Blue Nile dam row drives Egypt stocks down

Ahram Online, Tuesday 4 Jun 2013

EGX30 falls 1.57 percent after contentious Monday debate on Ethiopian dam project – aired on live TV unbeknownst to participants – stokes investor fears of looming regional water crisis

Egypt stocks
File photo: Traders work at the Egyptian Stock Exchange in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's main EGX30 index fell by 1.57 percent on Tuesday to 5,222 points one day after a meeting convened by the presidency – inadvertently broadcast on live television – exacerbated investors' fears regarding Egypt's supply of Nile water.

Last week, Ethiopia began diverting the flow of the Blue Nile ahead of construction of its planned Renaissance Dam project – a move that sparked panic among Egyptians who fear the project's potential impact on Egypt's share of Nile water.

The EGX30 reached its lowest level in five weeks after a discussion between Egypt's President Morsi and political leaders – broadcast live unbeknownst to meeting participants – shook investor confidence in the government's ability to resolve the crisis.

"The scandalous live transmission of the debate reflected the incompetence of the government and the political parties in attendance," said Osama Mourad, former chairman and CEO of the Arab Finance Brokerage Company.

The live debate featured prominent liberal politician Ayman Nour suggesting that Egypt feign preparations for an airstrike on the dam to force Ethiopia to reconsider the move.

"The debate heightened investor worries of increased tension between Egypt and Ethiopia" Mourad said.

Egyptian investors net sold some LE32 million worth of stocks in Tuesday's trade session, during which total turnover reached LE267.4 million.

Leading investment bank EFG-Hermes shed 3.07 percent for the day, while Commercial International Bank – the country's largest private-sector bank – fell by 3.91 percent.

In the real estate sector, Palm Hills and SODIC fell by 3.72 and 1.95 percent respectively, while TMG Holding rose by 2.37 percent.

Blue-chip share Orascom Construction Industries (OCI), however, rose 1.8 percent following news that its Dutch-listed parent company would soon submit a new tender offer to the Egyptian Financial Supervisory Authority to buy the 30 percent of ordinary OCI shares that it does not already own.

The Dutch-listed company has offered shareholders the option of converting OCI shares to OCI NV stock or accept a cash payout at LE 255 ($36.5) per share.

A previous offer by OCI NV, made in January, was held up by a tax dispute between OCI and the government, which was settled in April after the company paid LE7.1 billion to Egyptian tax authorities.

OCI will hold a shareholders' meeting on 19 June to discuss the acquisition, which could lead to the company's delisting from the Egyptian Stock Exchange. 

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