Rapid slide in value of pound chokes business in Egypt

Rapid slide in value of pound chokes business in Egypt
People buy sugar from a truck in Cairo recently. Sugar is only the latest good to see shortages. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2016

Rapid slide in value of pound chokes business in Egypt

Rapid slide in value of pound chokes business in Egypt

CAIRO: Business is grinding to a near-halt in Egypt as companies struggle to keep pace with a rapid slide in the black market value of the pound. Factories are halting production, shops are running low on stocks and a sense of panic is spreading.
Bassem Hussein, whose company imports, processes and packages coffee and spices, stopped buying two weeks ago as the depreciation of the Egyptian currency gathered pace. His goods are still on sale at supermarkets but no more stock is on the way for now.
“No one knows what is happening. We stopped buying and selling two weeks ago. We’re only doing retail,” said Hussein, a manager at family-run Interfood. “It’s not logical and it’s not just us, it’s all merchants.”
The Egyptian pound has been falling on the black market since the 2011 revolution drove away tourists and foreign investors, vital sources of hard currency in an economy that relies on imports of everything from food to luxury cars.
But firms say a dramatic slide in the last few weeks has left them paralyzed, unable to plan from one day to the next. Black market traders were buying dollars at 17.5-17.85 pounds on Monday and selling them to importers at 18-18.2, representing a two-pound slide in a single week and five-pound slide on the month.
The pound is now worth half as much on the black market as it is in the banks, where the official rate remains fixed at 8.8 but where dollar supplies are strictly rationed.
Foreign reserves have dwindled from $36 billion before 2011 to about $19.6 billion in September, despite Egypt receiving tens of billions of dollars in aid from Gulf allies.
Capital controls introduced in early 2015 to prioritise essentials such as wheat have forced importers on to the black market, where the rate has depreciated fast.
Companies have complained for nearly two years, with the dollar crisis already squeezing smaller firms out of business. But the crisis entered new territory last week as two of Egypt’s largest listed manufacturers raised the alarm.
Cigarette-maker Eastern Company warned that its raw materials stocks had halved and that it may have to halt production and sales if dollar shortages persist.
Juhayna, a drinks maker, said it would defer new projects and seek to source raw materials locally.
As part of efforts to slash the trade deficit it blames for distortions in the currency market, the government has raised customs duties on luxury goods and set stricter import rules.
Trade and Industry Minister Tarek Kabil has said local production rose 20 percent this year, to substitute for imports. But manufacturers say they rely on imported components and parts they buy with dollars obtained at black market rates.
“We used to feel it weekly, now the impact is daily. It’s not just wood, it’s all our materials, 50 percent up on a month ago,” said Ibrahim Hashem, who runs a furniture factory in Alexandria and buys imported wood priced in dollars.
“There is a limit ... It may reach the stage where I do my calculations and find that no one will buy furniture at the price I would need to charge ... It will reach the stage where no one will make or buy or sell anything.”

Out of control
With the budget deficit at 12 percent in the 2015-16 fiscal year and currency markets facing severe distortions, Egypt reached a preliminary deal with the IMF in August for a $12 billion three-year loan to support an economic reform program.
As part of those reforms, Egypt is widely expected to ditch its currency peg for a more flexible exchange rate mechanism.
Central Bank Gov. Tarek Amer has said he would consider floating the pound once reserves hit $25 billion, but that target looks ambitious to some economists who say Egypt is burning through dollars as fast as it gets them.
If the central bank makes only small adjustments, economists say, downward pressure will mount again. But if it cuts the official value of the pound in half, the political and social impact could be explosive. For now, it is doing nothing.
“I don’t know if they have a Plan B or they are panicking (too much) to execute... But I know one thing, everything is closing down in terms of market functioning whether official or unofficial,” said Hany Genena, head of research at Beltone Financial. “They have to float immediately.”


IHC’s Alpha Dhabi to list on ADX with $2.72bn paid-in-capital

IHC’s Alpha Dhabi to list on ADX with $2.72bn paid-in-capital
Updated 27 min 45 sec ago

IHC’s Alpha Dhabi to list on ADX with $2.72bn paid-in-capital

IHC’s Alpha Dhabi to list on ADX with $2.72bn paid-in-capital
  • Abu Dhabi IPO slated for June 27

ABU DHABI: Alpha Dhabi Holding (ADH) announced its intention to proceed with an IPO and listing of its ordinary shares on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) on Sunday 27th June with 10 billion Emirati dirhams ($2.72 billion) paid-in capital, WAM reported.

The offering is expected to involve a sale of existing shares to individuals and other investors in the UAE and to qualified institutional and other investors.

“We have made the journey to become a public company in a way that’s going to have a positive reflection on our growth plan, and as a public company we will have a stronger capital structure to invest in additional verticals, expand commercially and accelerate growth both organically and through acquisitions,” said ADH Chairman Mohamed Thani Murshed Al Rumaithi.

IHC acquired a 45 percent stake purchase in ADH in April.

“We invested in Alpha Dhabi in early 2021 and we have used our sector experience to reorganize, integrate and transform Alpha Dhabi into a leading UAE holding company with special focus on construction and hospitality,” said Syed Basar Shueb, CEO IHC.

“The business is growing fast, highlighted by the 30 percent jump in first quarter revenue and gaining a listing on a major stock exchange will enhance its already strong platform and reputation. We are delighted to have supported its management team to deliver on its Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange IPO,” he said.

Incorporated in 2013, Alpha Dhabi operates across five industries, including health care, construction and hospitality. The company’s investment portfolio, local and international, includes 25 subsidiaries and 40,000 employees active in different fields.


Branson’s Virgin Galactic gets FAA approval to fly people to space

Branson’s Virgin Galactic gets FAA approval to fly people to space
Updated 26 min 51 sec ago

Branson’s Virgin Galactic gets FAA approval to fly people to space

Branson’s Virgin Galactic gets FAA approval to fly people to space
  • Company completed its first manned space flight from its home port in New Mexico in May
  • SpaceShipTwo craft can hold six passengers

WASHINGTON: Billionaire Richard Branson’s spaceship company Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. said on Friday it received approval from the US aviation safety regulator to fly people to space, following a successful test flight last month.

Virgin Galactic completed its first manned space flight from its new home port in New Mexico in May, as its SpaceShipTwo craft, which can hold six passengers, glided to a landing on a runway safely with its two pilots.
The approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) comes at a critical time for Branson as his space venture faces competition from Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
“Today’s approval by the FAA...give us confidence as we proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer,” Virgin Galactic Chief Executive Officer Michael Colglazier said in a statement.
Virgin Galactic has about 600 people who have paid deposits and are waiting to experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth at a cost of $250,000 each.
The craft will take off from a dedicated spaceport in the New Mexico desert in the US.
Branson is expected to take one of the flights this summer.


PIF appoints former Samba CEO as head of compliance

PIF appoints former Samba CEO as head of compliance
Updated 25 June 2021

PIF appoints former Samba CEO as head of compliance

PIF appoints former Samba CEO as head of compliance
  • Rania Nashar was a senior advisor to the governor since January

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) said it appointed Rania Nashar, former CEO of Samba Financial Group, as its head of compliance and governance, Al Arabiya reported.

Nashar joined the fund as a senior adviser to its governor, Yasir Al Rumayyan, in January of this year. She brings with her more than two decades of experience in the banking sector.

PIF recently announced the appointment of Eyas Al-Dossari and Omar Al-Madhi as senior directors to its MENA investments division, and Abdullah Shaker as senior director to its Global Capital Finance Division.

The fund said this month that it had created the position of deputy governor to support the fund’s continued growth and expansion.

Saudi Arabia’s $430 billion PIF is one of the largest and most influential sovereign wealth funds in the world, and the main driver that supports the economic transformation of the Kingdom in accordance with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals.

PIF has increased its employees from 40 in 2016 to more than 1,100 employees today.


Digital banks in Saudi Arabia to reduce costs and stimulate competition — SAMA

Digital banks in Saudi Arabia to reduce costs and stimulate competition — SAMA
Updated 25 June 2021

Digital banks in Saudi Arabia to reduce costs and stimulate competition — SAMA

Digital banks in Saudi Arabia to reduce costs and stimulate competition — SAMA
  • The new lenders will rank 12th and 13th in the Kingdom in terms of capital

RIYADH: Digital banks licensed in Saudi Arabia will help improve the quality and user experience for customers in the Kingdom, supporting innovation and reducing costs, said Yazeed Alsheikh, director for general of banking control at Saudi Central Bank (SAMA).

This will directly contribute to stimulating competition with local banks and financial technology companies, he told Al Eqtisadiah paper.

The Saudi Cabinet gave its nod to the Kingdom’s finance minister to issue licenses for the country’s first digital banks, STC Bank and Saudi Digital Bank, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Tuesday.

STC Pay will be converted into a local digital bank, STC Bank, with capital of SR2.5 billion. A second lender, Saudi Digital Bank, will be formed by investors led by Abdul Rahman bin Saad Al-Rashed and Sons Company with capital of SR1.5 billion.

There is a difference between financial technology companies and digital banks, Alsheikh said.

“The financial technology companies are based mainly on innovation in the use of technology for a specific activity, and providing a specific financial product or service to the target segment of beneficiaries, through digital platforms or smart applications,” Al Sheikh said.

“Digital banks’ concept is broader and more comprehensive in providing Integrated banking products and services, such as accepting deposits, financing and other banking services through digital channels exclusively, and have different regulatory and supervisory requirements,” he said.

The two new digital banks in Saudi Arabia will rank 12th and 13th among the national banks operating in the Kingdom in terms of capital, once they obtain the final license to operate.


Suspected cases of corporate collusion in Saudi Arabia surge in 2021

Suspected cases of corporate collusion in Saudi Arabia surge in 2021
Updated 25 June 2021

Suspected cases of corporate collusion in Saudi Arabia surge in 2021

Suspected cases of corporate collusion in Saudi Arabia surge in 2021
  • Cases investigated rises to 86 in 2021 from 55 in 2020
  • Value of cases more than SR1 billion

RIYADH: Cases of suspected collusion in tenders being investigated by the Saudi General Authority for Competition (GAC) rose to 86 in 2021, up from 55 last year and 15 in 2019, Al Arabiya reported.

The value of projects being investigated in the Kingdom amounted to more than SR1 billion ($267 million), Abdulaziz Alzoom, governor of GAC, said in a statement.

In a previous statement, GAC said it had started investigations, research and gathering of evidence with a number of establishments, based on communications it had received from other authorities, and complaints from individuals and companies.