Tunisia Shares Rise Most in 3 Months on Optimism Banks Are Safe

Tunisian stocks jumped the most since November, led by Banque de Tunisie, as investor confidence in banks returns after the nation’s bourse regulator froze Belhassen Trabelsi’s assets.

Banque de Tunisie climbed 4.4 percent, the most since Nov. 2. Attijari Bank, the Tunisian unit of Attijariwafa Bank of Morocco, soared 6.1 percent. The Tunindex gained for a second day, rising 2.7 percent to 4,439.98 at the 2:10 p.m. close in the capital Tunis. The measure dropped 5.1 percent in the previous two days and 14 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.

“We are seeing a return of investor confidence,” said Lotfi Jebali, head of capital markets at Banque Internationale Arabe de Tunisie. “Investors are now in a better position to judge the situation in certain institutions like Banque de Tunisie. They understood that the participation of Belhassen Trabelsi in the bank is very small and that it will not affect the bank’s health.”

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 ousted Ben Ali. Tunisia’s bourse regulator blocked trading in shares representing a 13 percent stake in the bank held by Trabelsi, the brother of Ben Ali’s wife Leila, Ben Saad said Jan. 31. He expects the government to take possession of Trabelsi’s stake.

Banque de Tunisie rose 4.4 percent to 9.95 dinars while Attijari Bank gained 6.1 percent to 17.7 dinars.

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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