Egypt central bank auctions $200 mln at 8.85 pounds per dollar: Bankers

Reuters , Monday 14 Mar 2016

Egypt's central bank depreciated the Egyptian pound to 8.85 per dollar from 7.73 in an exceptional dollar auction on Monday, banking sources said.

The central bank said earlier it would sell $200 million in a special auction with bids to be submitted between 8.30 a.m. and 9 a.m. (0630-0700 GMT), the latest attempt to pump foreign exchange into an economy that has been starved of dollars.

It has yet to announce the results of the auction or say what exchange rate the dollars were supplied at, but at least two bankers who were bidding said the central bank had devalued to 8.85 pounds per dollar.

Egypt, which depends heavily on imports, is facing an acute foreign currency shortage. Its currency had come under intense downward pressure and the pound had weakened in recent weeks to almost 10 to the dollar on the black market.

The central bank had resisted devaluation and the gap between the official and black market rate was creating imbalances in the market. Businesses who saw a devaluation as inevitable were holding back on investment.

Last week, the central bank held another exceptional auction, offering $500 million to help businesses obtain the foreign exchange they needed to clear imports of strategic goods which had been delayed to the forex shortage.

The additional liquidity helped ease the gap between the official and black market rate to about 9.25-9.30 pounds per dollar on Sunday, according to three black market traders.

At the same time, the central bank lifted caps on withdrawals and deposits of foreign currencies for individuals and companies importing essential goods, easing forex controls imposed a year ago that had all but paralysed trade.

The central bank imposed strict controls on hard currency movements in February 2015 to preserve scarce forex for imports of essential goods. The restrictions were unpopular with businesses which had seen their business hit.

Egypt's reserves have dropped from $36 billion in 2011 to $16.53 billion at the end of February. 

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