Wednesday, 9 June 2021

TONIGHT: How the big names in business evaded taxes + Supercycle in China? Also: Go watch Loki on OSN Streaming

…aaand we’re back after taking yesterday afternoon off — and not a moment too soon, as the busy news agenda from this morning shows no sign of slowing.

THE BIG STORIES this afternoon range from the economy (one survey suggests business conditions deteriorated last quarter) to tons of news of interest to manufacturers. We have the rundown in this afternoon’s Speed Round, below.

HAPPENING NOW- Egyptian ministers are heading to Sudan to talk GERD: Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Ati are in Khartoum today to talk GERD with Sudanese officials including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, Abdel Fattah Burhan, a cabinet statement said. Three-way talks with Ethiopia have been stalled for months, with Ethiopia recently announcing plans to build 100 more dams across the country.

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

  • Tana Capital-backed Alex Medical Investments in pole position to acquire Alex Medical: The company’s subsidiary, TAT Medical Services, has upped its bid for 100% of Alex Medical Services and is now willing to pay EGP 49.04 per share, up from EGP 45.53 it offered in May.
  • Aldar has another month to bid for SODIC: The company has until 14 July to submit a mandatory tender offer for at least 51% of upmarket real estate developer SODIC after the Financial Regulatory Authority agreed to its request to extend the deadline by a month.
  • World Bank downgrades Egypt forecasts for coming fiscal year: The Bank is now expecting GDP to grow at a 2.3% clip during the state’s current 2020-2021, down from 2.7% in its January forecast, and expects 4.5% growth in FY2021-2022, a downward revision from 5.8% previously.

HAPPENING NOW ABROAD- Joe Biden is on the road for an eight-day trip to Europe with the G7 summit as the first stop — followed by a sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in Geneva. Look for an agreement on a global minimum corporate tax to be high on the agenda at the G7 summit, which runs Friday-Sunday in the UK. Reuters notes: “G7 finance ministers agreed before the summit to pursue a global minimum tax rate of at least 15% and to allow market countries to tax up to 20% of the excess profits — above a 10% margin — generated by about 100 large, high-profit companies.” Biden has an up-hill battle getting the tax (which he supports) through the Congress, the Financial Times notes.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD as the business day gets underway across the ocean: The global business press thinks we’re edging closer and closer to the day of reckoning for Big Oil after Shell said it will “speed up its energy transition” and “accelerate its plan to cut greenhouse gasses” in the wake of a Dutch court ruling we mentioned recently. The story leads the front pages of the Wall Street Journal. The Financial Times and Reuters also have the story, presenting the summit as a near-last-ditch bid to “show [the world] that the West isn’t over yet.”

Is a post-covid travel system taking shape before our eyes? The European Union is moving toward the 1 July launch of a new travel certificate system that aims to make it easier for visitors to move between countries in the bloc. Non-EU citizens can apply for the certificates, but won’t automatically be granted one even if they are admitted to an EU country, the Associated Press reports. This comes as the United States inches closer towards lifting covid-related travel restrictions for the EU, UK, Canada and Mexico, a White House official told the FT.

Other stories that should be on your radar:

  • Major news sites as well as Amazon, Spotify and Reddit went offline for an hour yesterday after a widespread outage at the cloud-based content provider Fastly, Bloomberg reports. The story is everywhere in the foreign press, from the Associated Press to CNBC.
  • Could we say bye bye to Bibi next week? Israel’s parliament will decide Sunday whether to remove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from office after a 12-year run and appoint a new government, Bloomberg reports.
  • A video of French President Emmanuel Macron getting slapped in the face is making the rounds on social media. The incident took place during a walkabout in southern France yesterday; two people have been detained by police.


The Entering African Markets exporter training program continues through tomorrow, according to a press release (pdf). The program was launched by the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation in cooperation with the Egyptian Export Development Authority.

Egypt is hosting the first forum of the heads of African investment promotion agencies from 11-14 June in Sharm El Sheikh under the theme “Integration for Growth,” according to a cabinet statement. Ministers and heads of investment agencies from 34 African countries are expected to attend.

Entrepreneurs in the tourism sector have until 20 June to apply for the six-month Tourism Recovery Program launched by Enpact and the TUI Care Foundation and supported by GIZ, according to a press release (pdf). Some 100 startups will be eligible for direct support to the tune of EUR 9k each. The program also aims to create an international network of tourism business to expand cooperation between Egypt, Germany, and other European countries. You can apply here.


We’re not going to be getting Apple’s new “private relay” feature here in Egypt: The new function — coming this fall in iOS 15 and designed to hide users’ web browsing behavior from Apple, internet providers, and advertisers — will not be available in Egypt, China, Belarus, Colombia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines for “regulatory reasons,” Reuters reports. The new feature is expected to render IP addresses useless in pinpointing a user’s location or tracking their “digital fingerprint.” Withholding the feature from a number of countries has been described as an ethical compromise on privacy by Apple, to ensure it keeps its foothold in big markets.

If The Robots don’t get us… Smart city technology could leave cities large and small vulnerable to cyber-attacks — and become tools for “digital authoritarianism,” the FT writes in Exporting Chinese surveillance: the security risks of ‘smart cities’.

Wanna get one past the taxman? Go learn from Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett in this fantastic takedown by ProPublica on how the plutocrats are dodging taxes. Bezos has twice avoided paying a penny in federal income taxes. So, at various points, have Elon, bn’aire activist investor Carl Icahn and George Soros. The piece is admittedly a stretch in some respects — its “true tax rate” based on (un-taxable) estimated increases in wealth is bunk — but awfully good reading. Read: The secret IRS files: Trove of never-before-seen records reveal how the wealthiest avoid income tax.

Speaking of taxes, Amazon may have to pay up after all: G7 nations will attempt to apply their new 15% global minimum corporate tax rate to Amazon by considering the margins of the company’s more profitable cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Reuters reports, citing unnamed officials close to the talks. European countries had been concerned that the new agreement (above) would let Amazon off the hook, since its margins are lower than the minimum 10% threshold stipulated by the proposal, but AWS’ 30%+ profits could mean Amazon would be taxed after all if the agreement is ratified. The Financial Times also had the story.

SUPERCYCLE WATCH- Producer prices are soaring in China thanks to the post-covid commodities boom, adding to inflationary pressures globally, according to producer price index (PPI) data cited by the FT. China’s PPI — a gauge that measures the price of goods leaving its factories — beat forecasts by gaining 9% during May, its biggest y-o-y increase since September 2008. The index has been steadily inching up in recent months due in part to a favourable base effect. Higher factory prices also come as delays at several ports in southern China caused by a fresh covid-19 outbreak have led to worries of supply chain disruptions and pricier exports.

HERE AT HOME- Analysts have penciled in heightened inflation “soon” as a result of the year-long commodities rally. Inflation figures for May from state statistics bureau Capmas are expected out tomorrow at the latest. Annual urban headline inflation unexpectedly slowed to 4.1% in April, after having held steady at 4.5% in March from February.

SIGN OF THE TIMES- “Startup founders should think carefully before choosing, because some titles suggest competence, while others suggest warmth,” the Wall Street Journal writes in the latest from the Department of the Obvious. Read CEO? Entrepreneur? Scientist? The title you choose sends a message — it shouldn’t take you more than about 60 seconds.

As for us? Dear Leader and Ruler of All We Survey will do very nicely, thank you.

Your business is not your kid. Go watch a movie, play football, have a chat, go for ice cream — anything — while your spawn still thinks you’re cool. Or at least tolerable. There will be plenty of time to obsess over your business when the kid is a teen. That’s all we can think of after reading Why many entrepreneurs treat their businesses like their children, in the WSJ.

FROM THE DUMPSTER FIRE that is our social media, we offer the following:

  • People working from home are having [redacted] on company time? How did we miss out on that trend? Point-counterpoint on returning to the office, courtesy Jordan S. Terry, the very smart and sarcastic former Wall Street analyst and investment banker.
  • The best rundown on the Suez Canal / Ever Zeft on Twitter is this thread by the New School’s Aaron Jakes. Read past the de-rigeur Western academic potshots at Egypt and the Sisi administration (required by tenure committees?) and learn about the mini-Suez Canal in France and the back-and-forth between lawyers now unfolding.


Our favorite sassy villain is taking center stage with the eponymous series Loki: The first episode was released today on Disney+ and will hit OSN’s Streaming Service later tonight. Loki is already making a bang by hinting at what the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse (MCM) will look like in upcoming films. The time travel crime-thriller picks up straight after Avengers: Endgame, with Loki coming up with his own plans to take over Earth. His ambitions quickly go sideways as he is abruptly detained by the Time Variance Authority (TVA), a bureaucratic organization that oversees every MCM timeline, and charged with allegations of disrupting the “Sacred Timeline.” Loki is offered two options: to immediately have his existence erased or team up with the TVA to track down a greater threat to the timeline. We don’t want to spoil the episode for you, but it’s easy to guess which he chooses, seeing as more episodes are set to be released in the coming weeks — preferably with his existence intact.

Rave reviews about Loki are coming in strong and fast: Tech Radar | Deseret News | The Verge | Esquire


(All times in CLT)

The Contemporary Image Collective is currently hosting Notes on Collaboration, a series of discussions on the notion of togetherness and how to reflect it through art or writing. The event will run until 30 June.

The Darkroom Cairo is hosting a demo session on Saturday where participants can discuss, shoot, develop and print film in the in-house darkroom.

Stand up comedy crew The Elite are performing tomorrow at El Sawy Culturewheel at 7pm.

Nagham Masry is performing at The Room New Cairo on Friday at 9pm. The two man band will play a fusion of old Arabic poems, songs, and melodies with Western musical influences.

Get an exclusive tour of Abdeen Palace with guides Walk Like an Egyptian this Saturday at 9:30pm.


The Suez Canal crisis is now a children’s book, and we’re tittering: The Big Ship and the Little Digger takes the tiny digger who captivated social media and turns him into the hero of an illustrated children’s book that aims to teach children about “the power of naive optimism to move impossibly large obstacles that get in your way.” Written by Ryan Peterson, the CEO of San Francisco freight forwarder company Flexport, the book also provides some basic information about the logistics industry. The next generation of helpful ‘Little Diggers’ will also “learn the power of doing the right thing even when it seems like half the world is laughing at you.” While we disagree that it was only half the world that was laughing, the book is a great commemoration of one of the most meme-worthy disasters that hit the globe this year — plus all the proceeds will go towards Flexport’s humanitarian logistics programs for covid-19 relief in India.

🌤 TOMORROW’S WEATHER- The last day of the workweek will see the mercury rise to 39°C during the day and fall to 22°C at night, our favorite weather app forecasts.

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