Market Report: Palm Hills acquittal sets ground for Egypt real estate rally

Ahram Online, Tuesday 5 Jul 2011

A favourable court decision for the troubled developer helps spur investor interest in the sector, powering the index's third day of gains

Photo: Reuters
Egyptian stocks saw further gains Tuesday as a favourable court ruling for one of the country's controversial heavyweights stoked investor confidence in real estate shares, pushing the EGX30 benchmark up 0.2 per cent to 5,439 points.
On Tuesday morning, a Cairo court cleared a former housing minister and Yasseen Mansour, chairman of real estate developer Palm Hills, of corruption charges involving a state land sale.
The acquittal spurred a 7.26 per cent climb in Palm Hills stock, mirrored by related firms. Other top-gainers included the National Real Estate Bank for Development, up 7.35 per cent, and the Egyptian Real Estate Group, up 5.24 per cent. 
Fellow property giant the Talaat Moustafa Group gained 1.4 per cent.
"The news that Ahmed Maghrabi [former minster of housing] and other former officials were found not guilty of illegal profiteering has given the market a huge push," says Issa Fathy, vice president of the securities division at the Chamber of Commerce. 
"That ruling gave investors a hint that the judiciary system is independent and not politicised, which is a sign things are still under control. The whole market turnover was higher today because of the increasing demand for Palm Hills shares."
Egypt's second-biggest listed developer has been hamstrung by the country's political upheaval, which has frozen sales and sent the number of new home cancellations rocketing. 
On Tuesday, trading in Palm Hills reached LE58.986 million, around an eighth of the day's LE462.3 million total market turnover. Other heavyweights like Talaat Moustafa, the Commercial International Bank (CIB) and Orascom Construction also saw sustained interest.
Despite the overall climb for the EGX30, gainers were in the minority. From a total of 186 listed stocks, 67 climbed while 106 lost value. 
Smaller-cap firms like Transoceans Tours and Golden Pyramids Plaza stomached the day's largest drops, while overall sectors were nearly evenly split between red and green.
Arabs, whose trading made up its traditionally limited 3.56 per cent, were the only net-buyers, acquiring LE8.4 million, with foreigners offloading a net LE5.618m and Egyptians LE2.796m.
Palm Hills isn't out of the woods yet. Later on Tuesday the public prosecutor appealed the court order to acquit Mansour and three former ministers, while the company still awaits a verdict by another court on whether the land contract will be scrapped. That court is due to hear the case on 4 October.
The general political scene and the prospect of further demonstrations and a delay in parliamentary elections add further uncertainty for the market as a whole, says Fathy.
"The general political status is still unclear and that absolutely affects the market performance which, as a result, hasn't seen a big overall hike," he says.
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