MSE Share Index back below 3,000 points

The local equity benchmark dropped back below the 3,000-point level as 3 of the 4 active equities traded lower. The MSE Share Index dropped 0.7% to 2,987.540 points mainly following the 3.9% drop in the share price of International Hotel Investments plc to the €0.75 level on low volumes of 2,837 shares.

Moreover, Bank of Valletta plc only partially recovered from an intra-day low of €2.15 as it still closed 0.7% lower at the €2.185 level. Increased volumes took place in BOV shares with a total of 72,200 shares changing hands across 15 trades.

FIMBank plc’s equity also closed in negative territory with its share price easing 0.3% lower to US$0.745 across three trades amounting to 15,000 shares. FIMBank is due to report its 2011 full-year results on Monday 12 March. Meanwhile, also in the financial sector, Middlesea Insurance plc advanced by 4.4% to €0.71 on a small trade of 500 shares. Earlier this week, Middlesea published its preliminary 2011 financial results revealing a 51.6% drop in pre-tax profits to €3.1 million as the improvement registered in the technical results was offset by lower investment income. After an absence of three years, the Directors recommended a final gross dividend of €0.01 per share to all shareholders as at close of trading on 18 April 2012.

Yesterday evening, Lombard Bank Malta plc issued an announcement clarifying its position with respect to its largest shareholder, Marfin Popular Bank Public Co. Limited (Marfin), following local press coverage on Marfin’s 2011 financial results which were also published yesterday. Marfin, a Cypriot-based bank, reported a €3.3 billion loss mainly after taking a 60% write-down of its Greek government bond holdings. In its announcement, Lombard Bank clarified that Marfin is not the majority shareholder in Lombard, although it is the single largest shareholder with an equity stake of 48.9%. Moreover, Lombard Bank confirmed that it holds no exposure whatsoever to any member of the Marfin Group nor to any other Greek or Cypriot entity and additionally it also has no exposure to any form of non-Maltese sovereign or corporate securities.

On the bond market, the Rizzo Farrugia MGS Index edged marginally higher to 988.856 points following increases in the bid prices of Malta Government Stocks by the Central Bank of Malta.