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Thursday, 12 May 2022

THIS MORNING: Samih Sawiris steps down as ODE chairman; Shoukry to co-chair climate meeting in Copenhagen; US inflation data spooks markets

It’s another heavy news day, wonderful people, with tons of investment news here at home and no sign that the macro clouds will soon part globally.

THE BIG STORY here at home: The (macro) weather outside may be frightful, but the investment news here at home is delightful as Total Energies and Ennara Capital became the latest players to say they’re going to build a large-scale green ammonia facility in the SCZone. Meanwhile, a German fiberboard maker is entering Egypt in a JV with EKH and logistics startup Mylers is planning expansion at home and abroad after raising a nearly USD 10 mn round.

WATCH THIS SPACE- The EGP unexpectedly strengthened against the greenback yesterday, jumping to EGP 18.42 / USD from EGP 18.53 on Tuesday, according to central bank data.

SIGN OF THE TIMES- The EU will no longer mandate facemasks on flights starting Monday, according to fresh official guidance, according to a statement out yesterday.

PASSING THE BATON at Orascom Development Holding: Yesterday was Naguib Samih Sawiris’ first day as chairman of SIX Swiss Exchange-listed Orascom Development Holding after his father, business icon Samih Sawiris, stepped down on Tuesday at the company’s annual general meeting in Altdorf (regulatory filing, pdf). Samih’s retirement was long-planned and had previously been communicated to shareholders.

Samih will continue to serve as an “unpaid consultant” to Naguib, the younger Sawiris joked in an email to the group’s more than 7k employees. Samih will be devoting his time to passions including education, healthcare, and marine preservation as Naguib pushes ahead with a strategy to “grow ODH into the category-defining destination development company.” You can read the full internal email here (pdf).

Any of us who have ever enjoyed a day in El Gouna — or anywhere else on the southern Red Sea coast — owes Samih a debt of gratitude. The purpose-built city, along with its emphasis on quality and building in harmony with the natural environment, transformed a barren piece of land served by one quiet road into a vibrant town. That town, in turn, catalyzed the transformation of the Red Sea coast into a world-class destination.

El Gouna has proven that you don’t need to reside in the capital to live, love and build a business in Egypt. Look no further than it having provided a safe haven to many in our community when covid-19 hit two years ago — plenty of us have simply chosen never to move back to Cairo.

Samih exported these ideas to Switzerland, the UAE, Oman, Morocco, the UK, and Montenegro, transforming his company into a multinational organization with deep Egyptian roots.

Samih is easy to admire even if Gouna isn’t your thing: The man built a company with more than 10 destinations, serving some 6 mn tourists, with some 10k homes, while staying true to his belief that “in life and business we can all win together — no one needs to lose for the other to win.” More of this, please.

WATCH THIS SPACE– Egypt plans the issuance of panda bonds in China, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait told Chinese Ambassador to Cairo Liao Liqiang, according to a ministry statement that did not provide a timeframe for the issuance.

The sale of CNY-denominated bonds in China, the world’s second-largest bond market, would contribute in “diversifying debt instruments, attracting new investors and lowering and diversifying funding sources for development investments,” he said. If the plan goes through, it would follow Egypt’s samurai bond debut in late March, which was taken to market despite the economic fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.


Foreign Minister and COP27 President Sameh Shoukry is in Copenhagen today to co-chair a meeting of climate leaders to discuss progress meeting Paris climate targets. The two-day summit will be attended by UN climate change secretary Patricia Espinosa, while COP26 President Alok Sharma will chair the meeting alongside Shoukry.

We have our official COP logo: The Foreign Ministry yesterday unveiled the logo for the upcoming COP27 conference, which will take place in Sharm El Sheikh in November. Behold:


MEANWHILE- The PSA world squash championships get underway tomorrow. The men’s and women’s finals will be played on 22 May. There is USD 550k at stake for each of the men’s and women’s championships, making this the biggest purse on record for a squash tourney. The CIB-sponsored championships will play out at SODIC’s Club S Allegria and at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization.


Keep an eye out for Madbouly’s big presser at the start of next week: The promised press conference to announce new details of the state’s response to the economic turmoil fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine will take place early next week, cabinet said in a statement yesterday following its weekly meeting. Cabinet is expected to reveal new details on how the government intends to attract more FDI and expand the private sector’s role in the economy. Catch all the details from yesterday’s meeting in our Cabinet Watch section, below.

A huge US “GreenTech business mission” is inbound next week. More than 40 US companies will be in Egypt during 15-17 May to kick the tires on green investment and potential business partnerships in sectors ranging from energy to healthcare, agriculture, aviation, construction and water resource management. The high-level delegation will meet with members of the business community and senior government officials, including Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly and other members of cabinet. The mission is being organized by AmCham and the US Chamber of Commerce.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman could be in town next week for talks with President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa said last night, without giving any details (watch, runtime: 3:01).

Saudi Arabia has been one of Egypt’s main backers amid the Ukrainian crisis, pledging some USD 15 bn to support Cairo in shoring up finances from the global fallout from the war. El Sisi and MbS have been in frequent contact since March, most recently speaking on the phone this week.

It’s interest rate week: The Central Bank of Egypt will meet to review interest rates on Thursday, 19 May. Our customary poll of analysts sees the central bank getting more aggressive with its tightening cycle, with five of seven respondents expecting rates to rise by as much as 200 bps on the back of rising inflation and emerging-market outflows.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD– US media are leading with the latest in the escalating political battle over abortion rights: Senate Republicans have blocked an attempt by Democrats to pass a federal law preserving the right to abortion as the conservative-dominated Supreme Court prepares to overturn the landmark Roe v Wade decision. (Bloomberg | NYT | Reuters | AP)


Fresh data suggests high US inflation is becoming more entrenched: US inflation fell to 8.3% in April, dropping for the first time since August 2021, according to the country’s latest consumer price index. Prices remained near 40-year highs in April and didn’t cool as much as expected, while core inflation rose above forecasts and prices in the services sector continued to accelerate. “This moves the balance of risks to more concern about inflation going forward,” one analyst told the Financial Times.

The markets certainly didn’t take many positives from the release: US equities continued to slide yesterday as investors fretted about whether the Federal Reserve could accelerate its tightening cycle in response to the figures. Tech once again bore the brunt of the sell-off, with the Nasdaq falling another 3.2% during the session. The S&P 500 lost 1.7%.

So much for that inflation hedge: Crypto assets continued to be hammered by the risk off, with BTC falling below USD 30k to its lowest level since December 2020. Shares in crypto exchange Coinbase dived more than 26%, leaving it down 85% since IPOing in April 2021. And TerraUSD, a stablecoin pegged to the USD, was in freefall yesterday after busting its peg and sending its linked cryptocurrency Luna down 98%.

Investors are throwing out junk bonds as market rout spreads: High-yield, high-risk bonds — known as “junk” — are the latest asset category to fall victim to the wider selloff in the markets, with US junk bonds now trading at their lowest prices since the start of the covid pandemic, the Wall Street Journal writes. Yields for the below investment-grade bonds have been climbing steadily since the Federal Reserve started gearing up for its tightening cycle, but this week’s selloff in equities has investors “spooked” and running for the exit amid talk of a brewing recession, portfolio managers said.

The equity sell-off is continuing in Asia this morning, with most exchanges in the red ahead of dispatch time. Futures indicate that European shares will follow them when markets open in a few hours, though on Wall Street shares are currently on course to rise in early trading.

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