* NBAD’s Q1 profit spurs sector-wide buying
* Etisalat shrugs off Q1 miss as traders focus on Morocco bid
* Abu Dhabi index in largest gain since December 2009
* ADCB, ENBD surge ahead of earnings
* Industries Qatar helps Doha make biggest gain since 2011
By Matt Smith
DUBAI, April 24 (Reuters) - Bank and telecommunications stocks lifted markets in the United Arab Emirates to multi-year highs on Wednesday as first-quarter earnings fuelled optimism over the country’s economy, while other Gulf bourses also advanced.
Three of Abu Dhabi’s four largest stocks rose by more than 3.0 percent, helping the emirate’s index climb 2.1 percent - its largest gain since December 2009 - to its highest close since November 2008.
Telecommunications firm Etisalat advanced 4.0 percent to 10.45 dirhams, even though the company’s first-quarter profit, announced after the close on Tuesday, missed analysts’ forecasts.
Investors focused instead on the company’s bid for Vivendi’s 53 percent stake in Morocco’s Maroc Telecom. Etisalat said it would submit a binding offer on Wednesday.
“If Etisalat is successful in acquiring Vivendi’s stake in Maroc Telecom it would act as a catalyst for the stock,” NBK Capital wrote in a research note, maintaining a buy rating on the stock and a price target of 13.40 dirhams.
National Bank of Abu Dhabi rose 5.4 percent after it posted profits that were far above analysts’ estimates on Tuesday.
Rival Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank climbed 3.6 percent, while Dubai-listed Emirates NBD soared 10.6 percent to its highest finish since November 2008. The two banks will report their quarterly earnings on Thursday.
“Q1 results so far have been strong, especially from the bank sector,” said Mohammed Ali Yasin, managing director of Abu Dhabi Financial Services. “Bank results show their liquidity has increased substantially and they will need to be more aggressive in lending - if banks are in good shape, the rest of the economy will be too going forward.”
Many of the UAE’s blue chip stocks are returning to price levels last seen in 2008, before Dubai’s debt crisis and a country-wide property crash sent stocks tumbling.
These problems weighed on the bourses’ two biggest sectors - banking and real estate - and left the markets lagging their regional and international counterparts. But confidence has returned to local equities as bank earnings increase and property prices show signs of recovery.
Also, investors have also reinvested annual dividend payouts in local stocks because there are few other attractive options, Yasin said, with bank deposit rates and bond yields low and commodities volatile.
This has boosted market trading volumes and helped convince investors that UAE markets will not repeat last year’s performance, when an early-year surge petered out.
Dubai’s index rose 1.6 percent to its highest finish since November 2009, taking its 2013 gains to 26.5 percent.
Logistics firm Aramex climbed 3.0 percent after it posted a 14-percent increase in first-quarter profit, broadly in line with analysts’ forecasts.
“The company continues to see robust business activity in its core markets supported by strong trade activity within the GCC region. In addition, the African operations contributed handsomely to the overall growth during the quarter,” said Global Investment House in a note.
In Doha, Industries Qatar rose 4.2 percent, up for a second day since its earnings beat forecasts.
This helped the wider Qatar index climb 1.4 percent, its largest gain since August 2011.
* The index climbed 1.6 percent to 2,053 points.
* The index rose 2.1 percent to 3,254 points.
* The index rose 0.05 percent to 7,128 points.
* The measure climbed 0.8 percent to 7,227 points.
* The measure fell 0.2 percent to 5,225 points.
* The benchmark gained 1.4 percent to 8,656 points.
* The index rose 0.6 percent to 6,180 points.
* The index was flat at 1,086 points.