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Wednesday, 2 March 2022

THIS MORNING: Russia ramps up rocket fire on Ukrainian cities + IPO in the cards for new capital subsidiaries

Good morning, wonderful people. The big story here at home is fallout from the war in Ukraine as the Madbouly government took quick steps yesterday to shore up our wheat reserves and domestic harvest amid ongoing disruptions in the international market for the grain.

What they’re doing: As we report below, the government will buy substantially more wheat from local farmers this harvest season — and make it easier for smaller farmers to grow the crop ahead of the next planting season.

Take a nice, deep breath: It’s natural that the global market is in a bit of disarray right now, but markets have a tendency to work things out — and state grain buyer GASC is the biggest, most experienced player in that global market. With a four-month stockpile in place and the government now buying more domestically, GASC has some breathing room. Its goal: Not to buy now at exorbitant prices if it expects some measure of order to slowly return to the market in the coming days and weeks.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW about the war in Ukraine this morning:

  • Russia stepped up its assault on Ukraine’s biggest cities, firing missiles (and, reportedly, cluster munitions) on urban areas as the war rages on for the seventh day. Cities hit include Kyiv and Kharkiv.
  • There won’t be another round of peace talks unless Russia stops targeting Ukrainian civilians, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Reuters yesterday.
  • Reshaping the global order, Part 1: Erdogan isn’t opposed to Nato enlargement, more EU politicians are talking favorably about immediately making Ukraine a member (a decision could come as early as next week), and China is putting some daylight between itself and Moscow.
  • Reshaping the global order, Part 2: Moscow demanded that Western countries pull back from bases in countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union — and doubled down on its (so far baseless) claim that Ukraine is seeking nuclear weapons.
  • Fund managers: Kiss your dividends goodbye. The forecast heading into 2022 was that dividends would grow slower this year than last (a record year for divvies). With a Second Cold War now clearly underway and a high-inflation environment here to stay a while, the Financial Times suggests dividends are going to come under even more pressure.

AT THE SAME TIME- The G7 is acting more like a bloc on foreign policy. The group of leading industrialized economies said yesterday it will offer “significant” financial support to Ukraine — and promised more sanctions for Russia.

G7 ambassadors in Cairo also released a statement yesterday calling on Egypt to stand with Ukraine. The statement (pdf) has gotten traction here at home (Al Shorouk | Al Mal) and wide pickup in Gulf media (The National). The G7 ambassadors said they welcomed Egypt’s support for Ukrainian tourists stranded here, noting our “uniquely Egyptian sense of warmth and hospitality.” They then name-checked Gamal Abdel Nasser, our long history of careful diplomacy, and “the honour of standing up for the rights of others” as they asked Egypt to stand with Ukraine when the UN General Assembly meets this week. Egypt maintains good relations with both Russia and Ukraine, which together account for about a third of our inbound tourism market and as much as 80% of our wheat supply.


“We are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine.” That was the central message of US President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech, which is wrapping up just as we press “send” on this morning’s issue. Biden promised to redouble the economic attack on Russia, including by closing off US airspace to Russian planes and seizing oligarchs’ “ill-begotten gains” in tandem with European partners. The economy was the other central theme of the annual address, with Biden pitching his plan to combat high prices by boosting domestic production, after US inflation reached its fastest pace in four decades.

It wouldn’t be a Biden speech without a slip of the tongue: “Putin may circle Kyiv with tanks, but he'll never gain the hearts and souls of the Iranian people,” Biden said. The world was quick to point out that the people of Kyiv are Ukrainians, not Iranians.

TWEET OF THE MORNING- “Honestly if you don't use shatafa / bidet you have 0 legs to stand on calling the rest of us uncivilized.” –Former Guardian Mideast correspondent Kareem Shaheen

SIGN OF THE TIMES #1- Serena Williams is now a big-time venture capitalist. A reminder you can always have a second act in life. One of the best players to ever pick up a racquet, Williams is a longtime angel investor and apparently didn’t break a sweat raising a USD 111 mn inaugural fund. You can check our her Serena Ventures site here or catch a glimpse of her appearance on CNBC’s Squawk Box here.

SIGN OF THE TIMES #2- Urban adventure photographer (and crypto fan) Drifter Shoots just became the first Black photographer to make it to auction at Christies. He celebrated with a highlight video that you do NOT want to watch if you have a fear of heights.

SIGN OF THE TIMES #3- The UAE has relaxed covid-19 restrictions and will no longer require masks be worn outdoors.

HAPPENING TODAY- You can expect OPEC+ to stick to its gradual supply increases when it meets today, Bloomberg reports. Analysts and traders expect the oil cartel will agree to another 400k barrel per day oil production increase — which won’t do much to stall rocketing prices as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbates a preexisting supply crunch.

Cue: An emergency release of US reserves to the rescue? Members of the International Energy Agency (IEA) will deploy 60 mn barrels of emergency oil stockpiles in a bit to tamp down prices. The US will contribute half the amount from its strategic reserve, while the rest will come from IEA members in Europe and Asia, Bloomberg quoted unidentified sources as saying.

The IEA’s announcement hasn’t cooled the markets so far: Brent crude closed up a whopping 7.1% yesterday at USD 104.97 per barrel.

MEANWHILE- (Some) smokes are getting more expensive- Eastern Company has hiked the prices of several of its own brand cigarettes by EGP 0.5-1 per pack, according to a regulatory filing (pdf). The changes came into effect yesterday. The company last hiked price points last year. Both sets of increases came on the back of the VAT Tax amendments approved in 2020, which placed additional taxes on cancer sticks cigarettes.

Consoleya is holding its second Women Meet-up today to discuss topics including inclusivity in investment. The agenda includes a panel discussion on gender-lens funding here in Egypt.

HAPPENING TOMORROW- PMI: Purchasing managers’ index figures for February for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar will be released tomorrow at 6:15am CLT. Non-oil business activity in Egypt contracted for the fourteenth consecutive month in January on the back of weaker demand and inflationary pressure, recording the lowest reading since April 2021 and falling below the series average.


Key news triggers to keep your eye on over the next few weeks:

  • Foreign reserves: February’s foreign reserves figures will most likely be announced this week or next.
  • Inflation: Inflation figures for February will be released on Thursday, 10 March.
  • Interest rates: The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) will hold its next monetary policy meeting on Thursday, 24 March.

Contemporary art and culture center Darb1718 is hosting its 3031 Art Festival from 4-12 March on its premises in Fustat, Old Cairo. Unique collections of multidisciplinary art will be on display along with live music, dance, theater performances, and interactive workshops. Guest speakers Adsum Art Consultancy will be on hand to discuss investing in art. Catch a full day of activities from 1:00pm–9:30pm on weekends and weekdays from 4:00pm–10:00pm

The Diarna Handicrafts Fair kicked off last Thursday and runs through 7 March at Cairo Festival City from 10am until 10pm daily.

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


*** It’s Hardhat day — your weekly briefing of all things infrastructure in Egypt: Enterprise’s industry vertical focuses each Wednesday on infrastructure, covering everything from energy, water, transportation, and urban development, as well as social infrastructure such as health and education.

In today’s issue: The government now has a database to boost transparency and efficiency in public-private partnership (PPP) projects, after the International Monetary Fund lent us some technical assistance. In this week’s Hardhat, we delve into the report from the IMF’s technical team, unpacking how the database will work, what we stand to gain from implementing it, and where we can exploit the potential of the PPP model to turbocharge the national infrastructure drive.

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