06 Jan 2021


Egypt's Net Foreign Reserves Jump to $40.06 Bn in December: CBE

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CBE

Egypt's net foreign reserves jumped to $40.06 billion in December, up from $39.22 billion in November, data by the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) showed on Tuesday.

According to the data, net foreign reserves rose by $841 million on a monthly basis last month.

The country's foreign reserve levels have been rising for six straight months since June, following a three-month setback in the wake of the first wave of the coronavirus.

At the end of February, the country's net foreign reserves stood at a record $45.51 billion.

Last month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave the green light for Egypt to receive $1.67 billion, the second tranche of its one-year Stand-By Arrangement (SBA), after finalizing the first review of Egypt's economic reform program.

In July, Egypt received $2 billion from the IMF as the first tranche of the $5.2 billion SBA loan that was signed a month earlier. With the second tranche, Egypt will have received a total of $3.6 billion.


Egypt News

Egypt Signs Gulf Declaration to Reconcile With Qatar; Saudi Arabia Announces Full Restoration of Ties

Egypt and Gulf Arab leaders have signed a declaration aimed at reconciliation with Qatar, with Saudi Arabia and its three Arab allies announcing fully restored ties with Doha to end a three-and-a-half-year rift.

The Egyptian foreign ministry said on Tuesday that foreign minister Sameh Shoukry had signed the Al-Ula Declaration on Arab reconciliation at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held in the kingdom's ancient desert city of Al-Ula.

The foreign ministry said the signing came under Cairo's consistent aim of achieving solidarity among Arab Quartet countries and to support Arab unity.

"It is imperative to build on this important step to promote the path of Arab action and to support ties among sisterly Arab countries, stemming from relations based on goodwill and non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries," the statement read.

A boycott has been imposed on Qatar by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain since mid-2017 on allegations of supporting terrorism, which were denied by Qatar.

Kuwait and the United States have been mediating recent reconciliation talks between the Arab Quartet and Qatar. US President Donald Trump's adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner attended the Saudi summit.

Saudi Arabia announced on Tuesday that it had agreed, along with its three Arab allies, to restore full ties with Qatar, hours after Riyadh reopened its airspace to Doha overnight ahead of the summit to signal the thaw of ties.

Saudi foreign minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud told a press conference after the summit that there was political will and good faith to ensure that the agreement between the Arab Quartet and Doha is implemented to restore diplomatic and other ties, including the resumption of flights.

Ahead of the summit, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamam bin Hamad Al-Thani with a warm welcome, marking the first visit by the Qatari leader since the embargo on his country was put in place.

The Saudi crown prince said that the region needed to join forces to face challenges posed by Iran’s proxies and its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

He said the declaration signed on Tuesday "emphasizes Arab and Gulf solidarity and stability, and reinforces the continuity of friendship and brotherhood between our countries."

Qatari Minister Arrives in Cairo for Opening of Luxury Hotel Following Restoration of Ties: Reports

Qatar's finance minister arrived Cairo on Tuesday for the opening of a luxury hotel on the Nile, only a few hours after Egypt and Gulf Arab leaders signed a declaration aimed at reconciliation with Qatar, ending a three-and-a-half-year rift.

According to the state-owned Akhbar Al Youm, informed sources said that Qatari Finance Minister Ali Al Emadi and his accompanying delegation arrived at Cairo International Airport on a private jet direct from Doha.

They said the Qatari delegation will attend the opening of a luxurious hotel located on the Nile Corniche.

Although not named by the sources, several media outlets named the hotel as the St Regis Cairo, which is owned by Qatari Diar.

GCC Countries Stress Support of Efforts to Resolve GERD Crisis

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have stressed their support of efforts to resolve the crisis over the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

In a closing statement on Tuesday following the GCC summit held in Saudi Arabia's desert city of Al-Ula, the council said it supports efforts to protect the economic interests and water rights of the countries involved in the talks, in reference to Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

The UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman also affirmed their support for Egypt's security and stability, praising the country's efforts to bolster peace and security in the region and to combat terrorism.

They also asserted their defense of the principle of non-interference in Arab countries’ domestic affairs.

The GCC's support comes one day after Sudan decided to boycott renewed GERD negotiations attended by Egypt and Ethiopia.

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 African Union (AU) head on future procedures for the talks, which require the attendance of all three nations.

Sudan has 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.

Egypt, which relies on the Nile for 95 percent of its fresh water, worries GERD will significantly restrict its access to the vital Nile waters.

Ethiopia stresses the $4 billion project is key to its development.

Sisi, Mnuchin Discuss Latest GERD Developments, Palestinian Cause

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin yesterday, where the two discussed the latest developments in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) saga, a spokesperson for the presidency stated yesterday.

El-Sisi and Mnuchin also followed up on developments in the Palestinian cause and means to revive the peace process.

In Mnuchin's final official visit as treasury secretary, the two officials mulled ways to cooperate further on the economy and security, in addition to several other issues of common interest.

"Egypt is a vital partner of the United States, as demonstrated by the over 1,200 American companies active here, with total bilateral trade growing 76 percent over the past four years," said Mnuchin, adding "I thank President Sisi for his warm welcome and for our productive meetings as we explore further economic and security cooperation."

Bloomberg reported in December that Mnuchin was planning to visit various Middle East countries on his last trip as a US government official, including Egypt, Sudan, the UAE, Israel and Qatar, among others.

Mnuchin visited Israel, Bahrain and the UAE in October, after Israel and the UAE signed an agreement known as the Abraham Accords to normalize diplomatic relations.

Meanwhile, El-Sisi yesterday received Ambassador Annan Catou, special envoy of the Ghanaian president, in the presence of Egypt's General Intelligence Service head Abbas Kamel, Presidential Spokesperson Bassam Rady said.

El-Sisi and Catou discussed means of bilateral cooperation in trade and investment and of confronting the COVID-19 crisis.

Egypt Launches Website for Citizens to Register for Inoculations Against COVID

Egypt's health ministry has launched the long-awaited website through which citizens can register to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The website, https://egcovac.mohp.gov.eg/, was first announced weeks ago, yet its launch was postponed more than once.

Egypt Reports Fifth Consecutive Decline in Coronavirus Cases

Egypt detected 1,119 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, marking a fifth consecutive decline this week to report a total infections tally of 144,583 since the outbreak of the pandemic in mid-February. 

According to an official statement, the health ministry also reported 55 new deaths, bringing the total fatalities from the virus to 7,918.

Eight hundred and thirteen patients have been discharged from hospitals in the past 24 hours, bringing total recoveries since the outbreak to 115,414. 

Meanwhile, Cairo, Giza, Fayoum and Minya are currently seeing the highest daily infection rates, Health Minister Hala Zayed announced during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Her statements come weeks after Alexandria and Qalioubiya were named among the governorates seeing the highest number of infections. 

Ahmed Heikal, Abou Hashima Donate $2 Mn to Tahya Misr Fund to Support Vaccine Provision

Qalaa Holdings Chairman Ahmed Heikal has said that the company has donated EGP 30 million ($1.9 million) to the state-run Tahya Misr (Long Live Egypt) fund, to help distribute coronavirus vaccines.

During a phone call with the Sada El-Balad channel, Heikal added that the donation comes within the framework of the state's program to provide vaccines to high priority groups.

Egyptian Cement Group CEO Ahmed Abou Hashima also announced on the channel his donation of EGP 2 million ($127,373) to the fund, to support providing the vaccine to the most vulnerable.

Earlier this week, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ordered the government to obtain the best offers from international companies for the most effective coronavirus vaccines in the largest possible quantity and in the fastest time, with the Tahya Misr fund supporting the provision of the vaccine for the most vulnerable groups, his spokesman Bassam Rady said. 

11 Nurseries Closed Over Detected Coronavirus Cases Since Reopening: Minister

About 11 of Egypt's 4,000 registered nurseries have been closed over detected coronavirus cases since they reopened at 50 percent capacity last summer, Minister of Social Solidarity Niveen El-Qabbag said yesterday in a press release.

El-Qabbag said that nurseries will continue to run at 50 percent capacity and with strict precautionary measures in place to confront the coronavirus pandemic.

She added that the ministry's childhood and motherhood department will follow up with nurseries to ensure that they apply the necessary precautions and maintain social distancing.

The minister added that in the event of an increase in coronavirus infection rates, nurseries will once again be closed.

In July, the ministry reopened the nurseries after months of closure due to the pandemic, with a commitment to reduce capacity to 50 percent to avoid overcrowding.

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Cabinet Discounts Domestic Flights to Promote Local Tourism

The Egyptian cabinet has implemented an initiative, "Winter in Egypt," to discount domestic flights offered by the state-owned carrier EgyptAir in order to promote domestic tourism.

Some ticket discounts offered by EgyptAir through the initiative will be up to almost 50 percent, said EgyptAir Holding Company Chairman Roshdy Zakaria, adding that the national airline incurs between $700,000 and $800,000 in monthly losses due to the pandemic.

The Supreme Council of Antiquities will also discount tickets to open archaeological areas and museums in the governorates of Qena, Luxor and Aswan during January and February.

The initiative will be implemented from January 15 until February 28.

The ministers of tourism and antiquities and aviation worked to launch the initiative alongside representatives of the Egyptian Tourism Federation and Chamber of Tourism Establishments.

It was also agreed that hotels in the area will offer reduced prices.

Egyptian tourism revenues dropped by 69 percent during the past year to record about $4 billion, compared with $13 billion the year before.

According to the Tourism Activation Authority, 65 percent of tourists who visited Egypt in 2020 came during January and February. 

PM Appoints New Industrial Control Authority Head

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has appointed Abdul Raouf Mohamed as head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade's Industrial Control Authority (ICA).

Meanwhile, Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait appointed State Council President Ahmed Jalal Zaki as president of the appeal committees' technical office.

Egyptian Pilgrims Die, Suffer Injuries in Bus Crash in Saudi Arabia 

A number of Egyptians have died and others suffered injuries in a bus crash 310 kilometers from Tabuk city in Saudi Arabia, Egypt's foreign affairs ministry stated yesterday without revealing the number of fatalities.

Sixteen Egyptians were on board the bus, and were heading to Mecca to perform the Umrah pilgrimage.

Assistant Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs and Egyptian Expatriates Amr Mahmoud Abbas said that Egypt will follow up with Saudi Arabian authorities to monitor the condition of the injured passengers, and to complete procedures to repatriate the bodies of the deceased.

Second Stage of Compensation for Nubia Residents to Begin This Month: Minister

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Alaa El-Din Fouad has said that the second stage of compensation for Nubia residents will begin on January 17, two days after Aswan governorate's national day, according to a cabinet statement.

Fouad said that 11,500 beneficiaries in total are set to receive compensation, including 6,171 in the first stage, of whom 2,531 had completed their documents, while the rest asked to benefit from the state's future development plan.

He added that a number of beneficiaries received contracts for ownership of social housing units in addition to a cash payout, instead of housing units at a value of EGP 225,000 ($14,331).

For those who had agricultural land taken from them, they will be compensated with new land, or with cash at a value of EGP 25,000 ($1,592) per feddan.

In 2019, the offices of the Ministry of Social Solidarity in Aswan governorate began receiving requests to pay compensation to residents of Nubia in southern Egypt as a result of the heightening of the Aswan reservoir and the establishment of the High Dam.

The first stage of the displacement of Nubians began in 1902, with the construction of the Aswan reservoir, followed by a second wave of displacement in 1912, when the reservoir was heightened, and then after another heightening in 1933. 

With the construction of the High Dam, around 135,000 Nubians living in a further 44 villages were displaced over a nine-month period.

Egypt Ranks Third Among Countries Benefiting From Islamic Development Bank Credit: Minister

Egypt ranked third among the top ten countries benefiting from Islamic Development Bank (IDB) credit, receiving $12.7 billion in approved credit since August 2018.

Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala Al-Saeed, who represents Egypt on the IDB's governing board, announced the results of the cooperation between Egypt and the bank between August 2018 and December 2020.

She said that of the projects funded in Egypt, 238 have been approved at a value of $12.7 billion, while 287 projects have already been completed at a value of $9.7 billion, and 51 projects are under implementation at a value of $3 billion.

Al-Saeed said that Egypt is one of the bank's founding countries, adding that the country joined the bank in 1974 and holds a permanent seat on its board of executive directors.

Economics

Gold Hits 2-Month High

Gold hit a two-month high on Tuesday, as the safe-haven metal drew cautious investors as they awaited the results of the US Senate runoff elections in Georgia.

Spot gold rose 0.4 percent to $1,950.34 per ounce, capping its earlier gains to $1,952.36, its highest level since November 9.

US gold futures climbed 0.3 percent to $1,952.50 per ounce.

The dollar index neared April 2018 lows, also helping to back gold.

The party that will eventually control the senate will have the ability to either facilitate Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda, or obstruct it.

If Democrats lose the run-off elections in Georgia, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would retain power, leading to a divided government.

Oil Prices Up Nearly 5% Over Saudi Arabia's Voluntary Oil Output Cuts

Oil prices rose nearly five percent on the back of news that Saudi Arabia will make voluntary output cuts, while tensions continued to rise over Iran’s seizure of a South Korean vessel.

Brent crude futures gained $2.51, or 4.9 percent, to settle at $53.60 a barrel, while US West Texas Intermediate crude rose $2.31, or 4.9 percent, to close at $49.93 a barrel.

The rise comes after news that Riyadh will make additional oil cuts of 1 million barrels per day (bpd) in February and March, as part of a deal to convince OPEC+ producers to hold output steady amid concerns that demand will be affected by fresh pandemic lockdowns.

OPEC+ resumed talks on Tuesday after they faltered at the start of the week over February oil output levels.

An internal OPEC+ document dated January 4 and seen by Reuters read: "the reimplementation of COVID-19 containment measures across continents, including full lockdowns, are dampening the oil demand rebound in 2021."

Meanwhile, conflict over OPEC member Iran’s seizure of a South Korean vessel intensfied, with Tehran on Tuesday denying it was using the ship and its crew as hostages.

Iran seized the ship in the Gulf on Monday, calling for Seoul to release $7 billion in funds frozen under US sanctions.

World Bank Expects Moderate Recovery in MENA Economic Activity in 2021

The World Bank expects economic activity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to witness a moderate recovery in 2021, indicating that many challenges lie ahead due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to its January 2021 Global Economic Prospects report.

"Economic activity in the Middle East and North Africa is forecast to recover modestly to 2.1 percent in 2021, reflecting the lasting damage from the pandemic and low oil prices," the Washington-based bank said.

The bank said that it expects growth in oil-exporting countries to recover to 1.8 percent this year, "supported by normalizing oil demand, the scheduled easing of the OPEC+ oil production cuts, policy support, and the gradual phasing out of domestic pandemic-related restrictions."

Saudi Arabia's economy, the largest in the Arab world, will benefit from the resumption of public projects that were postponed at the start of the crisis and the recovery of demand after a sharp rise in value-added tax, with growth expected to rebound to 2 percent.

Meanwhile, growth in oil importers is expected to rebound to 3.2 percent in 2021, as mobility restrictions are gradually lifted.

The World Bank reiterated that it expects a slow rebound in economic growth to 2.7 percent in Egypt, the most populous country in MENA, during fiscal year 2020/2021, due to the "collapse" of a number of sectors, especially tourism and gas extractives.

The bank said that that the pandemic caused the economies of the region to shrink by 5 percent in 2020, causing job losses and a sharp increase in the number of people living below the poverty line of less than $5.50 a day.

The report emphasized that "the recovery is contingent on containment of the pandemic, stabilizing oil prices, no further escalation of geopolitical tensions, and the assumption of a vaccine rollout in the second half of the year."

Furthermore, the World Bank said that the rebound from the recession will be somewhat slow, with estimations of a 4 percent expansion due to a resurgence in virus cases in advanced economies.

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Gulf Arab summit (courtesy of Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani's Twitter)

Lifting Qatar Blockade Will Have Limited Economic Impact: Capital Economics

UK-based economic research agency Capital Economics has said that lifting the three-and-a-half-year blockade of Qatar will not have a significant economic impact, especially in the short term, as any potential improvement is mainly dependent on successful management of the coronavirus and the rollout of vaccines.

However, it added that there would be some positive impact on Qatar's economy with regard to tourism, as well as boosting political ties in the Gulf.

Capital Economics said in a report that the move "may provide some boost to Qatar's economy via increased tourist arrivals as well as improved consumer and business sentiment. But we don’t think it significantly alters the near-term economic outlook."

The agency described economic dislocation in Qatar resulting from the blockade as "short-lived," as shown by the fact that the country's petroleum exports had remained intact. It added that the Dolphin pipeline, which transports gas to the UAE -- one of the four nations that imposed the blockade -- had remained open.

The country's banking sector also remained resilient during the blockade, the report said, as the government contained the challenges facing Qatari banks after non-residents were encouraged to withdraw their deposits.

The report said that the government prevented financial conditions tightening at local banks by transferring many public sector deposits to the banks.

Saudi Arabia agreed to reopen its air, land and sea borders with Qatar on Monday, ahead of the Gulf Arab summit yesterday in which Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt signed an agreement aimed at resolving the political dispute with Qatar.

Egypt's Non-Oil Private Sector Contracts After 3 Months of Growth: IHS Markit

Egypt's non-oil private sector saw contraction in December, registering 48.2 in IHS Markit's Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), after remaining above the 50 threshold that separates growth from contraction for three months in a row.

IHS Markit cited a potential tightening of precautionary measures on the back of the new surge in coronavirus cases as having put pressure on demand.

"With the possibility of tighter public health measures in the future, surveyed businesses indicated that clients had held off from completing new orders," IHS Markit said in its report.

In September, Egypt saw a PMI of 50.4, marking its first growth in 14 months. The index continued to rise in October, registering 51.4, but growth slightly decreased in November to come in at 50.9.

The output sub-index fell to 46.9 in December, down from 52 in November, and new orders dipped to 46.9, down from 53.6, marking the end of a 5-month expansion for both sub-indices.

On the other hand, IHS Markit said that "the outlook for the next 12 months of activity improved strongly in December, as Egyptian companies placed increased hopes of a recovery in 2021."

"The decline in sales was a surprise to those firms that made additional purchases earlier in the fourth quarter, as stocks of unused inputs built up at the quickest rate since mid-2012. Purchasing activity was subsequently reduced sharply, while job numbers fell at the strongest rate since August," IHS Markit economist David Owen said in the report.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's non-oil private sector rose to its highest in a year as its PMI registered 57 in December, compared with 54.7 in November, while the UAE's PMI climbed to its highest in 16 months, reaching 51.2, up from 49.5.

IHS Markit said vaccination programs rolled out by both countries had boosted growth in demand, particularly in domestic demand in Saudi Arabia and external demand in the UAE.

In a report commenting on IHS Markit's new PMI figures, UK-based economic research agency Capital Economics said that despite managing to secure its first batch of the coronavirus vaccine developed by China's Sinopharm, "anecdotal evidence suggests that [Egypt's] local healthcare system is under severe strain."

Capital Economics added that the IHS Markit report backed its expectation that Egypt's headline inflation will increase in the months to come, while remaining subdued. The agency did not expect headline inflation to cross the mid-point of the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) new inflation target of 7 percent (±2 percentage points) for the fourth quarter of 2022.

Business

Egypt Bans Importing Food Products Without National Food Safety Authority License

Egypt has banned the import of foodstuffs without a license from the National Food Safety Authority (NFSA), said authority head Hussein Mansour.

Mansour added that the move comes within the framework of the authority's role as the body responsible for controlling food resources, with the aim of ensuring the validity and quality of imported food products for Egyptians.

Earlier last month, Egyptian Trade and Industry Minister Nevine Gamea extended an existing ban on sugar imports for a further three months.

Majid Al Futtaim Signs Deal to Open Carrefour Branches Inside Omar Effendi Stores

Majid Al Futtaim Group and Omar Effendi have signed an agreement to open new Carrefour branches inside Omar Effendi stores. 

The agreement comes under the development of Omar Effendi branches in coordination with the Holding Company for Construction and Development (HCCD).

The plan is to develop 14 Omar Effendi branches in several stages, beginning with opening new Carrefour branches inside the stores owned by Omar Effendi.

The plan also includes training for those working in Omar Effendi branches and improving customer services by providing high quality products and electronic payment methods.

Omar Effendi is an Egyptian government retail chain, established in Cairo in 1856. 

UAE House of Experience to Officially Launch Digital Mall in Egypt in March

The UAE House of Experience is preparing to launch its Digital Mall platform in Egypt in March, UAE House of Experience CEO and Digital Mall project founder Ashraf Gaber told Ahram Online.

"The project will be ready to commence work in Egypt by mid-February. Yet, the project’s launching is expected to be in March, in conjunction with Mother’s Day season in Egypt," Gaber said.

The project in Egypt is worth $3 million in investments over the next year and a total of $11 million by 2023.

The Digital Mall will host 5,000 brands in Egypt over the next three years, including 2,000 brands to be introduced in the project's first phase.

Gaber said that the Digital Mall will be simultaneously launched in Saudi Arabia in March.

In the UAE, the project will be officially launched this month, with 10 percent of a planned 3,700 brands on offer in its first phase, to be completed by the end of 2021.

"The Digital Mall is a digital version (online platform) of traditional shopping malls that will provide, gradually, a variety of goods, brands, commodities, services that traditional malls are offering, but through online shopping. Dubai will be the headquarter of the platform in the first phase," Gaber said, adding that the company aims to launch the project in Morocco, Kuwait and Europe by the end of 2021.

Gaber said that micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) will be allowed to sell their products through the Digital Mall at a nominal charge.

A UAE-based logistics sister company will be responsible for the delivery of products in Egypt, Gaber said.

The first phase will cover 12 governorates, including Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Mansoura, Luxor, Aswan, Assiut, Suez, Port Said, and Ismailiya. 

Arab Organization for Industrialization, Toyota to Produce Natural Gas-Powered Minibusses

The Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI) has contracted with Japanese carmarker Toyota to produce natural gas-powered minibuses in Egypt, according to Abdel Moneim El-Terras, head of the organization.

This comes as part of an initiative to convert minibuses to run on gas and will contribute to lowering minibus prices.

El-Terras said in a press statement that the organization has offered partnerships with gradually increasing manufacturing rates to several international companies, adding that Egypt is currently making overtures to global investment companies.

He added that 550 bakeries will also be converted to operate using natural gas within six months in agreement with the Ministry of Supply and a German company, lowering costs for bakery owners.

Egyptian Entrepreneurship Investment Company Invested $6.6 Mn in 2020: Minister

Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat had said that the Egyptian Entrepreneurship Investment Company (EEIC) made EGP 103.8 million ($6.6 million) in direct and indirect investments during 2020, to boost the environment for entrepreneurship and start-ups in Egypt.

Al-Mashat said that the funding included direct investments of EGP 72.4 million ($4.6 million) in six companies and indirect investments of EGP 31.4 million in a business accelerator, as part of the company's efforts to support entrepreneurship at both the local and regional levels.

The company has invested about EGP 306.2 million ($19.5 million) in 150 companies since its establishment in 2017, including direct investments of EGP 139.9 million and indirect investments of EGP 166.3 million. 

EEIC is an Egyptian joint stock company that was established with capital of EGP 451 million ($28.7 million) through an agreement between the Egyptian government and the Saudi Fund for Development in September 2017, to work on developing entrepreneurship and technology in Egypt.

The company invests in funds for start-ups, incubators and accelerators.

Trade Minister Reshuffles Egyptian Side of Egyptian-Kuwaiti Economic Cooperation Council Board

Minister of Trade and Industry Nevine Gamea yesterday issued a decision to reshuffle the Egyptian side of the Egyptian-Kuwaiti Economic Cooperation Council, placing it under the chairmanship of Ibrahim El Araby, head of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (FEDCOC) and vice president of Elaraby Group.

The council's new members include Atlantic Industries General Manager Mohamed Abdel Moneim, Cairo Poultry Group Managing Director Tarek Tawfik and Elsewedy Electric CEO Ahmed Elsewedy, among others.

Gamea said the decision stipulates that the council's term is three years and that its chairman should issue a report every six months to the trade ministry, detailing the activities of the council and its plans to promote the best interests of the two countries.

Science and Technology

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JPMorgan Says Bitcoin Could Trade at $146K as 'Digital Gold'

JPMorgan Chase & Co yesterday said that Bitcoin's emergence as a "digital gold" could lead the cryptocurrency to trade as high as $146,000 if it becomes established as a safe-haven asset.

"Bitcoin's competition with gold has already started in our mind," strategists at the Wall Street investment bank said in a note.

JPMorgan added that the cryptocurrency is likely to outshine gold, as members of Gen Y -- who have become a more important component of the investment market -- prefer the idea of digital gold over traditional gold bars.

Bitcoin hit an all-time high of $34,800 on Saturday, then fell 17 percent on Monday to $29,000. 

The digital currency rose again yesterday to $34,041.

The cryptocurrency gained over 300 percent in 2020, and 50 percent in the last month alone.

Arab Bank Launches Smart Payment Bracelet, Sticker

Arab Bank has launched a BandPay smart payment bracelet and mobile sticker in Egypt.

The bank stated that the two services allow its customers to complete transactions easily, safely and quickly without the need to use payment cards.

The launch comes within the bank's efforts to enhance its digital services to save customers time and effort, according to the statement.

The bank said that with the bracelet or payment sticker, customers can make transactions and pay for purchases from their accounts using contactless technology.

Stock Market

Qatari Stocks Top Mideast Gains on Reconciliation

Qatari stocks led the gains in Middle East markets yesterday, on the back of the end of a three-year rift between Qatar and neighboring Gulf countries along with Egypt.

Qatar's benchmark index gained 1.35 percent, its highest rise in almost a month, to close at 10,618.39 points.

Dubai's index climbed 1.16 percent to close at 2,608.9 points, and the Abu Dhabi index rose 0.55 percent to settle at 5,143.52 points.

Saudi Arabia's Tadawul All Share Index edged up 0.17 percent to settle at 8,682.11 points.

Saudi Arabia agreed to reopen its air, land and sea borders with Qatar on Monday, ahead of the Gulf Arab summit yesterday in which Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt signed an agreement aimed at resolving the political dispute with Qatar.

Kuwait's index jumped 0.69 percent to close at 6,073.95 points, while Bahrain's index dropped 1.84 percent to close at 1,456.05 points.

Egypt's blue-chip EGX30 index rose 0.15 percent to settle at 10,829.96 points, amid a turnover of EGP 719.3 million ($45.8 million).

The EGX30's heaviest constituent, Commercial International Bank (CIB), inched down 0.08 percent to EGP 58.79 ($3.74).

Elsewedy Electric gained 3.09 percent to EGP 10 ($0.64), Talaat Moustafa Group gained 0.61 percent to EGP 6.59, and Eastern Company climbed 0.46 percent to EGP 13.11.

EFG Hermes increased 0.35 percent to EGP 14.48 ($0.92), while Telecom Egypt dipped 1.18 percent to EGP 11.72.

The broader EGX70 EWI shed 0.11 percent to settle at 2,141.18 points.

Net sales by Egyptian investors hit EGP 72.7 million ($4.6 million), while net purchases by foreign and Arab investors stood at EGP 53.5 million and EGP 19.2 million, respectively.

Mubasher Capital Holding EGM Approves Custody, IPO Promotion Licenses

Ehab Rashad, vice chairman of Mubasher Capital Holding for Financial Investments, told Mubasher media outlet that the company's extraordinary general assembly has approved a custody license.

Rashad added that the assembly also approved a license to cover and promote initial public offerings (IPOs).

In October, Rashad announced that Mubasher Capital Holding had applied to the Financial Regulatory Authority (FRA) to obtain the custodian's license.

In 2019, Mubasher Trade, a subsidiary of Mubasher Capital Holding, launched a new online IPO service for its clients. 

"The new service will allow Mubasher Trade clients … to register their IPO online … which will be sent instantly to the Egyptian Exchange," Rashad was quoted as saying by Al Mal.

Banks, Bourse Off Thursday in Celebration of Coptic Christmas

The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has announced that all Egyptian banks will be off on Thursday, January 7, to mark Coptic Christmas.

The bourse will also be off for the occasion, with both banks and the stock exchange resuming work on Sunday, January 10.

On Monday, Egyptian Minister of Manpower Mohamed Saafan said Thursday would be a paid holiday for the private sector.

Saafan added that business owners can oblige employees to work during the holiday but that workers must be paid double their daily salary.

Due to the upcoming holiday, Delta Digest will not produce a newsletter on Thursday. We'll be back in your inbox on Sunday.

World

Virus Roundup: UK Enters Third National Lockdown

The UK began its third nationwide COVID-19 lockdown yesterday, with citizens under orders to stay at home.

"The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet but I really do believe that we are entering the last phase of the struggle, because with every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against COVID and in favor of the British people," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

The UK government has said that one person in every 50 in England now has COVID-19, while in London one in every 30 is infected, according to official surveys.

Johnson said that 23 percent of citizens in their eighties have now been given a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Also yesterday, Johnson cancelled a planned trip to India later this month, citing the need to oversee the pandemic response at home.

"The prime minister spoke to [Indian] Prime Minister Modi this morning, to express his regret that he will be unable to visit India later this month as planned," a Downing Street spokeswoman said.

"In light of the national lockdown announced last night, and the speed at which the new coronavirus variant is spreading, the prime minister said that it was important for him to remain in the UK so he can focus on the domestic response to the virus," she added.

Meanwhile, Britain yesterday offered a $6.2 billion relief package to businesses affected by the pandemic.

Iran yesterday detected its first case of the new COVID-19 variant in an Iranian who arrived from the UK, Health Minister Saeed Namaki said on Tuesday.

The baptism ceremony in which the Pope baptizes newborn babies in the Sistine Chapel has been cancelled because of coronavirus restrictions, the Vatican said on Tuesday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday that passengers arriving in Germany from high-risk regions will have to be tested for the coronavirus twice.

"Even if a first test was negative, travelers from risk regions would in future have to enter quarantine for five days and take a second test," Merkel said.

Germany yesterday extended COVID-19 restrictions in a bid to control surging coronavirus infections.

"We need to restrict contact more strictly ... We ask all citizens to restrict contact to the absolute minimum," Merkel said.

The Slovakian government yesterday said that no one will be allowed to work in the country’s central Nitra region unless they have tested negative for COVID-19.

France yesterday expanded its COVID-19 vaccination rollout to firefighters and aid workers aged over 50, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday.

"We are going to amplify, accelerate and simplify our vaccination strategy," Veran said.

A Reuters search online on dark web forums and the messaging app Telegram found seven different offers for alleged COVID-19 vaccines from scammers luring victims with claims they can deliver shots within days for as little as $150.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide has surpassed 86,624,943, with more than 1,871,452 deaths.

Ethiopian Reuters Cameraman Released After 12 Days in Detention

Ethiopian police released Reuters cameraman Kumerra Gemechu yesterday, after he was detained in custody for 12 days.

"We are delighted that Kumerra has been released and reunited with his family. His release today affirms he has done nothing wrong," Reuters Editor-in-Chief Stephen J. Adler said in a statement.

Kumerra was arrested on December 24 at his home in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. 

He covered the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia but Reuters was unable to determine whether his arrest was connected to this work.

Police had told Kumerra's lawyer Melkamu Ogo that he was detained over accusations of circulating false information, communicating with groups fighting the government and disturbing public peace and security.

The conflict began on November 4, after the Ethiopian premier ordered a military response to an attack on federal army camps in Tigray.

Top Headlines of the Week

Arab Markets
Egypt EGX30 10,829.96 +0.15%
KSA TASI 8,682.11 +0.17%
UAE ABU DHABI ADX 5,143.52 +0.55%
UAE DUBAI DFM 2,608.90 +1.16%
World Markets
US Dow Jones IA 30,391.60 +0.55%
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S&P 500 3,726.86 +0.71%
UK FTSE 100 6,612.25 +0.61%
Germany DAX 13,651.22 -0.55%
France CAC 40 5,564.60 -0.44%
Japan Nikkei 225 27,037.40 -0.45%
China HANG SENG INDEX 27,410.55 -0.87%
Currencies
US Dollar 15.65 15.75
Euro 19.20 19.33
Sterling 21.24 21.37
Saudi Riyal 4.17 4.20
UAE Dirham 4.26 4.29
Kuwaiti Dinar 51.52 51.92
Swiss Franc 17.78 17.90
Commodities
Oil Brent USD/bbl. 53.73 +0.24%
Wheat USD/bu.Mar 2020 653.00 -0.15%
Gold USD/t oz. 1,942.09 -0.41%
Gold Egypt LE/ oz. 1,943.23 -0.42%
Silver Egypt LE/ oz. 27.24 -1.30%

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