Cairo has been one of the world’s best-performing markets so far this year, even though a weak currency and even weaker central government have raised questions about Egypt’s stability.
Internet access has been restored in Egypt and now traders think there’s a chance the stock market will open again on Sunday.
The buzz around Orascom possibly getting bought out by Russian mobile network VimpelCom has not — as yet — translated into much of a merger premium for the Egyptian ETF.
Orascom Telecom (ORSTF, quote) shares are up a tepid 6% over the last two weeks despite increasing speculation that VIP (quote) is willing to spend up to $7 billion to buy it and its Italian affiliate.
Another Orascom company, Orascom Construction (ORSDF, quote) is down 2% year to date.
Since these two stocks — each controlled by magnate Nassef Sawaris — dominate the Cairo market, it is no wonder that upside in Egypt has been tough to find. The MSCI Egypt index is up 2.64% year to date, but all of that positive return came early in the year.
Since the Egyptian ETF EGPT (quote) opened for investment in mid-February, the broad Egypt market is down 9.3%.
EGPT itself, which has close to 17% of its assets in the two Orascom stocks, is down 10.7% since launch.
Between these two stocks, EGPT has about 13% of its portfolio in some truly spectacular performers. And the remaining 70% of this little-known ETF is allocated to 24 stocks that do not trade in the United States on anything like a regular basis (if at all): brokerage companies like EFG Hermes, the local fixed-line communications giant Telecom Egypt and other names familiar to Egypt’s burgeoning middle-class consumers.
If you believe that Egypt can maintain its solid economic growth — just under 5% a year, better than Brazil or Russia — then EGPT offers exposure that U.S. investors simply cannot get anywhere else.
This may be why, in the final analysis, VIP is so eager to get its piece of Northern Africa now.