In the Egypt Petroleum Show (EGYPS 2020) Finance and Investment Summit, which was convened on the third and the last day of the show, February 13, four significant panel discussions gave insights into the financial side of oil and gas sector, motivating new investments, as well as shedding light on the government efforts to attract more foreign investments.

Egypt’s Economy: The Big Picture

Kicking off the summit, H.E Dr. Mohamed Maait, the Minister of Finance, gave a keynote speech on Accelerating Investments to Fuel National Growth—the Egyptian Story. Maait discussed the latest macroeconomic developments, fiscal developments, as well as the external sector developments, affirming that such updates play a vital role in enhancing the financial prospects of the oil and gas industry.

During his speech, Maait also highlighted how over the last four years and under the Economic Reform Program, the real gross domestic product (GDP) jumped from 4.2% in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013/14 to 5.6% in FY 2018/19. He added that “this year we hope to achieve around 6%. Next year, our target is to reach 6.4%.”

On a global scale, the minister remarked that according to The Economist, Egypt is ranked the sixth in achieving one of the highest real GDP growth rates, compared to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and emerging countries.

For the components of GDP, Maait mentioned that the contribution of net exports to GDP growth rate has improved from -1.9% in FY 2013/14 to reach currently around 2.3%, adding that “if we look at the contribution of investments, it also increased from 0.2% in FY 2013/14 to around 2.5% now.”

For consumption, the minister remarked that it declined to 1.2% after recording around 4.5% in 2013/14. He stressed that “we carefully study our components contributing to GDP growth. We are happy that net exports and investments are contributing better than before. However, we are still looking at restoring the contribution of consumption to grow again. And we are taking many initiatives in this regard.”

Maait affirmed that private investments are an essential core for nourishing the Egyptian economy. Thus, “our strategy for coming years is to encourage more private investments,” the minister said, adding that “we strongly believe that the private sector has to contribute more to our economy. We rely on it in creating more job opportunities, contributing more to our GDP, and become the main driver for our growth in the coming years.”

Afterward, Maait shed light on energy subsidies saying that “we made a significant improvement in rationalizing energy subsidies which were 6.5% in FY 2013/14, but now we are less than 1%.” Moreover, the minister commented that “[rationalizing energy subsidy] is a significant measure of our economic reform. It gives us a space to reduce the budget deficit and achieve a primary surplus, [which will help] reduce our debt ration to GDP.”

Affirming on that, Karim Saada, Al Ahly Capital CEO, delivered another keynote speech on Overcoming Uncertainty: A Roadmap to Efficient Energy Investments during which, he tackled the various prospects of financing and supporting the Egyptian oil and gas sector. “What we do is that we inject equity,” Saada said, adding that the banking sector spares no effort to attract investments and support the business structure of oil and gas sector.

Insights into Global Oil and Gas Investment and Financing

The Summit comprised several panels. The first one provided insights into the financial challenges facing the oil and gas sector’s investments. The panel was moderated by Farouk Soussa, Vice President, Economic Research (MENA), Goldman Sachs. It presented five key figures; Regis Monfront, Deputy CEO, Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank; Maria Martin, Head of Corporate Finance, Energean; Helmy Ghazi, Managing Director and Head of Global Banking Egypt, HSBC Bank Egypt; Thomas Hardy, Assistant Director, US Trade and Development Agency; and Karim Badawi, Vice President and Managing Director-Egypt and Mediterranean, Schlumberger.

Speaking of global issues and its impact on energy transition, Monfront began highlighting the “impressive improvement in the situation of Egypt, which means that Egypt will become again a very attractive investment destination.” Additionally, he clarified that “energy transition is a long journey. It does not happen overnight,” noting that this transition requires shifting to a decarbonized economy. To achieve this, natural gas will have a major role to play, “and Egypt is blessed with significant natural gas resources.”

Commenting on the changes occurring on the global landscape of the sector, Martin stressed that many investments were launched in terms of Environment, Safety, and Governance (ESG). She affirmed that “we start looking at the things that make us better.”

With an eye on Egypt, Ghazi remarked that there is noticeable progress in the financial side of the oil and gas sector. He stressed that “the Egyptian oil and gas industry is one of the few sectors in Egypt, if not the only one, that was able to attract substantial partners across many years.”

Furthermore, Badawi showcased the different projects that have been developed, clarifying that Egypt currently maintains a successful journey towards digitalization and technological efficiency. He highlighted that the major strategy of the sector’s progress is the Modernization Project.

The Evolving Dynamics of Oil and Gas Pricing and its Influence on Hydrocarbon Investment Decisions

The second panel was moderated by Edward Bell, Senior Director, Market Economics, Emirates NBD. It presented two industry experts; Anne-Sophie Corbeau, Head of Gas Analysis, BP; and Eric Swanson, Corporate Development, Halliburton. The panel discussed the major practices of the sector which influence investment decisions.

Concerning energy transition, Corbeau supported the world’s energy transition toward natural gas resources. Additionally, she clarified that the sector’s initiatives mainly aim at achieving energy efficiency.

Additionally, Swanson explained that “the industry base shrunk because investors did not find returns.” That is why he highlighted the collaboration and alignment that exist between governments, international oil companies (IOCs), national oil companies (NOCs) which represent a key factor in maximizing the use of their assets and increase investments’ returns.

The Importance of Government Partnerships to Drive Foreign Investments in the Oil & Gas Industry 

The third panel of the Summit was moderated by Rafik Selim, Principal Economist – Southern and Eastern Mediterranean European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD). It saw significant panelists; Steve Lutes, Vice President – Middle East Affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce; Oliver Richards, Country Director – Egypt at the Department for International Trade (DIT – UK); and Jasmine Wahhab, Commercial Counsellor and Senior Trade Commissioner at Global Affairs Canada.

The panelists discussed methods of encouraging finance and investment in the oil and gas sector. Lutes noted that creating a dialogue with governmental officials and policy regulators is conducive to attract investments that grow the US footprint in Egypt.

Richards commented that “47 or 48 billion euros are invested in Egypt in recent years and a big chunk of that in the oil and gas sector.”

Concerning the environment and seeing it as a key element in achieving sustainability, under the sector’s continuous development, Wahhab showcased Canada’s Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN) initiative to produce clean energy. She noted that this initiative will be particularly valuable in Egypt as “it is privileged by the discovery of new resources.”

On renewable energy and investment attraction, Wahhab commented on the vital role of the ministry’s Modernization Project in addressing these goals. Adding that, the ministry should further create a clearer plan to address climate change so that investors know what to expect.

Striking the Balance Between Profits and Production Growth – A CFO’s Outlook

The last panel of the Summit discussed the role of chief financial officer (CFO) in managing costs under the current climate.  The panel included presentations by Ahmed Abdel Fattah, Head of Finance at Kuwait Energy Egypt; Hala Borai, Vice President for Financial and Commercial Affairs at the Egyptian Natural Gas Company (GASCO); Ahmad Ali Bin Obood, Chief Financial Officer at Dragon Oil; and Tameer Nasser, Chief Financial Officer – North Africa at Baker Hughes.

Abdel Fattah commented that adopting new initiatives should be on the agenda to overcome challenges and maintain sustainable profits. On the other hand, Borai said that the role of the CFO has changed. “The growth of the company needs to shift, not to focus on the expertise itself [but on skills],” said Borai.

On digitalizing the sector, Bin Obood shared his company’s Triple One Project which aims to digitize the whole company. Consequently, Dragon Oil became 40% digitized in 2019. Bin Obood added that the company aims to be 100% automated by the end of the year.

Nasser highlighted that “Egypt is already a gas hub,” adding that Egypt is the only country in the East Mediterranean with a ready and well- constructed infrastructure.

Roundtable

The Summit was concluded by a roundtable discussion on Steering Investments to Achieve Economic Sustainability. Nevine Mansour, Adviser to Vice Minister for Fiscal Policies at the Ministry of Finance gave a presentation on the measures taken by Finance Ministry to contribute to the reform of the oil and gas sector. She clarified that these measures include introducing the indexation formula which takes into consideration international oil prices and the exchange rate to ensure fair pricing of petroleum products in Egypt.