insurance under policies worth EGP 2.5 mn each. The policies are being bought by the Federation of Egyptian Industries, the local press reports. The Health Ministry will help determine who is eligible for coverage under the policies. The policies are intended for staff who work directly with covid-19 patients.

New, temporary caps on deposits and withdrawals by individuals do not apply if you’re looking to buy into the new 15% fixed-rate savings certificates launched by Banque Misr and the National Bank of Egypt last week, Al Mal reports.

Restaurants, gyms, nightclubs, museums and archaeological sites will remain closed until 15 April in an extension of the suspension of activities period by the Tourism Ministry, according to a cabinet statement.

Imams who reopen mosques for prayers in defiance of the government’s closure orders will be summarily fired, the Endowment Ministry said yesterday, according to a cabinet statement.

The New Urban Communities Authority isn’t ceding an inch to real estate developers despite a directive from the Central Bank of Egypt that creditors reschedule loan payments and other obligations for a six-month period, the local press reports, citing unnamed informed sources. NUCA is reportedly preparing a memo for the Housing Ministry outlining why it doesn’t think land payments it is owed by real estate developers should be subject to the payment holiday. The domestic press report suggests NUCA needs the cashflow so that it can still honor its obligations to contractors it has engaged.

You’re not getting a visit from the gas meter reader this month: The Oil Ministry will stop sending meter readers for the duration of the crisis. Instead, it is asking citizens to record their consumption online or by calling the call center and to pay via electronic channels, according to Masrawy.

The Ministry of Water Resources isn’t going to be collecting license fees from boats or floating hotels anytime soon, either, Al Mal reports.

An exceptional flight yesterday repatriated some 350 Egyptians stranded in Kuwait since the covid-19 outbreak, Al Masry Al Youm reports. Government officials are still working to get home another 95 citizens stuck in the Maldives.

Gov’t falls short in t-bond auction: The Central Bank of Egypt sold EGP 2.5 bn of treasury bonds in two auctions that sought to raise EGP 7.5 bn, according to the official data. The CBE sold EGP 1.5 bn of three-year bonds in an EGP 4 bn offering at a 13.9% yield, almost 400 bps under the rate requested by investors. In the EGP 3.5 bn seven-year offering, investors bought EGP 1 bn of bonds at a 14% yield, 410 bps lower than the requested rate. The government has faced issues selling its target amount of bonds in recent weeks as market turmoil caused by covid-19 pushed investors to demand higher yields.



What’s this? Some good news? US healthcare giants Johnson & Johnson and Moderna are preparing to manufacture huge quantities of covid-19 vaccines after agreeing to overtures made by the US government, Reuters reports. The US will pay USD 421 mn to J&J to establish new manufacturing facilities that will enable it to produce more than 1 bn doses of a vaccine it is currently testing.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here: There exist no vaccines or treatments for the virus, and that’s not expected to change until at least 2021.

Researchers in Melbourne are investigating to see whether the BCG vaccine against tuberculosis can ward off corona, Bloomberg says. It all sounds good until you realise that countries where BCG is widely used — China, Iran and the UK for example — have also become hotspots for covid. So we’re not holding out too much hope that a century-old vaccine is going to be the answer to most of our current problems.

The news of progress towards a vaccine helped stocks to rally: Healthcare stocks led the charge in the US markets yesterday which saw the S&P 500 rise for the fourth time in five sessions, gaining 17% over the past week. It was a similar story on the other side of the Atlantic where all indexes except Spain’s IBEX finished in the green.

But “we’re not in an all clear,” El Erian warns: Market sage Mohamed El Erian said that he believes the “sell everything” moment has now passed, but that we’re still in for turbulence ahead. “If you feel it’s the all clear, go out and buy the index … I don’t think we’re there yet. We’re not in the an all clear,” he told CNBC’s Squawk Box.

FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF REDUNDANCY DEPARTMENT- IPOs are challenged (shocking, right?) as market volatility makes pricing difficult, the Financial Times reports.

AfDB issues USD 3 bn bond to curb economic impact of covid-19: The African Development Bank (AfDB) has raised USD 3 bn from a three-year social bond, the proceeds of which will be used to finance the bank’s planned “comprehensive response” to cushion African countries from the economic impact of the covid-19 virus, according to a statement.

This comes as Africa approaches its “break the glass moment”: At least, that’s how Chairman of the joint World Bank – IMF Development Committee Ken Ofori-Atta put it in an interview with the Financial Times. Ofori-Atta warned that international actors need to step up their efforts to help shield the continent from the spread of the covid-19, which could wipe out 5-10% of the continent’s GDP. That could force the IMF to step in with debt forgiveness and bailout packages.

The UN is listening, joining with the IMF to call for USD 2.5 tn in emergency support for developing countries: In a report published yesterday, the UN Conference on Trade and Development argues for massive fiscal support to be provided to lower income countries whose economies will take an “enormous hit” due to capital flight, falling commodity prices and currency depreciations. UNCTAD is calling for USD 1 tn in fresh liquidity, a USD 1 tn debt relief package for countries with USD debt, and USD 500 bn to support emergency health services and social programmes.

Dubai’s Expo 2020 will reportedly be pushed for one year due to the covid-19 outbreak, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters. The expo was previously scheduled to open on 20 October.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going into isolation after being in contact with an aide who tested positive for covid-19. (Bloomberg)

What we’re doing now? This could be the future of work, the Financial Times writes in the latest in a little string of pieces it has done on working from home.

Need a pick-me-up? Watch John Krasinski give a rundown of good news stories in the world today (watch, runtime: 15:43). It’s uplifting without being saccharine, and for fans of The Office there’s the bonus of an interview with Steve Carell.

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