(Rewrites with CEO comments)
By Ehab Farouk and Eric Knecht
CAIRO, Oct 17 (Reuters) - 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