03 Dec 2020

Egypt Detects Highest Single-Day Rise in Coronavirus Infections, Deaths in 4 Months

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Health Minister Hala Zayed

Egypt detected yesterday 421 coronavirus cases, the highest since July 29 when the country reported 409 infections.

The country's total number of COVID-19 infections has reached 116,724 so far.

Twenty-eight new deaths were reported yesterday, the highest fatalities recorded since August 3 when the country registered 23 deaths.

The overall death toll hit 6,694 yesterday.

The ministry said 133 cases have now fully recovered and left hospitals, bringing total recoveries to 102,949.

Egyptian cabinet authorized Health Minister Hala Zayed and Finance Minister Mohamed Maait to take the necessary measures to secure 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccine.

In a cabinet meeting yesterday, Zayed warned that COVID-19 infections are resurging again, pointing out that Cairo, Giza, and Alexandria governorates have the highest infection rates.

The interior ministry announced yesterday that it took legal measures against 5,712 drivers in the past 24 hours for not wearing face masks.

The ministry added that 568 commercial stores were fined for violating the government's new decision regarding the closing hours.

The Egyptian government has officially ratified the new maximum working hours recently for shops, with opening hours set at 7am and closing at 10pm in winter and 11pm in summer, except for weekends starting December 1.


Business

SWF Investment Strategy Relies on Building Strong Partnerships With Local Investors to Attract Foreign Investments: CEO

CEO of Egypt's Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) Ayman Soliman said that the fund's investment strategy focuses on targeting partnerships with local investors, including both the public and private sectors, which will later serve as the foundation for luring international investors.

Soliman added that such an approach is considered unique compared with other SWFs that usually target global investments right off the bat.

In October, the government greenlit the establishment of a national company for railway industries in the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) by Egypt's SWF, transport ministry and the private sector.

NSPO Partners With Grifols to Develop Treatment Market for Plasma-Derivatives in Egypt

Helmy, Hamza & Partners, a member firm of Baker McKenzie Cairo Office, has represented the National Service Products Organization (NSPO) in a strategic partnership with Grifols, which works in the production of plasma-derived drugs, according to media reports.

The partnership's objective is to create a project to develop the treatment market for plasma derivatives in Egypt, the reports added. 

Under this partnership, the NSPO will establish a joint venture company in which it will own a 51 percent stake, and Grifols will own the remaining 49 percent.

The new company's operations will secure the market's needs. They will also strengthen Egypt's healthcare system by constructing and opening 20 plasma centers and manufacturing facilities and a purification and packaging factory in the country.

The project will be implemented in phases over five years, and its expected capital expenditures will reach $300 million.

An initial joint investment of $20 million will be injected upon establishing the joint venture company.

Cabinet to Contract With AlNowais, Masdar, ACWA Power to Implement Renewable Energy Projects

The Egyptian cabinet agreed to conclude contracts with AlNowais Investments, Masdar Clean Energy and ACWA Power for solar and wind energy projects.

The projects include a project to generate electricity from wind energy in the Gulf of Suez, with a BOO system, with a capacity of 200 megawatts, implemented by the Emirati Masdar Clean Energy company.

The projects also include a wind power plant with a capacity of 500 megawatts and an electric power plant project from solar energy, with a capacity of 500 megawatts, both implemented by the UAE company AlNowais Investments.

The cabinet also approved the Ministry of Finance to issue a government guarantee for a project to generate electricity from solar energy with the Saudi ACWA Power Company, with a capacity of 200 megawatts, in the Kom Ombo area.

Centamin Unveils 3-Year Plan to Boost Efficiency at Egypt's Sukari Mine

Centamin unveiled a three-year plan to boost efficiency and cash flow at Egypt's Sukari gold mine after years of operational difficulties and underfunding.

According to the plan, Sukari mine, which is Egypt's only commercial gold mine, will spend $595 million to increase its waste stripping to allow Centamin to produce between 450,000 and 500,000 ounces at the cost of $800-900 per ounce from 2024 and beyond.

Waste stripping is an extraction process that allows miners to access higher-grade ore. It will be executed at Sukari by drilling company Capital Ltd.

"The three-year guidance is characterized as an investment phase. We are looking to reset the asset from a production basis," Centamin chief executive Martin Horgan told reporters in a phone call.

Horgan said Centamin had "changed its philosophy" from a "dogmatic" focus on the 500,000-ounce target to a focus on cash flow.

"What we are looking for now is margin and cash flow generation... because that is what funds growth and that's what pays for the dividend rather than those headline ounces," he said.

The gold miner's cash flow will fund $104 million in dividends in 2020 and a minimum of $105 million in 2021.

Eastern Company to Expand Production of Flavored Cigarettes, Introduce New Products in 2021

Hany Aman, CEO of the Eastern Company SAE, said that the tobacco producer is currently expanding the production of flavored cigarettes and hopes to dominate the market for these products.

"We offered two flavors of cigarettes, mint and blueberry, and they performed well," he told Masrawy.

Aman added that the company allocated more than EGP 1 billion ($63.8 million) to develop production lines and new products and study modern smoking methods and electronic cigarettes.

He explained that the development would focus on cigarette machines and developing fruit-flavored mu'assel.

"We aim to increase the company's sales by 10 percent during 2020-2021 from the EGP 14.5 billion ($925.9 million) achieved in 2019-2020," Aman said.

BLOM Bank Announces 'Exclusive Discussions' With Bahrain's Bank ABC for Sale of Egyptian Unit

Lebanon's BLOM Bank said it is in "exclusive discussions" with Bahrain's Arab Banking Corporation (Bank ABC) to potentially sell its ownership in its Egyptian unit, BLOM Bank Egypt.

"Both parties will consequently enter into negotiations in order to reach a final agreement, however, there is no certainty that any transaction will be completed," the statement by BLOM Bank read on Wednesday.

BLOM Bank owns 99.42 percent of the total issued share capital in its Egyptian unit, according to the statement.

The statement comes a few weeks after Bahrain's Bank ABC said it is still in talks for the acquisition of BLOM Bank Egypt.

According to a statement to the Bahraini stock exchange earlier this month, Bank ABC said that there is "no certainty" that any transaction will be finalized despite ongoing discussions.

In August, BLOM Bank said it had decided to sell its Egyptian unit due to deteriorating economic conditions in Lebanon.

It also cited the Lebanese central bank's decision last year, mandating banks to raise their capital, as a reason for the sale.

ODIN Acquires 51% Stake in Home Appliance Company Tissolli

ODIN Financial Investments has acquired a 51 percent stake in the kitchen utensils company Tissolli, at a value of EGP 20 million ($1.2 million), ODIN's CEO Hashem El-Sayed told Al Mal.
 
El-Sayed added that Tissolli has been out of business for a long time, indicating that ODIN's acquisition of it comes within the framework of its directives to invest in venture capital by establishing a fund with a target size of EGP 500 million ($31.9 million). 

He added that the company would receive the fund prospectus by mid-December, pointing out that the fund company's capital is estimated at EGP 10 million ($638,545). 

Saudi KASB Foundation will own the other 49 percent stake, El-Sayed announced. 

He explained that ODIN is working on restructuring the company and the production lines in its factory, indicating that the venture capital fund to be established will expand the factory's business, which used to export about 75 percent of its production. 

ODIN will invest in industrial companies that have stopped working, in addition to small and medium-sized enterprises, by entering into their ownership structure and implementing plans to restructure these companies and restore them to work again, El-Sayed said.

FRA Carries Out Largest Set of Promotions Since Inception

Egypt's Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) has carried out the largest set of promotions since its inception, promoting 78 workers to take managerial positions at all administrative levels in the authority's various sectors of work.

Chairman of the FRA Mohammed Omran said that among the promoted, there would be 51 middle management positions of which women represent about 35 percent, in addition to 27 new managerial positions in central administrations and sectors.

Omran added that women occupied 32 percent of the new managerial positions that manage work in the public and central administrations and sectors.

He said he was keen to create new managerial positions that give those who had reached the top of the ladder the opportunity to make more progress.

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Safwan Thabet, executive chairman and co-CEO of Juhayna

Juhayna's Chair Detained

Safwan Thabet, executive chairman and co-CEO of Juhayna Food Industries, was detained pending investigation yesterday, and the reason for his detention has not yet been revealed to the company,

In a bourse filing, Juhayna said it had called for an emergency board meeting to mull the necessary measures to deal with the situation.

The food company stressed that detaining Thabet will not impact its day-to-day business.

As the vice chair and managing director, Seif El-Din Thabet, Safwan's son, has all authorities to run the company for the time being, Juhayna said.

Current Investments in SCZone Hit $18 Bn

Chairman of the General Authority for Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) Yehia Zaki said that the value of investments in the region had hit about $18 billion to date.

Zaki added during the Egypt Economic Summit 2020 that the SCZone aims to double these investments during the next five years.

He explained that the economic zone currently includes four seaports, six industrial zones, three major port operators, 14 industrial developers and 250 industrial establishments.

The SCZone targets 14 industrial and marine sectors in the future. Cooperation with some parties is scheduled to start promoting these sectors next year.

Zaki added that these sectors include: marine services, ship supplies, metal casting, building materials and engineering industries, data centers, logistics, agricultural assembly, solar panels, railroad cars, textiles, medical industries, car tires and chemicals.

Ministry of Agriculture Begins Negotiations to Export Mangoes to China

China agreed to start negotiations on importing Egyptian mangoes after it received an Egyptian request recently.

In early November -- harvest time -- Beijing sent a technical committee consisting of scientific cadres and Chinese fruit experts to visit farms in Ismailia and Beheira, Al Mal reported. They expressed their admiration for the quality of the Egyptian products, their diversity and the sweetness of their taste. This visit was the first step towards opening the market.

The procedures for opening the market are still in the initial stages. However, the process is similar to that of grape, citrus and date crops, which China had previously agreed to import from Egypt.

Last September, Agriculture Minister Al-Sayed El-Quseir announced the imminent opening of two main markets for Egyptian citrus fruit exports.

Egypt currently exports agricultural products to more than 160 countries, the minister said.

Cabinet Approves Extending Tax Incentives for 3 Yrs

Egypt's cabinet has approved extending tax incentives under the investment law for three years, the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI) CEO's advisor Amr Nour El-Din said on Wednesday.

In statements during Egypt Economic Summit, Nour El-Din said that the New Administrative Capital (NAC) had been added to the zones enjoying incentives under the current investment law.

He said that GAFI had held several meetings with leading global corporations operating in the Egyptian market, including PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble and Pfizer, to mull expansion plans.

AEICORP, Afreximbank ​​to Develop African Petroleum Industry

The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) signed a cooperation agreement with the African Energy Investments Corporation (AEICORP), affiliated with the African Petroleum Producers Organization (APPO), to develop the African petroleum industry.

Tarek El-Molla, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, and Omar Ibrahim, Secretary-General of APPO, witnessed the signing.

The minister said that the current period's challenges had strengthened the culture of cooperation between countries that hope to achieve common goals, as cooperation has become imperative among African countries to gain the maximum economic benefits from the continent's wealth.

El-Molla pointed out that the development of the African petroleum industry is the key to further development.

Stock Market

EGX30 Down 0.16%

Egypt's blue-chip index slipped 0.16 percent on Wednesday, reversing slight gains seen by the main index on Tuesday.

The EGX30 benchmark index dipped 0.16 percent to close at 11,023.34 points amid a turnover of approximately EGP 894.3 million ($57.1 million).

Its market bellwether, Commercial International Bank (CIB), saw its share price down 0.33 percent to EGP 62.30 ($3.98).

Listed companies saw mixed performance during trading on Wednesday. The top-performing stocks included cigarette monopoly Eastern Company, which rose 4.89 percent to EGP 11.67 ($0.75), Export Development Bank of Egypt (EDBE), up 4.31 percent to EGP 16.30, and Dice Sport & Casual Wear, which gained 4.29 percent to reach EGP 1.582.

The worst-performing stocks were led by Juhayna Food Industries, which plunged 6.25 percent to close at EGP 6.40 ($0.41) on the back of the detention of its chairman Safwan Thabet pending investigations. The reason behind Thabet's detention remains unknown. The stock exchange suspended trading on Juhayna's shares during early trading before allowing it to resume at 1:30 pm.

Other stocks ending the day in losses included Edita Food Industries, down 2.09 percent to EGP 9.15 ($0.58), GB Auto, which dropped 2.05 percent to reach EGP 3.30, and Elsewedy Electric, which shed 1.75 percent to reach EGP 8.95.

Despite the dip by the benchmark index, the broader EGX70 EWI index rose 0.63 percent to close at 2,081.77 points, while the EGX100 EWI gained 0.46 percent, closing at 3,030.35 points.

Egyptian and Arab investors were net buyers to the tune of EGP 27.1 million ($1.7 million) and EGP 13.3 million, respectively, while sales by foreign investors amounted to EGP 40.4 million.

Speed Medical to Become Egypt's First Company to Re-list Its Shares From NILEX to EGX

Speed Medical will be the first company in Egypt to relocate its shares from the Nile Stock Exchange (NILEX), Egypt's SME stock exchange, to the leading Egyptian Exchange (EGX) as it will begin trading on EGX on Sunday.

EGX gave the transition the green light yesterday after its listing committee approved raising Speed Medical's capital to EGP 221.8 million ($14.16 million).

Economics

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Finance Minister Mohamed Maait

Foreign Holdings in Egyptian Treasuries Jump to Over $23 Bn: Minister

Foreign holdings in Egyptian treasuries jumped to over $23 billion in a rebound after a massive hit by the coronavirus pandemic in March, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said.

The new figure comes nearly a month after Maait set the figure at $21 billion.

Foreign holdings had fallen by over a double during the pandemic outbreak in March, falling to $9.5 billion, as foreign investors exited emerging markets. It hit its lowest at around $7.1 billion in May.

Egypt's Non-Oil Exports Down 3.1% YoY in 10M 2020

Egypt's non-petroleum exports fell 3.1 percent year on year in the first ten months of 2020, a report by the General Organization for Export and Import Control (GOEIC) showed on Wednesday.

According to GOEIC, non-oil exports amounted to $20.597 billion during January-October 2020, compared with $21.247 billion in the corresponding period last year.

October saw non-oil exports reach $1.970 billion, the report showed.

The report said that Egypt's non-petroleum imports plunged 14 percent year on year by the end of October, reporting $52.068 billion, down from $60.308 billion in the corresponding period last year.

438K Companies Joined Formal Economy in Almost 2 Yrs

A total of 438,000 companies have joined Egypt's formal economy from July 2018 until June 2020, the Egyptian government announced yesterday.

For two years, Egypt has been exerting efforts to integrate grey economy and sponsor informal employment.

It also expanded the scope of health and social care for irregular workers, as nearly 22,000 workers benefited from health care, including almost 13,000 workers during the last fiscal year.

The government also said that 452,000 precarious workers benefited from social care during the same period.

According to official statistics agency CAPMAS, the number of informal economic enterprises in Egypt has hit two million, representing 53 percent of economic enterprises in the country.

Egypt Aims to Increase Food Exports to Kuwait to $130 Mn

The Egyptian Commercial Service (ECS) eyes an increase in exports of food industries to Kuwait to $120-130 million from the current $84 million, Ahmed Zaki, a senior official at the ECS, said yesterday in a symposium organized by the Egyptian Food Export Council.

Egypt ranked eighth among the suppliers of food products to Kuwait, whose total imports of those products amount to $2.5 billion, Zaki added.

He explained that Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter of food products to the Kuwaiti market due to its proximity to Kuwait, which facilitates shipping operations and payment processes.

Kuwait accounted for 2.2 percent of the sector's total exports during the first nine months of 2020 with a value of $57.424 million, said Tameem El-Dawy, marketing director at the Food Export Council.

The official also revealed that the ECS is working on lifting a three-year ban imposed by the Iraqi market on Egyptian dairy exports.

Science and Technology

State-Owned Entitles Have to Meet Deadline of July 1 to Register in Electronic Tax-Invoicing System

All of the state-owned entities will have to enroll in the new electronic tax-invoicing system before the deadline of July 1, under a decree from the Egyptian cabinet, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait stated.

The decree covers all state-owned entities, including administrative, economic and service units and public sector companies.

Per the decree, state-owned entities will not be able to sign deals with any supplier, contractor, or service provider unless the latter is also registered in the electronic tax-invoicing system at the Egyptian Tax Authority.

Last month, Maait said that 2,800 companies would be registered in the new electronic tax-invoicing system by the third phase, which will be launched in mid-May 2021.

Coldwell Banker Egypt Contracts With Sakneen to Provide E-Services to Real Estate Market

Coldwell Banker Egypt has signed a cooperation protocol with Sakneen to provide integrated electronic services in the real estate market, according to media reports.

The cooperation protocol comes within the framework of digital transformation amid the coronavirus pandemic, the reports added.

The partnership with Sakneen aims to provide distinguished services to facilitate the selection process of properties, Mohamed Saada, Vice Chairman of Coldwell Banker Egypt, said. It will help in making the appropriate purchase decision in light of a fair comparison using modern technology, he added. 

Theim Zein, CEO of Coldwell Banker Egypt, said that the company is contracting with about 80 real estate developers with a total of 300 projects.

The company's strategy aims to develop real estate marketing services and to rely extensively on technology in line with the development of the market and Egypt's 2030 vision for digital transformation, Zein added.

Sakneen provides technological solutions through a digital platform and helps property buyers collect information about the units to be purchased, including identifying the desired areas through e-maps and comparing projects in terms of unit diversity and status and different payment systems.

IT Fusion to Develop WellCare's System

WellCare has hired IT Fusion for technology solutions to develop its system.

The agreement aims to reduce service misuse and fraud, and to increase the quality of services provided to customers.

WellCare General Manager Ebram Robert said the company had contracts with 3,000 service providers, including hospitals, analysis laboratories, radiology centers and pharmacies.

He added that they are being linked electronically to the company's technological system to save time and effort and increase the quality and efficiency of the services provided.

Robert explained that the volume of services provided online is currently 80 percent through contracted pharmacies, and will reach 100 percent on December 31.

He added that the experience would also be extended to hospitals, analysis laboratories, radiology centers and other service providers.

Digital Currencies on Track to Go Mainstream: PayPal CEO

Digital currency usage is on its way to going mainstream as more merchants take a "digital-first" approach to payments, PayPal Holdings' CEO Dan Schulman said.

"The entire world is going to come into digital first," Schulman said at the Web Summit conference on Wednesday. 

Schulman added that shops are accepting e-payments via smartphones and QR codes, even in-store, and more customers are starting to use digital wallets, which "are natural complements to digital currencies."

In October, PayPal Holdings said that it would allow users to hold bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in its online wallet and shop at 26 million merchants on the company's network using altcoins.

PayPal plans to expand this service to other countries in the first half of 2021.

Interview

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(Courtesy of Suez Cement)

Cement Sector Recoveres in Q4 Yet Same Old Challenges Remain: Analyst

Egypt's cement sector further suffered this year, with cement sales down more than 14 percent in the third quarter of 2020.

Yet, NAEEM Brokerage's head of research, Allen Sandeep, believes that demand is recovering as October sales have reached pre-COVID levels.

Speaking to Delta Digest, Sandeep noted that demand suffered most during the second quarter, especially in April and May, when total industry sales dropped by almost 20 percent compared with pre-pandemic rates. 

Suez Cement, one of Egypt's largest listed cement makers, suffered a 99 percent year-on-year increase in net losses to EGP 709.3 million ($45 million) in the first half of 2020. In the same period, Alexandria Portland Cement reported a 26 percent year-on-year increase in its consolidated net losses to reach EGP 212.8 million ($13.3 million).

"In quarter three, we did see marginal recovery, but we were still 15 percent short of pre-coronavirus rates," Sandeep said. "I would presume most of this weakness to have come from the direct and indirect effects of COVID-19."

Egypt's cement industry has been struggling since 2016, after the Egyptian pound lost half its value against the dollar after being floated.  

The coronavirus pandemic has added insult to injury by decreasing demand in an already overcrowded domestic market.

Sandeep pointed out that the cement sector was already struggling with 40 percent excess capacity pre-COVID that must be eliminated in order for the industry to revive.

Real estate accounts for 65-70 percent of demand for cement, with the remainder coming from the infrastructure sector.

Aiming to introduce new legislation governing construction requirements, the government in May suspended building permits for establishment, expansion, elevation or modification of construction works in private housing nationwide for six months. Construction work for buildings under implementation has also been suspended.

The government later announced another six-month transitional period to wrap up the new legislation, with building still mostly halted in governorates nationwide, except for new cities that are affiliated to the New Urban Communities Authority.

Meanwhile, the government has set a deadline for submitting reconciliation requests on building violations across the country, which was extended multiple times due to a high turnout of applicants. It was last extended yesterday until December 31

It is believed that the suspension on building permits will be lifted at the same time when the government closes the door on reconciliation requests, which amounted to over 2.5 million applications so far.

"Building reconciliation, depending on the timeline, will play a role on demand, but the magnitude of it is hard to determine," Sandeep said.

"For the moment however, we see that the impacts are very minimal."

A reduction in energy costs and the provision of subsidized loans would be required to ensure the cement sector's long term sustainability, according to Sandeep.

Last month, the Egyptian Federation of Investors Associations agreed with Petroleum Minister Tarek El-Molla to form a committee to study reducing the price of gas supplied to factories and linking it to the global price.

Egypt News

Egypt Set to Establish Its First Train Factory Next Year

The Ministry of Transport plans to establish the first Egyptian factory to locally manufacture trains of all kinds by the beginning of next year, according to media reports.

An agreement was signed last week between the General Authority for Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone), Egypt's Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) and five private sector companies to establish the National Egyptian Railway Industries Company (NERIC), which aims to localize the railway industry in Egypt.

The private sector companies are East Port Said for Development, Orascom Construction, Samcrete Investment, Hassan Allam Holding and Connect Information Technology Company.

The NERIC, which will be established in the East Port Said Industrial Zone in the SCZone, has an estimated investment cost of about $240 million.

The project will be implemented on an area of 300,000 square meters and aims to produce 300 railway cars every year.

Cabinet Extends Reconciliation Period for Building Violations Until Dec 31

The Egyptian cabinet agreed to extend the period for reconciliation on building violations until December 31.

Cabinet Spokesman Nader Saad said that the approval came in response to the demands of many citizens who crowded into the administrative units designated to receive reconciliation requests.

He added that the extension is also in response to the requests of several NGOs currently preparing to bear the cost of payment of the reconciliation value for people in needy villages.

In line with this extension, the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy decided to extend the deadline for submitting requests for installing digital electricity meters in buildings illegally connected to the electricity supply until the end of 2020.

The meters are a temporary fix and are to be replaced when the buildings are reconciled with or removed if the building is to get torn down.

The ministry has received more than 930,000 requests to switch the method of calculating electricity consumption from the traditional system to code meters.

Both deadlines have been pushed a few times over the past few months. 

Alexandria Reduces Employee Presence in Governorate Offices by 50% as of Saturday

Alexandria Governor Mohamed Al-Sherif has issued a decree to reduce the number of employees physically present in all governorate offices by 50 percent as of Saturday to limit coronavirus spread.

Similarly, on Tuesday, Cairo Governor Khaled Abdel Aal decided to reduce the number of employees in all governorate offices by 50 percent.

Earlier last week, the governors of Menoufiya and Beheira reduced the number of employees physically present in governorate offices by 25 percent, while Port Said's governor reduced the number of physically present employees by 50 percent.

EBRD, ENR Launch Gender Awareness Campaign to Combat Harassment on Egyptian Transport

The Egyptian National Railways (ENR) has launched an awareness campaign, "El Sekka Aman" (The [Rail]Way is Safe), in cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the National Council for Women (NCW), to combat sexual harassment on public transport.

The campaign is part of a larger first-of-its-kind gender program for the EBRD with the ENR, funded by Japan, to help develop institutional capacity to identify, respond and manage aspects of gender-based violence.

It marks a milestone in efforts to provide safe train services for women who can now go to the customer service office located in the railway stations to submit their complaints. The railway authority officials' task will be to assist and support them. 

The awareness campaign includes new billboards, promotional videos and audio announcements on the Cairo-Tanta and Cairo-Menouf-Itay lines, two of the busiest train routes.

Director of the southern and eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region at the EBRD, Heike Harmgart, said that the bank has invested in Egypt more than €7 billion ($8.4 billion) to date through the implementation of 125 projects, of which €2 billion were invested in projects related to gender and women.

Transport Ministry to Secure $500 Mn Soft Loan From World Bank: Report

Ministry of Transport will secure a $500 million soft loan from the World Bank for the Egyptian National Railways (ENR), Al Mal reported yesterday, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

ENR will use the loan to build the new railway line linking 6 October City to El Manashy village in Giza, the report continued. 

The sources added that negotiations for the loan had reached the final stages, as the project is expected to be ready within 24 months after getting the loan.

On November 25, Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala Al-Saeed and Minister of Transport Kamel Al-Wazir witnessed the signing of a contract establishing the National Egyptian Railway Industries Company (NERIC) in East Port Said.

NERIC aims to increase the localized share of the country’s railway industry to 45 percent, as mentioned by Yehia Zaki, head of the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) on Tuesday.

Foreign Ministry Coordinates With Nigerian Counterpart to Ensure Release of 2 Egyptians Kidnapped Off Nigerian Coast

The Egyptian foreign ministry coordinated with its Nigerian counterpart to ensure the safety and release of the two Egyptians abducted by pirates on a Lebanese cargo ship off the Nigerian coast, the ministry announced in a press release yesterday.

"As soon as the ministry received the news of the piracy incident on the cargo ship off the Nigerian coast and onboard - among other nationalities - two Egyptian citizens, namely, an officer, Saad Shawky, and an engineer, Kerolos Samir, the foreign ministry immediately contacted the Egyptian embassy in Abuja to find out the circumstances and the latest developments in the situation," the statement read.

The statement revealed that the kidnappers demanded a ransom from the Lebanese owner company to release the kidnapped.

Egypt's foreign ministry said that negotiations are underway with the Egyptian embassy in Abuja to free the Egyptians on board the cargo ship and deal with the problem as effectively as possible.

The accident occurred approximately 15 nautical miles off the coast of Bayelsa State, southern Nigeria, the statement added, explaining that such attacks have been repeated in the Gulf of Guinea, which became a piracy hotspot.

Sisi Urges Lebanese Leaders to Prioritize Lebanon's National Interest, Settle Disputes

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi called on all Lebanese leaders to place the country's interest above any other consideration and settle differences, Presidency Spokesperson Bassam Rady stated yesterday.

El-Sisi's remarks came during his speech at the second international conference for the support of Lebanon, where he also stressed the importance of forming an independent government capable of dealing with current challenges.

The president said that the conference represents a new message of support for Lebanon from friendly countries and affirms the desire for joint efforts to support Lebanon to enhance its security and stability.

Film

42nd Cairo International Film Festival Gets Underway Amid Precautionary Measures

The 42nd Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) gets underway amid strict measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19 among attendees.

The festival followed the Egyptian health ministry's and the World Health Organization's requirements to ensure the safety of all attendees.

Among its efforts to avoid the coronavirus spread, the festival provided free PCR tests for the guests who attended the opening ceremony.

The festival -- ongoing until December 10 -- is presenting 84 films, showcasing the most prominent productions of 2020.

World

Sudan Does Not See Ethiopian Conflict as Impeding GERD Talks

Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said in a press release that he does not see that the conflict in Ethiopia would impede the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) negotiations.

He added that Sudan's irrigation ministry had prepared a comprehensive plan to supply the war-affected areas with water.

Moreover, Abbas expected the policy of US President-Elect Joe Biden on the GERD to be different from that of President Donald Trump.

Sudan is still standing its ground on resuming the talks sponsored by the African Union (AU) but under a different methodology proposed earlier. 

The proposed methodology calls for giving a more significant role to the AU experts in resolving the differences between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to reach a binding agreement, an approach opposed by Egypt last month.

The GERD is scheduled to start generating electricity in June 2021.

Ethiopia said it took full control of the capital of the region of Tigray, following the completion of military operations in the country's northern region.

Virus Roundup: UK Approves Use of Pfizer Vaccine in World's First as EU Slams 'Hasty' Decision

Britain gave the green light to Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, with the first-ever approval globally criticized by the European Union (EU) as "hasty."

Britain's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) granted an emergency use approval to the vaccine developed by Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech, which they say is 95 percent effective against the virus.

The approval comes only a few weeks after Pfizer released initial data from its final-stage clinical trial. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the parliament that the approval was "fantastic news" yet warned that "people do not get their hopes up too soon about the speed with which we will be able to roll out this vaccine."

The move was slammed by the EU, with its European Medicines Agency (EMA) saying that its longer approval procedure was more appropriate because of the reliance on more evidence and more required checks.

The EMA's approach is "the most effective regulatory mechanism to grant all EU citizens access to a safe and effective vaccine," as it relies on more evidence, a spokesman for the European Commission said.

Meanwhile, the Interpol warned that COVID-19 vaccinations could be targeted by organized criminal networks who could opt to sell fake vaccines.

"As governments are preparing to roll out vaccines, criminal organizations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains. Criminal networks will also be targeting unsuspecting members of the public via fake websites and false cures, which could pose a significant risk to their health, even their lives," Interpol Secretary-General Juergen Stock said.

Separately, Germany said it would extend anti-virus restrictions until January 10, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced.

The restrictions, which were set to expire on December 20, include keeping restaurants and hotels closed and limiting private gatherings.

"The states will extend their measures from December 20 until January 10," Merkel said in a press conference, with another meeting on the measures set on January 4.

"In principle, things will remain as they are," she said.

In Spain, the government agreed to cap Christmas and New Year parties to ten people per household to stem the spread of the virus, according to Health Minister Salvador Illa.

The agreement relaxes current restrictions that set gatherings to up to six people only generally.

Night-time curfews in most regions in Spain would be moved to 1:30am instead of 11pm on 24 and 31 December, Illa said. However, movement between regions would be banned with some exceptions between December 23 and January 6, he added.

Top Headlines of the Week

Arab Markets
Egypt EGX30 11,023.34 -0.16%
KSA TASI 8,694.13 -0.32%
UAE ABU DHABI ADX 4,964.94 -0.42%
UAE DUBAI DFM 2,419.60 +0.82%
World Markets
US Dow Jones IA 29,883.79 +0.20%
NASDAQ-100 12,349.37 -0.05%
S&P 500 3,669.01 +0.18%
UK FTSE 100 6,463.39 +1.23%
Germany DAX 13,313.24 -0.52%
France CAC 40 5,583.01 +0.02%
Japan Nikkei 225 26,806.37 +0.02%
China HANG SENG INDEX 26,752.09 +0.83%
Currencies
US Dollar 15.61 15.71
Euro 18.82 18.95
Sterling 20.81 20.94
Saudi Riyal 4.16 4.19
UAE Dirham 4.25 4.28
Kuwaiti Dinar 51.16 51.62
Swiss Franc 17.39 17.51
Commodities
Oil Brent USD/bbl. 48.28 +0.06%
Wheat USD/bu.Mar 2020 587.75 -0.13%
Gold USD/t oz. 1,836.97 +0.31%
Gold Egypt LE/ oz. 1,836.99 +0.34%
Silver Egypt LE/ oz. 24.08 +0.11%

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