Egypt stocks swing marginally back into the green (Photo: Reuters)
Egyptian stocks saw a mild rebound Monday as a major construction firm saw positive news while Saudi Arabia and Egypt saw a partial cooling in the political tensions which negatively affected the market the day before.
The benchmark EGX30 edged up 0.5 percent to reach 4,954 points while the broader EGX70 saw a more modest 0.11 percent rise.
"The market is pretty slow except for some excitement over OCI [Orascom Construction Industries]," said Hisham Halaldeen, Head of Research Sales at Naeem Holding.
On Sunday, the main index slipped 0.3 percent after Saudi Arabia abruptly withdrew its ambassador from Egypt and closed its Cairo embassy. The decision followed several days of angry protests outside the embassy by Egyptian activists.
Monday saw the market recover somewhat, with OCI shares rising 1.8 percent after it said it was inviting its shareholders to vote on a proposal to split into two companies to become more competitive.
The firm, Egypt's largest listed one, said the regulator had approved its request to hold the shareholders' meeting on 17 May. while final approval for the capital decrease of the existing company and the issuance of shares in the newly formed second company were still pending.
OCI saw the day's heaviest trade -- some LE54.3 million -- with its performance lifting both the construction sector and the overall market.
Turnover was a relatively low LE350.7 million, significantly less than the previous week. Egyptians were net-buyers to the tune of LE26 million; foreigners, meanwhile, sold LE44.3 million more stocks than they bought.
"The combination of worries on politics and currency depreciation is a big hangover for the market," explained Halaldeen.
Another heavyweight share driving the market's gains was the Commercial International Bank (CIB), which edged up 0.4 percent as investors await financial results for the first quarter of 2012.
"Investors are thinking CIB might see similar results [to Credit Agricole], possibly beating market expectations," explained Halaldeen.
Credit Agricole recently posted net profits of LE127 million for the first quarter of 2012, up 88 percent against 3Q2011 and 116 percent year-on-year.
The telecoms sector also fuelled the overall rise, led upwards by gains for Orascom Telecom and Mobinil of 1.2 and 0.2 percent respectively.
OT's climb came despite an ongoing dispute between the Algerian government and Djezzy, the telecom firm's Algiers-based unit which is ultimately owned by Russia's Vimpelcom.
An Algerian court on Sunday postponed until 6 May an appeal hearing into a $1.25 billion fine imposed on Djezzy.
Vimpelcom took over Djezzy as part of a $6 billion deal last year to acquire the assets of OT, but since then the unit has effectively been in limbo, with its future ownership undecided and a block on it transferring money abroad.
Some heavyweight shares saw mild losses too. Real estate firm Palm Hills Development was one of the day's most active shares as investors continued to react to last week's news of the lifting of a freeze on the assets of its chairman Yassin Mansour.
Shares in Palm Hills, which soared last week following the decision, slipped 1 percent on Monday as investors indulged in a wave of profit-taking.
From 177 listed stocks, 66 gained in value and 96 slipped, with the remainer holding steady.
Egypt's stock exchange will be closed Tuesday to mark Workers' Day. Trading will resume on Wednesday.