* Newspaper says Sisi to resign as defence minister on
* Heavyweight Industries Qatar tumbles 7.1 percent
* Gulf diplomatic tensions continue to weigh on market
* Dubai hits four-week closing low on profit-taking
* Kuwait's Zain, NBK bought as undervalued blue chips
By Nadia Saleem
DUBAI, March 11 Egyptian shares rose on Tuesday
after an unconfirmed media report suggested defence minister
Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi would soon launch his bid for the
presidency, while Qatar took a hit as heavyweight Industries
Qatar traded ex-dividend.
Egypt's Al Shorouk newspaper reported Sisi would officially
announce his resignation from his current post on March 17; it
cited an unidentified source close to the armed forces. It said
Sedki Sobhi, armed forces chief of staff, would replace Sisi.
"If this happens, it will open the way for Sisi's run for
the presidency," said Islam Batrawy, Cairo-based head of
regional equity sales at NBK Capital. Sisi is the favourite of
many Egyptian investors, who see him as the best guarantor of
political stability and economic aid from the Gulf.
"The market however lacks depth from institutional
investors, and that won't change until there is clarity on
elections and economic visibility," Batrawy added.
He said currency repatriation problems and fears of a
further devaluation of the Egyptian pound were still keeping
foreign investors away.
Cairo's benchmark index rose 1.7 percent to 8,109
points, just shy of a 66-month peak touched earlier in March.
In Doha, the benchmark index retreated 1.7 percent,
ending a three-session gaining streak.
Large-caps lost ground with Industries Qatar the
main drag; it tumbled 7.1 percent after passing the date on
which shareholders qualified for a 2013 cash dividend of 11
Overall sentiment was also weak after Qatar dismissed calls
by its Gulf neighbours to change its foreign policy.
The foreign policy of Qatar, which has backed Egypt's Muslim
Brotherhood, is "simply non-negotiable", the official Qatari
news agency quoted Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah as saying
in a speech in Paris.
Last week Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain
recalled their ambassadors from Qatar over the issue; Attiyah's
remarks may indicate a resolution to the dispute is not near.
Profit-taking picked up pace in the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai's measure lost 1.4 percent, trimming its 2014
gains to 21.4 percent and slumping to its lowest closing level
in four weeks.
Dubai Islamic Insurance & Reinsurance (Aman)
dropped 1.7 percent after credit rating agency Standard & Poor's
lowered its rating of the company to 'BB+' from 'BBB-' with a
negative outlook. It said a loss posted by Aman at the end of
last year had impaired its capital adequacy.
In Kuwait, blue chips helped lift the main index,
which gained 0.4 percent as local funds accumulated what they
saw as undervalued stocks.
Telecommunications operator Zain rose 4.8 percent,
recovering from a five-year low. The stock was hammered in
recent weeks after its fourth-quarter earnings missed estimates
because of foreign exchange losses, but it said its customer
base increased 8 percent. Last week, the firm finalised an $800
million, five-year loan facility from 11 banks.
"Local funds are building inventory in Zain, which has an
improving client base, scheduled loans and pays among the
highest dividends in Kuwait," said Fouad Darwish, head of
brokerage services at Global Investment House.
"The market has not been portraying the fundamental
improvement of companies, and prices for stocks like Zain and
NBK can be viewed as a bargain."
Shares in heavyweight National Bank of Kuwait
gained 1.1 percent.
Kuwait's weighting is set to increase on MSCI's frontier
market index at the end of May as the United Arab Emirates and
Qatar move up from it to the emerging market index. Darwish said
some investors were betting on Kuwaiti blue chips ahead of that
increase, which could bring in more foreign funds.
* The index rose 1.7 percent to 8,109 points.
* The index tumbled 1.7 percent to 11,509 points.
* The index fell 1.4 percent to 4,092 points.
* The index dropped 1.0 percent to 4,783 points.
* The index ticked up 0.1 percent to 9,355 points.
* The index gained 0.4 percent to 7,520 points.
* The index sipped 0.2 percent to 7,078 points.
* The index edged up 0.03 percent to 1,387 points.