Telecom trades dominated Egypt's stock exchange on Sunday as investors shrugged off the prospect of imminent protests and made a play for newly-launched stock, driving turnover to its highest level in several months.
The benchmark EGX30 closed the first session of the week up 1.34 per cent at 3,920 points, buoyed by heavy trade in high-cap stocks, including Orascom Telecom. Other shares fared less well; of the day's 164 traded shares just 19 gained in value.
"Orascom Telecom's return and the performance of several other blue-chips helped lead the market," Issa Fathy, vice president of the securities division at Cairo's Chamber of Commerce, told Ahram Online.
"On top of that, we are seeing factors [like the new parliament] that suggest stability and progress in the political arena. That's very important for Egypt and for the economy."
Stock in Orascom Telecom returned to the market on Sunday after an eight-week suspension during which assets owned by tycoon Naguib Sawiris were spun into a separate company. The split followed the purchase of most of OT by Russian communications giant Vimpelcom in April.
Total market turnover for Sunday was LE305.8 million, with four-fifths of it – some LE215 million – dealing in Orascom Telecom and Orascom Telecom Media and Technology (OTMT), the spin-off which remains under Sawiris' control.
OT surged 51.45 per cent, ending the day at LE2.62 per share. Stocks in OTMT, on the other hand, plunged 28 per cent to land at LE0.90 apiece.
Unusually for a Sunday when foreign markets are closed, foreign investors made up a large chunk of trade – some 38.5 per cent – and were net-buyers of just over LE101 million in stock. Foreign institutions played the overwhelming role; just LE900,000 of the day's international buys were performed by individuals.
Much of the session involved investors 'trading up' by selling their low-cap stock to invest in shares like Orascom, Fathy said.
Playing a supporting role were Orascom Construction Industries (OCI), Egypt's largest listed stock, with a marginal 0.16 per cent rise, and investment bank Beltone Financial which gained 0.44 per cent.
Trading was suspended in Palm Hills Development (PHD) after rumours circulated in Egyptian media that the luxury real estate firm is being eyed for takeover by a Gulf investment firm. The move may have spared PHD losses of the kind suffered by fellow property giants SODIC, which tumbled 2.96 per cent, and the Talaat Moustafa Group, which fell 1.24 per cent.
Egypt's ruling army has declared Wednesday 25 January, the first anniversary of the country's uprising, a national holiday. But while authorities are planning celebrations in major cities, revolutionary groups have promised further protests to push for what they say are the uprising's unfulfilled demands.
Some may be expecting violence but, Fathy says, investors on the stock exchange seem relatively unconcerned.
"People in the market have experienced events like this before, during elections and with the battles in Mohamed Mahmoud Street [in November]. They tend to think the new statements are false. Egypt will celebrate despite all the warnings," he said.