September 18, 2018 / 1:27 PM / a month ago

REFILE-Egypt sees surge in share offerings, testing market

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* Flurry of state and private share sales expected

* Public share sales first in more than a decade

* International volatility could deter investors

* Rapid pace of sales also seen as challenge

By Patrick Werr

CAIRO, Sept 18 (Reuters) - A surge of new share offerings over the next few months will test whether Egypt can withstand emerging market contagion after currency crises that rattled Turkey and Argentina last month.

The government hopes offerings in five state-controlled firms already trading on the stock exchange will help trim its budget deficit.

Five private companies planning initial public offerings (IPOs) by the end of the year are seeking to spur investment and private-sector growth, which has been moribund since Egypt’s 2011 uprising. A sixth private company plans a rights issue.

Economists say international participation would help appetite among local investors but international market volatility may be chasing them away.

“A realistic good scenario is that you stick to your timeline and you’re able to sell your entire pipeline of offerings at very compelling valuations,” said Wael Ziada, head of investment company Zilla Capital.

“A bad scenario is that if there is a deep, deep crisis in emerging markets, you may have to pull some of these offerings,” said Ziada, former head of research at EFG Hermes, Egypt’s biggest investment bank.

The Japanese brokerage Nomura this month listed Egypt as one of seven emerging market countries, including Turkey and Argentina, at risk of foreign exchange rate crises.

An economist at an Egyptian investment company said the government’s sudden push to sell shares after a hiatus of more than a decade was stretching the ability of banks managing the offerings and the appetites of investors.

“You have to do the research, test the market, do the marketing and do a road show,” said the economist, who declined to named. “The government should be staggering the offerings.”

Egypt is working on selling shares in at least 23 state-owned companies over the next few years. Analysts say much of the state sector has been suffering heavy losses and companies need major management overhauls and modernisation.

The government on Monday said it would offer five of these in the coming three months. It will start in October with a 4.5 percent stake in cigarette maker Eastern Company and a 20 percent stake in Alexandria Mineral Oils Company (AMOC).

TEN BILLION TARGET

The government is hoping the sales will help it reduce its budget deficit to 8.4 percent of GDP in the year to June 2019 from 9.8 percent last year.

Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said last week the government had budgeted 10 billion Egyptian pounds ($560 million) in revenue from share sales between now and June 30, when the current fiscal year ends.

“However, if we can get more we will be happy,” he said.

At the same time, private companies are hoping to benefit from an improved macroeconomic climate after IMF-backed reforms and an increase in tourism revenues and natural gas production.

Mohamed Elakhdar, Beltone Investment Banking’s managing director, estimated that the private offerings would reap more than 10 billion Egyptian pounds — a similar figure to expected revenue from state company sales, but over just three months.

Beltone is managing the IPOs of leasing company Sarwa Capital and textiles company Giza Spinning and Weaving and a rights issue for a third company

“Appetite, yes. There is, I believe,” said Hany Farahat, senior economist at Egyptian investment bank CI Capital.

“The key challenge is related to the process, how these transactions have to be structured and marketed to investors. This is what could make them a big success or failure.”

Another round of IPOs — both private and government — is expected in the first six months of 2019.

“We’re on a road show right now. The demand we’re seeing has been fairly healthy,” said Beltone’s Elakhdar told Reuters. “People are viewing Egypt differently than the rest of emerging markets.” ($1 = 17.8600 Egyptian pounds) (Editing by Aidan Lewis and Angus MacSwan)

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