Lebanon's Solidere shares lowest in 15 years

The market capitalization of Solidere fell from $6bln in 2008 to close to $900mln this year: broker

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. Traders are seen busy working in BEMO Bank's dealing room before the end of Beirut's stock exchange trading session in Beirut, Lebanon in this April 3, 2006 file photo.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Traders are seen busy working in BEMO Bank's dealing room before the end of Beirut's stock exchange trading session in Beirut, Lebanon in this April 3, 2006 file photo.

REUTERS/Jamal Saidi

BEIRUT: Solidere shares slipped to a 15-year low this week, but brokers believe the stocks might improve if Lebanon has a good tourist season this summer. The giant real estate has seen one of the worst performances over the past three years due to the economic slowdown, a real estate crunch and the reluctance of investors to buy any property in the Beirut Central District.

Prices of Solidere A and B shares traded below $5.30 this week, the lowest in 15 years.

Prices picked up somewhat Wednesday but remained below the $6 threshold.

Solidere usually dominates the volume of trading on the dormant Beirut Stock Exchange, followed by the commercial banks.

“The prices reached their lowest levels in 15 years; the stocks improved a little bit Wednesday,” one broker told The Daily Star.

“Solidere shares are two-sided. First it’s a political stock and second it’s a real estate stock. The real estate sector in Lebanon is not flourishing and the political situation is also not good.”

The broker said investors didn’t seem too keen to make new investments in the company’s stocks.

The market capitalization of Solidere fell from $6 billion in 2008 to close to $900 million this year due to the sharp decline in the prices of stocks, the broker added.

“The value of Solidere stocks traded is also not that good. Solidere A, for example, has seen less than $100,000 of demand Wednesday,” they added.

However, the broker left room for optimism, pointing out that the company’s shares could improve if Lebanon witnesses a good tourism season this summer. Before the outbreak of the war in Syria, Gulf nationals used to flock to the downtown in the summer seasons.

Other brokers said that many Lebanese businessmen preferred to buy stocks in New York, Paris or London as these shares generated more revenues for investors.

In the first half of 2018, Solidere recorded a loss of $99 million due to low sales and rents.

Empty apartments, offices and stores in Beirut’s Downtown have become a familiar sight since the outbreak of the Syria crisis over eight years ago.

The company’s nonperforming loans in the first half of 2018 stood at $78 million.

Banks and companies usually put provisions in place for loans and credit lines in case of customer default. According to a Deloitte report, Solidere did not generate a single penny from land sales in the first half of 2018, compared to just $94,000 in 2017.

Revenues from rented properties in the first half of 2018 stood at $29.5 million, compared to $30.7 million in the same period of 2017.

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