Egypt's economy grew by nearly 5.3 percent year on year during the first quarter of the 2018/2019 fiscal year, Planning Minister Hala El-Said yesterday -- with gas, telecommunication and construction sectors as well as revenues from the Suez Canal primarily contributing to that growth.
The country's growth rate for the 2017/2018 fiscal year hit its highest level in ten years, recording 5.3 percent against 4.2 percent in the previous year.
Egypt is targeting an economic growth of an average of 5.7 percent in the current financial year, according to Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait.
Egypt's economy has struggled since the 2011 uprising that drove tourists and foreign investors away.
However, the country has been showing signs of recovery in recent months amid tough reforms, including cuts to energy subsidies implemented by the government as part of a $12 billion IMF loan agreement aimed at luring back foreign investments.
Credit ratings agency Capital Economics projected Egypt's GDP growth to strengthen by 5.8 percent in the 2019/2020 fiscal year, citing prospects of stronger demand, a slowdown in austerity measures and a strengthening of the labor market.
However, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said in a report issued last month that it expected growth in Egypt to fall to 4 percent in 2022.
In his address to the parliament last July, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly said his government was looking for growth of up to 8 percent in 2021/2022.
Last month, HSBC's long-term future growth report ranked Egypt 15th out of 75 countries.
The report expected Egypt's GDP to grow by an average 4.6 percent through to 2030, and to come in at 3.8 percent between 2018 and 2023.
Egypt is the fourth most vulnerable emerging market, according to a newly released Bloomberg study which ranked Turkey as the most vulnerable followed by Argentina and South Africa.
The study examines five criteria -- short term external debt and remaining maturity, current account balance and reserve coverage in 2018 as well as government effectiveness in 2017 and CPI inflation and deviation from target midpoint in the third quarter of 2018.
Thailand, Russia and Saudi Arabia are the most robust emerging markets respectively, according to the analysis.
In recent months, foreign investors have pulled out of emerging markets, opting for better stable conditions, especially given the increase of the US' interest rates.
Emerging markets have sold the smallest amount of dollar-denominated debt in six years, according to the Financial Times.
Citing data provider Refinitiv, the Financial Times said EM nations sold $24 billion of dollar bonds in the six months to the end of October, the lowest six-month total since October 2012 and down 73 percent on the same period in the previous year.
Between July and September, Egypt cancelled at least four treasury bond sales after banks and other investors requested higher interest rates.
In mid-September, Egypt's stock exchange (EGX) recorded its lowest close since February, losing at least 3 points, and the downward trend continued during the rest of the month and in October.
However, the EGX picked up again in November, slowly increasing with foreigners timidly buying shares again.
However, a recent IMF review of the country for a loan tranche forecast a better outlook.
The IMF team said the "Egyptian economy has continued to perform well, despite less favorable global conditions," citing growth in GDP from 4.2 percent in 2016/2017 to 5.3 percent in 2017/2018.
The transport ministry is considering raising the metro fare in December, which would be the second increase this year, a source told Al-Shorouk newspaper.
The unnamed source said the National Authority for Tunnels, which is affiliated to the ministry, has not yet determined the value of the fresh fare hike, which would coincide with the opening of the fourth phase of the third metro line should it is applied.
Price increases throughout the coming years will be "gradual," the source explained, as the ministry will further expand the metro lines.
"This [the expansion] will require a bill of billions of pounds that the state cannot afford without fare hikes," the source added.
In May, metro fare hikes, which came as part of the government's austerity measures to reduce the budget deficit, saw prices triple to reach EGP 3 ($0.17) for the for the first nine stops, EGP 5 for up to 16 stops and a maximum of EGP 7 ($0.39) for anything more than 16 stops.
Tens of metro commuters were arrested for protesting the decision in metro stations across Greater Cairo.
There were also further hikes in the prices of fuel, electricity, water and natural gas cylinders this year.
Investment Bank Naeem Holding for Investments predicted that Egypt's headline inflation will increase to 17.2 percent in October, up from 16 percent recorded in September and 14.24 percent in August, Al-Mal newspaper reported.
Naeem's estimated 17.2 percent is its best-case scenario for the inflation rate, while its worst is an increase to 17.6 percent.
It attributed the increase to persistent shortages in some products, especially fresh vegetables such as tomatoes and potatoes.
A central Bank of Egypt (CBE) committee is scheduled to meet on November 15 to decide whether or not to change the interest rates.
The overnight deposit rate and the overnight lending rate currently stand at 16.75 percent and 17.75 percent respectively.
On Tuesday, CBE Deputy Governor Lobna Helal said the bank will start targeting inflation as part of its monetary policy, according to Zawya.
"We will move to inflation targeting, a flexible inflation targeting framework," said Helal, who added that the country does not have any plans to resort back to its previous strategy of fixing the pound's exchange rate after floating the local currency two years ago.
In June, Egypt's latest round of austerity measures included deep fuel and electricity subsidy cuts as well as increases in transportation prices.
They came as part of the terms of a $12 billion International Monetary Fund loan program Egypt agreed to in late 2016.
Egypt collected EGP 115.9 ($6.5) billion in tax revenues in the first quarter of the 2018/2019 fiscal year, achieving 108 percent of the target for this period, an official said yesterday.
"There was an increase of EGP 8 billion ($447 million) in tax revenues in the first three months of the 2018/2019 fiscal year compared to the year-ago period," Head of the Egyptian Tax Authority (ETA) Emad Sami said.
In a meeting with members of the Planning and Budget Committee at the House of the Representatives, Sami also said that "the current tax revenues are divided into EGP 48.8 ($2.7) billion from income taxes as well as EGP 67.1 ($3.7) billion from the value-added tax (VAT)."
However, Sami still had some complaints, saying the authority's work remains restricted.
"We are working under difficult conditions. The technical workforce in the department is very weak and old and the employees are really old to teach," he said.
According to Sami, he has called on the government to appoint a new staff of young graduates. However, only 87 under the age of 35 were appointed.
The average value of trade exchange between Egypt and Kuwait, excluding crude oil and its derivatives, reached $500 million during the past three years, said Chairman of the Egyptian-Kuwaiti Cooperation Council Mohammed Al-Saqer who believes the figure is anything but satisfactory.
The trade exchange includes 86 percent in Egyptian exports and 14 percent in Kuwaiti exports, Egyptian official news agency MENA reported him as saying during the Egyptian-Kuwaiti Cooperation Forum that took place in Kuwait with the aim of shedding light on investment opportunities in both nations and increasing their trade exchange.
The cumulative balance of direct foreign investment in the country has amounted to over $110 billion in 2017, placing Egypt third after Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the list of top Arab countries with attractive investment environments, Al-Saqer added.
However, Al-Saqer pointed out that these figures are "not up to the level of relations between the two countries and must be boosted."
For his part, Egypt's Trade and Industry Minister Amr Nassar noted that Kuwait comes fourth among the biggest investors in Egypt with 1,227 investments worth a combined value of $3.7 billion -- mainly in the sectors of tourism, industry, finance, real estate and agriculture.
In October, Egypt approved a Kuwaiti funding for infrastructure projects in Sinai and the mainland at a value of KWD 25 ($82) million from the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.
Afreximbank has finalized a feasibility study for the launch of an investment fund between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, said the bank's Deputy President Amr Kamel.
"The study has been delivered to Egyptian officials for consideration," Kamel told Masray website.
"The study covers various aspects about the fund, including its capital and volume of investments, as well as the key opportunities sought by the three countries."
High-level delegations from Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia met last July in Cairo to discuss establishing the joint fund, which was agreed on by the three countries in January.
The fund aims to finance infrastructure projects as part of efforts to resolve a deadlock on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
In June, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed pledged to work towards establishing a tripartite infrastructure fund to provide suggestions for joint infrastructure and development projects in Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan.
Talks between the three countries over GERD, Ethiopia's $4 billion hydroelectric dam, have stalled for months after they failed to agree on some technical aspects, including the timetable for filling the dam's reservoir.
Egypt fears the dam would affect its share of the Nile water.
Google researchers and Harvard University have teamed up to develop a machine learning (ML) model, dubbed "FINDER," which identifies potentially unsafe restaurants without requiring visits to restaurants or health inspections.
All it needs is data.
Researchers have tested the ML model in Chicago and Las Vegas during 2016/17 to identify user search queries -- such as stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea, and then cross-referenced them with saved location history data, particularly recently-visited food venues, from the smart devices used to make those searches.
"We computed the fraction of people who visited a particular restaurant and later searched for terms indicative of food poisoning to identify potentially unsafe restaurants," read Google and Harvard's published research.
"We used this information to focus restaurant inspections in two cities and demonstrated that FINDER improves the accuracy of health inspections."
The research showed that 52 percent of restaurants identified by FINDER were deemed unsafe upon inspection.
The ML model was more likely to identify problematic restaurants than routine inspections, given that only 25 percent of restaurants undergoing routine inspections are found to be actually perilous.
In the report, researchers said they aspire that public health departments will use FINDER to swiftly identify food-borne illness threats in their communities.
The Egyptian cabinet has given the agriculture ministry the green light to establish a joint stock company along with other authorities that will be named the Egyptian National Company for African Investment.
The company will be funded from the budget of the Egyptian joint farms project in African countries in the current financial year.
The cabinet also agreed to create an irrigation department for the rehabilitation and strengthening of the Wadi Al Saaydeh Canal, along with the Egyptian Company for Irrigation, Drainage and Civil Construction, for an estimated cost of EGP 36 ($2) million, it said in an official statement.
The Egyptian-Togolese joint project was launched in 2017 to establish joint model farms with African countries and carry out research to boost agricultural production in the continent.
The project also sees Egypt share its technology and expertise in agriculture with fellow African countries.
Investment fund Modus, which specializes in supporting the global investment climate, announced on Wednesday it would launch operations in Egypt this month.
Modus said its main objective is to "create positive effects in the entrepreneurial environment in Egypt entirely through a package of activities provided by the fund in the local market."
"The fund will focus on the importance of cooperation with local partners in Egypt to create a better environment for the entrepreneurial system to achieve positive socio-economic impact," said founder and partner Karim Sirafi.
He also said the fund chose Egypt as its new investment destination because of its "significance at the regional and global levels."
Meanwhile, a number of key entrepreneurs, who were gathering in a session held on the sidelines of the World Youth Forum in Sharm El Sheikh earlier this week, underlined the improved business climate in Egypt.
Co-founder of startup accelerator Flat6Labs, Ahmed El-Alfy, said that there are many Egyptian youths who leave their full-time jobs in companies to establish their own startups.
"This shows the improvement of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Egypt," he said.
Egypt's Holding Company for Spinning and Weaving has worked out a debt settlement plan worth EGP 16.6 billion ($927 million) accumulated over ten years ago for the National Investment Bank (NIB), National Insurance Authority and the ministries of electricity and petroleum.
According to the plan, land plots owned by the companies will be exchanged for repayment of debts in favor of creditors, chairman Ahmad Mostafa told reporters.
"The [Holding Company for Spinning and Weaving] has estimated the unused lands, which range from factories and residential areas to industrial cities, at 3.6 million square meters with an estimated value of EGP 43 ($2.4) billion," he added.
"The company has also agreed with NIB to reduce its debts from EGP 10 billion ($558 million) to EGP 7 billion ($391 million) ... The bank has already received 12 land plots valued at EGP 6.1 billion."
Mostafa said that the company still owes a remainder of EGP 900 ($50) million to NIB but that it is planning to pay back the sum from its capital.
"The company is currently preparing for a meeting with gas and electricity companies to settle debts of EGP 3.1 billion ($173 million), in exchange for the acquisition of some land areas," he revealed.
The CEO said the meeting is expected to be held in November in order to determine the land plots that would suit the value of debts, with EGP 1.1 billion ($64 million) owed for electricity companies and EGP 2 billion for gas firms.
The Egyptian Chemical Industries Company (KIMA) said it intends to put the land that includes the National Cement Company, a plot of about 800 acres, up for sale immediately after the company's liquidation procedures take effect in 2019, KIMA's CEO said.
The land sale is part of the strategy of the ministry of public enterprise to benefit from all unused assets, Emad El Din Mostafa told Amwal El Ghad newspaper.
Mostafa said the company's lands and factories are being sold to pay the workers' receivables, which will amount to nearly EGP 3.4 billion ($190 million), according to the agreed upon compensation.
In the last fiscal year, the National Cement Company's losses -- estimated at EGP 971.3 (54.2) million -- were the highest among all public sector companies.
The losses were incurred due to the high cost of production, which is 60 percent higher than other competitor companies for producing a ton.
The National Company for Cement's status sheds light on the plight of the public sector, as more than 30 companies suffer from similar issues.
Public Enterprise Minister Hesham Tawfik said in September that 26 companies were making losses, which are estimated at nearly EGP 6.7 billion ($374 million).
US giant oil and gas corporation Exxon Mobil intends to increase its investments in Egypt to capitalize on the government's efforts to expand the hydrocarbon industry and "open up more businesses that add value to the local economy," the company's president Bryan Milton said.
Milton made the statement during a meeting with Petroleum Minister Tarek El-Molla, without specifying the volume of increase.
He hailed the "major developments of the country's petroleum sector over the last four years as well as the record pace of accomplishing projects to develop oil and gas fields and refinery projects."
Exxon Mobil currently owns 350 petrol stations and storage depots across Egypt, backed by a fleet of oil tankers.
The US oil and gas giant said in May it was eyeing expansion opportunities in Africa, including the Egyptian market.
Last month, the company said it would search for natural gas off the coast of Cyprus by the end of 2018, a month after Egypt and Cyprus concluded a deal on establishing an underwater gas pipeline from Cyprus' Aphrodite field, estimated to contain around 130 billion cubic metres of gas, to Egypt and Europe.
The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has invested $2.8 billion in 30 projects in Egypt since the country kicked off its economic reform program in 2016, the bank's president said.
Akinwumi Adesina praised Egypt's reform program and referred to a report by Rand Merchant Bank that ranked the country above its African peers in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI), Egypt's investment ministry said in a statement.
"Rand Merchant Bank's report has boosted investor confidence in the Egyptian economy in light of the huge infrastructure projects implemented in the North African country in the past four years," he said.
Adesina's remarks came on the sidelines of a meeting between Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr and Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker during the Africa Investment Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The meeting reviewed the cooperation of both countries in bolstering the private sector and infrastructure in the Sinai Peninsula, which will attract investors to the region.
AfDB's president affirmed the bank's "readiness to provide the necessary support to help push the economic and social development process in Egypt and develop Sinai."
Qalaa Holdings, the investment firm formerly known as Citadel Capital, said that Asec Cement, a subsidiary, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Groupe industriel des ciments d'Algérie (GICA) to sell its 35-percent stake in Zahana cement plant in Algeria.
Qalaa expects the sale to be completed before mid-2019 after reaching an agreement on the fair value of shares.
The news pushed Qalaa stock during Wednesday's session to hit a four-year high.
The stock rose 3.62 percent to close at EGP 4.01. It controlled around 18 percent of the market liquidity.
In September, Qalaa announced that Asec Cement, in which it owns 52 percent, was holding talks to sell its stake in the Algerian facility.
In May 2017, Qalaa sold its 100 percent stake in Asec Algeria Cement to an Algerian investor in a deal worth $60 million.
Qalaa's Founder and Chairman Ahmed Heikal said earlier this year that his company had invested EGP 18.6 billion in Egypt during the 2017/2018 fiscal year.
He also unveiled the company's plans to pump investments worth EGP 30-32 (nearly $1.8) billion in various fields in the near future.
The deadline for needy citizens to update their information for the subsidized-products ration card expired on Wednesday but results won't be reflected until December due to the huge turnout of people who wanted to add their newborns to the system, a source told Shorouk News.
Two weeks ago, the supply ministry, which is responsible for the ration cards system, gave a last chance to those who missed the August deadline and were not able to add their newborns to the cards.
The ministry will make its updates by December as it needs time to verify the authenticity of the information provided by ration cardholders, and the subsidized goods will be available to the newly-added members by January 2019.
According to previous statements, the ministry added around two million newborns to its subsidy cards between August and the end of September.
The ministry set a budget of EGP 87 ($4.9) billion for its subsidized programs, which include both monetary and subsidized basic goods programs.
An Egyptian court upheld on Wednesday a death sentence against a 35-year-old man who was charged with raping a female toddler, a final ruling that has put an end to a case that provoked massive public wrath last year.
The Court of Cassation rejected the defendant's appeal against the court's initial sentence, upholding the death penalty. The verdict is now final and cannot be appealed.
The man, who lives in Dakahlia Governorate northeast of Cairo and a neighbor of the victim's family, had kidnapped the 20-month-old toddler and raped her, but was arrested on the same day of the incident in March 2017.
Egypt's Grand Mufti, the country's top religious authority, approved a lower-court death sentence which was issued on June 1 in non-binding but legally required opinion.
The investigations revealed that the man kidnapped the girl as she was playing in front of her house in Belqas town in the north-western corner of Dakahlia. He then took her to an uninhabited area where he raped her.
The toddler was later sent to hospital to undergo a reconstructive surgery due to the major damages in her vagina.
Egypt's Ten satellite channel has signed a partnership agreement with Global Productions Co. to produce an Arabic version of UK's top entertainment and comedy television show "Whose Line Is It Anyway."
Global Productions signed a deal with brand owner Hat Trick International, which is the first of its kind in the Middle East and Egypt, to broadcast the show on Ten TV.
The deal comes at a time when Egypt's media sector is witnessing major changes amid growing demand on new and exclusive content across various platforms.
Egypt will be the 10th country to broadcast a version of the renowned British show, which is televised in the US, Germany and Brazil among other countries.
Fawry Plus, a subsidiary of Fawry Banking and Payment Technology Services Company, has inked deals with 13 banks to provide their customers with some banking services, a source in the company told Al-Mal newspaper.
The service, set to be launched before the end of the year after Fawry was given the all-clear by the Egyptian central bank, will allow clients to pay off their installments and loans.
However, it will not include certain banking services such as cash deposits or withdrawals.
"It will be up to each bank to decide on the services that Fawry will provide," the source added.
The banks which signed the deals with the e-payment provider include the Commercial International Bank (CIB), the National Bank of Egypt (NBE), Banque Misr, the Housing and Development Bank, Banque Du Caire, Arab Bank Cooperation (ABC) and Bank of Alexandria.
Fawry Plus, which was established in 2017, is a joint venture between CIB, Banque Misr, Fawry Banking and Payment Technology Services Company and IT systems company ACIS.
Democrats have regained control of the House of Representatives in the US' midterm elections, which could enable the party to block some of Donald Trump's agenda as well as press forward with investigations that he would otherwise want to keep under wraps such as allegations of Russian interference on his behalf in the 2016 election.
Some of the Democrats' first legislative efforts could be an ethics reform package that is expected to incorporate proposals for campaign finance reform, voting rights and ethics and accountability, The Time reported.
Other top priorities include infrastructure, an issue that has been one of Trump's priorities ever since his 2016 presidential campaign and thus can draw bipartisan cooperation.
Democrats are also likely to launch hearings on some of Trump's controversial foreign policy moves such as the US' support of Saudi Arabia in its war with Yemen as well as Trump's occasional fraternizing with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
However, Democrats are likely to show some bipartisan consensus when it comes to the US-China trade war.
Nick Marro, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNN that the Democrats have historically been more pro-labor unions and less in favor of unconstrained free trade than their opponents.
"It's unlikely that they'll push for greater trade engagement with China," he said.
The midterm elections also saw the election of two Muslim women; onetime Somali refugee Ilhan Omar, 37, and daughter of Palestinian immigrants Rashida Tlaib, 42. They became the first two Muslim women elected to the US Congress.
Omar won a House seat in a strongly Democratic district in Minneapolis, Minnesota, succeeding Keith Ellison who was himself the first Muslim ever elected to Congress.
Tlaib's victory was not a surprise as she ran unopposed in a congressional district that stretches from Detroit to Dearborn, Michigan.
President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) said the continent should not be afraid of China, particularly when it comes to loans, saying the latter is a good development partner despite criticism that China is burdening Africa with debt.
Speaking in Johannesburg, AfDB Head Akinwumi Adesina said Chinese involvement in the continent with its loaning programs is a "very good learning experience for Africa, lifting 400 million people out of poverty."
"African countries are mature enough to negotiate with China about their needs, which is to close infrastructure gaps," he added.
This year, China surpassed the US and former European colonial powers as the biggest source of funding to African nations, Bloomberg reported. In 2015, Africa received $12 billion in loans from China compared to $100 million in 2000.
People of a number of countries have recently expressed their anger at loan terms with China.
Malaysians threw out their ruling party, reportedly because of anger about Chinese encroachment.
Malaysia suspended and canceled Chinese projects worth more than $22 billion and Myanmar severely scaled back a $10 billion port scheme.
Thailand and Pakistan, one of China's closest allies, have criticized Chinese lending terms, according to Bloomberg.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned on Wednesday at the request of President Donald Trump, with some lawmakers warning that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential Russia collusion "must be safeguarded from interference."
Trump announced that Matthew G. Whitaker, Sessions' chief of staff and a Mueller critic, would become the acting attorney general with a permanent replacement to be nominated "at a later date."
The president-elect's move came a few hours after he declared victory in Tuesday's midterm elections, which saw Republicans raise their majority in the Senate.
However, the Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives in the elections, signaling hard times for Trump to pursue some of his controversial policies.
Trump's combative relationship with the media deteriorated further on Wednesday in a surly and contentious news conference at the White House, where he dubbed some reporters as "rude" and "terrible."
"It's such a hostile media," he said, after ordering reporter April Ryan of the American Urban Radio Networks to sit down when she tried to ask him a question.
"I came in here as a nice person wanting to answer questions and I had people jumping out of their seats screaming questions at me," said Trump, who talked for nearly 90 minutes despite the run-ins with reporters.
A Russian official said yesterday that his country had thwarted drone attacks during the summer World Cup, without providing details.
"My officers took measures to detect and foil attempts by terrorists to use drones during the preparation and hosting of various major political and sports events, most of all during the soccer World Cup," Alexander Bortnikov, head of Russia's Federal Security Service, was quoted as saying by Tass state news agency.
The World Cup, which was won by France after an exciting victory over Croatia in the final last July, was a largely trouble-free tournament despite threats from some militant groups to carry out attacks.
Four Pussy Riot protesters were jailed for 15 days after invading the pitch during the final in a minor incident.
Ahly will be looking to invoke their fond memories in Rades when they meet Tunisia's Esperance in the African Champions League final away from home on Friday as they target a record-extending ninth title.
The Red Devils are in pole position to add another continental title to their trophy-laden cabinet after securing a 3-1 first-leg advantage, albeit in controversial fashion.
Walid Soliman converted two dubious penalties to help Ahly to a comfortable win in Alexandria, with Esperance furiously protesting against the referee's decisions to award the spot-kicks.
Ahly's Moroccan marksman Walid Azaro is suspended for the final after he was hit with a two-game ban by African governing body CAF, apparently for ripping off his shirt to convince the referee that he was fouled in one of the two penalties.
Esperance will also miss two influential players through automatic suspension -- Chamseddine Dhaouadi and Cameroonian midfielder Franck Kom.
Rades was home to Ahly's most remarkable Champions League triumph, when a last-gasp volley from iconic playmaker Mohamed Abou-Treika gave them the title at the expense of Tunisia's Sfaxien in the 2006 final.
It was also the venue where Ahly defeated Esperance 2-1 in the final second-leg in 2012.
|UAE ABU DHABI||ADX||5.016.074||+0.25%|
|US||Dow Jones IA||26.180.30||+2.13%|
|China||HANG SENG INDEX||26.147.69||+0.10%|
|Wheat||USd/bu. Dec 2018||510.25||-0.34%|
|Gold Egypt||LE/ oz.||21.967.94||+0.03%|
|Silver Egypt||LE/ oz.||261.05||+0.26%|
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