(Rewrites with CEO comments)
By Ehab Farouk and Eric Knecht
CAIRO Oct 17 Trading in shares of Egypt's
Beltone Financial was temporarily suspended on Monday amid
confusion over an independent valuation of the stock, the latest
twist in a months-long standoff between the regulator and
company over the stock's value.
Beltone's share price spiked after billionaire businessman
Naguib Sawiris bought a more than 90 percent stake in the firm
last November, rising by more than 550 percent at one point to a
market value of 4 billion Egyptian pounds ($450 million) before
the exchange began suspending trading almost daily.
The exchange has referred to rules allowing such suspensions
in cases where the head of the bourse considers trades to be
taking place at unjustified prices.
Beltone filed a lawsuit in June against the heads of the
Cairo stock exchange and the regulator over the suspensions,
saying they were an abuse of authority.
In August, Egypt's Financial Supervisory Authority asked
Beltone to appoint an independent third party to
assess the fair value of the stock.
The regulator on Sunday posted on the bourse a summary of a
valuation conducted by Fincorp, a financial consulting firm,
which put the fair value at 10.07 pounds.
On Monday, the regulator issued a corrected version of the
report with 9.3 pounds listed as the fair value estimate.
The confusion resulted in a suspension of trading on Monday
morning. The shares later resumed trading, but all deals
executed before the suspension were cancelled, the bourse said.
Beltone's shares closed at 10.71 pounds. Earlier this year,
they hit a high of over 20 pounds.
"They have been suspending our shares for almost five
months, everyday," CEO Bassem Azab told Reuters on Monday.
"You've lost the idea of a stock exchange ... a free market
whereby people exchange the value - if you don't agree this is
the value, you don't buy it," he said, adding the regulator
needed to explain its actions to foreign investors.
($1 = 8.8799 Egyptian pounds)
(Additional reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Adrian Croft
and Mark Potter)