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Thursday, 23 February 2023

THIS MORNING: The SCZone could be heading to China + BasharSoft just trialed a four-day work week — and the results were impressive

Good morning, wonderful people, and happy THURSDAY. We have an absolutely packed issue for you this morning — one that sees us ending the week in a slightly better mood than we began it. Why? A handful of healthy signals.

#1- The Finance Ministry’s maiden sukuk issuance has closed 4x oversubscribed. We’re not delighted to see the nation taking on more debt, but it was necessary. The question was whether foreign investors had appetite, and the answer is now clear: The offering drew significant demand from across Europe, Asia and North America as well as the GCC, including from new investors to Egypt.

#2- We’re even happier to see so much _concrete_ chatter about the rebooted privatization program. If we’re having arguments about valuation, we’ve left theory and public pablum behind and are getting down to brass tacks.

#4- We’re also very happy to have heard from officials all week long that their preferred method of sale is capital increases, meaning the state isn’t netting proceeds from the sales, but be diluted down. That will leave the companies in which stakes are being sold with new liquidity to invest in growth, process improvements, new talent, upgrades, you name it.

#5- And we’re even happier to see Almarai buying out PepsiCo’s stake in Beyti. “But Enterprise,” you say, “that’s not part of the privatization program?” Indeed it is not. It’s an example of a well-managed private-sector player doubling down on its investment in Egypt. (Yes, PIF owns a minority stake in Almarai, but the company is publicly traded and its largest shareholder is Savola, with 34.5%.)

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EGP WATCH- The EGP slipped by another three piasters against the greenback yesterday, with the USD changing hands at 30.68 from 30.65 a day earlier, according to central bank data. The currency hit the 30 mark at the end of January following a sharper devaluation and has lost nearly half its value against the greenback over the past year amid the fallout from the war in Ukraine and rising interest rates.


#1- The SCZone wants that CNY: The Suez Canal Economic Zone could be making its way to China soon for a roadshow, the zone’s Chairman Walid Gamal El Din told representatives of China’s TEDA trade zone, according to a statement. During the meeting, he expressed the authority’s readiness to cooperate with TEDA in organizing a planned Chinese investment conference. Gamal El Din’s statements come days after he wrapped up a visit to Tokyo, during which he met more than 100 companies and financial institutions to drum up interest in Egypt.

#2- BasharSoft trialed a four-day workweek last year — and it’s happy with the results: Egypt-born tech startup BasharSoft has reported impressive results from a three-month pilot of a four-day work week it ran last year. In a LinkedIn post this week, the company said that 89% of its employees reported higher productivity, 82% said they were better able to manage their time, and 93% experienced lower levels of stress. BasharSoft’s business results have “either improved or remained stable” throughout the trial period and after, it said.

As we noted earlier this week: The UK is running one of the largest pilots yet: A significant majority of the 61 British businesses participating in the six-month trial said they would continue with it after recording lower staff turnover and absenteeism while maintaining productivity. Check out the official website for the trial or read about it in the Wall Street Journal.


G-20 debt relief talks are taking place in India: G-20 finance ministers will meet in India this week to try to end a deadlock between the US and China that is threatening to torpedo a global framework to restructure the debt of low-income countries, Bloomberg reports. Signed in 2020, the G-20’s Common Framework was meant to bring newer creditors like China, India, and Saudi Arabia into conversations on debt relief for more than 70 low-income countries with some USD 326 mn in outstanding debt.

US-China tensions aren’t helping matters: Disagreements between Washington and Beijing on how to move forward has left debt-distressed countries like Zambia and Sri Lanka without access to restructuring and bns of USD in IMF aid. Neither the US or China have shown willingness to restructure the countries’ debts, with China conditioning any agreement on western lenders like the World Bank agreeing to a haircut — an idea that Washington refuses to countenance.

Getting serious on debt relief could make a huge difference: A 30% haircut for debt-distressed nations could save them USD 148 bn over eight years, the UN Development Programme said in a report ahead of the G20 meetings.


Cold War-style rhetoric is continuing to dominate the global front pages this morning on the eve of the one-year anniversary since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the wake of Joe Biden’s three-day visit to eastern Europe this week and yesterday’s talks between Vladimir Putin and the Chinese foreign minister in Moscow, there’s much talk in the western press of east vs west alliances, though — as the New York Times points out — the reality is more complicated, with plenty of countries around the world refusing to be drawn into the conflict. (AP | Reuters | NYT | Financial Times | BBC | WSJ | CNN)



We’re excited to unveil our next C-level event: The Enterprise Exports & FDI Forum, where we will take a deep dive into two of the most critical topics affecting our community.

Exports and foreign direct investment (FDI) have never been more important to our economy — or our businesses — than in the wake of the float of the EGP. We think we have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build an export-led economy that makes us a magnet for FDI and all the benefits that will come with it for our nation.


El Gouna Film Fest is back after a one-year hiatus: El Gouna Film Festival (GFF) will return for its sixth installment this year, and will be held from 13-20 October, according to a statement out yesterday. The festival was postponed last year on the back of what the organizers described as “current global challenges.”

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

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