Tunisian Stocks Drop to 1-Year Low on Second Day of Trading

Tunisian stocks declined for a second day after a two-week break as foreign investors sought to exit the country following unrest that led to the ouster of the country’s president.

Banque de Tunisie and Banque Internationale Arabe de Tunisie, the two biggest lenders by market value, fell 3.2 percent. The Tunindex lost 2.5 percent to 4,321.23, the lowest since January 2010, at the 2:10 p.m. close in the capital Tunis. The measure dropped 5.1 percent in the past two days and 17 percent since Dec. 17, when Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor set himself on fire, sparking the revolt against then President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s 23-year rule.

The central bank appointed Mohamed Habib Ben Saad to manage Banque de Tunisie last week, replacing Alia Abdallah, the wife of a former minister close to Ben Ali. The transitional government that took over ordered a freeze on the former President’s assets and on those of his relatives.

“There are quite a lot of foreign investors that have money in African funds that are trying to exit their positions,” Oliver Bell, London-based senior investment manager at Pictet Asset Management Ltd., said in a telephone interview Feb. 1. “There are concerns over companies that had significant relationships with the former regime.”

Banque de Tunisie dropped to 9.4 dinars, the lowest since December 2009, and Banque International slumped to 64.23 dinars, the lowest in 13 months. Moody’s Investors Service lowered their local- and foreign-currency deposit ratings to Baa3 on Jan. 21, citing concern that the unrest might affect the economy and credit conditions.

Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14 after the army refused to confront protesters. Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, who also served under Ben Ali, leads a transitional government that plans to hold the first free elections since Tunisia’s independence from France in 1956 within six months.

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