11 Jan 2021


Egypt's Annual Urban Headline Inflation Edges Down to 5.4% in December

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Egypt's annual urban consumer price inflation declined to 5.4 percent in December, down from 5.7 percent in November, the state-run Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) reported.

Monthly urban headline inflation shrank to negative 0.4 percent, compared with 0.8 percent in November.

The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) reported that the annual core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, hit 3.8 percent in December, compared with 4 percent in November, while the monthly core inflation remained at zero for two consecutive months.

Annual nationwide inflation hit 6 percent in December, down from 6.3 percent in November, while monthly nationwide inflation came in at negative 0.5 percent, compared with 1.1 percent, CAPMAS said.

The nationwide inflation rate for 2020 registered 5.1 percent, compared with 8.5 percent in 2019.

The CBE's monetary policy committee (MPC) will hold its first meeting for this year on February 4.

The CBE slashed interest rates by a total of 400 basis points (bps) in 2020, where an emergency 300 bps cut was made in March and was followed by two consecutive cuts of 50 bps each in September and November.

In December, the central bank set a new inflation target at an average of 7 percent (±2 percentage points) for the fourth quarter of 2022.

The CBE was targeting an inflation of 9 percent (±3 percentage points) on average in the fourth quarter of 2020, and it said that the average inflation in the fourth quarter of 2020 was likely to come under its target floor of 6 percent. 

Beltone Financial expected the CBE to keep interest rates unchanged in the coming February meeting, but predicted a 50-bps cut to occur in the first quarter of 2021, the investment bank said in a report yesterday. 

Beltone also expects inflation to remain within the CBE's new inflation target for the fourth quarter of 2022.


Stock Market

Egyptian Stocks Top Mideast Gains

Egyptian stocks topped gains in Middle East markets yesterday following a positive report on the country's outlook released on Thursday by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The benchmark EGX30 index jumped 2.39 percent on Sunday, the first day of trading after a long week due to Coptic Christmas, and closed at 11,213.48 points.

The EGX30's turnover hit EGP 707.05 million ($44.9 million), and its heaviest constituent, Commercial International Bank (CIB), gained 3.46 percent to EGP 61.26.

EFG Hermes climbed 5.11 percent to EGP 15.62 ($0.99), Elsewedy Electric rose 1.96 percent to EGP 10.43, and Talaat Moustafa Group was up 1.94 percent to EGP 6.83.

Telecom Egypt rose 1.1 percent to EGP 11.94 ($0.76), and Eastern Company edged up 0.08 percent to EGP 13.01. 

The broader EGX70 EWI advanced 1.25 percent to close at 2,179.6 points.

Net sales by Egyptian investors stood at EGP 65.69 million ($4.18 million), while net purchases by foreign and Arab investors hit EGP 52.38 million and EGP 13.31 million respectively.

The IMF said that the growth impact of the COVID-19 crisis "has so far been less severe than expected, as strong consumption helped offset weak tourism and investment."

The IMF also predicted Egypt's real GDP would grow 5.5 percent over the fiscal years 2021/2022 and 2022/2023.

Elsewhere in the region, Dubai's index closed 1.85 percent up at 2,674.3 points on Sunday and the Abu Dhabi index closed 0.24 percent higher at 5,176.11.

Saudi Arabia's index settled 0.91 percent up at 8,817.05 points, and Qatar's index finished 0.44 percent higher at 10,725.73.

Osool Inks MoU With BH Mubasher to Establish New Arm in UAE

Osool ESB Securities Brokerage has inked an MoU with UAE-based BH Mubasher to establish a securities brokerage firm in the UAE, Osool told the Egyptian bourse yesterday.

Osool's board gave preliminary approval on Tuesday to establishing the new securities brokerage, the company said.

Business

Benya Forms Global Advisory Board

Benya has established a Global Advisory Board (GAB) as part of its efforts to use the best competencies in various business sectors. 

The new advisory board will provide advice to the company's leadership and exchange views with international experts. The board includes Ahmed Mekky as its chairman and Hesham Mekawi, Lacina Koné and Vincenzo Nesci as its directors.

Benya operates in the field of communications infrastructure and digital transformation in Egypt, Africa and the Middle East. 

The move comes following the growth of the company's business volume and its participation in a number of big projects, which requires the presence of a GAB. 

Al Marasem Secures Additional $102 Mn Financing From Local Banking Consortium

A local banking consortium has signed a debt restructuring agreement with Al Marasem International for Development which will see the firm secure an additional tranche of EGP 1.6 billion ($101.6 million) to add to an existing loan of the same value, Al Mal reported, citing sources familiar with the deal.

The financing, which has a maturity of up to 5 years, will be allocated to complete the second phase of Al Marasem's Fifth Square project, which is located in New Cairo's Fifth Settlement.

The consortium includes Banque Misr, Egyptian Arab Land Bank (EALB), Housing & Development Bank, Industrial Development Bank (IDB), Al Baraka Bank, MIDBANK, Arab Investment Bank (aiBank), and Export Development Bank of Egypt (EBE).

Sidpec Approves $5.5 Mn Renovation Investment Budget for 2021

Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals Company's (Sidpec) board has approved the firm’s 2021 investment budget for replacement and renovation at approximately EGP 86.68 million ($5.5 million), according to a bourse filing.

The budget was estimated as follows: production machinery and equipment at a value of EGP 65.06 million ($4.1 million), office furniture and equipment at a value of EGP 12.01 million, production facility machinery and equipment at approximately EGP 7.56 million, and tools at EGP 2.04 million.

Sidpec previously reported a net loss of EGP 75 million ($4.7 million) during the first nine months of 2020, compared to EGP 521 million in profits during the same period of 2019.

The company's sales also declined during the first three quarters of last year, down to EGP 2.41 billion ($153.1 million) from EGP 3.92 billion during the same period a year prior.

Egypt to Issue Polymer EGP 10 Banknotes in June: Official

The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) is set to issue polymer EGP 10 ($0.64) banknotes from June, Sub-Governor Khaled Farouk, responsible for the Banknote Printing House, told Masrawy yesterday.

Farouk said that the CBE will begin the production of the banknotes at the bank's printing press in the New Administrative Capital.

He also said that new EGP 20 ($1.27) plastic banknotes will be issued six months after the issuance of the polymer EGP 10.

Farouk said the new banknotes are made of polymer, which is not plastic, but is similar, and is widely used internationally.

CBE Governor Tarek Amer has said previously that polymer banknotes are flexible and strong, giving them around five times the lifespan of standard paper notes.

They are also water resistant and environmentally friendly, and more difficult to forge.

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Plan for Huge 'Cairo Eye' Ferris Wheel in Zamalek Garners Skepticism

An Egyptian tourism company will erect a ferris wheel in Zamalek, the first ever in the country and set to be the largest in Africa, it has said, causing some skepticism on social media.

New Hawai for Tourism and Investment will erect the Cairo Eye in 2022 in the upscale island of Zamalek, in the Obelisk Park.

The company said that it will increase the green spaces in the Obelisk Park while preserving the existing trees, and that it will coordinate with the Traffic Department to avoid causing any traffic problems.

The 120-meter high ferris wheel will have views of the Citadel, Cairo Tower and the pyramids, and will accommodate 350 passengers.

Passengers will be able to see for a distance of 50 kilometers (31 miles). 

The project was designed taking into account all environmental considerations and preserving the identity and entity of the Zamalek region, the company said.

Many social media responses to the plan were critical. 

"Disaster. This will officially destroy a quaint, beautiful residential island neighborhood," one Facebook user said.

Another user questioned why the country needed more tourist attractions.

Egypt Aluminum Raises Prices for Third Month in a Row

Egypt Aluminum (EGAL) has raised supply prices for traders for the third month in a row, Mohamed Hanafy, general director of the Chamber of Metallurgical Industries at the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI), told Masrawy.

The price of a ton of cylinders increased to EGP 37,500 ($2,380) in recent days, up from EGP 36,000 last month, Hanafy said.

The price of a ton of aluminum foil rose to EGP 43,300 ($2,750) from EGP 41,000 in December, he also said.

Hanafy attributed the rise in prices to the continued increase in global prices, with the increase in demand from some major countries such as China to compensate for the losses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Egypt News

Egypt Reports 993 New COVID-19 Cases, 55 Fatalities

Egypt reported 993 new coronavirus cases yesterday, bringing the total number of cases so far to 149,792.

The health ministry also reported 55 fatalities, giving a total death toll of 8,197.

The ministry added that 606 patients had been released from isolation and quarantine hospitals, bringing the total number of recoveries to 118,900.

In addition, Maha El Rabbat, the director-general's special envoy on COVID-19 preparedness and response at the World Health Organization, said during a phone call with Al-Hayat channel that the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean Region has been stable over the past week, with a stable number of new cases and a decrease in deaths.

El Rabbat added that the number of cases announced daily includes only those who are in government hospitals or those who have taken a COVID-19 test.

However, she added that there are others with the virus in home isolation or in private hospitals.

MP Mostafa Bakry Says Cabinet Reshuffle Imminent

Prominent MP Mostafa Bakry has said a cabinet reshuffle is expected within days of the beginning of parliament's new legislative session on Tuesday. 

Bakry, who presents talk show "Haqa'eq wa Asrar," told viewers that a number of ministers will leave during the reshuffle.

According to the constitution, the government is not obliged to resign at the end of the parliamentary term, parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal has said.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly's government came to office in June 2018, and since that date there have been two limited cabinet reshuffles, in March and December 2019.

121K People Fined for Failing to Wear Masks in Public: Police

A total of 121,779 people have been reported and fined for failing to wear a mask in certain public areas in the last week, the interior ministry has said.

The fines collected amounted to EGP 6 million ($381,360). 

The ministry added that 4,577 violators had failed to pay the EGP 50 ($3.18) fine and so were referred to the prosecution. 

Last week, the Egyptian government said it would enforce a decision to fine anyone not wearing a mask in a public place, as part of its efforts to control the rising number of new coronavirus cases. 

The decision applies to enclosed public places and public transportation.

Veteran Actor Hady Elgayar Dies at 71 of COVID-19

Veteran Egyptian actor Hady Elgayar died yesterday at the age of 71 after contracting the coronavirus, according to media reports.

He was taken to hospital on Saturday and had been put on a ventilator.

He had previously announced on his Facebook page that he had tested positive for the virus.

Elgayar's career breakthrough came with his role in the comic play "Madraset El-Moshaghbeen."

He has had parts in the TV series "El-Mal wal-Banoun," "El-Isyan," and "El-Ostoura," and in the films "Ihtares Esabet Alnisaa," "Entaha El-Tahqiq" and "Layaly El-Sabr."

Health Ministry Undersecretary Dies of COVID-19

The Egyptian Doctors Syndicate has said that Health Ministry Undersecretary Hamdy El-Tabbakh has died of the coronavirus.

Health Minister Hala Zayed released a statement of condolences, praising El-Tabbakh’s efforts on the state's initiative to treat hepatitis C patients. 

The syndicate also reported yesterday the death of four other medical personnel due to the coronavirus, bringing the total number of coronavirus-related deaths among medics to 294.

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(Courtesy of Egypt's Irrigation Ministry Spokesperson's Facebook page)

Renewed GERD Talks Fail to Make Progress

Negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on the disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) have reached a stalemate at yesterday's virtual meeting, which saw the latest round of talks over the controversial dam.

The meeting failed to achieve any progress due to disagreements over how to resume negotiations and procedural aspects related to managing the negotiation process.

Sudan stressed the importance of mandating the experts appointed by the African Union (AU) Commission to propose solutions to the controversial issues related to the mega-dam.

Egypt and Ethiopia, however, rejected Sudan's proposal on the basis that the AU experts were not specialists in the technical and engineering fields related to water resource management and dam operation.

"We cannot continue in this vicious cycle of discussions on the Renaissance Dam endlessly," Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said in press statements reported by Sudanese media.

"The Renaissance Dam is a direct threat to the Roseires Dam if it is filled and operated without agreement. We lodged a protest with Ethiopia and the African Union against Ethiopia's intention to continue to fill the Renaissance Dam," Abbas added.

Egypt had previously affirmed its readiness to engage in serious and effective negotiations to reach a legal and binding agreement regarding filling and operating the dam as soon as possible.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Irrigation Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty participated in the meeting yesterday, which featured the foreign and irrigation ministers of the three states and was headed by South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor.

Pandor expressed her regret that hopes for a breakthrough in the negotiations had not yet been realized.

She also said that she will submit a report to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on the progress of the talks, in order to consider measures that could be taken to deal with this issue at the next round of talks.

On Thursday, Sudan expressed "grave concern" over Ethiopia's intention to proceed with the second period of filling of the GERD's reservoir this summer, despite the lack of a trilateral agreement.

Egypt, which relies on the Nile for 95 percent of its fresh water, worries the upstream GERD will significantly restrict the amount of Nile water that reaches its territory.

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

New Deputy Chairman of NUCA for Financial, Administrative Affairs Appointed

Egyptian Housing Minister Assem Al-Gazzar has appointed Ahmed Saeed, an accountant, as deputy chairman of the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) for financial and administrative affairs.

State entity NUCA is affiliated with the housing ministry and is responsible for Egypt's new cities.

Egypt Convenes Quartet Meeting to Discuss Reviving Mideast Peace Process

Egypt will today hold a meeting of its quartet committee -- which includes France, Germany and Jordan -- to discuss ways of reviving the peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, which have been suspended since April 2014.

This will be the fourth gathering since the quartet was established on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in February 2020.

The meeting will see discussions of the peace process in the Middle East and the latest developments regarding the normalization agreements between Israel and a number of Arab countries.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi arrived in Cairo yesterday evening ahead of the talks.

The four countries met in the Jordanian capital of Amman in September and urged the Israeli and the Palestinian sides to work on reviving the peace process.

In addition, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Safadi met yesterday, in the presence of the new Jordanian ambassador to Cairo, Amjad Odeh Adaileh, to discuss ways to support the Palestinian cause.

Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez said that the meeting witnessed a consensus of visions on regional and international developments, especially in Syria, Libya and Yemen.

The two ministers affirmed the need to stop destructive foreign interference in Arab countries and stressed the importance of reaching peaceful solutions to these crises in accordance with the requirements of Arab national security.

Public Prosecutor Appeals Acquittal of Defendants in 2016 Strip Assault on Elderly Coptic Woman

Egypt's public prosecutor has ordered an appeal against the acquittal of three defendants accused of assaulting an elderly woman in the village of Al-Karm in Upper Egypt's Minya in 2016.

The three defendants were accused of stripping and dragging an elderly Coptic woman through the village in an attack motivated by sectarianism.

In January last year, a court sentenced the three defendants in absentia to ten years in jail, but the trio were subsequently acquitted at a re-trial after surrendering to the authorities.

The public prosecutor directed counsellor Hamada El-Sawi to charge his office with studying the appeal of the accused in the case as soon as the criminal court that issued the judgment released its reasoning.

Sports

Handball: Egypt Reverses Decision to Welcome Fans at World Championship

Host Egypt reversed its decision to allow a limited fan attendance at the Men's World Handball Championship, confirming that the tournament would take place behind closed doors.

The country previously said that up to 20 percent of the venues' capacities could be filled but had a change of heart after The European Handball Players Union (EHPU) said it was too risky to welcome spectators amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The state fulfilled the wish of the European Handball Players Union to reassure them before they take part in the tournament," the head of the local organizing committee Hesham Nasr said on the World Championship's official website.

The expanded 32-team tournament will run from January 13-31. It will be played in four venues in Cairo, 6th of October city, the New Administrative Capital east of the capital and the country's second biggest city of Alexandria.

Egypt kicks off the World Championship against Chile on Wednesday.

Science and Technology

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Cairo Metro Launches 50% Discount E-Wallet for World Handball Championship Fans

The Cairo metro will provide a special smart electronic wallet for fans attending the 2021 handball world championship, which will cover 30 trips at a discount of 50 percent each, according to a statement released by the transport ministry yesterday.

The ministry stated that the electronic pass is valid for use during the World Men's Handball Championship which is being held in Egypt from January 13-31. 

The cost of the pass is EGP 150 ($9.53) and it can be purchased with a tournament ID and a photo of a stadium entrance ticket.

It is valid for journeys to all metro stations on all three lines.

There are 16 ticket offices at a number of stations where the pass can be purchased, including Helwan, Maadi, Dokki, Opera, Abbasiya and Heliopolis.

The government has been pushing digitalization of services and payments in recent years, citing the potential benefits of reduced bureaucracy and increased financial inclusion.

Earlier this month, EgyptAir, the official carrier for the championship, announced it would mark the tournament with a 20 percent discount on all international flights to and from Egypt in January. 

Economics

S&P Says End of Qatar Blockade Will Bode Well for GCC Business Outlook

The economy and investments of Gulf Cooperation Council states are expected to improve after a three-year rift between Qatar and several other members ended, although some negative consequences will remain, Standard & Poor's ratings agency has said.

"In our view, the imposition of the boycott has undermined the perception of unity put forward by GCC leaders prior to the diplomatic rift. We believe that underlying differences in foreign policies will likely still weigh on relations among GCC countries, despite the formal reconciliation," S&P said in a RatingsDirect report. 

The ratings will not be affected at present, said S&P, and it affirmed Qatar's ratings at AA-/Stable/A-1+, Saudi Arabia at A-/Stable/A-2, Bahrain at B+/Stable/B, and Egypt at B/Stable/B.

Normalizing ties may provide some boost to Qatar's economy with regard to travel, tourism, and real estate, S&P noted.

"Trade between member states is relatively limited given the almost uniform concentration of GCC member states' exports on hydrocarbons and the lack of strong agriculture or manufacturing sectors in the region," S&P said.

Similarly, Fitch Ratings said that blockade end will encourage GCC tourists after the countries ease coronavirus restrictions.

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

Fitch Ratings said that Saudi Arabia's move will positively affect Qatari banks' funding and liquidity profiles, as clients are expected to shift back funds and deposits withdrawn during the boycott.

"We expect Saudi clients, who withdrew deposits from Qatari banks due to the blockade, to start shifting some of their funds back. This will provide Qatari banks with an additional pool of liquidity, which will diversify their funding base, reduce their reliance on price-sensitive government-related entity and corporate deposits, and cut their funding costs," the global ratings agency said.

Last week, UK-based economic research agency Capital Economics 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.

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.

World

Bahrain Opens Airspace to Qatar

Bahrain will reopen its airspace to Qatar today, according to the civil aviation affairs authority. 

The moves comes days after the UAE and Saudi Arabia resumed their air traffic with Qatar.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain signed a declaration last week reconciling with the Gulf state.

They had imposed a boycott on Qatar since mid-2017 on allegations of supporting terrorism, which Doha denied.  

Saudi Arabia to Build Zero-Carbon City in NEOM Zone

Saudi Arabia plans to build a zero-carbon city in NEOM business zone, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the chairman of NEOM Company, said yesterday in a televised appearance.

The crown prince said that the city -- which will be called The Line -- will house 1 million residents in a "carbon-positive urban developments powered by 100 percent clean energy."

The city will have "zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions," he said in a press release.

The project is expected to contribute around SAR 180 billion ($48.0 billion) to Saudi Arabia's GDP by 2030, the statement read.

Construction works will start in the first quarter of the year, the statement added.

This is considered the first major construction project for the business zone -- which is aimed at diversifying Saudi Arabia's economy that relies on crude revenues -- since it was launched in October 2017.

Virus Roundup: Italy Considers $29 Bn Stimulus Package for Health Care System

Italy is considering a new $29 billion stimulus package to support its health care system amid the coronavirus pandemic, Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri said yesterday.

"We're considering a package worth 1.5 percent of our gross domestic product," Gualtieri said.

"About €1.5 billion euros ($4.3 billion) will be used to buy, distribute and carry out vaccinations. For the health care system we expect the new package will provide an extra €3 billion overall," Gualtieri added.

Britain's most vulnerable people will be immunized by mid-February and a coronavirus shot will be offered to every adult by autumn, the UK health secretary said yesterday.

"Over the last week we’ve vaccinated more people than in the entirety of December, so we’re accelerating the roll-out," Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC TV.

Some 2 million people having already received a first dose.

Hancock said that Britain is vaccinating 200,000 people daily, and will increase efforts to increase immunizations to 2 million a week.

"We've now vaccinated around a third of the over-80s in this country, so we are making significant progress, but there's still further expansion to go. This week we are opening mass vaccination centers," he said.

Japan's health ministry said yesterday that a new coronavirus variant has been detected in four travellers from Brazil's Amazonas state.

The French city of Marseille has also detected seven cases of the new COVID-19 variant, politician and former mayor Michèle Rubirola said on Sunday.

China announced yesterday that it would extend an existing suspension on flights to and from Britain.

The Philippines' government has secured 30 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Covovax from Serum Institute of India, the latter's local partner said on Sunday.

Palestine is expected to receive its first COVID-19 vaccine doses in March under a deal with drug maker AstraZeneca, the Palestinian Authority said on Sunday.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, 75, flew back to Germany on Sunday for treatment in hospital for complications related to his foot resulting from COVID-19, his office said.

The Spanish government will send COVID-19 vaccine and food supply aid convoys tomorrow to areas cut off by Storm Filomena, which brought the heaviest snowfall in decades across central Spain and killed four people.

Jordan will start its COVID-19 vaccination programme on Wednesday, the state news agency reported, citing the health minister.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide has surpassed 90,583,039, with more than 1,941,210 deaths.

Arab Markets
Egypt EGX30 11,213.48 +2.39%
KSA TASI 8,817.05 +0.91%
UAE ABU DHABI ADX 5,176.11 +0.24%
UAE DUBAI DFM 2,674.30 +1.85%
World Markets
US Dow Jones IA 31,097.97 +0.18%
NASDAQ-100 13,201.98 +1.03%
S&P 500 3,824.68 +0.55%
UK FTSE 100 6,873.26 +0.24%
Germany DAX 14,049.53 +0.58%
France CAC 40 5,706.88 +0.65%
Japan Nikkei 225 28,139.03 +2.36%
China HANG SENG INDEX 28,082.08 +0.73%
Currencies
US Dollar 15.62 15.72
Euro 19.08 19.21
Sterling 21.19 21.32
Saudi Riyal 4.16 4.19
UAE Dirham 4.25 4.28
Kuwaiti Dinar 51.49 51.84
Swiss Franc 17.63 17.75
Commodities
Oil Brent USD/bbl. 55.29 -1.25%
Wheat USD/bu.Mar 2020 637.75 -0.16%
Gold USD/t oz. 1,831.72 -0.94%
Gold Egypt LE/ oz. 1,832.13 -0.82%
Silver Egypt LE/ oz. 24.63 -3.19%

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