Egypt's bourse slipped further into the red on Wednesday, dragged down by political uncertainty and a fifth session of losses for Oracom Telecom (OT) over concerns the sale of the firm's Algerian unit might take longer than expected.
The EGX30, the exchange's main engine, slumped a further 1.4 per cent to 4,838.2 points. OT shares plunged 7 per cent to close at LE3.54 apiece, in what some said was their biggest drop in more than three years as weary investors awaited fresh news on the sell-off of the firm's Djezzy mobile operations to the Algerian government.
"Investors won't begin trading heavily until they see in what direction is going," market expert Mostafa Badra told Ahram Online, adding that recent uncertainty was weighing on stocks.
With elections for Egypt's first post-Mubarak president scheduled for the end of May, political rhetoric is heating up and tensions are building between Islamists and secular forces over the writing of a new constitution.
Egyptians were the only net-buyers on Wednesday, picking up LE16.6 million in stocks. Other Arabs and foreigners were net-sellers of LE6.5 million and LE10 million respectively.
The broader EGX70 saw a smaller loss, closing the day down 0.6 per cent.
The construction and building materials sectors were the only ones to ride out the downturn, buoyed by modest gains of 0.2 per cent for Orascom Construction Industries (OCI), Egypt's largest listed firm.
"There is particular news about OCI but it is one of the few solid and reliable shares in the current week," Badra said.
Real estate developer Palm Hills also went against the tide, gaining 1.7 per cent amid rumours that Mubarak-era ministers Ahmed El-Mahgrabi and Mohamed Mansour may offload their stakes in the firm.
CAE said on Monday that it had accepted the collective resignation of board members related to Mubarak-era government ministers Mansour and El-Maghrabi.
In May 2011, El-Maghrabi was sentenced to five years' imprisonment and fined for his part in an illegal land deal. El-Maghrabi was found guilty of arranging the illegal sale of land to businessman Mounir Ghabbour, who received a one-year suspended sentence.
Both were found guilty of wasting public funds and were ordered to return a total of LE72 million ($12.6 million) to the state. They were together fined a further LE72 million.
Other market stalwarts took small but significant losses.
Shares in the heavyweight Commercial International Bank declined 1.3 per cent while Ezz Steel and the Talaat Mostafa Group slipped 0.4 and 1.7 per cent respectively.
From the day's 173 listed stocks, 35 gained in value and 121 saw losses in a session which saw turnover of LE373.3 million.