Back to the complete issue
Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Business activity in Egypt started to stabilize in June after the calamitous plunge in May that came with the country’s covid lockdown

Business activity in Egypt began to stabilize in June after the calamitous plunge in May that came with the country’s covid lockdown, according to IHS Markit’s purchasing managers’ (PMI) index (pdf). Four months into the pandemic, business conditions in Egypt’s non-oil private sector remained uncertain in June: improving output and orders helped the PMI gauge edge up to 44.6 from 40.7 in May. That’s the highest reading seen since the Sisi administration introduced lockdown restrictions in March, but job losses accelerated to their quickest pace in four years. PMI readings above 50 suggest business activity is growing, while a reading below points to a slowdown.

Signs of stability: “June's PMI data gave some promising signs that the Egyptian economy is beginning to stabilize. Activity fell at the weakest pace in four months, supported by a similar easing to the decline in new business, said David Owen, economist at IHS Markit. The index collapsed to a record low of 29.7 in April, as business activity ground to a halt due to the lockdown.

Output and new orders rose to four-month highs but continued to decline due to weak demand and activity. Output got a boost as firms reported higher working hours and new orders from clients as the lockdown eased, but private sector activity remained sluggish mainly due to restrictions on tourism and travel.

Job cuts hit four-year high: Firms continued to actively cut jobs for the eighth consecutive month, bringing the rate of job losses to its fastest in four years. Businesses put the brakes on new hires and laid off staff to reduce running costs. Some also cut wages, causing staff costs to drop for the third month running.

There are indications that this could soon change: “Employment numbers still fell at an accelerated rate in June, although multiple signals suggest this will soon change,” Owen said. “Higher demand at some companies, increased backlogs and sentiment rising to a six-month high all point to firms hopefully restarting hiring in the near future.”

Purchasing activity: Firms continued to report a drop in purchasing activity, albeit at a slower rate than in May. However, some respondents were still suffering supply chain disruptions, with slower delivery times due to the curfew and port delays. Pricey medical materials and the appreciation of the USD led to a sharp increase in input costs. This combined with a sharp rate of inflation led to “a renewed uptick in overall cost pressures.” Output charges, meanwhile, dropped for again as firms continue to offer discounts to attract customers.

Outlook: Optimism for the future is now at the highest level so far in 2020. Businesses hope the gradual return of life will boost private sector demand and support employment going forward.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2022 Enterprise Ventures LLC.

Enterprise is available without charge thanks to the generous support of HSBC Egypt (tax ID: 204-901-715), the leading corporate and retail lender in Egypt; EFG Hermes (tax ID: 200-178-385), the leading financial services corporation in frontier emerging markets; SODIC (tax ID: 212-168-002), a leading Egyptian real estate developer; SomaBay (tax ID: 204-903-300), our Red Sea holiday partner; Infinity (tax ID: 474-939-359), the ultimate way to power cities, industries, and homes directly from nature right here in Egypt; CIRA (tax ID: 200-069-608), the leading providers of K-12 and higher level education in Egypt; Orascom Construction (tax ID: 229-988-806), the leading construction and engineering company building infrastructure in Egypt and abroad; Moharram & Partners (tax ID: 616-112-459), the leading public policy and government affairs partner; Palm Hills Developments (tax ID: 432-737-014), a leading developer of commercial and residential properties; Mashreq (tax ID: 204-898-862), the MENA region’s leading homegrown personal and digital bank; Industrial Development Group (IDG) (tax ID:266-965-253), the leading builder of industrial parks in Egypt; Hassan Allam Properties (tax ID:  553-096-567), one of Egypt’s most prominent and leading builders; and Saleh, Barsoum & Abdel Aziz (tax ID: 220-002-827), the leading audit, tax and accounting firm in Egypt.