JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, April 9 King Abdullah has
ordered a crackdown on manipulation of Saudi Arabia's booming
stock market, insisting action should be taken if necessary
against improper trading by members of the royal family, the
daily Alsharq newspaper reported on Monday.
In an unusual message to the chairman of the Capital Market
Authority (CMA), the king said trading rules should be applied
to everyone including royals, the newspaper reported. The
country's extended royal family has thousands of members.
"With the current return of investors to the stock market,
there has been a return of some violations that require
investigation and accountability, requiring violators' cases to
be looked at by the specialised legal authority," the newspaper
quoted the king as telling Abdulrahman al-Tuwaijri.
King Abdullah was also quoted as saying some of the
violations were being committed by members of the royal family,
who had continued their actions despite warnings, putting them
in a position to be investigated and even taken to court.
A spokesman for the CMA declined to comment.
Saudi Arabia is a monarchy with no elected parliament, and
the most senior positions are occupied by high-ranking royals,
some of whom also have extensive business interests.
The country's stock market has soared this year and trading
turnover has increased several-fold because of strong economic
growth on the back of high oil prices, hopes that authorities
will open the market to direct foreign investment, and an influx
of speculative money.
The benchmark index is up 19 percent since the end of last
year, though it pulled back 1.8 percent on Sunday and continued
sliding on Monday as word of the Alsharq report reached
investors, traders said.
The market, which is the largest bourse in the Arab world,
crashed in 2006, hurting tens of thousands of Saudis, many of
whom blamed the government for not protecting them from the
clout of big investors.
The CMA subsequently imposed hefty fines on some violators
of trading rules. The government has become more anxious to
preserve social stability since last year's Arab Spring
uprisings in the Middle East, although Saudi Arabia largely
escaped serious unrest.