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Solidere to be first Lebanese listing on Kuwaiti Stock Exchange (Daily Star)

Real estate giant hopes to attract further investment
Company recorded a drop in profits this year due to deays in projects


The giant real estate company Solidere will become the first Lebanese firm to be listed in the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange in an attempt to further attract investments into Beirut Central District (BCD).

No price range was announced for the listing.

With capital of more than $1.6 billion, Solidere is one of the largest real estate firms in the Middle East.

The chairman of Solidere Nasser Chamaa and the president of the Kuwaiti Finance Center Darar Youssif al-Ghanam made this announcement at news conference at Le Bristol Hotel in Beirut on Thursday.

Solidere shares will be traded in the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange (KSE) at the end of this month, officials said.

With a market capitalization of $74 billion, the KSE is the second largest stock market in the Arab world after Saudi Arabia.

It has 127 listed companies, 12 of which are non-Kuwaiti firms.

The KSE shares fell by 6,500 points during Wednesday's trading following the news of clashes between the security forces and hardliners in Kuwait.

However, the Beirut Stock Exchange (BSE) has a market capitalization of $2.5 billion and 13 listed banks and companies.

"The BCD has become one of the most sound investments in the Middle East. Buying Solidere A and B shares as well as the Global Depository Receipt (GDRs) in London will help in the revival of this commercial area," Chamaa said at the news conference.

Ghanam underlined the importance of investing in Solidere shares, adding that the current prices of the shares are undervalued.

"The prices of Solidere shares should be much higher than the present one," Ghanam said.

Solidere listed its stocks in BSE in September 1996, with an opening price of $113.5 for A shares and $116 for B.

But the company split the stocks 10 to one in 1997.

Solidere A and B shares closed on Thursday trading at $9.07 and $9.25 respectively.

According to the BSE, Solidere represented 65.09 percent of the total volume of trading and 48.76 percent of the value of trading in the first six months of 2004.

The company recorded a net profit of $16.4 million in 2003 compared to $441.1 million in 2002.

Chamaa explained earlier that the drop in profits does not reflect the true performance of the company.

He added that the $16.4 million profit was mostly caused by the lower level of recognized sales due to buyers-developers' delays in fulfilling technical and financial conditions for their projects.

Gross revenues of $87.2 million were earned in 2004 from land and real estate sales, while the remaining portfolio of developed properties reached $15.4 million in gross rental revenues.

Kuwaiti investors have bought a lot of property in the BCD over the past few years.

Arab businessmen and companies have shifted part of their investments into their own countries and Lebanon in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

"Solidere suddenly became very appealing to Gulf investors who were concerned by tight security measures in the West," one real estate brokers said.

The government and municipality of Beirut gave Solidere the green light to build the $100 million Souks of Beirut project.

The project is expected to be a big boost to Solidere, which is already reaping good revenues from property sales and rents.

Financial analysts believe that Solidere will experience more investment opportunities once a comprehensive peace in the Middle East is achieved.

Beirut 07-02-2005
Osama Habib
The Daily Star



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