January 16, 2019 / 1:32 PM / 6 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Banks elevate Saudi, blue-chips lift Egypt

    * Riyad Bank continues to gain on merger talk
    * Tabuk Cement rises on cement export to Yemen
    * Emirates NBD increases after strong Q4 earnings
    * Egypt's Alahly rises on FY earnings, dividend
    * Dubai's DAMAC continues to slide after BofA downgrade 

    By Shakeel Ahmad
    Jan 16 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's stock market rose on
Wednesday, boosted by its bank shares, while Egypt's index was
lifted by its blue-chip stocks, mirroring a gain in emerging
    Saudi Arabia's index rose 0.7 percent with Banque
Saudi Fransi rising 5.2 percent.
    Riyad Bank continued to rise, adding 4.5 percent.
    The lender had picked Goldman Sachs to advise on its
merger talks with National Commercial Bank (NCB),
Reuters reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. NCB
shed 0.4 percent.
    The Saudi market, which will become part of the MSCI
emerging market benchmark this year, has started the year on a
positive note, rising 7.6 percent so far this year.
    Foreign selling, which accelerated in the second half of
2018, is also showing signs of easing.
    Saudi exchange data released on Sunday showed foreigners
were net buyers of 1.03 billion riyals ($274.60 million) of
stocks last week, up from the 134.3 million riyals of stocks
foreigners bought the week before.
    Most cement stocks also gained with Tabuk Cement
increasing 4.8 percent after saying that it had exported 6,950
tonnes of cement to Yemen under a memorandum of understanding
with International Tataloat Co. 
    The Egyptian blue-chip index added 0.5 percent,
with its biggest lender Commercial International Bank
rising 3.4 percent. The Financial Regulatory Authority said it
was considering the bank's request to increase its authorised
capital to 50 billion Egyptian pounds ($2.80 billion) from 20
billion pounds.
    Qatar National Bank Alahly rose 5 percent after
reporting an increase of more than 30 percent in its annual net
profit and proposing a higher dividend for the same period. 
    The bank also proposed a capital increase to 10.77 billion
Egyptian pounds from 9.79 billion pounds by granting one bonus
share for every 10 shares.
    Private equity firm Qalaa Holdings added 4.3
percent. The firm signed a memorandum of understanding to buy an
additional stake in Egyptian Refining Co, owned by Qatar
    In Dubai, the index gained 0.4 percent, after three
straight sessions of losses, partly lifted by gains in Emirates
NBD, its largest bank.  Emirates gained 1.1 percent
after reporting a 10 percent rise in its fourth-quarter net
profit as loan growth and improved margins offset lower income
from investment securities and higher expenses.
    GFH Financial Group, whose primary listing is on
the Bahrain stock exchange, added 2.4 percent after saying it
had acquired Westside Office Business Park in the UK. It said it
and its clients would invest up to 39.2 million pounds ($50.4
    However, Developer DAMAC Properties dropped 2.3
percent, having plunged nearly 10 percent in the last session
after BofA Merrill Lynch downgraded the stock to 'underperform'
from 'neutral'.
    The Abu Dhabi index was flat with First Abu Dhabi
Bank, United Arab Emirates' largest lender, slipping
0.4 percent in low volume. 
    Energy firm Dana Gas added 5 percent but trading
was suspended after an hour ahead of a board meeting called to
discuss its operations in Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Iraqi
Kurdistan. The firm did not announce the results of the meeting,
and trading was suspended until market close. 
    Qatar's index also traded flat, with Middle East's
biggest lender, Qatar National Bank, shedding 0.5
percent despite reporting a increase in full-year net profit and
total customer deposits. 
    Arqaam Capital forecast a slowdown in the lender's earnings
in 2019 on rising combined operating ratio, adding the bank is
not immune to headwinds in Turkey.
($1 = 17.8600 Egyptian pounds)

 SAUDI       The index         rose 0.7 pct to
 ARABIA      8,406 points
 DUBAI       The index          gained 0.4 pct to
             2,501 points
 EGYPT       The index          rose 0.5 pct to
             13,510 points
 QATAR       The index        was flat at 10,762
 ABU DHABI   The index        was flat at 4,983
 KUWAIT      The index        was down 0.1 pct to
             5,468 points
 BAHRAIN     The index        was flat at 1,340
 OMAN        The index        was down 0.5 pct at
             4,258 points
 (Reporting by Shakeel Ahmad in Bengaluru; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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