Egypt’s capital outflow gets trumped by its entrepreneurial spirit

Egypt’s capital outflow gets trumped by its entrepreneurial spirit
Much of Egypt's buffer comes from President El-Sisi’s economic reforms that led to the emergence of mega real estate projects, new cities, massive improvements in infrastructure and the expansion of the Suez Canal. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 23 March 2022

Egypt’s capital outflow gets trumped by its entrepreneurial spirit

Egypt’s capital outflow gets trumped by its entrepreneurial spirit
  • Gulf Cooperation Council companies are showing avid interest in enterprising Egyptian firms

RIYADH: The entrepreneurial climate in Egypt looks upbeat despite the looming fallout of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the pandemic and domestic growth hiccups.
Much of the nation’s buffer comes from President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s economic reforms that led to the emergence of mega real estate projects, new cities, massive improvements in infrastructure and the expansion of the Suez Canal.
“The country has a lot of growth potential. There’s so much happening in terms of investment and improvement, especially in the last two years, with the overhaul of roads, bridges, metro systems and railways,” Shehab Moubarak, owner of Brick and Mortar, a Cairo-based real estate company, told Arab News.
The business optimism is not only shared by the locals but also nurtured by an increasing number of GCC companies that are looking to invest in Egypt. One of them is Saudi-based IDAR Contracting, a real estate company planning to set shop in Egypt besides venturing into the region’s food and beverage business.
“We recently conducted a survey and were amazed by the country’s economic openness, impressive growth, and the sheer size of its ongoing government projects,” Ahmad Yaman, owner of IDAR Contracting, told Arab News.
The government of Egypt has been working in overdrive to invite new companies into the country, and the outcome has given a considerable fillip to domestic entrepreneurship.
“New laws, allowing foreigners to be sole owners of their companies and facilitating foreign currency transfers, are encouraging factors. The officials also offered us a location for a plant in their industrial zone,” said Yaman.
Some of the other GCC companies eager to explore emerging opportunities in the north-eastern African nation include the Lebanon-based Kamp Hospitality Group. The restaurant chain, which has carved a name for itself Riyadh, plans to franchise its Kampai restaurants in Egypt.
“We plan to open ten restaurants in Egypt in the next four years,” said Henri Farah, CEO of Kamp Hospitality Group, while disclosing his expansion plan.

HIGHLIGHTS

Egypt has been working in overdrive to invite new companies into the country, and the outcome has given a considerable fillip to domestic entrepreneurship.

Last year, Abu Dhabi-based Aldar Properties acquired a majority stake in Egypt’s Sixth of October for Development and Investment Company, or SODIC, for 6.1 billion Egyptian pounds or $386.8 million.

The shopping spree also reverberated in the e-commerce space when the Saudi Arabia-based B2B platform Sary recently acquired Egypt-based Mowarrid.

Impact of Ukraine crisis

The shimmering entrepreneurial streak is encouraging in the light of the Ukraine crisis that has cast a dark shadow on the prospects of the country’s foreign direct investment, or FDI.
According to a seminal paper “Egypt emerges as a top FDI destination” by economics scholar Hebatallah Ghoneim released last year, the country had the highest FDI rates in Africa in 2021 despite the universal pandemic clouding the continent from an economic standpoint.
“Nearly 90 percent of the FDI in Egypt originates from the European Union, Arab states, the UK, and the US,” said Ghoneim in the paper, while pointing out that the investment pie was fairly diversified and not dependent on one country.
To make matters worse, the Egyptian stock exchanges in Cairo and Alexandria have recently witnessed a considerable capital outflow. According to a recent Reuters article, the country has seen hundreds of millions of dollars leave its treasury markets since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“The forecasted growth of the next financial year beginning July was six percent, but we do not know how the growth will be impacted by the Ukraine crisis. The government’s priority, for now, is to provide for the population with basic necessities,” said Mosbah Qotb, an economic analyst and journalist, in an interview to Arab News.
The problem doesn’t end there. A recent paper by the Middle East Institute warned of an impending food crisis in Egypt, given the country’s high reliability on grain imports and the farming sector’s inability to produce enough to meet the country’s needs.
According to Qotb, Egypt imports 80 percent of its wheat from Ukraine. Other imports from Ukraine include corn and sunflower oil, which could further worsen inflation in the region. Also, on the anvil is the dwindling tourism prospect that may not show signs of revival in the immediate future.

Depending on fundamentals
But not everything is as gloomy as the prevailing economic climate as the Egyptian government’s foreign exchange reserves, currency stability, and infrastructure momentum have reinforced the country’s growth outlook.
“The reassuring factors are that foreign reserves are at a satisfying level of around $40 billion, and the government strategic wheat reserves are sufficient for four months, after which local wheat production will be available in the market,” said Qotb.
He further pointed out that currency stability fueled by significant remittances from the diaspora amounted to nearly $33 billion. Exports in 2021 hit a record high of $45.2 billion. And to top it, unemployment levels were in the acceptable eight percent range.
“In addition, the Suez Canal earnings, amounting to $6 billion in 2021, are expected to rise by 10 percent this year,” he added.
The analyst believes that the country’s growth is also being nourished by its vibrant startup industry, thanks to a smart young and educated population that’s had a positive ripple effect on the medical and education sectors.
GCC comes calling
Of late, Gulf Cooperation Council companies have been showing avid interest in enterprising Egyptian firms. A stellar example of this move happened last month when First Abu Dhabi Bank offered to buy a controlling stake in Egypt’s biggest investment bank EFG Hermes, which is valued at $1.18 billion.
Last year, Abu Dhabi-based Aldar Properties acquired a majority stake in Egypt’s Sixth of October for Development and Investment Company, or SODIC, for 6.1 billion Egyptian pounds or $386.8 million. The shopping spree also reverberated in the e-commerce space when the Saudi Arabia-based B2B platform Sary recently acquired Egypt-based Mowarrid.
Still, the road to revival won’t be simple as a lot will depend on how Egyptian entrepreneurs will steer the course of the businesses through these tough times to their advantage.


World Bank approves $400m green plan for logistics and transportation in Egypt

World Bank approves $400m green plan for logistics and transportation in Egypt
Updated 05 October 2022

World Bank approves $400m green plan for logistics and transportation in Egypt

World Bank approves $400m green plan for logistics and transportation in Egypt
  • The project is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 965,000 tons over the next 30 years while increasing freight capacity

WASHINGTON: The World Bank has approved a $400 million development-financing agreement to help boost Egypt’s logistics and transportation sectors and facilitate the transition to low-carbon technology along the Alexandria–the 6th of October–Greater Cairo Area railway corridor.

The Egyptian railway system is one of the largest in Africa. Although the main focus along the Alexandria–the 6th of October–Greater Cairo Area corridor is on passenger services, there are also three freight trains in both directions each day.

The Cairo Alexandria Trade Logistics Development Project plans to build a railway bypass to circumvent the congested corridor. It will provide freight trains with an alternate route to the west of the Greater Cairo area, between the Alexandria Sea Port and the new 6th of October Dry Port. By 2030, the bypass is expected to allow 15 container trains a day to access the dry port, and 50 by 2060. More freight trains will run between Alexandria Port, Upper Egypt and the Red Sea.

The transportation sector is the second-largest contributor to Egypt’s greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for more than 19 percent of the total, but the carbon footprint of transporting containers and other freight by train is smaller than that of road transportation. The development initiative is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 965,000 tons over a 30-year period, according to the bank.

“Reforming the transportation and logistics sectors is vital to Egypt’s competitiveness and economic development,” said Egyptian Transport Minister Kamel El-Wazir.

“This new project introduces several improvements in those vital sectors. The improvements are aligned with Egypt’s pressing development priorities, which include decarbonization, trade facilitation, private-sector participation, and gender balance in the workplace.

“Increasing the number of containers moved by rail from zero to 184,000 per year is one of the project’s key objectives. This flow of containers is primarily between the Alexandria Sea Port and the 6th of October Dry Port, both privately operated and railway oriented.”

Officials said the project will help Egypt integrate into global value networks and become a regional economic powerhouse. Given the predicted reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, it is also expected make a substantial contribution to the country’s 2050 National Climate Change Strategy.

“This operation is part of a wider set of efforts dedicated to offer timely and comprehensive support to Egypt’s economic development and climate change plans,” said Marina Wes, the World Bank’s country director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti.

“We hope that through supporting more job creation, including for women, a cleaner environment, and providing safer mobility, the operation will contribute toward a brighter and more prosperous future for all Egyptians.”

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Oil prices jump 3% ahead of OPEC+ meeting to discuss supply cuts

Oil prices jump 3% ahead of OPEC+ meeting to discuss supply cuts
Updated 04 October 2022

Oil prices jump 3% ahead of OPEC+ meeting to discuss supply cuts

Oil prices jump 3% ahead of OPEC+ meeting to discuss supply cuts
  • OPEC+ will make a suitable decision to guarantee energy supply, says Kuwait’s oil minister

NEW YORK: Oil prices rose on Tuesday on expectations that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies led by Russia, also known as OPEC+, may agree to a large cut in crude output in its meeting this week, while strong demand and upcoming sanctions on Russian oil also lent some support to prices.

Brent crude gained $2.73, or 3.1 percent, to $91.59 a barrel at 1:35 p.m. EDT

US West Texas Intermediate crude was up $2.76, or 3.3%, to $86.39.

The OPEC+ is expected to cut output by more than 1 million barrels per day at its first in-person meeting since 2020 on Wednesday, according to OPEC sources.

Voluntary cuts by individual members could come on top of this, making it their largest cut since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, OPEC sources said.

“We expect a substantial cut to be made, which will not only help to tighten the physical fundamentals, but sends an important signal to the market,” Fitch Solutions said in a note.

Kuwait’s oil minister said OPEC+ would make a suitable decision to guarantee energy supply and to serve the interests of producers and consumers.

Edward Moya, a senior analyst with OANDA, said: “Despite everything going on with the war in Ukraine, OPEC+ has never been this strong and they will do whatever it takes to make sure prices are supported here.”

Production target 

OPEC+ has boosted output this year after record cuts put in place in 2020 when the pandemic slashed demand.

But in recent months, the organization has failed to meet its planned output increases, missing in August by 3.6 million bpd.

The production target cut being considered was justified by the sharp decline in oil prices from recent highs, said Goldman Sachs, adding that this reinforced its bullish outlook on oil.

Meanwhile, a senior US treasury official said G7 sanctions on Russia will be implemented in three phases, firstly targeting Russian oil, then diesel, and in a third phase lower value products such as naphtha.

Sanctions from the G7 and the EU, which is opting for a two-phase ban, are set to begin on Dec. 5.

Swiss lender UBS said going into the year-end it saw several bullish factors that could send crude prices higher, including “recovering Chinese demand, OPEC+ further supply cut, the end of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve release and the upcoming EU ban on Russian crude exports.”

Top oil traders also said at the Argus European Crude Conference in Geneva on Tuesday that economic headwinds have not yet significantly eroded the world's demand for oil.

“Oil demand ... if you look at the latest data, it’s still doing OK. We were expecting some demand destruction, it did not really happen,” said Frederic Lasserre, global head of market research and analysis at Gunvor Group.

US crude oil stocks were estimated to have increased by around 2 million barrels in the week to Sept. 30, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday.


ACI Asia-Pacific to open regional office in Riyadh

ACI Asia-Pacific to open regional office in Riyadh
Updated 04 October 2022

ACI Asia-Pacific to open regional office in Riyadh

ACI Asia-Pacific to open regional office in Riyadh

RIYADH: Airports Council International Asia-Pacific will open an office in Riyadh, which will work closely with its headquarters in Hong Kong to serve member airports in the Middle East, Matarat Holding Co. said in a press release issued on Tuesday.

ACI Asia-Pacific is the largest civil aviation market in the world in terms of traffic volumes. It serves as the voice of 127 airport members, operating 618 airports across 46 countries in Asia-Pacific, and Middle East. Its mission is to advocate for policies and provide services that strengthen its members’ ability to serve their passengers, employees and stakeholders. It also promotes environmental best practices to minimize aviation’s impact on the environment and to recognize airport members who have outstanding accomplishments in their environmental projects.

Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Alduailej, General Authority of Civil Aviation president and Matarat chairman, said: “Today’s announcement of a regional ACI headquarters in Riyadh reflects Saudi Arabia’s leadership on the world stage of global aviation, in line with Vision 2030 and the National Transport and Logistics Strategy.” 

ACI Asia-Pacific also collaborates with other regional offices, including ACI Europe, ACI North America, ACI Africa, ACI Latin America and the ACI World. Founded in 1991 to cater to Asian airports, ACI Asia was merged with ACI Pacific in 2006 and renamed as ACI Asia-Pacific.

Suliman Albassam, acting CEO of Matarat Holding Co., said: “We are pleased to host a new office of the ACI Asia, Pacific, and Middle East in Riyadh. This step comes in continuation of our efforts to achieve the objectives of the Vision 2030 by attracting international companies and institutions to set up their headquarters in Saudi Arabia,” and stressed that this will contribute to improving the passenger experience by replication of the global best practices.


MENA Project Tracker — ADNOC receives bids on seawater plant; Saudi and Kuwait inject $256m in housing project in Egypt 

MENA Project Tracker — ADNOC receives bids on seawater plant; Saudi and Kuwait inject $256m in housing project in Egypt 
Updated 04 October 2022

MENA Project Tracker — ADNOC receives bids on seawater plant; Saudi and Kuwait inject $256m in housing project in Egypt 

MENA Project Tracker — ADNOC receives bids on seawater plant; Saudi and Kuwait inject $256m in housing project in Egypt 

RIYADH: Companies have submitted bids for the technical and economic consultancy contract for developing wind power projects in Oman, reported MEED.

Oman Power & Water Procurement Co. originally tendered the contract in July and received its bids on Sept. 27. 

The company announced that the contractor will be selected by early October.

The scope of work includes two stages — undertaking feasibility studies, followed by the provision of technical consultancy services.

This project aims to diversify fuel sources for power generation in Oman.

ADNOC receives bids on seawater plant

Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. has received three bids for the contract to develop a seawater treatment plant and transmission pipeline project in Mirfa, according to MEED.

The project’s work includes the development of a nanofiltration plant — which will hold a capacity of 115 million imperial gallons a day in Mirfa.

It also includes seawater intake and outfall facilities for the plant, a pumping station and a 75 km water transmission pipeline to the Bab and Bu Hasa oil fields.

The project, estimated at $2 billion, is part of ADNOC's Project Wave — a huge scheme that plans to replace the current aquifer water injection systems used to maintain reservoir pressure in all onshore oil fields in Abu Dhabi.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait inject $256m in housing project in Egypt 

Saudi Arabia-based Binladin Group has partnered with Kuwait’s Bukhamseen company in a 5 billion Egyptian pound ($256 million) investment into a large housing project in Egypt.  

Located in Sheikh Zayed City near Cairo, ‘Marascene’ will stretch over 275,000 sq. m, according to Zawya.       

 “This is a large project which will be completed within seven years...we expect revenue to reach 9 billion pounds,” stated Bukhamseen’s CEO Imad Bukhamseen.


Saudi ministry appoints 5 international banks as primary dealers in government debt

Saudi ministry appoints 5 international banks as primary dealers in government debt
Updated 04 October 2022

Saudi ministry appoints 5 international banks as primary dealers in government debt

Saudi ministry appoints 5 international banks as primary dealers in government debt

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Finance,and the National Debt Management Center signed an agreement with the international banks, including BNP Paribas, to join primary dealers in government debt instruments.

The deal also includes CitiGroup, Goldman Sachs, Standard Chartered and J.P. Morgan, the ministry said in a statement released on Oct 3. 

The Minister of Finance Mohammed Al Jadaan said: “These agreements are a continuation of the developmental steps taken towards achieving Vision 2030 objectives under the umbrella of the Financial Sector Development Program.”

This will be primarily achieved through cooperation between relevant entities, to develop the infrastructure of the local debt market and increase the liquidity of the government's local debt instruments by attracting more capital from foreign investors, he added. 

The five international banks will join five other local banks in that role — the Saudi National Bank, AlJazira Bank, Alinma Bank, and AlRajhi Bank.

The applications for subscription in the primary market for the government's local debt instruments are submitted to the National Debt Management Center.