* Altimo unit offers to buy all of Orascom Telecom
* But company’s stock barely moves, market stays weak
* Shows how much investors fear government intervention
* Algeria developments might still boost the stock
* Saudi rises but stays below big technical barrier
By Nadia Saleem
DUBAI, April 1 (Reuters) - A buyout offer for Orascom Telecom, Egypt’s second-largest listed company, failed to buoy a sinking Cairo stock market on Monday - an indication of how negative investors have become about medium-term prospects for the market.
A Cyprus-based subsidiary of Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman’s Altimo is making a $3.7 billion offer for all of Orascom Telecom at $0.70 (4.76 Egyptian pounds) per share, according to a statement on the exchange.
But shares in Orascom Telecom edged up just 0.2 percent to 4.38 pounds on Monday, staying well below the offer price. Egypt’s main stock index lost 0.8 percent to 5,057 points, extending year-to-date losses to 7.4 percent.
A few weeks ago, the buyout offer could have sparked major activity on the exchange. But investors now worry that the government will block such offers for economic and possibly political reasons.
The government last week said it would impose a 10 percent capital gains tax on the sale of National Societe Generale Bank shares during Qatar National Bank’s mandatory offer for them.
And the country’s largest stock Orascom Construction Industries (OCI) - like Orascom Technology, an affiliate of the Sawiris family - is embroiled in a tax dispute with the government. At the same time, authorities have been pressuring the firm not to delist from Cairo and have delayed a buyout offer that could lead to a delisting.
Many investors have concluded the administration of President Mohamed Mursi is prepared to intervene in the stock market at any time to raise money and clip the wings of the business community. So there is doubt over whether the Orascom Telecom buyout will be completed.
“People are worried the acquisition will drag on like OCI - and the upside is not worth it if there is a capital tax,” said an Egypt-based trader, who asked not to be identified because of the political sensitivity of his remarks.
One hope for Orascom Teleco, however, is that its Russian parent Vimpelcom may soon reach an agreement with the Algerian government on operational issues surrounding Djezzy (Orascom Telecom Algeria), including the issue of SIM cards, according to Egyptian news reports. If this happens, Orascom Telecom shares could benefit, analysts say.
“If they agree with the Algerian government, OT’s share price is worth much more than Altimo’s offer,” the trader added.
In Saudi Arabia, the index climbed 0.5 percent to 7,158 points, halting a two-session decline, but trading was slow as investors lacked positive catalysts. The market rose to a 10-month high last week, but failed to break strong technical resistance around 7,200 points, where it has peaked several times since the third quarter of 2012.
“The market is anticipating earnings and there is some position-building by speculators before the results,” said Mohammad Omran, an independent financial analyst based in Riyadh.
“Considering the unclear direction of the market, it shows there is a positive sentiment overall.” First-quarter earnings are expected to be announced later this month.
In the United Arab Emirates, Dubai’s index slumped to a two-month low, losing 0.2 percent, as investors awaited first-quarter earnings in the absence of other news. Dubai trading volume dropped to a two-week low.
Abu Dhabi’s benchmark slipped 0.6 percent, trimming 2013 gains to 14.5 percent.
In Qatar, the index fell 0.9 percent to its lowest finish since March 6, its third straight decline. Heavyweight Qatar Telecom dropped 3.6 percent and Qatar Navigation (Milaha) fell 5.8 percent, both trading post-dividend.
Kuwait climbed 0.2 percent, snapping a two-session decline. Trading in 17 companies’ shares was suspended after they failed to report earnings by Sunday’s deadline.
* The index fell 0.8 percent to 5,057 points.
* The index climbed 0.5 percent to 7,158 points.
* The index gained 0.2 percent to 6,736 points.
* The index retreated 0.2 percent to 1,826 points.
* The index fell 0.6 percent to 3,008 points.
* The index dropped 0.9 percent to 8,501 points.
The index slipped 0.4 percent to 5,969 points.
* The index climbed 0.5 percent to 1,092 points.