THIS MORNING: Cabinet’s Qatar trip ends without a blockbuster investment announcement
Good morning, friends, and welcome to the first day of March, where we have a ton of news for you on everything from FDI to a big boost for our burgeoning domestic smartphone assembly industry. (Yes, smartphone assembly — the industry is mushrooming, and the House of Representatives just slashed duties in a move that should make the export-focused industry even more competitive.)
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Hit this link if you want to let us know you’re interested in attending (or just to check the event website and see what we’re thinking). We’ll soon start sending out invitations in batches.
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Madbouly’s trip to Qatar ends with no sign of breakthrough in investment talks: One of the big stories of the week has been Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly’s trip to Qatar, which the business community has closely watched for signs that we could unlock as much as USD 5 bn in fresh investment from the Gulf country. The two days passed with no indication of where things stand with the Qatar Investment Authority, which has been said to be pursuing stakes in Vodafone Egypt and several port operators, among others.
We’ve seen a flurry of announcements from the private sector in recent weeks, but no blockbuster announcements out of the Gulf. Almarai bought out PepsiCo’s stake in dairy and juice producer Beyti, EK Holding will invest USD 170 mn in Egypt this year, and Stellantis, Nissan and Almansour have said they will separately invest a total of USD 145 mn in auto assembly here in the coming years. And, of course, there’s Chimera, which is pushing heavily into our financial services industry, acquiring substantial stakes in everything from Beltone and EFG Hermes to MNT Halan and GB Lease.
But our Gulf neighbors have pledged bns in the past year — and little of that has materialized. As we noted earlier this week, disagreements over stake sizes, uncertainty over the EGP, and GCC states’ increasing emphasis on the need for reform are all said to be holding back investment from the sovereign wealth funds (and others) in Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Doha.
Lamees El Hadidi openly discussed pressure on the EGP last night: The Kelma Akhira host highlighted the discrepancy between the official EGP rate of 30.68 and what she said is the rate of 32:50 in the parallel market. She also noted last week’s reports that talks with Saudi Arabia on the sale of state-owned United Bank have stalled over how to value the lender following the EGP’s devaluation. “They don’t see the current exchange rate at banks resembling a fair rate with a necessity of another depreciation,” she said, noting picking up on Societe General’s recent suggestion that the currency may shed another 10% (watch, runtime: 4:36).
Societe Generale now expects the EGP to fall to 37.00 by the end of the year, emerging-market strategist Gergely Ürmössy told Asharq Business yesterday (watch, runtime: 1:40). A 37.00 rate implies that the currency will lose another 20% of its value against the greenback over the next 10 months, having already lost almost half of its value over the past year in a series of large devaluations. The French lender is currently predicting the currency to fall another 10% by the end of this month to 34.00, and sees a “heightened probability of another sharp devaluation in the near term.”
Will cabinet accept lower valuations? In an interview on Kelma Akhira, former Blom Bank Egypt deputy managing director Tarek Metwally called on government negotiators to balance the need to lock in a good price with the imperative of simply getting new investment into the country (watch, runtime: 8:12). “What we really want more than a high price is getting investors to pour into the country,” Metwally said.
MEANWHILE- Egyptian bonds were the worst performers among emerging markets yesterday as foreign investors reacted to the prospect of higher interest rates in the US and an apparent stall in talks with GCC investors, according to Asharq Business.
It’s the beginning of a new month:
- PMI: S&P Global will release Egypt’s February purchasing managers’ index on Sunday, 5 March.
- Foreign reserves: Expect the central bank to release February’s foreign reserves figures sometime next week.
- Inflation: Inflation data for February will land at the end of next week.
- Interest rates: The Central Bank of Egypt will hold its second policy meeting of the year at the end of the month on 30 March.
- Fuel prices: We’re a third of the way through the quarter and we still haven’t heard anything about what the government plans to do with fuel prices in 1Q. If we don’t get an announcement soon, we can assume the fuel pricing committee is taking the quarter off.
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-
Shoukry is in New Delhi for the G-20 meetings: Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is in India today and tomorrow to attend the meeting of G-20 foreign ministers, the ministry said yesterday. Though India wants to focus on issues related to the developing world — including debt relief, food and energy security, and climate change — expect the West’s preoccupation with Ukraine and its schism with Russia to dominate the discourse around the summit.
But Egypt isn’t a member of the G-20? As this year’s G-20 president, India has invited Egypt to attend the summits as a guest nation.
PSA #1- Want to go to the London School of Economics? Attend a briefing on the LSE-Sawiris Scholarship: Newton Education Services and the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development will host an online info session today at 6pm CLT about applying to the LSE-Sawiris Scholarship Program. The scholarship offers funding to Egyptians applying to study an executive MSc in cities at the London School of Economics. You can register to attend the event here.
Interested? You should have a minimum of 10 years of professional experience in an urban-related field, and you need to be currently working for a public- or third-sector organization in Egypt.
PSA #2- The last official day of winter is 20 March, but it looks like we’ve already put our favourite season of the year in the rearview mirror and are jumping straight over spring to summer. You can expect daytime highs north of 30°C through Monday, after which they’ll hover in the 26°C to more than 30°C band as far as the eye can see.
PSA #3- Next stop, Ramadan: The holy month starts in a little over a month’s time on Thursday, 23 March (tbc, of course). So, what time do we eat? Maghreb prayers are at 6:08am on the first day; you’ll have until 4:28am the following morning for sohour.
THE BIG STORY ABROAD-
There’s no single story dominating the global conversation this morning, with the Wall Street Journal leading with new US subsidies for chipmakers, the Financial Times highlighting a potential sale of parts of Goldman Sach’s retail business, and the Associated Press reporting that 29 people have died in Greece in a train collision.
AND- Like it or not, AI Bing (and perhaps Sydney and Venom?) is a step closer to you: Microsoft plans to roll its AI-powered Bing search engine to its Windows operating system, it said in a statement, shrugging off safety and security concerns over its new technology. The new Bing will be accessible via the search box in Windows 11, which the tech giant introduced yesterday. The search box is one of the most used features of the operating system with half a bn users monthly, product chief Panos Panay said in a slightly breathless statement.
There’s still no word on how soon you’ll get off the waitlist to use AI Bing on your phone or in the browser: The search engine has been unrolled into preview for over 1 mn people in 169 countries in the last three weeks, the statement added.
How do I upgrade to Windows 11? If you’re on a personal machine or your IT department has given you the right permissions: Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and select “Check for updates.” Tap or click here for more.
CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-
MPs have 10 days off: The House will reconvene on Sunday, 19 March.
Thanaweya Amma exam schedules are out: Thanaweya Amma exams are scheduled to take place between 12 June and 15 July, the Education Ministry said yesterday.
Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news events, national holidays and news triggers.
This story was corrected on 1 March, 2023 to reflect that the House will reconvene on 19 March, not 12 March as we previously wrote.
Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news
*** 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: Supply chains, transportation and logistics in focus at cabinet-led brainstorming session: Reducing red tape, improving access to finance and lowering customs clearance times were some of the suggestions to strengthen Egypt’s logistics industry against external shocks made at a cabinet roundtable held earlier this month.