Egypt has primary budget surplus for first time in 15 years

A man carries breads along a busy street past a banner for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Cairo. (Reuters)
Updated 05 July 2018
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Egypt has primary budget surplus for first time in 15 years

  • Pledges to pay oil company debts
  • Foreign reserves on the rise

CAIRO: Egypt announced on Thursday it had a primary budget surplus for the first time in 15 years and said it was committed to paying oil companies’ debts by end of 2019 as it seeks to lure investors to revive a crisis-hit economy.

Cairo has enacted a raft of tough austerity measures backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) since 2016, hoping for a strong financial comeback as it recovers from years of political upheaval.

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s government devalued the Egyptian pound by half in 2016, and has pushed through steep fuel and electricity subsidy cuts this year, in measures praised by some economists but lamented by many Egyptians who say they are struggling with soaring living costs.

Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said Egypt achieved a 0.2 percent primary budget surplus, worth 4 million Egyptian pounds ($223 million) in its 2017-2018 fiscal year. It is aiming for a 2 percent primary surplus in the current fiscal year.

Egypt’s fiscal year runs from July to June.

Primary budget figures do not factor in interest payments on government debt.

The country expected its 2017-2018 budget deficit to stand at 9.8 percent, slightly above the 9.1 percent it said last year it was targeting.

Maait told reporters that revenues expected from the 2018-2019 budget were around 989 billion Egyptian pounds ($55 billion), 817 billion of which would be spent on debts and interest.

Foreign reserves rose by the end of June to $44.258 billion from $44.139 billion, the central bank announced separately, continuing their climb since Egypt secured the $12 billion IMF loan.

Egypt wants to woo foreign investors and increase other crucial sources of income such as tourism, which declined drastically in recent years because of political unrest and a precarious security situation, although tourism revenues have recently picked up.

The discovery of large amounts of offshore gas in Egyptian waters, including the giant Zohr gas field, has caused hope for another source of revenue with Egypt as a potential gas hub for the region.

Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla told reporters on Thursday Egypt was committed to paying off its debts to foreign oil companies by the end of 2019.


Egypt stock market plunges as retail investors take flight

Updated 19 September 2018
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Egypt stock market plunges as retail investors take flight

  • Biggest index drop in Egypt since mid-2016
  • Saudi Arabia outperforms in Gulf

LONDON: Egyptian stocks tumbled to their lowest level this year on Wednesday as retail investors took flight.
A sharp rise in Suez Canal revenues, a major foreign exchange earner for the country, was not enough to quell investors concerns about the strength of the currency.
The main Egyptian stock index lost 3.8 percent which some fund managers blamed on generally negative sentiment toward emerging markets worldwide as well as more local speculation about possible currency devaluation.
“Our channel checks suggest the sell-off in the Egyptian market is local retail and institutions driven, on currency fears and speculation over a further round of devaluation,” said Vrajesh Bhandari, portfolio manager at Al Mal in Dubai, Reuters reported.
“Selling is further intensified as margin calls are triggered and technical support levels break down. The country canceled three consecutive Treasury auctions, citing investors’ unrealistic yield demands.”
Egypt’s Suez Canal revenues rose to $502.2 million in August up 6.7 percent from a year earlier according to official data released on Wednesday.
Elsewhere regional stock markets closed mostly lower with the exceptions of Abu Dhabi which edged 0.2 percent higher and Saudi Arabia, the best regional performer, which rose by 1.1 percent.
Saudi stocks are benefiting from the strong oil price which eased slightly yesterday but still hovered just under $79.
OPEC and some other oil producers including Russia will meet in Algeria on Sept. 23 to discuss how to allocate supply increases within their quota framework to offset the loss of oil exports from Iran following the introduction of sanctions by the US.
Those measures will come into force on Nov. 4 and data suggests that buyers are already retreating from Iranian crude purchases.
A key question for the oil price as well as regional stock markets in the weeks ahead will be the extent to which other Gulf oil exporters can compenaste for the loss of Iranian supplies by pumping more.