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Egypt’s foreign reserves rise to $31.126 billion at end-May

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CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s foreign reserves jumped to $31.126 billion at the end of May from $28.641 billion at the end of April, boosted by last month’s Eurobond sale, the central bank said on Sunday.

Egypt, which has been struggling to revive its economy since a 2011 uprising, sold $3 billion of Eurobonds in May, twice as much as targeted.

That confirmed growing foreign appetite for the country’s debt as it follows through with economic reforms aimed at cutting a budget deficit and luring back investors.

In November Egypt abandoned its currency peg of 8.8 per dollar and floated the pound, which then halved in value. It also raised its key interest rates by 300 basis points, helping Egypt to clinch a $12 billion International Monetary Fund programme.

Last month, the central bank raised its key interest rates by another 200 basis points after inflation reached a three-decade high.

The moves helped the country lure back foreign investors to its treasury sales. Foreign investors in Egyptian government securities rose to 136 billion Egyptian pounds ($7.52 billion) in May from 120 billion pounds a week earlier.

Last month’s Eurobond sale, which reached Egypt’s central bank on May 31, was the second such sale this year. Egypt had earlier raised $4 billion at a Eurobond sale in January that also exceeded expectations.

The steady climb in Egypt’s foreign reserves since it floated the pound brings them closer to pre-2011 levels of around $36 billion.


($1 = 18.0800 Egyptian pounds)


(Reporting by Eric Knecht and Arwa Gaballa; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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Egypt’s central bank says no ban on using debit cards abroad

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CAIRO (Reuters) – Debit cards linked to Egyptian pound bank accounts can be used outside the country in a “regular” way, the central bank said on Thursday, after instructions it sent to banks on Wednesday appeared to ban customers from using them abroad.

Although Wednesday’s letter suggested a blanket ban, the central bank said its instructions “only apply to individuals misusing debit cards to acquire large amounts of foreign currency without a clear reason for doing so, which saps banks’ foreign reserves”.

“The Central Bank of Egypt affirms the continued use of all cards, debit or credit, under existing limits set by each bank,” it said in a statement.

In the letter sent on Wednesday and seen by Reuters, the central bank had told bank chiefs: “Please ensure that debit cards, including pre-paid cards, issued in local currency by Egyptian banks are only used within the country.”

Central bank Governor Tarek Amer had initially denied the Wednesday directive existed, telling state news agency MENA on Thursday the rules on using debit cards abroad were unchanged.

“It is up to each bank to set limits on its clients’ usage of foreign currency abroad through debit cards linked to local currency accounts, but we need vigilance because some clients use debit cards to get large dollar amounts not intended for travel, tourism, or shopping,” he said.

The bank’s later statement acknowledged the instruction had been sent but said it applied only in some cases. Wednesday’s letter did not indicate that was the case, however.

Egypt depends on imports for everything from food to fuel but has suffered from a shortage of dollars in the banking system to pay for them since a 2011 uprising drove away tourists and foreign investors, crucial sources of hard currency.

Many import businesses now rely on the black market, where they can get hard currency for a higher price. The pound’s rate on the black market has weakened since the central bank devalued the Egyptian pound in March, at which time it was roughly in line with the official rate.


(By Ehab Farouk and Ahmed Aboulenein. Additional reporting by Mostafa Hashem; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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Egypt’s exchange bureaus investigated for hoarding dollars

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CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt’s General Prosecution is investigating around 15 exchange bureaus after the central bank reported them for hoarding dollars and contributing to Egypt’s currency crisis, two prosecution sources told Reuters on Sunday.

Central Bank Governor Tarek Amer is battling against a black market which is sucking up hard currency liquidity from the banking sector and hurting the pound, which has weakened to record lows of 10 per dollar versus an official rate fixed at 8.78 per dollar.

Amer met the general prosecutor on Saturday and requested an investigation be opened targeting around 15 exchange bureaus which he accused of fuelling a dollar crisis, prosecution sources said.

“Based on his request the prosecution … requested from the unit in charge of public funds to investigate these (bureaus),” one prosecution source said.

“(Amer) accused them of causing the dollar crisis by hoarding dollars and refusing to sell, which caused a rise in the price of the dollar,” he said.

Market sources say traders at exchange bureaus often do not sell at official rates, saying they do not have the dollars to sell. They then offer dollars at higher rates, unofficially, outside the exchange bureaus.

The central bank does not have an official spokesperson and officials are not available for comment.

Egypt, which relies heavily on imports, has been facing a dollar shortage since a popular uprising in 2011 drove away foreign investors and tourists, both major sources of hard currency.

The country’s foreign reserves had tumbled to around $16.5 billion in February from $36 billion in 2011.

On March 14 the central bank devalued the pound to 8.85 per dollar from 7.73 and announced it would adopt a more flexible exchange rate. Two days later it strengthened it to 8.78 per dollar and has held to that rate since.

Bankers and traders on the black market say the devaluation is failing to narrow the gap between official and unofficial rates because the demand for hard currency is high and the banks do not have the dollars to meet it.

In previous attempts from the central bank to narrow the gap between official and unofficial rates, officials from the central bank met with exchange bureaus and agreed on a range to curb prices on the parallel market.

In February, the central bank revoked the licences of four exchange bureaus after the first meeting failed to cap the price of the dollar at 8.6 per dollar.


(Reporting by Asma Alsharif, Ahmed Hassan; editing by Jason Neely)

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