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French Version


Beirut Stock Exchange shows signs of revival

Solidere, Blom see rise in shares

Is the Beirut Stock Exchange (BSE) waking up from its long dormant sleep? The answer is apparently yes as the prices of BLOM and Solidere shares continued to rise phenomenally this week despite the political standoff in the country.

BLOM's stock index on the Beiruti exchange rose to 1,405,95 points on Friday.

On Friday, Solidere A and B shares closed at $19.50 and $19.38 respectively, or an increase of 1.35 and 1.25 percent.

Over $4.5 million of Solidere A and B shares exchanged hands on Friday.

This is the first time in years the prices of the giant real estate firm have reached this level, indicating that investors seem confident that the presidential election will be held on time despite the rabble-rousing remarks by some politicians.

Solidere recorded a net income of $132.2 million in 2006, an increase of 22 percent compared to 2005. The company reported considerable sales and rents in 2007 despite the Nahr al-Bared conflict.

But the 10-month old sit in by the opposition in Downtown Beirut have caused the business activity of this once thriving area to come to a halt. This naturally prompted some investors to freeze the projects planned for the district.

But nevertheless, Lebanese and Gulf investors are buying large quantities of Solidere shares, hoping that the downtown will draw large funds from oil-rich countries.

BLOM's global depositary receipts (GDR) have continued to show interest as the prices on Friday closed at $93.30, an increase of 3.72 percent.

More than $2.4 million of BLOM GDRs exchanged hands on Friday.

"Prices are moving on pure speculation," one banker said, adding that some investors believe that the situation in Lebanon will be back to normal.

He added that the profits of the banks in the 3rd quarter of this year were another reason for the surge in the prices.

BLOM Bank announced consolidated net profits of $147.6 million in the first nine months of 2007, up by 11.4 percent from $132.4 million in the first nine months of 2006.

Net interest income increased by 18.4 percent to $232 million, while net commission earnings rose by 36.6 percent to $46.5 million. Net profits on financial operations decreased by 68.1 percent to $ 6.2 million.

Total assets reached $15.9 billion at end-September 2007, up by 21.1 percent from $13.2 billion at end-September 2006.

Customer deposits increased by 20.3 percent to reach $13.3 billion at the end of September 2007, and the ratio of total loans to deposits was 19.1 percent at September's end. Also, the bank's shareholders' equity reached $1.3 billion at end-September 2007, up by eight percent from $1.2 billion a year earlier.

BLOM was subject to takeover-offer rumors in the past two weeks which helped its shares jump by nearly 10 percent in one day trading.

BLOM admitted that it received some offers to buy the majority of shares but stressed that the bank is not for sale.

"All in all, it has been a good week for the stock market driven by fundamentals and political speculations. This week's BSE activity concentrated on Solidere shares which witnessed a considerable amount of trading to the speculative mood of investors predicting a favorable outcome for the presidential election," BLOM said in its weekly market report.

Apart from Solidere and BLOM, the shares of Audi bank and Byblos showed some gains during Friday's trading.

Beirut 12-11-2007
Redaction
The Daily Star



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