April 20, 2017 / 5:55 AM / 9 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Oil's steep loss may hurt Gulf, earnings boost Abu Dhabi bank giant

DUBAI, April 20 (Reuters) - A steep overnight decline in oil prices may hurt oil-sensitive shares in the Gulf on Thursday but positive earnings from the largest bank in the United Arab Emirates may boost Abu Dhabi’s index.

Brent crude traded as low $52.58 a barrel on Wednesday after a surprising build in U.S. gasoline inventories, though the price has since partially rebounded to $53.12. First Abu Dhabi Bank, formed on April 1 by the merger of National Bank of Abu Dhabi and First Gulf Bank, posted a 12.4 percent rise in combined “pro-forma” first quarter net profit to 2.93 billion dirhams ($797.8 million).

That was aided by a 145.5 percent jump in “other non-interest” income while loan impairment charges dipped 3.9 percent. The merger is expected to produce cost savings of 500 million dirhams, the bank said.

Abu Dhabi National Energy Co may also attract interest after its chief operating officer told Reuters on Wednesday it might sell some oil and gas interests in North America to raise capital for its core business.

Earlier this month TAQA said the state-owned utility company had raised its stake in the company to 74 percent from 52.38 percent after granting TAQA land valued at 18.7 billion dirhams that could potentially offset accumulated losses. Shares in TAQA have risen almost 8 percent since the start of the month.

In Saudi Arabia, shares in cement companies may remain under pressure as yet another producer posted a double-digit decline in first-quarter earnings. Qassim Cement reported a net profit of 80.3 million riyals ($21.4 million), down 40 percent from the prior-year period. (Reporting by Celine Aswad; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

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