What we’re tracking on 4 October 2020
Good morning, friends, and welcome to the first full workweek of October. It’s going to be a short one, as we’re all off on Thursday in observance of Armed Forces Day, the government confirmed — sensibly not giving in to nighttime talkshow host Ahmed Moussa’s suggestion that we backtrack on the new policy of moving midweek holidays to the weekend. Armed Forces Day is formally 6 October.
The best news of the morning: Egypt is on track to be the only country in the EBRD’s footprint to grow this year — and we should see the economy expand at a 5% clip in 2021. That and a pile of investment news dominate this morning’s Speed Round.
You heard it here first: We suggested a couple of weeks back that “Spacs” would soon be on the regional investment menu, and Nassef Sawiris has made it official, as we note in Speed Round, below. We’re aware of two other investors kicking the tires on Spacs, so watch this space.
Analysts expect the government to leave fuel prices on hold for 4Q when the fuel pricing committee holds its quarterly meeting this week, Masrawy reports. Although global prices remain well below the USD 61/bbl benchmark used in the FY2020-2021 budget, the increase in public spending necessitated by the pandemic means that the government will prioritize revenues over handing consumers a discount on their fuel, said Mona Bedier, senior economist at Prime Holding. The committee kept prices on hold when it last met in July, leaving 95-octane at EGP 8.50 per liter, 92-octane at EGP 7.50, and 80-octane at EGP 6.25.
Factories could yet see their gas bills cut, though: MPs sitting on the House Industrial Committee last week called on the government to reduce utility costs for industries. And last month, government sources suggested gas prices could be lowered to at least USD 4/mmBtu from USD 4.50/mmBtu. The government has reduced prices twice in the past year: once last October and once in March as part of its stimulus measures to protect industry through the covid lockdown.
Our newly-elected Senate will sit for its inaugural session two weeks from today, on 18 October, after President Abdel Fattah El Sisi issued a decree calling for the upper chamber of parliament to convene.
Key news triggers over the coming weeks:
- PMI figures for September are due out for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE tomorrow.
- Foreign reserve figures for September should be out this week.
- Inflation data for September will land on Saturday, 10 October.
- Voters go to the polls to elect a new House of Representatives in a multi-stage process starting 21 October (voters abroad) and 24 October (in Egypt).
The Health Ministry reported 109 new covid-19 infections yesterday, down from 149 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 103,575 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 14 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 5,970. We now have a total of 97,274 confirmed cases that have fully recovered.
Our regularly scheduled reminder that covid-19 is not canceled (no matter how much Egyptians want to believe it’s over) came courtesy of Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, who stressed that social distancing and other precautionary measures remain important. Abdel Ghaffar also told El Hekaya’s Amr Adib that the government currently has 113 university hospitals with 36k beds that are ready to handle the anticipated second wave of covid-19 cases (watch, runtime: 4:01). The minister also gave Adib the latest updates on Egypt’s covid-19 vaccine development efforts, which have so far been successful when tested on animals and should soon move to the pre-trial phase (watch, runtime: 4:29). Elsewhere on the covid-19 front, presidential health advisor Mohamed Awad Tag Eldin urged Adib’s viewers to get the seasonal flu vaccine (watch, runtime: 3:03).
Two charter flights landed yesterday in Marsa Alam Airport from Kiev and Paris for the first time since commercial flights were temporarily suspended in March. The first flight brought in 128 tourists from the Ukrainian capital, while the second 97 from France.
As a first-class leading golfing destination, Somabay will be hosting a 2020 edition golf tournament on its world renowned golf courses, upgraded with new innovative tweaks, driving ranges and floodlights.
Somabay’s golf course stands out when it comes to sustainability as solar energy is used for seawater desalination, in addition to applying smart irrigation systems to ensure minimum water consumption and cost of sand.
This weekend in the EastMed:
- Greece and Turkey have agreed to set up a “military deconfliction mechanism” to avoid future military escalations, in a step towards cooling tensions over East-Mediterranean territory disputes between the two countries, Reuters says.
- Libya has tripled its oil production in the weeks since eastern Libyan forces lifted the oil blockade that was in effect for eight months prior, according to Reuters. Talks are expected to be held this week between Libya’s warring factions — the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and the eastern Libyan National Army.
- Lebanon and Israel are ready for US-mediated talks aimed at solving their long-standing maritime border dispute, Reuters reports.
Could the EUR go digital? The European Central Bank is considering the possibility of introducing a digital version of the EUR “should the need arise,” the Associated Press reports. ECB’s Christine Lagarde said the currency would complement rather than replace cash, and would respond to an increased demand for cashless payment services amplified by covid-19. The digital currency — which would still be “official central bank money” — would be more trustable, have essentially zero risk, and be less expensive to use than cashless payment systems on offer from the private sector, the newswire notes.
Airbnb could clinch a USD 30 bn valuation from its upcoming IPO if the company secures its USD 3 bn target from the offering, CNBC reports, citing unnamed sources familiar with the plan. Airbnb, which filed for the offering in August, expects to go public next month. The most recent assessment of the home sharing giant valued the company at USD 21 bn after the company raised USD 2 bn from investors in April.
In international miscellany:
- Brexit talks enter “decisive phase”: The UK and EU will go back to the negotiating table for Brexit trade talks in London this week in an attempt to iron out persisting disagreements on fishing rights and state aid ahead of the summit of EU leaders on 15-16 October, the Financial Times reports.
- Google has agreed to pay 200 publishers USD 1 bn over the next three years in an effort to quieten criticism of its power over the troubled news industry, writes the Associated Press.
US ELECTION WATCH- Trump just sprang the quickest October Surprise of all time: Conflicting reports have emerged on US President Donald Trump’s condition since being hospitalized on Friday after testing positive for covid-19. Trump’s contraction of the virus that causes covid-19 is a plot twist that threatens to upend his presidential campaign as the election enters its final stretch. The president was said to have been experiencing coughing, congestion, and fever, prompting officials to fly him to hospital for emergency treatment. Aides said he would remain in the hospital for a few days, forcing the campaign to cancel several upcoming rallies. The story is leading the front pages this morning: NYT | Washington Post | WSJ | Bloomberg | FT