Egypt's tourism sector is eyeing a gradual recovery after revenues dropped by about 70 percent to $4 billion in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, Minister of Antiquities and Tourism Khaled El-Enany and travel companies told Reuters.
El-Enany said that Egypt received 3.5 million tourists during 2020, down from 13.1 million in 2019, adding that the country's goal is to become "a safe tourist destination during the coronavirus pandemic."
"The goal right now is not to count the number of tourists but to have it be said that Egypt is a safe tourist destination during the coronavirus pandemic," said El-Enany.
Travel companies also hope for a gradual recovery amid Egypt's plan to start a free vaccination program in the near future.
Mohamed Farouq, chief executive of travel agency Egypt Express, said: "In 2021, with the vaccine, the recovery will be incremental."
In addition, 63 floating hotels, as well as 702 hotels in 23 governorates nationwide, have now received a health and safety certificate approved by the tourism and health ministries to allow them to reopen, the tourism ministry stated yesterday.
On Sunday, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) extended an initiative to aid defaulting tourism companies for six months to June 30.
Lockdowns and restrictive measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus have drastically affected the hospitality industry, a key source of hard currency that comprises 12-15 percent of Egypt's GDP.
The benchmark EGX30 index dipped 0.29 percent to settle at 10,813.78 points on Monday, amid a turnover of EGP 525.7 million ($33.4 million).
The EGX30's heaviest constituent, Commercial International Bank (CIB), fell 0.49 percent to EGP 58.84 ($3.74).
EFG Hermes dropped 0.55 percent to EGP 14.43 ($0.92), Telecom Egypt slid 0.34 percent to EGP 11.86, and Talaat Moustafa Group went down 0.3 percent to EGP 6.55.
Elsewedy Electric declined 1.22 percent to EGP 9.70 ($0.62), and Eastern Company fell 0.38 percent to EGP 13.05.
The broader EGX70 EWI shed 0.8 percent to close at 2,143.51 points.
Net purchases by foreign investors totaled EGP 8.2 million ($521,070), while net sales by Egyptian and Arab investors hit EGP 7.16 million and EGP 1.04 million, respectively.
CI Capital Holding for Financial Investments yesterday announced the completion of the tenth and largest securitization bond offering in its history, worth EGP 2.7 billion ($171.5 million), according to a bourse filing.
CI Capital said that the bonds were issued by its leasing arm, Corplease.
Corplease will use the proceeds of the bonds to reduce debt, strengthen the company's equity base and support future growth rates.
It issued the securitization bond in four tranches, with tenors of 13, 37, 61 and 84 months.
The value of the first tranche was EGP 576 million ($36.5 million), while the second was worth EGP 1.27 billion, the third EGP 703 million, and the fourth EGP 163 million.
The research unit of Mubasher Trade, a subsidiary of Mubasher Capital Holding for Financial Investments, has said that Fawry's market price currently stands at EGP 35 ($2.22) per share, reflecting its 40 percent share of the electronic payments market in Egypt.
Mubasher added that Fawry's actual market share at present may be higher than 40 percent, stressing that its research unit is working on its own calculations as no official source has announced the size of the company's market share.
The research unit said in a report that Fawry's market price also reflects the fact that the electronic payments market comprised an estimated 15 percent of Egypt's GDP in 2020, set to increase to 40, 50, 60 and then 70 percent of annual GDP in 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024, respectively.
The report added that the estimated size of the electronic payments market in Egypt was 2.5 percent of annual GDP in 2018, increasing to 4 percent in 2019.
Mubasher also said it expects mobile and online banking to lead the way in electronic payments in future, taking a large share of the electronic payments market.
Target for Real Estate Investment has reduced its stake in Dice Sport and Casual Wear to 9.2 percent from 10.03 percent, according to a bourse filing yesterday.
Target sold 4.39 million shares in Dice at a total cost of EGP 7.6 million ($484,000), or EGP 1.73 per share.
In December, Target bought 15.5 million shares, worth approximately EGP 26.9 million ($1.7 million), in Dice.
EgyptAir, the official carrier for the World Men's Handball Championship, is marking the event by offering a 20 percent discount on all international flights to and from Egypt in January.
EgyptAir CEO Roshdy Zakaria said that customers traveling from Egypt can benefit from the discount on tickets up to January 14, while those coming from any international destination to Egypt can apply the discount on flights arriving until January 31.
This comes as part of the country's efforts to organize and host the World Men's Handball Championship, to be held from January 13-31, and under the directives of Civil Aviation Minister Mohammad Mannar Ennaba to provide all necessary facilities to those participating in the event.
The championship is the first international tournament to be held during the pandemic.
Bitcoin's value fell 17 percent on Monday, its biggest one-day decline since March, after hitting an all-time high of $34,182 earlier in the week.
The fall had bitcoin sitting below $29,000 before it rebounded to $31,500.
The cryptocurrency gained over 300 percent in 2020, and 50 percent in the last month alone.
Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin, hit $1,161, a 22-percent rise.
Ethereum gained over 600 percent in 2020.
Telecom Egypt, one of the largest submarine cable operators in the Middle East and Africa, has signed an agreement with Google to provide transit services for Google's international traffic using the Internet Protocol (IP) layer.
The deal is the first of its kind in transit services through the Egyptian terrestrial international network for communications across Egypt.
Under the agreement, Google will obtain international capacities for Europe across the Mediterranean Sea on the Telecom Egypt North submarine cable system.
Through the project, Telecom Egypt will provide the highest levels of protection for Google's data traffic through submarine cable landing stations on the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, which are linked to several land paths across Egypt.
The network also redirects Google's international data traffic between routes when required, with high flexibility and at high speeds, for routing times of no more than 50 milliseconds.
Egypt sold $861.1 million in dollar-denominated treasury bills (T-bills) yesterday, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) announced.
The T-bills were sold at an average yield of 3.41 percent, according to the CBE.
In December, Egypt sold $1 billion in T-bills at an average yield of 3.395 percent.
Engineering industry exports increased by 6 percent during the first five months of the fiscal year 2020/2021, according to the Engineering Export Council of Egypt (EECE).
The council said that the sector's exports during the July-November period recorded $1.11 billion, compared with $1.05 billion during the same period of the 2019/2020 fiscal year.
The council added that engineering exports witnessed a marked rise in November, recording $229.6 million, compared with about $187.3 million in the same month last year.
It said that exports of auto components rose 18 percent, while exports of cables and household appliances each climbed 21 percent.
Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans has described the US central bank’s current policy as "well-positioned," adding that the Fed will decide whether to adjust its asset purchase program by springtime.
"Our current way of doing the $120 billion of purchases every month is reasonable across a wide range of maturities; if we see that we need more accommodation we could adjust and move the current pace into a longer duration, or we could expand the pace of purchases, or, if we saw that things were going better we could change the duration as well," Evans told reporters after participating in a panel at the annual meeting of the Allied Social Sciences Association (ASSA).
"We are going to want to have full confidence that the recovery is going to be a robust one, that we are well on our way to growth rates this year of 4 percent for GDP ... and the unemployment rate going down to 5-ish percent," Evans said.
The Fed in December said it would keep its asset purchases at their current pace until it saw "substantial progress" toward its full employment and 2 percent inflation goals.
Oil prices edged lower yesterday, as OPEC+ decided to resume talks today after Monday's negotiations over February oil output levels were split amid concerns of new coronavirus lockdowns.
International benchmark Brent oil lost 71 cents, or 1.4 percent, to close at $51.09 a barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell 90 cents, or 1.9 percent, to settle at $47.62 a barrel.
The group met last month and decided to increase production by 500,000 barrels per day starting January.
The organization had to cut production last year, in response to a decrease in demand resulting from the pandemic.
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has ordered Egyptian banks to establish independent units to monitor operational risks and offer means to curb their impact, it said in a circular on the new regulation issued yesterday.
The CBE said that bank boards are required to periodically review reports produced by the new operational risk management units.
Under the regulation, banks will have to announce the general framework of their operational risk management plan as well as the value of losses resulting from operational risks, to allow the market to assess banks' operational risk management approach.
Losses of more than EGP 50,000 ($3,178) incurred on the back of operational risks also have to be reported to the CBE.
Banks will have until the end of 2021 to comply with the new regulation, which aims to boost the performance of the Egyptian banking sector and banks' financial positions, according to the CBE.
Operational risks are losses incurred due to malfunctions in internal controls, human factors, electronic operating systems or external events.
Bank of Alexandria (ALEXBANK) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide smallholder farmers with financial and non-financial support, according to media reports.
The MoU paves the way for ALEXBANK and the WFP to exchange experiences, integrating the WFP's experience providing technical support and agricultural services to the target communities in rural Upper Egypt, and ALEXBANK's experience in providing financial services, especially in marginalized communities.
ALEXBANK seeks to raise the standard of living among smallholder farmers in Upper Egypt through the cooperation, ALEXBANK Managing Director and CEO Dante Campioni told media outlets.
The bank also seeks to confirm its commitment to supporting the agricultural sector through the agreement, which will contribute to furthering economic development, Campioni added.
WFP Country Director and Representative in Egypt Menghestab Haile said that the partnership aims to contribute to the development of agricultural methods and the adoption of modern agricultural technology to help small farmers reach local and international markets.
An international consortium led by French company Total has inked a deal with the state-run Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) for petroleum exploration and production over more than 4,550 square kilometers in the North Ras Kanayis offshore block, located in the Herodotus Basin of the Mediterranean Sea.
Total holds a 35 percent share in the consortium, while British-Dutch Shell owns 30 percent, Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (KUFPEC) 25 percent, and Egypt's Tharwa Petroleum Company 10 percent.
In related news, a consortium led by ExxonMobil Egypt has signed a deal with EGAS to secure a concession for petroleum exploration over 4,000 square kilometers in the Star offshore region east of Amreya on the Nile Delta.
ExxonMobil Egypt owns a 90 percent share in the consortium, while Tharwa owns the remaining 10 percent.
Last week, Egypt's petroleum ministry announced that it had signed nine new oil and gas exploration deals in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea worth over $1 billion with six global and local oil corporations, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Total.
It was not immediately clear if the deals announced by Total and ExxonMobil yesterday were part of the same deals previously announced by the petroleum ministry.
Akhdar, an Egypt-based book summary mobile app, has raised a six-figure seed investment from EdVentures, the venture capital arm of Egypt's Nahdet Misr Publishing Group, according to media reports.
The company did not reveal the exact value of the investment.
Akhdar plans to start offering smart learning experiences, founder Mohamed Osama was quoted as saying by media reports.
"The investment will be directed to enrich our library with various new categories and topics, in addition to offering readers a smart learning experience to make the most out of the content available on the platform," Osama said.
Founded in 2017, the platform started off as a YouTube channel offering book summaries before launching an app that presents hundreds of videos on books across 16 genres.
The shareholders of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Peugeot have approved a $58 billion merger to create Stellantis, the fourth largest carmaker in the world.
Stellantis will continue the Jeep, Dodge, Maserati, Peugeot, Ram and Citroen brands.
Fiat has been on the search for a partner, and was previously rejected by General Motors and Volkswagen.
"Stellantis will be a sort of conglomerate of brands, some great and some not so good and most very regional," Jefferies analyst Philippe Houchois said.
According to officials, the merger will save the two companies billions of dollars annually.
The African Union (AU)-sponsored meeting to resume negotiations on the operation and filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which the irrigation ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan were to attend yesterday, has been suspended after Sudan was absent.
The irrigation ministers of Egypt and Ethiopia, as well as experts and observers appointed by the AU, showed up at the meeting before it was suspended.
The three parties' foreign and irrigation ministers had met on Sunday, where they agreed to conduct talks for a week, to end on January 10.
Following Sudan's absence, a report was filed to the AU head on future procedures for the talks, which require the attendance of all three nations.
Meanwhile, the Sudanese irrigation ministry voiced its reservations over participating in the talks, saying that it had filed a request on Sunday to hold a bilateral meeting with the AU experts and observers; however, its request was not answered and instead it received an invitation to the direct tripartite talks.
"This prompted Sudan to announce its reservation over the participation, confirming its firm position on the necessity of giving a greater role to the African Union experts to facilitate negotiations," Sudan's irrigation ministry stated.
In related news, Egypt's General Intelligence Service (GIS) head Abbas Kamel visited Sudan yesterday on orders from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, to probe the latest developments in the GERD talks and the region with Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, head of Sudan's ruling sovereign council, Jamal Abdul Majeed, head of Sudan's General Intelligence Service, and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, along with other officials.
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has agreed during a meeting via video conference with Banque Misr Chairman Mohamed El-Etreby and National Bank of Egypt (NBE) Chairman Hisham Okasha to utilize the lands that the two banks possess to develop provincial capitals and major cities, according to the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA).
Madbouly added that the government is currently working on measuring the available land in those cities where urban development projects will be implemented.
The meeting comes within the framework of efforts to reach an agreement on the utilization of the lands, with some sites to be used by partnering with the two banks to implement residential investment projects, the premier said.
Madbouly added that the Armed Forces Engineering Authority will begin implementing the development projects, adding that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has mandated a maximum implementation period of 18 months.
The country's statistics agency CAPMAS has said that the amount of water used for irrigation increased 10.2 percent to reach 40.2 billion cubic meters in 2019, up from 36.5 billion cubic meters in 2018.
In an annual bulletin, CAPMAS said that the amount of water used for irrigation at the Aswan High Dam amounted to 45.6 billion cubic meters in 2019, compared with 44.6 billion cubic meters in 2018, an increase of 2.1 percent.
CAPMAS previously said that the country's overall agricultural area rose to 10.3 million feddans (10.6 million acres) in 2019.
CAPMAS added that the total area of arable land reached 9.2 million feddans (9.4 million acres) in 2019, or 89 percent of the entire agricultural area.
The Egyptian irrigation ministry previously said that it plans to increase its investments in water projects by 11 percent in the coming 2020/2021 fiscal year to EGP 8.5 billion ($538.7 million).
Egyptian Minister of Manpower Mohamed Saafan said Thursday would be a paid holiday for the private sector to mark Coptic Orthodox Christmas.
Saafan added that business owners can oblige employees to work during the holiday but that workers must be paid double their daily salary.
Along with several other Christian denominations, the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi yesterday said that under the bi-fuel conversion initiative, owners of older cars can replace them with new models that run on gas at a low cost using large financial facilities, including long-term loans at low interest rates.
"These steps complement the state’s strategy to elevate the living standards of citizens and provide them with the best services," the president's office stated.
El-Sisi yesterday inaugurated the first exhibition for vehicles converted to run on compressed natural gas (CNG).
The military production ministry showcased two bus models that run on natural gas at the exhibition.
A total of 30 auto manufacturing companies are participating in the exhibition, while nine Egyptian banks have set up in dedicated pavilions to provide financing for the initiative, Minister of Trade and Industry Nevine Gamea said.
Gamea said that Egypt will convert 250,000 vehicles to operate on natural gas over the coming three years.
A total of 70,000 cars will be converted in the first year, increasing to 90,000 cars in each of the second and third years, in addition to 55,000 taxis and other private vehicles and 15,000 microbuses.
The first phase of the conversion initiative will be implemented in seven governorates: Cairo, Giza, Qalioubiya, Alexandria, Suez, Port Said and the Red Sea.
On Sunday, The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) launched an initiative to provide EGP 15 billion ($946.8 million) in loans to citizens who want to convert their vehicles to run on natural gas.
The Go Green Exhibition has seen the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Nissan Motors Egypt to promote the export of locally manufactured cars.
A cooperation agreement between the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (MSMEDA), the Natural Gas Vehicles Company (Car Gas) and the Egyptian International Gas Technology (Gastec) was also signed during the exhibition to provide a financing package of EGP 200 million ($12.7 million) in total to complete the implementation of the program, Gamea said.
The trade minister said that MSMEDA will also finance the conversion of 150,000 cars by the end of 2023, at a total cost of EGP 1.2 billion ($76.2 million).
Gamea said that the trade and industry ministry had also agreed with nine companies operating in the Egyptian market to provide 12 different car and microbus models through the initiative.
The minister also said that 47,000 cars had already been converted to the bi-fuel system with financing amounting to EGP 252 million ($16 million).
Citizens between the age of 21 and 55 are eligible to convert their vehicles to run on natural gas through the scheme.
Applicants should also hold a valid third class driver's license at minimum and will be required to undergo a medical examination to screen for illegal drug use.
Health Minister Hala Zayed has said that Egypt will follow up with non-hospitalized coronavirus patients across the country starting tomorrow, through the 100 Million Health initiative.
During a press conference on Monday, Zayed said that the initiative will follow up with 100 percent of non-hospitalized patients within two weeks.
The minister said a website will be launched to register the patients and to monitor the supply and consumption of medical oxygen in all hospitals nationwide.
The initiative provides services through 5,400 health units and medical centers to measure patients' temperature and the percentage of oxygen in their blood, as well as to follow up on the development of their symptoms.
A 100 Million Health initiative team will be responsible for following up with patients at home and recording all data on cases on the new website.
Zayed said the elderly, patients with chronic diseases and COVID-19 patients who are susceptible to deterioration will be given a device to periodically measure the level of oxygen in their blood themselves at home.
Eight hundred medical convoys will be available in areas with high infection rates, Zayed said.
Before the initiative, patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms had been followed up with over the phone and treated at home to free up beds for critical cases.
The Ministry of Interior yesterday announced that 20,907 people were fined for failing to wear face masks to confront the spread of the coronavirus on the first day of implementation of the on-the-spot fines.
About 19,715 people paid the imposed fines, a statement released by the ministry read. The remaining 1,192 were referred to the public prosecution for their failure to pay.
The ministry also reported 704 violations by stores that failed to adhere to precautionary measures, where 247 cases involved the circulation of banned hookah water pipes, with a total of 1,700 hookah seizures.
In addition, the Egyptian Company for Metro (ECM) said that about 95 percent of passengers had complied with the wearing of face masks since the reduced fine came into effect, according to media reports.
Egypt started strictly imposing a reduced fine of EGP 50 ($3.20) on Sunday against citizens not wearing masks in indoor public areas, which became mandatory per decision of the coronavirus supreme committee for crisis management in a meeting chaired by the prime minister last week.
Last week, Egypt's Ministry of Justice granted judicial police the authority to collect fines for failing to wear a face mask or adhere to other preventive measures, as stipulated in a prime ministerial decision.
Egypt confirmed 1,277 new cases of the coronavirus yesterday, a decrease for the fourth consecutive day, the health ministry said, bringing the total so far to 143,464 cases.
The ministry reported 58 new deaths, taking total fatalities to 7,863.
The ministry added that 703 patients had been released from isolation and quarantine hospitals, bringing the total number of recoveries to 114,601.
Saudi Arabia has agreed to reopen its air, land and sea borders with Qatar as of yesterday evening, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah announced in a video statement.
The agreement to reopen the borders comes as part of a deal to resolve the political dispute between the two countries, which will be officially signed at the Gulf Arab summit scheduled to be held today, Kuwait's foreign minister added.
The US and Kuwait have been involved in the talks to end a boycott imposed on Qatar by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain since mid-2017 on allegations of supporting terrorism, which was denied by Qatar.
A senior official in the Trump administration was quoted by Reuters as saying that a breakthrough has been reached between Qatar and the four other Arab nations and, echoing the Kuwaiti foreign minister, that a deal to end the dispute will be signed today at the Gulf Arab summit.
"It's just a massive breakthrough," the official said, adding that "The blockade will be lifted. It will allow for travel amongst the countries as well as goods. It will lead to more stability in the region."
Bloomberg reported, citing a person familiar with the matter, that Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law to US President Donald Trump, was travelling to Saudi Arabia to attend the deal's signing.
Meanwhile, UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said that the summit will restore Gulf unity, adding in a Twitter post that "more work lies ahead and we are moving in the right direction."
Iran has seized a South Korean tanker in the Persian Gulf, accusing it of polluting Gulf waters with chemicals, following rising tensions between Iran and the US during US President Donald Trump's final days in office.
The tanker's crew, comprised of South Korean, Indonesian and Vietnamese citizens, has been detained. The tanker is being held at Iran’s Bandar Abbas port.
The South Korean foreign ministry demanded the tanker's release.
Yesterday, Iran breached the 2015 nuclear accord by resuming its program to enrich uranium to up to 20 percent purity.
Lebanese musician Elias Rahbani has died in Lebanon at the age of 83, after contracting the coronavirus a week ago.
Rahbani's family had a significant role in music and theater in Lebanon. His brothers Assi and Mansour Rahbani were composers.
Lebanon announced a three-week full lockdown and a curfew from 6 pm to 5 am in order to slow the rise in new coronavirus cases.
Its caretaker health minister said the lockdown will be implemented starting Thursday, to last until February 1.
In Germany, the government plans to extend its lockdown until the end of January in efforts to fight the spread of the coronavirus, with a formal decision to be made today.
The country first implemented its second lockdown on December 16, following a partial lockdown in November that failed to slow the spread of the virus.
Germany has started vaccinating its citizens against the virus but so far only around 238,000 of its 83 million people have received their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Similarly, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a third national lockdown to fight the new strain of the coronavirus, during which people can only leave their homes to shop for essentials, work, exercise, seek medical assistance and escape domestic abuse.
Schools and colleges will resort to remote learning.
"I completely understand the inconvenience and distress this change will cause millions of people and parents up and down the country," Johnson said.
Britain has started vaccinating its elderly and those most vulnerable to the virus with the Oxford University and AstraZeneca vaccine, prioritizing giving the first dose of the virus to the largest number of people over giving out the second dose of the vaccine.
The country has suffered a major economic hit and recorded the world's sixth-highest number of deaths from the virus.
Meanwhile, Dubai Airports and GMR Hyderabad International Airport have agreed to handle over 300 tons of vaccines a day, connecting Indian vaccine manufacturers with markets around the world.
The CEO of Dubai Airports said that they wanted to be ready to respond to and accommodate the demand for COVID-19 vaccines.
The pandemic is expected to have cost US airlines more than $35 billion in losses in 2020, and the situation is not expected to improve before mid-2021.
Airline stocks have dropped drastically in the past year; American Airlines shares dropped 45 percent and Delta Airlines shares dropped 31 percent.
|UAE ABU DHABI||ADX||5,115.46||+0.72%|
|US||Dow Jones IA||30,223.89||-1.25%|
|China||HANG SENG INDEX||27,412.46||-0.22%|
|Gold Egypt||LE/ oz.||1,942.55||-0.08%|
|Silver Egypt||LE/ oz.||27.39||+0.49%|
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