What we’re tracking on 11 August 2020
Good morning, friends, and welcome to what is shaping up to be a busy news day.
The IMF (quietly) released overnight its staff report on Egypt’s USD 8 bn pandemic aid package. The report includes everything from the fund’s take on the government’s post-pandemic response, to the ongoing reforms the government has committed to, and the IMF’s outlook on the country’s key macro indicators.
The report came as inflation figures showed a cooldown in prices in July after an uptick in June.
The decelerating inflation suggests the Central Bank of Egypt’s Monetary Policy Committee will leave rates on hold this Thursday for the fourth consecutive meeting after its historic 300-bps rate cut back in March, nine of 10 analysts and economists we surveyed said.
We have the details on all three stories and more in this morning’s Speed Round, below.
Egyptians here at home head to the polls today and tomorrow to elect representatives to the newly reinstated Senate. Expats cast their ballots earlier this week.
RiseUp is holding a three-day digital conference starting Thursday: RiseUp from Home will bring together regional entrepreneurs for its first event since the onset of the pandemic and feature talks from some regional entrepreneurs, investors and business experts.
The Supply Ministry will inaugurate the Egyptian Commodity Exchange before August is out, Minister Aly El Moselhy said yesterday. The exchange (website) was approved by the cabinet economic group early this year. A senior government source had previously said that trading would begin on wheat, rice, corn, potatoes, onions, and oranges in September.
The Egyptian Export Council of Medical Industries (ECMI) plans to double the value of Egypt’s medical exports to exceed USD 1 bn over three years, ECMI head Maged George said yesterday, according to a cabinet statement. ECMI is looking to push more pharma products and medical supplies to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, the UAE, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon, and Germany.
COVID-19 IN EGYPT-
The Health Ministry confirmed 26 new deaths from covid-19 yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 5,035. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 95,666 confirmed cases of covid-19, after the ministry reported 174 new infections yesterday. We now have a total of 53,779 confirmed cases that have fully recovered.
The Health Ministry is reopening 21 covid-19 isolation facilities to handle cases with medium to severe symptoms, according to Youm7. The head of Matrouh’s Al Negila Hospital — which was Egypt’s first isolation facility when the pandemic broke out — said earlier this week that the directive comes as the ministry is gearing up for an anticipated second wave of infections.
Five weekly flights from Serbia and Romania are set to land in Hurghada, with the first flight expected to land in the coming days as international travel continues to pick up, Chairman of the Egyptian Hotels Association in the Red Sea Alaa Akel told Al Mal.
Meanwhile, British budget airliner EasyJet is set to resume flights to Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada as of next month, Civil Aviation Authority head Ashraf Noweir said, according to Al Mal. The airliner will operate two weekly flights to Sharm El Sheikh and one weekly flight to Hurghada.
IATA regs on airline ticket cancellation insurance has tour operators in a crunch: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has recently issued new rules requiring tourism companies to submit bank guarantees worth EGP 200k as insurance against the non-payment or cancellation of airline tickets, Hapi Journal reports. IATA had previously accepted regular insurance documentation. The Egyptian Travel Agencies Association, a local lobby group, is currently preparing an appeal to the government against the new rules.
The Oil Ministry has organized an initiative to raise EGP 5.4 mn from international oil companies in Egypt to purchase medical equipment for healthcare workers on the frontlines of covid-19, according to a cabinet statement. The contributing companies include Shell, ExxonMobil, Total, Schlumberger, Bechtel, Wintershall DEA, Kuwait Energy, Apex, Enap Sipetrol, Energean, Dana Gas, TransGlobe Energy, Neptune, Petronas, Cheiron Petroleum and IPR.
Lebanon’s government officially stepped down yesterday in response to mounting public anger over last week’s deadly Beirut explosion, which killed at least 163 people. In a speech announcing his cabinet’s resignation, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the blast was the result of corruption that is “greater than the state,” and pointed a finger of blame at the “political elite” for blocking reforms for years, according to Reuters. President Michel Aoun accepted the resignation, but asked Diab’s government to stay on in a caretaker capacity.
The government stepping down threatens to worsen Lebanon’s political and economic crisis, the newswire notes. Negotiations with the IMF on a bailout package have already been stalled, and are now at risk of running into more roadblocks.
The outlook for emerging markets this week is somewhat wobbly as US-China trade tensions, a sliding Turkish lira, and US President Donald Trump’s latest executive orders have driven up implied currency volatility across EMs, Bloomberg reports. The “trio of risks” made its mark on exchange-traded funds that buy EM stocks and bonds, which last week reversed a four-week streak of inflows as investors began to pull out.
The past six weeks saw the biggest summer M&A boom since 2007: There have been eight mega M&A agreements worth more than USD 10 bn since the beginning of July as companies look to lock-in acquisitions ahead of an expected recession, according to the Financial Times. The last time we saw this volume of blockbuster agreements at the beginning of 2H was in 2007, before the global financial crisis. The coming few weeks are expected to see the trend hold up, “barring a major event that brings things to a halt,” says Alison Harding-Jones, head of M&A for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Citigroup.
Gold to USD 4k? Gold prices could double to USD 4k per ounce in the coming three years due to money-printing presses across the world running red hot as policymakers fight the economic fallout caused by the pandemic, analysts tell CNBC. Gold surged above USD 2k for the first time ever last week as plunging yields and fears of inflation continued to push investors into the precious metal.
Analysts warn investor zeal for biotech firms may be overdone: US-listed biotech companies have smashed capital-raising records this year, raising some USD 9.4 bn in IPOs this year (surpassing 2018’s record USD 6.5 bn), and another USD 32 bn in record-high follow-on offerings, but biotech stocks tend to be volatile, analysts note. The surge is particularly problematic for companies that appear to be rallying on the potential development of a vaccine, the Wall Street Journal says.
China is placing unspecified retaliatory sanctions on 11 US officials who “behaved badly on Hong Kong related issues,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, according to the Wall Street Journal. The sanctions are a tit-for-tat move after the US last week imposed similar measures on 11 Chinese officials for encroachment on freedoms in Hong Kong.
US House Democrats are less than enthused about executive orders President Donald Trump issued over the weekend allowing tax deferrals, eviction protections, and reduced unemployment benefits, Bloomberg reports. The executive orders, which among other things allow companies to defer payroll taxes from 1 September through 31 December “endangers seniors’ Social Security and Medicare,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement. Reduced unemployment benefits will continue to be disbursed, but the USD 400 / week payouts (down from USD 600 previously) is said to be insufficient for struggling workers.