Egypt raises $2.2B in T-bill auction


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CAIRO – Egyptian financial officials promised to restart the stock market in a week and raised more than $2 billion through Treasury Bills on Monday, as the government pushed to maintain investor confidence in the country where fallout from the prolonged protests drove the currency to new six-year lows.

The developments spotlighted frenetic damage control efforts to an economy expected to take a bruising after the demonstrations demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak rattled a nation once seen as a pillar of stability in a restive region.

Tourists fled by the tens of thousands while businesses, banks and the bourse were closed for over a week as the protests sporadically drifted into violence.

The Central Bank's T-bill auction drew 13 billion Egyptian pounds ($2.2 billion) in offers, providing the government with a rare bit of good news in a week in which predictions of the protests' impact included a devaluation of the pound by as much as 25 percent and a cut in GDP growth from 5.3 percent to roughly 3.7 percent.

The 3-month T-bill came in with yields at an average of nearly 11 percent, according to the Central Bank's website.

The buyers of the bills were essentially domestic banks, with their international counterparts reluctant to enter the market given the uncertain political climate in the country, brokers and economists said.

"There were expectations in the market of yields much higher than the what came from the auction," said Khalil el-Bawab, the head of fixed income for the Cairo-based investment bank EFG Hermes. "But thanks to the liquidity in the Egyptian banking sector ... it managed to contain them."

The government could ill afford a poor turnout.

Central Bank officials want "to get the subscriptions in order, and they need to get people to subscribe," said John Sfakianakis, chief economist at the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Banque Saudi Fransi, referring to an apparent reduction in the issue size from 15 billion to 13 billion pounds.