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Tuesday, 11 May 2021

TONIGHT: Eid El Fitr reading list + bracing for a global share selloff led by tech stocks

Well, friends, we made it through this wonderfully short workweek together. Kol sanna w entom tayebeen to all of you fantastic people, and thank you once more for spending your Ramadan afternoons with us.

Egypt is closed tomorrow through Sunday. Wednesday is the last day of Ramadan, and we’ll be observing Eid El Fitr from Thursday through Sunday. Banks and the Egyptian Exchange will reopen with normal business hours on Monday, 17 May.

NO SINGLE STORY DOMINATES the news domestic news cycle this afternoon, though if ever there was a time for a company to dump out bad news, it’s now in the hope that it will pass unnoticed after a five-day weekend. Fear not, we’ll be keeping an eye on things the next few days to make certain you’re not missing out on anything when we reappear in your inboxes at the usual time on Monday.

In the meantime: Enjoy the kahk. And the coffee. Especially the coffee.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD is the sell-off in global shares led by tech stocks. Stock markets in Asia and Europe this morning followed Wall Street’s lead of yesterday, “with technology shares sustaining a fresh blow from concerns that rising inflation will prompt central banks to tighten monetary policy.” The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell more than 2% yesterday, Europe’s Stoxx 600 was down 2% at dispatch time, as were markets in France and Germany. Futures suggest Wall Street will follow suit again later this afternoon when trading there opens. We have more in Go with the Flow, below.

Toss in rising worries about fuel shortages amid a cyberattack on a big US pipeline, and things are probably looking quite grumpy on Wall Street. The pipeline remains “days” from re-opening, Reuters notes, and the hackers — calling themselves the DarkSide — have said on their website that they’re sorry — kinda. “Our goal is … not creating problems for society,” they wrote.

The cyberattack has fueled debate over the merits of companies making ransom payments to cyber attackers, the Financial Times writes. The Biden administration is “looking at its approach to ransomware actors and ransoms overall” as the FBI raised concerns that such payments will only encourage more attacks.

HAPPENING NOW- The IMF is (virtually) in town: A team from the Washington-based lender is currently holding online meetings with Egyptian authorities and expects to wrap them up on 24 May, according to Al Mal. It’s the second and final review of progress Egypt has made on measures that locked in a one-year, emergency USD 5.2 bn stand-by loan agreed last year. This review should unlock the remaining USD 1.6 bn. The meetings will double as Article IV consultations, which the IMF holds with its member states, usually once a year, as a way to keep track of what’s going on with local economies.

** CATCH UP QUICK on the top stories from today’s EnterpriseAM:

  • Ever Given’s ins. company still won’t pay up, claiming that the Suez Canal Authority’s compensation claim — down to USD 600 mn from about USD 900 mn initially — is still too high. Egypt could explore the option of auctioning off the ship if the deadlock continues.
  • Nile Scan isn’t partnering with Speed on Alex Medical bid, instead bidding independently to bring the medical services firm under a newly-launched investment platform.
  • Catalyst Partners has secured EGP 280 mn in commitments from local banks for an EGP 500 mn SME investment fund it is setting up with the UNDP. However, the FRA has yet to sign off on the fund.

** So, when do we eat? We sit down for our second-to-last iftar this Ramadan at 6:39pm. And our final sohour will need to wrap by 3:27am.

🚙 FOR YOUR COMMUTE-

SOUND SMART: 4% of all listed stocks account for just about all of the net wealth created in a sample of 26k companies that went public between 1926 and 2016, according to research by Hendrik Bassembinder, a professor at Arizona State University. Anyone who bought into the other 96% of all shares either lost money or failed to outperform one-month treasuries, writes the FT’s Robin Wigglesworth, a former Mideast hand who now leads the salmon-coloured paper’s coverage of global finance.

Wait, it gets worse: “About 61% of non-US stocks underperformed Treasury bills in the 1990-2018 period, and less than 1% accounted for the entire USD 16 tn of net wealth creation over the period,” Wigglesworth writes.

Please, God, let there be a silver lining. There _is_ a silver lining, right? Indeed: A growing number of asset managers are taking Bassembinder’s work as “evidence that aggressively investing in a narrow clutch of potential corporate superstars — almost whatever the price — is actually the way for active asset management to regain its mojo. After all, his data implies that finding just one of these nascent stock market titans can more than compensate for losses elsewhere.” Go read Meet the academic who has fired up moonshot investing.

EID WEEKEND READING LIST-

The central bank will now disintermediate you: Forget about Doge and BTC — Fedcoin and the e-euro are the digital currencies that really matter, the Economist argues in this primer, suggesting that “the least noticed disruption on the frontier between technology and finance may end up as the most revolutionary: the creation of government digital currencies, which typically aim to let people deposit funds directly with a central bank, bypassing conventional lenders.”

It’s all part of a package from the Economist on a future with fewer banks. Other stories worth a moment of your time:

It’s gonna be a wild trip, man: “After decades of demonization and criminalization, psychedelic [substances] are on the cusp of entering mainstream psychiatry, with profound implications for a field that has seen few new advancements for the treatment of mental disorders and addiction” in the New York Times. Want more? Go read Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind: What the new science of psychedelics teaches us about consciousness, dying, addiction, depression, and transcendence.

The Italians (and the Egyptians) had it right all along: The American worship of “meaningful work” is a load of bunk, argues The New Yorker, writing that “Americans are told to give their all — time, labor, and passion — to their jobs. But do their jobs give enough back?” Go read: What’s wrong with the way we work and then quote from it to anybody who tells you we work too few hours and have too many holidays here in Omm El Donia. After all, “‘meaningful work’ is an expression that had barely appeared in the English language before the early 1970s. Once upon a time, it was assumed, to put it bluntly, that work sucked.”

Why the toughest capitalists should root for a wealth tax, wherein Martin Sandblu argues that the plutocracy can only save itself from the woke masses by embracing a regular, recurrent wealth tax. All the cools kids are doing it, he suggests, pointing to “some of the world’s most successful economies, such as Switzerland and Norway.”

The world’s largest pension fund has cooled on ESG. Should you follow suit? Bloomberg Opinion columnist Shuli Ren writes that “thematic indices make investors feel good. But is simple virtue enough to fatten retirement accounts and support an aging population?”

Are smartphones the new cigarettes? GQ magazine thinks that we’re going to look back on our iPhones like we look at the Marlboro Man, with a top computer scientist saying in a Q&A that “future workplaces [kill] email” as the “tech backlash is about to go mainstream.” (And, uhm, if you kill email, please like … still allow us in, okay?)

Well, there is the small problem that it smells worse than cat food when raw… Fake-meat outfit Beyond Meat reported a wider than-expected loss last week as “as restaurant customers take longer to return and grocery shoppers aren’t stockpiling its meat substitutes anymore,” CNBC reports.

The world’s two biggest truck makers are banking on hydrogen being the next big thing: Volvo and Daimler are anticipating that hydrogen fuel celled-vehicles will see a “much steeper ramp-up” towards the end of the decade, reports the Financial Times. Though diesel will remain the preeminent source of fuel for next few years, hydrogen will become more widely adopted in 2027 before going “steeply up” in the 2030s, Daimler Truck Chairman Martin Daum told the salmon-colored paper. Volvo is aiming to have half of its European truck sales be powered by hydrogen in 2030, and both companies are aiming for zero-emissions by 2040. The two companies have also teamed up to create Cellcentric, a JV that aims to manufacture sustainable fuel cells for industries inside and outside automotives.

📺 ON THE TUBE TONIGHT-

OSN is launching a temporary channel, OSN Howa w Heya, in celebration of Eid, Al Mal reports. The channel will broadcast famous classic Egyptian films and plays including those of iconic actors such as Adel Imam, Fouad El Mohandes, Shweikar, Shadia, and Abdel Halim Hafez. The channel will be live from 13 May 13 at 8am until 5 June at 8pm, available to OSN Home Plus, Platinum and Premier subscribers.

Alternatively: Go to Rolling Stone’s quite excellent list of the 100 best TV sitcoms of all time. Yes, it’s an America-centric list. And yes, it’s debatable. But damn, is it good.

THE BEAUTIFUL GAME-

Man City could be crowned champions of the Premier League tonight without even kicking a ball: Should second-placed Man Utd fail to beat Leicester tonight, the blue half of Manchester will be confirmed league champions. United then has to beat Liverpool on Thursday to delay further City’s title celebrations — at least until Friday when they get the chance to wrap everything up in their match against Newcastle.

The potential title deciders:

  • Man Utd v Leicester City kicks off at Old Trafford at 7pm tonight;
  • Man Utd and Liverpool play at Old Trafford at 9:15pm on Thursday;
  • Man City meet Newcastle at St. James’ Park on Friday at 9pm;

The title race is still wide open in Spain, with just two points separating Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of the table — and three games to go. All three will get the chance to lay a claim to the league: Barcelona play mid-table Levante tonight at 10pm, while league leaders Atletico Madrid play fifth-placed Real Sociedad tomorrow at 10pm and cross-town rivals Real Madrid play Granada on Thursday at 10pm.

The title has already been won in Serie A, but that doesn’t make things any less exciting. The fight for the all-important fourth-spot (and Champions League qualification) is still on: Fourth-placed Napoli will get the chance to extend their slender lead over fifth-placed Juventus to four points when they meet Udinese at 8:45pm tonight. Juventus, who should beat Sassuolo tomorrow night, face a tougher challenge when they meet Inter Milan, which sits atop the league. Both are must-win games if the former champions are going to make the Champions League next year.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Pyramids FC will face off against Enyimba in a African Confederation Cup quarterfinals match on Sunday at 6pm. Both teams have shown strong potential during group stages, with Pyramids holding 12 points and Enyimba nine.

🥐 EAT THIS EID MORNING

We can all finally set down for breakfast again: Hail to the coffee machine. If you’re like us, you can’t wait to settle down with a croissant and some liquid happiness. Here’s a list of places to call up in the morning to make your first breakfast post-Ramadan count:

  • Miette French Bakery is sure to satisfy your early morning cravings with their egg-filled breakfast plates, sandwiches, and pastries. You can find them in Maadi, Zamalek, and Uptown Cairo.
  • Another formidable breakfast place is Ralph’s German Bakery in New Cairo, Maadi, and Dahab which bakes fresh bread every morning in every size, shape, and flavor. We recommend their full English breakfast plate and their Bavarian cherry noodles.
  • If you want to stray away from the basics, head to Maadi’s The Lebanese Bakery and have a filling and delicious breakfast of a manouche and mouajjanet.

💡 UNDER THE LAMPLIGHT-

Seth Rogen is out with a book featuring a collection of personal anecdotes that touch on everything from doing standup comedy as a teen to time spent at summer camp and adventures in Los Angeles. Yearbook is Rogen’s first literary offering after years as an actor, comedian, filmmaker starring in productions such as SuperBad, This is the End, and most recently, Freaks and Geeks. In case you need more convincing, Rogen’s mom wrote a review about the newly released book, seemingly liking everything except the proud stoner moments. Rogen will also release an audiobook version on Audible, read in his own voice.

Worth a read on Mr. Rogan: Seth Rogen on fame, smoking weed and why his films have not aged well in which the Times (of London) talks to the actor about his book and how he’s grappling with some of the more misogynistic aspects of his oeuvre.


🌤 EID WEATHER- The outlook for Eid is wonderful: Tomorrow and the first day of Eid will be pleasant with daytime highs of 34°C overnight lows of 18°C. Look for the mercury to rise to 40°C by Monday, when we all trudge back to work, according to our favorite weather app.

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