x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Optimism builds in Egyptian property sector

Egyptian property may be down but it is not out as a series of good news and capital injections revives investor confidence in the sector.

Shares in Egyptian property companies may have been down but they are not out.

The sector has borne the brunt of a string of corruption probes, placing many property companies under fire in the aftermath of the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak, the president. At the heart of legal wrangles are conflicting laws governing the sale of state land.

But a series of positive catalysts have prompted investors to return to the market and prop up share prices in what have been seen as underperforming stocks for much of this year.

Optimism that the government will resolve land bank issues in the sector has buoyed investor interest, particularly as Egypt is working towards a law to protect investors in property companies that had dealings with the regime of Mr Mubarak from prosecution.

"[The government announcement] was the first trigger that moved the sector and enhanced investor sentiment," said Mostafa Abdel Aziz, the regional trading manager at Beltone Financial in Cairo.

"All these stocks were over-sold and underperformed the index, big time," Mr Abdel Aziz said, adding sentiment generally was stabilising as the political situation eased.

The Gulf, flexing its financial muscle, has also played a part in propping up the beleaguered sector, namely after Saudi Arabia has pledged US$4 billion to the country. A $20bn aid package pledged by the world's richest nations to Tunisia and Egypt is also forecast to offer those countries' markets some breathing space during their government transitions.

Although Talaat Moustafa has shed 45 per cent of its value since the beginning of the year, and Palm Hills Developments has slipped 65 per cent, both have capped losses in the past few weeks.

Yesterday, Orascom Construction Industries was one of the main beneficiaries of the revived investor appetite for property companies as it gained 1.6 per cent to 272.44 Egyptian pounds.

Analysts at Credit Suisse raised their target price for the contractor by 6 per cent, also citing the company's recent acquisition of a nitrogen plant in the US as "value accretive".