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Wednesday, 10 August 2022

THIS MORNING: Electricity bills to rise 1 January + It’s inflation day at home and abroad

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to a very busy news day at home and abroad.

THE BIG STORY HERE AT HOME on this fine Wednesday morning: We’re going to be rationing electricity for hotels, sports facilities and malls (among other venues) as Cabinet looks to make more natural gas available for export.

This isn’t a return to the rolling blackouts of 2013 and 2014. Those were thanks to the twin effects of (a) decades of under-investment in generation capacity and (b) a shortage of natural gas. Today, we effectively have more total generation capacity than we can use (when you factor in all sources) and plenty of natural gas, thanks to a major expansion of infrastructure and natural gas exploration in the Sisi administration.

So what’s going on now? We want the FX. Much as we love solar and wind, natural gas-fired power plants are a huge component of what our fellow nerds call our “energy mix.” Fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine has turbo-charged pressure on the EGP at the same time as it has driven energy prices up faster globally than was the case before the conflict broke out. Cabinet wants to export more gas to net more USD as our reserves come under pressure. We have chapter and verse on this and more in this morning’s news well, below.

AND SPEAKING OF ELECTRICITY- Residential electricity bills will rise on 1 January, 2023, cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad said on Ala Mas’ouleety last night (watch, runtime: 39:43). Prices were set to rise by as much as 21% on 1 July, but the hikes were postponed to ease the weight of inflation on the public. The price hikes come as part of the government’s plan (pdf) to fully lift electricity subsidies by the middle of the decade.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

Inflation data lands today: State statistics agency Capmas and the Central Bank of Egypt will publish July’s inflation data today. Consumer price growth unexpectedly slowed for the first time in seven months in June after reaching three-year highs the month prior.

Could we be in for a nice surprise? While analysts expected it to accelerate again this quarter, we’re holding out hope that the recent cooling of global food and energy prices could start to have an impact on local prices. Oil has traded below USD 100 for most of this month while global food prices have fallen in each of the past four months.

Egypt isn’t the only country publishing its latest inflation reading today: All eyes will be on the US today when the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes July figures — a release that could have a huge say over the future direction of US monetary policy. Market watchers will be hoping for some sign that inflation is beginning to ease from its current 40-year high, giving the Federal Reserve more space to dial back its aggressive rate-hiking cycle. Most estimates see monthly inflation falling back significantly. Expect a strong market reaction whatever happens.


ALSO TODAY- Will Pachin allow Sipes’ takeover bid to move ahead? The board of EGX-listed Pachin will reportedly meet today to discuss the non-binding offer from Universal Building Materials and Chemicals (Sipes) to acquire between 60% and 100% of the state-owned paint manufacturer.

SOUND SMART- This is the second company to bid for Pachin in the past month. Pachin received an offer from Saybad Industrial Investment last month, which it rejected, saying that it undervalued the company.

Could Saybad raise its bid? That’s according to Al Mal, which reported yesterday that the company is considering upping its original EGP 16-16.50 per share bid, citing sources it says have knowledge of the matter. Saybad is still in the hunt despite the rejection of its initial bid and has asked Pachin’s board for the green light to start due diligence. Any offer would need to improve upon Sipes’ bid, which values Pachin at EGP 17.50-18.00 a share.


AND- A ship carrying 63k tons of Ukrainian wheat will soon set sail to Egypt, Al Mal quotes Supply Minister Ali El Moselhy as saying at a press conference yesterday. The ship was one of many stranded in the country’s ports since Moscow’s invasion that is now finally able to leave due to the Turkey- and UN-brokered grain pact between the two countries that allowed Kyiv to resume wheat exports via the Black Sea.

There should be more coming our way: Egypt and Ukraine are working to replace 240k-tons worth of contracts it canceled last month after they remained stuck in the country for months due to Russia’s blockade of the country’s ports. Egypt is one of the export destinations for Ukrainian grain agreed upon as part of the grain pact, El Moselhy said.


THE ROAD TO COP27: Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly has chosen a panel to oversee smart and green projects nationwide as part of an initiative that aims to connect national projects with financing institutions ahead of COP27, according to a statement. Mahmoud Mohieldin, the UN’s Climate Change High Level Champion, will serve as jury chairman for the initiative, leading a group of jurors who will choose three projects from six categories to be showcased during COP27. Categories include mega projects, medium projects, small local projects (like those related to the Decent Life initiative), projects submitted by startups, development projects related to women, climate change and sustainability, and social not-for-profit participations. The selected projects will be announced in October.

THE BIG STORY ABROAD-

WTF did Elon just do and why? Elon Musk just liquidated 7.92 mn Tesla shares worth some USD 6.88 bn despite saying as recently as late April that he had no plans to further sell down his stake in the iconic EV maker. Musk remains Tesla’s largest single shareholder with a 15% stake in the company. Bloomberg, CNBC and the Wall Street Journal have the story, which was still developing as we hit “send” on this morning’ issue. The Journal notes that Musk could be on the hook for more than USD 33 bn in equity financing if a judge forces him to consummate his purchase of Twitter.

The FBI raid on The Donald’s Florida residence is still front-page news everywhere: The US Justice Department and the FBI have yet to explain why a team of agents raided Mar-a-Lago on Monday — and are facing loud attacks from many Republicans, who are framing it as a politically-motivated operation. Meanwhile, Trump is milking the story for political capital — and capital of the real kind, asking for political donations ahead of his anticipated bid for the presidency in 2024. (AP | Reuters | NYT | Washington Post | Bloomberg | FT | WSJ)

The global business press has its eyes on Coinbase’s latest earnings (pdf): The crypto exchange posted a record USD 1.1 bn loss in 2Q 2022 as the crypto market crashed. The company’s revenues fell 63% to 808 mn, missing analysts’ estimates. Coinbase shares fell 6% on the news. (Wall Street Journal | Bloomberg | New York Times | CNBC | Reuters)

We’ll find out Kenya’s next president sometime between now and next Tuesday: Mns of voters went to the polls yesterday to decide who will succeed Uhuru Kenyatta as the country’s next president. The results are now starting to trickle in and with just over 1 mn votes counted Kenyatta-backed opposition leader Raila Odinga is marginally ahead by just a few thousand votes. You can check out the results as they come in here.

Biden’s landmark semiconductor bill is now the law of the land: US President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed a USD 280 bn bipartisan bill to boost domestic high-tech manufacturing and strengthen its semiconductor industry, with some USD 52 bn earmarked for the chip sector, the Associated Press reports. The bill comes as part of the country’s push to rival China’s competitive semiconductor industry.

ALSO- One of the greatest to ever pick up a tennis racquet announces her retirement: Twenty-three-time Grand Slam champ Serena Williams has announced her plans to retire from tennis after this year’s US Open. Widely regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time, Williams has spent much of her 27-year career at the top of the women’s game, and won her first Grand Slam at the 1999 US Open when she was just 17 years old. “I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me,” Williams said in an exclusive interview with Vogue. The story was everywhere in the foreign press last night: CNN | The Guardian | BBC | Reuters.

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*** 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: Six months after Russia’s war in Ukraine broke out, Egypt’s real estate developers and infrastructure players are still struggling under the weight of a high-inflation environment. Industry players are coping with higher costs of raw materials, labor, and financing, all of which they say is putting pressure on their operations. We look at the biggest issues they are currently facing and how they are navigating the challenges.

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