DUBAI May 2 Egypt's bourse rallied on Thursday
after its largest listed firm, Orascom Construction Industries
(OCI), struck a $1 billion deal with authorities to
settle a protracted tax dispute, while most Gulf markets gained.
Cairo's bourse rose 1.5 percent to a near three-week high,
trimming year-to-date losses to 3.4 percent in the process.
OCI shares climbed 3.7 percent, its highest close since
March 12. The settlement with the Egyptian Tax Authority should
pave the way for OCI to go ahead with a plan for its
Dutch-listed parent company to publicly tender for OCI shares
listed on the Egyptian stock exchange, OCI said.
If the tender offer goes ahead, it will be seen as a sign
that Egyptian authorities are willing to put aside political
considerations when making regulatory decision.
"OCI's news removes the overhang on the market and could
signal the government may take the same approach with other
troubled businessmen caught up in court cases," said Reda Gomaa,
portfolio manager at Dubai lender Mashreq.
An Egyptian criminal court sentenced steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz
to 37 years in prison in March for profiteering and squandering
public funds and fined him 6 billion Egyptian pounds ($890
Meanwhile, EFG Hermes said on Wednesday it had
been forced to cancel its planned tie-up with Qatar's QInvest
after the Egyptian regulators failed to approve the deal almost
a year after it was agreed by the firms.
The tie-up was considered politically sensitive because both
of EFG's co-chief executives, Hassan Heikal and Yasser El
Mallawany, are on trial, along with the two sons of ousted
President Hosni Mubarak, over allegations of illegal share
dealings in relation to a 2007 transaction.
EFG Hermes shares fell 1 percent
In the Arab Gulf, Dubai's bourse slipped 0.4
percent, off Wednesday's 41-month high. Some investors had
expected marginal profit-taking on the index, which is still up
31.4 percent this year.
"We had good Q1 results, supportive for the recent rally,
but it's time for a breather," said Rami Sidani, head of
investment at Schroders Middle East.
Selling pressure is likely to be met with renewed buying
though, with foreign investors waiting for buying opportunities.
"We're seeing an increase in foreign participation -
underlying economic numbers are all signalling very good growth
across the main sectors. We expect money to keep coming in
because of the high dividend yield," Sidani added.
Most other Gulf markets rose as strong regional fundamentals
outweighed concerns over weak global economic data.
Abu Dhabi's measure gained 0.2 percent, taking its
year-to-date advance to 24.6 percent.
In Qatar, expectations of a delay in the upcoming initial
public offering of Doha Global Investment has brought back money
from the sidelines that investors were holding for the new
The investment firm is backed by assets from the sovereign
wealth fund. It was set to list in May, but some say it may be
delayed to early-June. It is expected ultimately to hold about
$12 billion of assets, raising $3 billion from its IPO.
Doha's benchmark hit a 10-week high, up 0.9 percent.
Large-caps Industries Qatar and Qatar National Bank
gained 1.4 and 1.7 percent respectively.
Elsewhere, Kuwaiti small-caps helped buoy the index,
which rose 0.4 percent to its highest close since October 2009.
Oman's bourse added 0.3 percent.
Global cues had been negative during Gulf trading hours.
Asian shares had declined as weak data from the U.S. and China
spurred concerns, and Europe awaited the ECB's interest rate
decision later in the day.
* The measure rose 1.5 percent to 5,277 points.
* The index slipped 0.4 percent to 2,129 points.
* The index gained 0.2 percent to 3,280 points.
* The benchmark climbed 0.9 percent to 8,749 points.
* The measure advanced 0.4 percent to 7,594 points.
* The index gained 0.3 percent to 6,146 points.
* The measure slipped 0.1 percent to 1,103 points.