Sunday, 30 May 2021

TONIGHT- Waiting for news on everything from an Ever Given settlement to covid-19 restrictions Gabi Ashkenazi’s visit to Cairo

It’s one of those “hurry up and wait” afternoons, with no single story dominating the news agenda as we wait to see what’s going on with everything from the Ever Given to Egypt’s push to turn a ceasefire in Gaza into a longer-term peace agreement.

HAPPENING NOW- The Suez Canal Authority has just started a presser at which it said it will answer questions about its quest to force the owners of the MV Ever Given to pay up for having blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week. The meeting with reporters comes one day after lawyers for the SCA and the Ever Given’s owners together asked Ismailia Economic Court to postpone until late June a ruling in a related case over the size of Egypt’s compensation demand.

We’re reading the tea leaves as suggesting a settlement is in the works as the SCA has so far said that there are “signs” a resolution could soon be reached as the vessels’s owners have been negotiating “in good faith.” Not coincidentally, the SCA also reminded reporters that Egypt’s case for compensation is “strong.”

WE’RE ALSO STILL WAITING ON the government’s covid-19 committee to announce whether they’re extending restrictions or reverting back to normal summer retail hours. The committee had extended until the end of May restrictions originally imposed for two weeks on 6 May, which mandated a 9 pm closing time for shops, restaurants and malls. Public parks and beaches were also ordered closed during the Eid break in an attempt to curb the rise in covid-19 cases. The committee is set to make an announcement on the possible extension today.

MEANWHILE- Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is in a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, who arrived in Cairo this morning. The two are set to discuss a permanent truce between Israel and Hamas in the first visit to Cairo by an Israeli FM in 13 years, Bloomberg reported. They’re meeting here at the same time as intelligence chief Abbas Kamel is in Tel Aviv for parallel talks with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat as Egypt serves as go-between in talks between Hamas and the Israeli government. Kamel will then make his way to Ramallah, heading an Egyptian delegation to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Egyptian officials are leading the drive to convert a ceasefire into a longer-term agreement that includes the reconstruction of Gaza, a resumption of peace talks between Israel and Palestine, and a prisoner swap.

Too soon to say bye bye to Bibi? Benjamin Netanyahu could soon be removed from office after a 12-year run as Israeli PM, with sources saying opposition leader Yair Lapid is close to forming a coalition government by the deadline next Wednesday, Reuters reports. Lapid is said to be forming a coalition with right-wing party leader Naftali Bennett, but the minority government would be fragile. To succeed, it would still need outside support from Arab members of the Knesset, whose political stance differs dramatically from Bennett’s. If Lapid fails to form a government by Wednesday, Israel could hold yet another round of elections — its fifth since April 2019.

The United Media Services Company (UMS) has inked a memorandum of understanding with MBC Group that will see the two co-produce scripted dramas, according to Youm7. Under the agreement, MBC will also obtain distribution rights for UMS productions. UMS has also signed an MoU with Saudi’s Al Arabia Outdoor Advertising to work together on outdoor ads. This comes one day after UMS shuffled its board of directors, naming veteran banker Hassan Abdalla as chairman, and announced plans to sell a 20-30% stake on the EGX by 2024. UMS’ holdings range from public relations outfit POD to ad industry staple Synergy as well as newspapers Youm7 and Al Watan and broadcasters On, ExtraNews, CBC, MegaFM and Nagham FM, among others.

SUPERCYCLE WATCH- Subsidized seed oils will be 23.5% more expensive starting Tuesday after the Supply Ministry said this morning it would raise the price per liter to EGP 21 from EGP 17. The move comes on the back of a global commodities rally, minister Aly El Moselhy said in a statement. The ministry will review the price of subsidized one-liter bottles of blended soybean and sunflower oil on a quarterly basis. Data from GASC, the state’s commodities buyer, which helps the country import 95% of its edible oil needs, shows that Egypt currently has a strategic reserves sufficient to cover five months of consumption, the minister said.

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

  • Misr Life will debut 25% stake on EGX in late 2021 / early 2022. Look for parent company Misr Insr. Holding to choose an external financial advisor for the transaction in June.
  • Hotel occupancy rates declined in 1Q2021 thanks to a high base effect. Rates in Sharm El Sheikh fell 33% y-o-y while Hurghada saw a 26% drop and Cairo 22%, but a bounceback is expected for the rest of the year. 1Q2020 figures included two full months of normal activity in the tourism industry before the bottom dropped out of the global market in March.
  • Bechtel could help fund Cairo Metro Line 6 with USD 2 bn loan: The loan would finance nearly half of the new metro line’s construction, and the company should hand its financial proposal to authorities by early July.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD on this first business day of the week is … nada. Zilch. Nothing. Crickets. All thanks to Memorial Day weekend in the United States and the spring bank holiday in the United Kingdom.

🗓 CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

OPEC+ will likely decide to continue oil output hikes when it holds its monthly meeting on Tuesday, especially as other producers have been increasing supply at a slower pace than the coalition had penciled in, Bloomberg reports. Oil companies for once have not rushed to increase output to capitalise on Brent crude price highs of USD 70, in part due to pressure on drilling companies over climate change. Though non-OPEC countries are expected to increase production by some 620 barrels per day, the increase in supply “comes nowhere close to matching” the expected spike in demand as industries the world over recover from the covid slump, according to the International Energy Agency.

The FIG World Challenge Cup in Artistic Gymnastics for men and women will take place in Egypt on 3-6 June.

🚙 FOR YOUR COMMUTE-

Tired of corporate life and thinking about binning it all to start your own company? Go read Justin Kan’s epic Twitter thread first. Kan sold Twitch, his first startup, to Amazon in a transaction that valued every gamer’s favourite streaming platform at nearly USD 1 bn. Then he started a legaltech venture called Atrium to “scratch his own itch.” It burned through USD 75 mn in three years before shutting down in March 2020 and throwing 100 people out of work. Read this thread about why it did not end well and the lessons he learned along the way.

Wait — you mean we can’t just go back to the way it was before? The never-ending conversation about the future of the workplace drags on. The latest installments worth reading: Wired thinks workers are “calling BS on leaders about returning to the office,” saying they are “feeling burned over broken work-from-home promises and corporate culture ‘BS.’” The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, takes a more pragmatic look at things, writing that CEOs are trying to balance “mandatory Mondays and Fridays and unused desks and crowded conference rooms” as they plot a return to corporate … normalcy.

Want more? Today’s Office Life is all about how CEOs think they made WFH … work.

How bad is our collective ennui? Even the influencers are burnt out, Vox tells us.

For our fellow iSheep and lovers of iPads Pro: WWDC is just a little more than a week out. If you’re a Mac user but wish you could do (lots, lots) more on your iPad, you’ll be joining us in paying close attention to what’s announced for iPadOS 15. The hardware is awesome, but the operating system is still holding it back. While you wait, check out Jason Snell’s review of the 2021 iPad Pro (All systems go, but where?) and then go read his very well considered iPadOS approaches the edge of desktop computing. His takeaway: Watch closely for signs of how Apple will address pain points on iPadOS without turning the iPad into a touch-screen Mac. Tap or click here to watch the keynote on Monday, 7 June.

Still hungering for more Friends after watching the reunion special on OSN over the weekend? Hollywood Reporter has got you covered with content that includes an interview with the show’s creators and with the director of the reunion show.

America is, by all appearances, tiptoeing into a “new political era,” writes the New Yorker, and the question is whether the neoliberal world order is going to be swept away by the fascist right or by progressive populism. No matter where you stand on America, wokeism or political change, this week’s American Chronicles is worth a read.

Also in the New Yorker: First it was spooks and dips in Havana. Now, the magazine writes, it has spread to the White House, with more than 130 cases worldwide. What is it, exactly? “A senior official on the National Security Council sat at his desk … on the White House grounds. … At the end of the day, he left the building and headed toward his car, which was parked a few hundred yards away, along the Ellipse, between the White House and the Washington Monument. As he walked, he began to hear a ringing in his ears. His body went numb, and he had trouble controlling the movement of his legs and his fingers. Trying to speak to a passerby, he had difficulty forming words. ‘It came on very suddenly,’ the official recalled later, while describing the experience to a colleague. ‘In a matter of about seven minutes, I went from feeling completely fine to thinking, Oh, something’s not right, to being very, very worried and actually thinking I was going to die.’” Go read: Are US officials under silent attack?

Ah, the perils of celebrity endorsements. The most recent to learn the lesson that a celebrity may not be a paragon of ethics? That would be Nike, which has split with footballer Neymar Jr. after a [redacted]-assault probe.

📺 ON THE TUBE TONIGHT-

Money, Explained is a must-see for all finance geeks: The five-episode series from Netflix and Vox tackles a bunch of very cool topics that, if put in a sentence here, will see the algorithms send us to bad folders for a few days. So maybe go check out the trailer (watch, runtime: 01:23) or just trust us that each 22-ish-minute episode is a great overview of some really interesting ideas.

El Zamalek play El Gouna tonight at 9pm in the Egyptian Premier League. You can also check out the earlier 5pm games featuring a match between Semouha and Al Mokawloon and another between Enppi and El Entag El Harby.

🥐EAT THIS TONIGHT-

Sample one of our guilty pleasures, Ezz El Mnofy. If you want a good meal without breaking the bank. Ezz El Mnofy is a good bet. We’ve tried a bunch of kebda and sogo2 places around Cairo and Alexandria, but in our opinion, nothing compares. With branches nationwide, we’re sure you’ll find one that delivers nearby. Their menu is humble but hearty, with only a few variations on the sandwiches. We recommend their classic kebda and sogo2 as well as their sogo2 modakhan. If you don’t mind the unadulterated calories, treat yourself to their sakalans sandwich that combines cream, honey, jam, and halawa.

💡 UNDER THE LAMPLIGHT-

Being smarter might not necessarily entail using your brain, science writer Annie Murphy Paul argues in The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain. She argues that the trick is to start to think “externally” using extra-neural resources that help us focus and foster creativity. These include the movements of our bodies, the physical spaces in which we learn and work, and the spoken thoughts of those around us. Using these external tools creates cognitive loops which help us work out and inspire ideas. Paul doesn’t hold back with the science, giving ample evidence and citing multiple studies for her claims. The end goal of the book is to motivate readers to change their surroundings to assist their minds in comprehension and cognition, argues the Wall Street Journal.


🌤 TOMORROW’S WEATHER- Stinkin’ hot. Monday is set to be the hottest day of the week, with the mercury set to hit 40°C during the day before cooling to 22°C overnight, according to our favorite weather app. Daytime highs will trend down over the course of the week to hit 34°C on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Don’t forget to pack a light sweater if you’re working from Sahel — look for overnight lows in the 18°C range near El Alamein.

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