Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Iron Woes

**UPDATE: With HRC iron prices at 7000 L.E., I'm not sure this analysis is very valid 5/5/08**

One of the recurring themes of "The Call" had been the skyrocketing iron (steel) prices. Think about it: when had the price of this very industrial commodity become such a popular topic? The answer of course relates to one of the other recurring themes of "The Call"; my need to get married ASAP.
Since every Egyptian family, to the amazement of people from different corners of the world, insist that for somebody to earn the unmatched privilege of marrying their daughter this person has to own (not rent) an apartment (more on that later), steel prices represent more than just an economic factor; they affect Egyptians and Egyptian youth in a very personal manner.

But, to the heck with that, I am just gonna talk business!

Ahmed Ezz bashing had been sort of a national sport, and not without good reasons. His company, Ezz Steel, controls more than 60% of the Egyptian steel market, and he is too close to government to rule out any suspicions of monopolistic practices, or worse. Also, I am probably the last person to defend such a high ranking NDP official. But, the matter (high steel prices) caught my attention, and since, I admit, I had no idea who is right and who is wrong, I decided to run some numbers. Here is what I found out.
Steel prices are actually low in Egypt compared to the rest of the world. Hold on to your guns. Apparently, something called the Hot Rolled Coil (HRC) is the standard benchmark for prices around the world. Here are the HRC prices ($/Tonnes) around the world:

Country $/Tonnes
Europe $1,000
USA $920
South Africa $880
India $851
Egypt $830
Thailand $826

So, on an absolute scale, steel prices are, as Ezz alleges, actually lower in Egypt than in most of the world. Of course there is the concern that even if steel prices are high everywhere in the world, as a strategic (and matrimonial) commodity, the government should intervene to keep prices low in par with the low wages and living standards in Egypt in general. Fair enough.
I added more factor into the mix; GDP per capita, and plotted that against steel prices, here is what I found (I'm telling you I approached this thing with total neutrality):

In relation to GDP per capita, Egyptians are paying less for steel than Indians, South Africans, and Europeans!
There is also the issue of how an international price isn't applicable, because the prices of inputs (wages, raw materials, etc...) aren't "international". I have minimal understanding of the steel indusrty, but I think that most of the raw materials are imported (I remember Coak Cool from awla a3dady social studies). Also, unless we're willing to stop exporting totally and suffer the repercussions (something I don't support), we can't deviate much from the international prices, which to tell you the truth are very expensive now.
This is, again, a very crude analysis. If there is one thing that can be done, I think this should be allowing freer competition in the steel industry. This would at least ensure a fairer price that would reflect international prices, but at the same time ensure no excessive profits for monopolists.

Wow! Justifying Ahmed Ezz? My 18 years self would have killed me!


Anonymous said...

Your 18 year old self, and your MOM!!
However, I think that makes a lot of sense.
Factor in the fact that your being away from Egypt right now gives you better perspective, and I find your analysis even more credible, as it's -even if a but a tad- less than biased.

Now guess who I am.

Seneferu said...

Ya sheikh, did you actually delete my comment welcoming you back to the blog? say it isn't so..

Wael's mom, kalimihooly wel nabi:-)

(I won't comment again if it bothers you so much.)

Wael said...

i didn't mean to ya basha.. i had a problem with the html template so I had to delete all posts and then republish them again... but I couldn't keep comments!
And I brought back el yafta especially for u!

Seneferu said...

nice yafta:)