March 13, 2019 / 1:40 PM / 7 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Rising oil price boosts Saudi, top telecom firm weighs on Abu Dhabi

    * Ten of 12 Saudi banks gain
    * Arriyadh Development climbs on capital increase
    * SABIC gains after announcing merger of two units
    * Dubai's Aramex surges in heaviest volume in over 9 years

    By Shakeel Ahmad
    March 13 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's stock market rose on
Wednesday as banks and petrochemical shares gained amid rising
oil prices, while Abu Dhabi was pulled down by Emirates
    Saudi Arabia's index was up 1 percent, with Al Rajhi
Bank gaining 0.9 percent.
    The Middle East's largest petrochemical maker Saudi Basic
Industries (SABIC) also rose 1 percent in active trade
after it said it will merge its units Saudi Petrochemical Co and
Arabian Petrochemical Co. 
    The deal, which will be completed during the second half of
the year, is part of the firm's plan to increase efficiency in
its global operations.
    The Saudi index is up 8.9 percent this year, outperforming
major Gulf markets and led by foreign investors who have been
net buyers of Saudi stocks every week this year. Foreign
investors have already poured 6.94 billion riyals ($1.9 billion)
into the Saudi market in the first two months of 2019.
    Foreign net buying in the Saudi market picked up in the
first week of March, coming in at 985 million riyals, the
highest since the week ending Jan. 17, Arqaam Capital said. 
    Developer Arriyadh Development added 1.5 percent
after the Capital Market Authority approved an increase in
capital to 1.78 billion riyals, from 1.33 billion riyals,
through a bonus share issue.
    The Abu Dhabi index was down 0.9 percent, with
Emirates Telecommunications Group shedding 4.1
    United Arab Bank plunged 9.6 percent in light trade
while Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank lost 2.4 percent.
    Banks in the UAE are expected to experience a rise in loan
losses over the next 12 to 18 months as a decline in real estate
prices and rising interest rates reduce borrowers' cashflows,
according to Moody's.
    In Dubai, the index was flat, but courier firm
Aramex surged 9.1 percent in its heaviest trading
volume since December 2009 with 42.4 million shares changing
hands, after the company said that Australia Post Transaction
Services had sold its stake. 
    Australia Post Transaction Services sold its 10 percent
stake in the firm for 602.6 million dirhams ($164 million).
Aramex caps foreign ownership of its shares at 49 percent and
the stake sale has freed up a 10 percent stake for foreigners to
potentially buy.
    Arqaam Capital said this was "an excellent time" to buy the
    Egypt's blue chip index edged down 0.1 percent with
El Sewedy Electric shedding 1.8 percent.
    Qatar's index was flat with Mesaieed Petrochemical
Holding losing 3.2 percent.
($1 = 3.7502 riyals)
($1 = 3.6728 UAE dirham)
 SAUDI       The index         rose 1 pct to 8,527 points
 ABU DHABI   The index        fell 0.9 pct to 4,820 points
 DUBAI       The index          was flat at 2,600 points
 QATAR       The index        was flat at 9,762 points
 EGYPT       The index          fell 0.1 pct to 15,126 points
 KUWAIT      The index        was flat at 5,600 points
 OMAN        The index        fell 0.2 pct to 4,074 points
 BAHRAIN     The index        rose 0.4 percent to 1,411 points

 (Reporting by Shakeel Ahmad in Bengaluru
Editing by Susan Fenton)
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