Egypt’s international reserves fell to the lowest level since at least November 2004 after the country repaid debt, raising the need for international aid as the currency weakens.
The gross reserves, which include currency, gold and so-called special drawing rights, declined by $1.1 billion to $14.4 billion in July, according to central bank data released Tuesday. That’s the lowest level since Bloomberg started tracking the data in November 2004. Foreign currency reserves were at $9.8 billion compared with $10.9 billion in June.
The regulator said the drop followed the maturity of bonds and repayment of Paris Club member countries’ debt totaling about $1.64 billion. Egyptian reserves stood at $36 billion before being depleted amid an uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak last year. The figure was expected to fall by about $500 million in July, according to estimates by Bank of America Merrill Lynch and EFG Hermes Holding. Reserves had increased in the past three months, helped by inflows from Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
“This underscores the importance of gaining access to foreign funding,” Mona Mansour, co-head of research at Cairo-based CI Capital, which had projected a $700 million loss, said by phone. “There were some one-off payments in July, so we don’t expect the pace of declines to accelerate again, but we shouldn’t expect consistent increases unless foreign inflows resume.”
An IMF delegation is expected to arrive this month in Egypt to discuss financial assistance, the fund said on Aug. 5. Talks for a $3.2 billion loan have stalled in the past year due to government changes amid unrest.
The Egyptian pound, subject to a managed float, was little changed Tuesday at 6.0775 a dollar, near the lowest level since December 2004. The currency has weakened 4.5 percent since the start of 2011, including a 0.8 percent loss this year. Twelve- month non-deliverable pound forwards were unchanged at 7.3 a dollar, reflecting expectations for the currency to lose 17 percent of its value over the life of the contracts.
“Political uncertainty is putting pressure on the pound and forcing the central bank to support the currency by drawing down on reserves,” Mansour said.
The country’s net international reserves, which also stood at $14.4 billion, are enough to cover 3.2 months of imports, Bloomberg calculated based on the average monthly import bill for the fiscal year that ended in June.