MIDEAST STOCKS-Egypt gains marginally after $40 bln housing deal; Gulf mixed
* Huge housing deal lifts Egypt, Arabtec
* But execution is a concern
* Saudi developer Dar Al Arkan drops on no-dividend plan
By Nadia Saleem
DUBAI, March 10 (Reuters) - Egypt's shares rose slightly on Monday after a deal between the country's army and a Dubai builder for an affordable housing project worth 280 billion Egyptian pounds ($40.2 billion).
Cairo's benchmark index advanced 0.5 percent, recovering early-session losses and boosting 2014 gains to 17.6 percent.
Under a deal with Cairo's army-backed government, Dubai's Arabtec will build one million homes in a project that will cover 160 million square meters across 13 sites in Egypt for lower income individuals.
"People are a bit skeptical on the project," said Mohamed Radwan, director of international sales at Pharos Securities.
Some analysts said executing the colossal project could be a challenge.
"The scale of the project is... well beyond anything Arabtec has previously managed," brokerage Arqaam Capital said in a note.
Politically and economically, the project is one of the biggest initiatives since the ouster of President Mohamed Mursi last July.
"It adds more value to Arabtec itself although there's only a shallow performance in terms of magnitude." Shares in Arabtec rose 1.7 percent.
Other UAE shares were choppy as investors looked for fresh catalysts after an early-year surge. Dubai's measure climbed 0.2 percent, taking 2014 gains to 23.1 percent but has been trading sideways for three weeks.
Abu Dhabi's index fell 1.0 percent to its lowest since Feb. 9. The measure has also been range-bound, trading within a range of 200 points for four weeks.
"What you're seeing now is short-term uncertainty - Q4 earnings are out and Q1 is a few weeks away so it's a natural lull at this time," said Sanyalaksna Manibhandu, senior analyst at NBAD Securities. "We've had geopolitical concerns on Ukraine and Qatar but I think there is more upside to prices this year."
He cited catalysts such as an MSCI upgrade to the emerging market status that will take effect at the end of May, along with possible earnings momentum for the first quarter.
Some of the optimism over the upgrade has already been priced in, but there could be a further boost as index funds flow in upon implementation. Analysts estimate UAE and Qatar could both draw hundreds of millions of dollars in fresh investment thanks to the upgrade.
Qatar's measure gained 0.6 percent, up for a third session after last week's brief tumble because of a diplomatic row in which Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors, apparently because of Qatari support for Islamists.
Saudi developer Dar Al Arkan fell 4 percent after the firm's board proposed not to pay out 2013 dividends.
It said the decision would support future business growth, but it has yet to be approved by shareholders at the annual general meeting.
Saudi Arabia's measure was little changed at a 68-month high but turnover exceeded 10 billion riyals ($2.67 billion).
* The index climbed 0.5 percent to 7,976 points.
* The index gained 0.2 percent to 4,150 points.
* The index fell 1.0 percent to 4,829 points.
* The index gained 0.6 percent to 11,710 points.
* The index eased 0.07 percent to 9,344 points.
* The index slipped 0.3 percent to 7,492 points.
* The index ticked up 0.06 percent to 7,092 points.
* The index rose 1.2 percent to 1,387 points.
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