Al-Ahram Weekly Online   11 - 17 September 2008
Issue No. 914
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Market report

The market succeeded in resisting the negative sentiment sparked by the emergence of different pieces of bad news through the week ending 4 September, and stayed in the green with CASE30 closing the week at 8,349 points.

With increased foreign purchasing interest in the market, foreigners were net buyers with their orders exceeding their selling transactions by LE292 million this week. This offset the effect of bad news circulating about numerous blue chip companies.

News of referring the head of Talaat Mustafa Group to a criminal court was coupled with the worse-than- expected results of Orascom Telecom Holding. Meanwhile, rumours about a decision to strip MP Mohamed Farid Khamis, founder and owner of Egypt's leading carpet and rug-maker Oriental Weavers, of his parliamentary immunity, resulted in depriving the market from considerable gains in the mid-week.

On the macro level, the week saw the release of many positive indicators. The Central Bank of Egypt announced that Egypt has recorded a balance of payments at a surplus of $5.4 billion in fiscal year 2007- 2008, up from $5.2 billion in the previous year. The surplus was mainly a result of a 32.3 per cent jump in tourism revenues, reaching $10.8 billion, in addition to a 23.6 per cent surge in Suez Canal-generated revenues to $5.2 billion on the back of an increase in shipping through the waterway and tonnage.

ORASCOM TELECOM HOLDING (OTH): The regional mobile network operator's shares were hit hard by bad news through the week. Its second quarter results also came through worse than expected, with net profits showing a 64 per cent decline in the three-month period ending 30 June, to reach $80.8 million. The decline came on the back of a slowdown in growth in two of its markets: Pakistan and Bangladesh. The depreciation of the Pakistani currency against the dollar resulted in foreign exchange losses. Another factor that weighed on OTH's performance was the $30 million licence delay on its Algerian fixed line joint venture with Lacom, which is facing many problems with the Algerian authorities. Another hit came early this week when Goldman Sachs downgraded OTH's shares from "buy" to "neutral", and cut its price target from LE100 to LE65 per share.

On the positive side company subscribers in the six markets where it has operations rose by 31 per cent, to reach a total of 77 million subscribers.

EZZ STEEL REBARS: The company revealed its new retail prices for September. At LE6,150 per metric tonne it is 12 per cent lower than in August. It is also much lower than prices announced by the company's main rivals in the Egyptian market. The decrease in prices was expected amid a global drop in billet prices, which is a main element of steel production. While all local producers use the billet. Ezz factories' use of the latest technology makes its production cost effective. Commenting on the reduction in prices, EFG-Hermes said, "this is a natural development, due in part to a seasonal lull in construction work. The company's pricing throughout this year has been well calculated, in our view, and we do not foresee a scenario in the medium term that could jeopardise the company's profitability." Prices are expected to rise during the fourth quarter of this year, with analysts expecting an increase in demand in post-Olympic China, and in the Gulf once Ramadan is over.

EASTERN COMPANY: The state cigarette and tobacco monopoly raised the price of its local cigarette brands by LE0.25 per pack. The increase will affect the following brands: Cleopatra Box, New Cleopatra Lites, Lite, Boston, Capitol, Super Star, Belmont and Golden King. This is the second increase in cigarette prices this year. In May, a series of government decisions aimed at securing revenues to cover the general 30 per cent rise in wages included levying taxes on cigarettes, resulting in a similar LE0.25 increase per packet for local brands.

OLYMPIC GROUP (OG): Company shareholders have the option to receive their dividends for the year ending in June either as shares in OG's subsidiaries Namaa and BTech, or in cash. This comes in the context of OG's general assembly meeting's approval in March to spin off Namaa, Real Estate Development and BTech from OG at par value. Accordingly, OG will distribute 0.5 shares of Namaa for every share of OG or its equivalent in cash of LE5 per OG share. This is in addition to 0.4 shares of BTech for every share of OG or its equivalent in cash of LE0.4 per OG share. Investors who prefer the share option should submit requests during the two-week period leading up to 29 September.

SIXTH OF OCTOBER DEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENT COMPANY (SODIC): In an attempt to tap a new activity, SODIC bought off 29.65 per cent of the Environmental Quality Tourism International Company (EQTI), which invests in environmentally- friendly tourism projects, in a deal worth LE17 million. The deal increased EQTI capital to LE58 million, set to be used in EQTI's project expansion both in Egypt and abroad. The agreement is conditional upon certain conditions that have to be met during the coming year. Maher Maqsoud, SODIC's managing director, was quoted in a SODIC press release as saying that the step helps advance Egypt's position as a leading eco-tourism destination, by servicing the growing market of environmentally-sensitive and culturally-minded travellers worldwide.

THE EGYPTIAN COMPANY FOR MOBILE SERVICES (MOBINIL): Egypt's largest mobile network operator by number of subscribers launched third generation mobile services on 1 September, almost a year and half after its rivals Vodafone Egypt and Etisalat introduced the services to the Egyptian market. MobiNil started providing the service officially through 700 stations and 11 new call centres. Each will serve about 1.3 million subscribers. The company invested about $200 million in the necessary infrastructure. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley cut MobiNil's target price to LE148 from LE210, as it expected the company's market share to fall to 40 per cent by 2017 due to intense competition.

Compiled by Sherine Abdel-Razek

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