MIDEAST STOCKS-Aldar lifts Abu Dhabi; most mkts dip on profit-taking
DUBAI Feb 17 (Reuters) - Shares in Abu Dhabi's Aldar Properties helped lift the emirate's benchmark to a 39-month high, with investors expecting strong dividend payouts, while profit-taking weighed on most other regional markets.
Aldar jumped 5.0 percent to a four-week high. The company's board recommended a cash dividend of 6 fils, which needs shareholder approval. The developer paid a cash dividend of 5 fils in 2012.
Marwan Shurrab, vice-president and chief trader at Gulfmena Investments, said some investors were speculating that shareholders might press at their upcoming meeting for an even higher dividend than 6 fils, ahead of the company's planned merger with Sorouh Real Estate, which is up 2.9 percent.
In addition, a strong outlook for 2013 corporate earnings in general is helping the stock market, he added.
Heavyweight First Gulf Bank rose 2.4 percent and telecommunications operator Etisalat gained 1.0 percent. The market index climbed 1.1 percent to its highest since November 2009.
Dubai's measure meanwhile, slipped 0.2 percent, extending declines from Wednesday's 38-month high.
"The market has been resilient in the profit-taking activity with new investors entering and building positions at these levels where the market has already gone up quite a bit this year," Shurrab said.
Shares in Air Arabia fell 2.7 percent. The carrier reported a 6 percent rise in fourth-quarter net profit but missed analysts' estimates.
Elsewhere, Qatar's benchmark ended 0.1 percent lower at 8,781 points, declining for a second session since Wednesday's 10-month high. The index is near major technical resistance at 8,844-8,910 points, where it formed three peaks between April 2011 and April 2012.
Qatar Telecom was the main drag, falling 1.2 percent. Industries Qatar shed 0.4 percent; the petrochemical firm is down for a third session since rallying to a 4-1/2 year high.
"Industries Qatar trades at a 2013F P/E of 11.2x on our forecast and 9.9x on the consensus earnings forecast," Digvijay Singh at VTB Capital said in a note. "While the valuations are undemanding, they factor in strong fertiliser prices in the short to medium term, while our own view is less upbeat."
VTB changed its recommendation on the stock from 'hold' to 'sell', citing a lack of any impending catalysts or further earnings upside.
In Saudi Arabia, the bourse snapped a six-session winning streak. The index slipped 0.2 percent to finish at 7,072 points.
"The index found some resistance close to 7,100," said Mohabeldeen Agena, head of technical analysis at Cairo's Beltone Financial. "The current key support is found near 6,900. We are expecting a flat movement between the current support and the resistance before the index moves towards 7,250 points."
Analysts believe that valuations in main sectors, of petrochemicals and banks, are still attractive at current levels, with selling pressure over-done during the fourth-quarter earnings.
Petrochemical sector's index declined 0.6 percent and banking shares lost 0.3 percent.
Elsewhere, Kuwait's bourse rose to a fresh nine-month high on earnings optimism.
Investors overlooked an estimate-trailing drop in profit from telecom operator Zain, which blamed foreign exchange losses for the decline.
Shares in Zain ended flat.
"People are accepting the results, which are not so bad if you neutralize the FX loss," said Fouad Darwish, head of brokerage at Global Investment House. "There is a lot of momentum being driven by expectations of financial results. Retail traders, buying small-caps, is another force driving the market."
National Mobile Telecommunications Co (Wataniya) rose 1.7 percent. It reported a 26.5 percent fall in fourth-quarter net profit as more customers failed to offset tougher competition at home and foreign exchange losses took their toll.
Kuwait's index gained 0.1 percent.
* The index rose 1.1 percent to 2,969 points.
* The index declined 0.2 percent to 1,890 points.
* The index retreated 0.1 percent to 8,781 points.
* The index declined 0.2 percent to 7,072 points.
* The index slipped 0.4 percent to 5,696 points.
* The index climbed 0.1 percent to 6,407 points.
The index eased 0.03 percent to 5,897 points.
* The index gained 0.3 percent to 1,095 points.