A trader works at the Egyptian Stock Exchange (Photo: Reuters)
Egyptian stocks saw their first losses in four sessions Thursday as formerly bullish investors trimmed their exposure as they awaited definitive news on the Algerian government's long-awaited acquisition of mobile operator Djezzy.
The benchmark EGX30 rose 1 per cent in the opening minutes but quickly tumbled below its starting level to ride out the week 0.43 per cent down at 5,018.5 points. The broader EGX70 took a similar hit.
"The market started witnessing selling across the board as no one is able to take a direction on were the Djezzy deal is going," said a note from Cairo-based Naeem Brokerage.
From the day's 177 listed stocks, 48 gained in value and 106 declined with the remainder failing to move either way.
Total turnover was $472.16 million ($77.6 million), a slight increase on other sessions this week but still a good third below its average just a few months ago.
Nearly a quarter of the day's trade -- some $110.15 million -- was tied up in Orascom Telecom (OT), the communications giant acquired by Russian-focused Vimpelcom last year.
The move gave Vimpelcom control of OT's Algeria-based mobile phone unit Djezzy, in which the Algerian government is now trying to buy a 51 per cent stake. Talks have dragged on for over a year but a figure of $6.5 billion for the deal was quoted in media on Wednesday.
Analysts said the implied valuation of Djezzy was far above their expectations and on Thursday Algeria's finance minister said no figure had been set.
For its part, OT issued a statement to Egypt's stock exchange saying it was not party to the deal.
The mixed reports prompted an overall loss of 1.21 per cent for OT stock, a performance mirrored by its companions in the telecoms sector. Shares in Mobinil slipped 0.68 per cent while Telecom Egypt lost 0.28 per cent.
Other high-cap losers were real estate giants the Talaat Moustafa Group and Palm Hills, both down 1.7 per cent. The day's third most-traded stock, Commercial International Bank, slipped 0.08 per cent.
Riding high in terms of turnover but seeing its value tumble was investment bank EFG Hermes. Fuelled by news over a possible merger with Qatar-based financial institution QInvest and a joint acquisition of Dubai jeweller Damas, the firm's gains have tracked those of the broader market for the last few days. This came to an end Thursday, as EFG's high-cap stocks tumbled 3 per cent.
The stolid performance of Egypt's largest listed firm, Orascom Construction Industries, which gained 0.22 per cent cushioned the index from greater losses.
Egyptian individuals made up the majority of the day's trade, buying a net total of LE79.7 million worth of shares. Foreign trade was nearly the exact opposite; dominated by institutions which took the opportunity to offload a net LE60.9 million in shares.