Wednesday, 29 September 2021

THIS EVENING: A really slow news day here at home, but we’re keeping a watchful eye on signs that twin food commodity and energy crises may be brewing abroad

How slow of a news day is it? Let’s put it this way: We’re really worked up that the cabinet has signed off on amendments to the Traffic Act that, if passed by the House, would make it legal for 16-year-olds to ride e-bikes on city streets. That’s about the best we can do in the manufactured-outrage department.

(The Madbouly government recently launched a campaign headlined “Your bike, your health” to sell subsidized bicycles and e-bikes. The link for reservations is here.)

The only business-relevant stories of note so far today are no more thrilling: The EGX30 closed down 0.5% today in notably light trading. Conventional wisdom on the street has it that (a) retail investors are still letting us know they’re brassed off about the prospect of paying capital gains on their portfolios starting next year and (b) that some folks are exiting positions to make available the liquidity they need to buy into e-Finance’s ongoing IPO.

ALSO: EGX boss Mohamed Farid inked an agreement (pdf) to work with the Egyptian Businessmen's Association to build a database of companies that are good prospects to IPO in the future.

See what we mean? As it was this morning, THE BIG STORY TODAY is abroad, not here at home:

HAPPENING NOW- Health Minister Hala Zayed is on a visit to Germany to discuss cooperation in the health sector, according to Youm7. Zayed is set to talk with officials at Mercedes about the supply of 1k ambulances and some 1k medical mobile clinics. The minister will also be meeting with execs from health tech outfit Siemens.

Will we be making BioNTech / Pfizer here in Egypt? Zayed had previously said that she will be meeting with BioNTech officials to discuss the possibility.

ALSO HAPPENING NOW- Don’t hold your breath — consumer activity in the eurozone is back to pre-pandemic levels, but… high energy prices and supply-chain disruptions could upend all of that.

Which brings us to our BIG STORY OF THE DAY: The world could be looking at twin energy and food crises this winter, developments that are of particular interest to us here in Egypt, where we export natural gas to Europe — and import the vast majority of our foodstuffs.

Food and agricultural commodity prices are at risk of rising as China looks at a difficult harvest season, Bloomberg reports. China is currently facing power shortages that are hitting industrial hubs just as the fall harvest gets underway — and “among the worst hit [regions] are northeastern provinces where about half of China’s corn and soybeans are grown. … The power shortage has forced soybean processors in northern regions to shut … [and there’s] also concern that the electricity crunch could cut operating rates of corn processors.”

Throw in a bad year for crops in Brazil, which as we noted yesterday have been “scorched, frozen and then dried out by the worst drought in a century,” and it could be a nasty winter for food prices globally.

The latest on a (simultaneous? global?) energy crunch: With winter fast approaching, officials in Beijing are looking to “quell power crunch fears” by “demanding railway companies and local authorities raise their game in shipping vital coal supplies to utilities. One continent over, the UK has followed through on a plan to have soldiers drive tankers to replenish filling stations with petrol as panic buying continues to see long lines and empty pumps.

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

  • Abu Auf could debut on EGX in 2Q2022: Healthy food brand Abu Auf’s parent company AUF could offer up to 49% of its shares on the EGX.
  • SFE could embark on new desalination projects: Orascom Construction and Hassan Allam Holding are in early talks with the Sovereign Fund of Egypt (SFE) for contracts to build several new desalination plants.
  • Gov’t pushes employees to get vaccinated: Government employees who remain unvaccinated in two months time will be banned from entering their workplaces.

WATCH THIS SPACE- Economists, traders and politics geeks alike are firmly fixated on Washington, DC, where “Democrats in Congress are scrambling to find a way to raise the US debt ceiling and avert what a chorus of executives and policymakers are warning would be a ‘catastrophic’ default in less than three weeks.” The story leads the front page of the Financial Times.

Markets are topsy-turvy: Global bond markets have taken a beating as many nations signal that interest rate rises are incoming, sparking the steepest price declines since the beginning of the year, writes the Financial Times. The US and Europe have come under particular pressure as they grapple with increasing inflation that seems unlikely to be transitory — a notion experts had been touting in the past period. The wave of bond selling has pushed yields sky high, which in turn has hit stocks in key markets such as the US, according to the Wall Street Journal. Major players including Microsoft, Alphabet, and Nvidia have seen their stock prices drop 4.5% or more so far this week, dragging down major indices.

CLOSER TO HOME- Saudi renewable energy player ACWA Power has priced its Tadawul IPO at the top end of the range, saying it will sell its shares at SAR 56 apiece in a transaction that will raise USD 1.2 bn and value the company at USD 10.9 bn. The Saudi outfit has operations here in Egypt. Our friends at EFG Hermes KSA are bookrunners on the transaction.

ALSO WORTH KNOWING- Former foreign minister Fumio Kishida is set to become Japan’s new prime minister after winning the leadership of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Kishida will lead the LDP into Japan’s elections in November.

YOUR STATUTORILY REQUIRED COVID STORY- Are we going to have an anti-covid pill? Pfizer says oral antivirals have the ability to prevent covid-19 infection in people exposed to the virus, the company announced. Results from an early-stage trial suggest the pill “was safe and well tolerated.” Pfizer is now launching a mid-to-late-stage clinical trial with over 2.6k participants who are living with someone who tested positive for covid-19.

We’re (many) months away from an anti-covid pill. Swiss pharma firm Merck and Miami-based Ridgeback Biotherapeutics are also testing an antiviral tablet to treat covid-19 and are expecting results by the end of the year, reported the Financial Times.

FOR TOMORROW- The Cairo International Fair opens tomorrow at the Cairo International Conference Center, running through 8 October.

The Egypt Projects 2021 construction expo also opens tomorrow at the Egypt International Exhibition Center and wraps on Saturday, 2 October.


Winter retail opening hours in effect from Thursday: Shops and malls will close one hour earlier at 10pm (11pm on Thursdays, Fridays and national holidays) while cafes and restaurants will shutter at midnight rather than 1am. As during the summer, essential services such as grocery stores, supermarkets and pharmacies are exempt from the rules and can open and close their doors when they want.

Dubai’s Expo 2020 starts Friday, 1 October. The event, which takes place somewhere on the planet once every five years, runs for six months and will be open seven days a week. You can learn more here.

PSA #1- Next week is a short work week. You can expect to have a three-day weekend 7-9 October in observance of Armed Forces Day, which is on 6 October. Folks whose workdays are tied to banks and the market can expect confirmation from the Central Bank of Egypt and EGX early next week.

PSA #2- We’re probably also looking at a long weekend starting Thursday, 21 October in observance of the Prophet’s Birthday, which is formally Monday, 18 October.

Google for Startups’s MENA accelerator is accepting applications until 14 October. The three-month digital accelerator program for seed to Series A tech startups based in the region will run virtually starting January 2022.

Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news events, national holidays and news triggers.

☀️ TOMORROW’S WEATHER- Expect a daytime high of 34°C and a low overnight of 21°C, our favorite weather app tells us. Your weekend outlook: Beautiful fall weather, with a high of 32°C on Friday and 31°C on Saturday.

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