THIS MORNING: Mohamed Omran could be stepping down as FRA chief; EGX has best day since March 2020 on Thursday
Good morning, folks, and welcome to a busy news day. We hope you had a relaxing weekend — and that those of you not on summer vacation (hello, 6.02×10^23 vacation auto-replies) are looking forward to a productive week.
THE BIG STORY HERE AT HOME- A changing of the guard at the FRA? Mohamed Omran looks to be stepping down as the head of the Financial Regulatory Authority after five years at the helm, Al Borsa reports. Omran was given a one-year extension on his term in office on 8 August 2021. No successor has yet been appointed.
It’s not clear what happens next: The newspaper reports some sources as saying that the board could keep Omran on for another term, while others are floating a list of names for his potential replacement, including EGX boss Mohamed Farid (now in the early days of his second four-year term in office), former EGX chairman Khaled Serry Seyam, former vice chairman of the FRA Reda Abdel Moati, and World Bank senior financial sector specialist Ahmed Rostom.
Omran himself has hinted that something is in the works, reportedly telling Al Borsa in a message that he has “ended his relationship” with non-banking financial activities.
Stay tuned: Look for the decision to potentially be announced today, the newspaper reports.
EGX WATCH- The EGX notched its best day in almost two-and-a-half years on Thursday as investor fears over inflation and food security eased. The benchmark EGX 30 index surged 5.3% during the session, its biggest single-day gain since March 2020.
The big gainers: e-Finance (+18.7%), Fawry (+18.6%) and EK Holding’s EGP-denominated shares (+11.5%).
So long, bear market (for now): Thursday’s session lifted the EGX 30 out of a bear market for the first time since mid-June. The benchmark is now down 16.7% from its recent peak in early January. The bourse has been rallying in past weeks and has gained 16% since 5 July.
Turnover was strong — up >60% on the trailing 90-day average, though the execution of Chimera’s acquisition of a 56% stake in Beltone accounts for some of that — the transaction was worth about EGP 385 mn. Turnover on Thursday came in at a hair over EGP 2 bn.
What’s driving the wave of buying? Investors are hoping that the worst is behind us on the inflation and food security front, Fadi Reyad, market analyst at CAPEX.com, told Reuters. The resumption of wheat exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports last week is expected to ease pressure on Egypt to find new wheat suppliers. Meanwhile, July’s PMI data released Wednesday contained hints of optimism that inflationary pressures are beginning to temper, with fewer companies reporting rising input costs during the months.
Merely a bear market rally? The bourse “remains exposed to selling pressures from local and international investors,” Reyad warned.
EGP WATCH- The EGP continued to lose ground against the USD in the first week of August, losing another 0.9% during the five-day period to close the week 19.18 on Thursday. The currency is now down 21.5% since the central bank devalued the currency in the third week of March and is edging closer to the record low of 19.56 set in December 2016.
Egypt is busy trying to broker another ceasefire agreement between Israel and fighters in Gaza after clashes broke out between the two sides on Friday. At least 24 Palestinians have been killed and more than 200 injured in Israeli airstrikes. Reports suggest at least six children are among the dead. We have more in this morning’s Diplomacy section, below. The story also received attention on Last Night’s Talk Shows.
REMEMBER- Cairo brokered a crucial ceasefire between Israel and Hamas last year, putting an end to violence that had lasted nearly two weeks and left hundreds dead.
MEANWHILE- There’s another round of public consultations on the government’s state ownership policy today: Today it’s the turn of pre-K and K12 education providers to voice their thoughts on the plans to transfer more of the economy into private hands. The government holds workshops every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday to see how its plans will affect specific industries. You can find more details on the schedule of the meetings here.
HAPPENING THIS WEEK-
The central bank will release foreign reserves figures for July this week, and inflation data for July should land on Wednesday, 10 August.
NEXT WEEK + BEYOND-
Ghazl El Mahalla IPO: The retail portion of Ghazl El Mahalla’s mini-IPO will wrap next Sunday, 14 August.
MNHD shareholders have the final word on SODIC takeover bid: Madinet Nasr Housing and Development will hold a general assembly meeting on Tuesday, 16 August, to decide whether to allow SODIC to conduct due diligence ahead of a potential takeover.
Interest rates: The Central Bank of Egypt will meet to discuss interest rates next Thursday, 18 August.
National Dialogue: The board of trustees overseeing the National Dialogue will hold its next meeting on 27 August. On the agenda: Choosing the rapporteurs for all of the committees and subcommittees of the social, political and economic tracks, and preparing the agenda and topics of discussion for the dialogue.
Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news events, national holidays and news triggers.
THE BIG STORY ABROAD- US President Joe Biden’s tax and climate legislative agenda moved a step closer to becoming reality last night after the Senate narrowly voted 51-50 to start debating the bill thanks to a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris. Senators are now spending up to 20 hours in the endurance test of a so-called “vote-a-rama”: Where lawmakers take votes on individual amendments of a bill. If it passes in a final Senate vote, the bill would unlock bns of USD in new spending for climate projects and close corporate tax loopholes, among other things. (AP | Reuters | NYT | Washington Post | Bloomberg | WSJ)
MEANWHILE- Berkshire Hathaway’s 2Q earnings was the big business story in the global financial press over the weekend. Strap in with us a moment, because it’s a bit complicated — kind of like claims the US has fallen into a recession.
The Warren Buffett-led conglomerate posted a USD 43.8 bn loss during the quarter as market turmoil delivered a sizable blow to its equity portfolio, overshadowing increased profitability at its underlying businesses. The group’s investments lost USD 53 bn during the April-June quarter, reducing its stock portfolio to USD 328 bn.
But it reported a substantial rise in operating income at its underlying businesses, which span everything from ins. to railways. Berkshire turned in USD 9.3 bn in operating income, up from USD 6.7 bn a year ago.
Why you should care: Berkshire is widely viewed as a key indicator for the performance of the broader economy, analysts say, and the key takeaway from its earnings for the quarter is that companies are (so far) showing signs of resilience amid a tough economic environment and fears of recession — even as the stock market takes a rocky ride.
Berkshire’s earnings are all over the financial press: Financial Times | Bloomberg | CNBC | Wall Street Journal.
SPEAKING OF MIXED SIGNALS, the US added jobs at an unexpectedly fast pace in July, suggesting the US may not be in a recession — even as growth figures suggest the world’s largest economy may be in recession after contracting in both the first and second quarters. Reuters and the New York Times have the story.
OF MORE LOCAL INTEREST- The first foreign ship has arrived in Ukraine to load up on grain since the war began in February, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said yesterday. The arrival of the Barbados-flagged ship also marks a milestone for the Turkey- and UN-brokered wheat export pact between Ukraine and Russia, which went into effect last week. Three more vessels departed Ukraine’s Black Sea ports on Friday, bringing the amount of grain shipped from Ukraine since the pact was signed to 85k tons — which is less than 8% of what Ukraine usually ships at this time of year, Bloomberg reports.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES-
#1- Time to buy local: Recent import restrictions are starting to create shortages of high-end consumer goods in Egypt, Bloomberg reports. The range of clothes on offer at international fashion retailers is falling while it is becoming more challenging to find your favorite jar of pesto.
#2- When koshari becomes too expensive: The soaring local inflation triggered by the war in Ukraine has increased the price of our national treasure — and this is forcing Egyptians to reduce their intake of a once-cheap meal, according to Reuters.
#3- The global realignment: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are getting ever closer, agreeing to boost trade and energy ties during a sit-down at the Russian resort city of Sochi on Friday, the two leaders announced in a statement following the visit. The West is clearly not happy about a fellow-Nato member cosying up with Moscow and several officials have taken to the Financial Times to warn about the consequences of Ankara helping Russia to circumvent its economic sanctions, with one suggesting that Western governments could put pressure on companies to pull out of the country if Ankara pursues closer ties with Moscow.
*** It’s What’s Next day: We have our weekly deep-dive into what makes and shapes pre-listed companies and startups in Egypt, the UAE and KSA, touching on investment trends, future sector insights and growth journeys.
In today’s issue: Startups in Egypt are being urged to cut spending, but are they listening? With global funding drying up in the wake of global macro shocks and a higher interest rate environment, VCs everywhere have been urging their startups to shed their spending budgets. VCs here were no exception, advising startups to cut spending and extend runways for no less than 18 months. This week, we look at how startups are implementing this advice in Egypt’s StartupLand.