Lombard Bank bucks the trend

Lombard Bank Malta plc ranked as this week’s top performing equity as the share price advanced by 4.9% to €2.69. Lombard’s equity had dropped to a low of €2.56 on 27 July and the decline in price generated increased buying interesting helping the equity recover by 5.1% since the recent low. This upturn mainly took place this morning when the share price advanced by 3.5% on increased activity totalling over 17,800 shares. Lombard is due to publish its half-year results on 23 July.

The share price of Bank of Valletta plc edged minimally higher to €2.69 giving a weekly increase of 3.9%. Meanwhile HSBC Bank Malta plc’s equity dropped to the €2.80 level at the start of this morning’s session but recovered to €2.89 on the last day to gain entitlement to the net interim dividend of €0.053 per share. HSBC’s share price closed the week 3.2% higher in response to the 19% increase in half-year profits announced last week. The gains in the share prices of the three commercial banks helped the MSE Share Index close in positive territory for the first time in 5 weeks despite the third largest cap International Hotel Investments plc closed 3.7% lower at €0.79. The 1.4% gain in the local equity market contrasts to the sell-off across global equity markets with the major European indices touching 14-month lows this morning after the Dow Jones index in the US yesterday recorded the biggest drop in a single session since late 2008 of 512.76 points or 4.3%.

Later on today, Middlesea Insurance plc is scheduled to publish its financial statements for the first half of 2011. Earlier this morning, Middlesea stated that it was informed by Mapfre Internacional S.A. that it will proceed to issue a Mandatory Bid to the shareholders of Middlesea following the acquisition of a controlling interest in the company, in terms of Chapter 11 of the Listing Rules. On 29 July 2011 Mapfre purchased 18.3 million Middlesea Insurance plc shares from Munich Re at a price of €0.63 per share via a special trade affected on the Malta Stock Exchange. Following this transaction, Mapfre Internacional S.A. became the majority shareholder in Middlesea with a shareholding of 50.98%. Those shareholders of Middlesea Insurance plc who were on the company’s share register as at close of business on Friday 29 July 2011 will receive a copy of the Offer Document together with an Acceptance Form. However, no details have yet emerged on the price established for the mandatory bid and the acceptance period during which Middlesea shareholders may accept the offer.

While international equity markets tumbled this week, the search for safety was reflected in a sharp upturn in bond prices in the US, the UK and also in Germany. This was also reflected locally with the Rizzo Farrugia MGS Index advancing by 0.6% this week to its highest level since 19 January 2011. However, although the indicative bid price of the Central Bank of Malta for the 5.25% MGS 2030 bond increased by 89 basis points to 103.44%, the market price only added 41 basis points to 102.97%.