Egypt's major stocks on Thursday shrugged off the possibility of an imminent wave of civil disobedience to extend recent gains, led upwards by high-cap shares in telecoms firms Orascom and Mobinil.
The EGX30 benchmark edged up 0.94 per cent to close at 4,754 points, bringing its year-to-date gains to 31.23 per cent. Turnover reached a recent high of LE698.7 million ($116.5 million).
"Political events seem to have lost their influence on the market," Tarek El-Kafrawy, a trader at CIBC told Ahram Online. "Last week we saw deaths on Egypt's streets, but it was not enough to smash optimism."
At least 15 people have died in street fighting in Cairo and Suez in recent days, during unrest provoked by the death of 74 spectators following a football match last Wednesday.
Campaigners demanding that Egypt make a swifter transition to civil rule have called for mass walkouts and civil disobedience on Saturday 11 February, the one-year anniversary of ex-president Hosni Mubarak's resignation.
Telecoms giants Orascom Telecom Media and Techonology Holding (OTMTH) and Mobinil led Thursday's market growth, making up a quarter of total turnover.
"There is strong speculation in the market that Naguib Sawiris, a major shareholder in Mobinil, is going to sell his shares at a much higher price," El-Kafrawy indicated.
"This caused OTMTH and Mobinil shares to grow."
OTMTH was reported on Thursday to be in discussions with France Telecom over the future of Mobinil, the Egyptian cellphone venture in which they both have stakes.
Mobinil stocks closed the day at LE136.3 per share, but the "market predicts any sales deal on the company’s share will be at the tune of LE240 per share", El-Kafrawy said.
Speculation of a possible change in Mobinil's ownership has re-emerged since the firm's Egyptian parent company sold most of its assets to Russia's Vimpelcom last year.
Mobinil issued a statement later on Thursday denying knowledge of talks. El-Kafrawy, however, thinks a major change in the mobile carrier’s shareholding structure is inevitable.
Mobinil and OTMTH gained 8.8 and 9.1 per cent, respectively.
Other blue chips were overshadowed by the profit opportunities present in Orascom Telecom related shares.
Market leaders Orascom Construction Industries (OCI) and Commercial International Bank (CIB) gained just 0.11 and 0.09 per cent respectively.
"Mobinil and Orascom Telecom shares have become an essential security in every trader’s portfolio now," El-Kafrawy added.
From the day's 185 listed stocks, many were ignored by investors; just 54 gained in value and 113 declined. Reflecting this, the broader EGX70 slipped 0.8 per cent.
Egyptian investors contributed to around two-thirds of the day’s trade, net-buying LE57 million worth of stocks. Arab and foreign investors were net-sellers.
"Since the beginning of 2012 we saw foreigners net-buying as they were building their portfolios," El-Kafrawy explained.
"Egyptian investors only started to buy heavily after 25 January, but they are have already missed the extremely low prices the market started the year with."
Investment bank EFG-Hermes continued to recover, rolling back losses seen earlier in the week to gain 1.9 per cent.
Last Sunday, Yasser El-Mallawany, was prevented from travelling to the United Arab Emirates after Egyptian authorities found his name on a list of officials banned
from leaving the country.
The news sparked a drop in the company's shares, which began to recover on Wednesday after EFG-Hermes announced El-Mallawany was still at his post and had not been charged with any wrongdoing.