January 14, 2018 / 8:42 AM / in a month

MIDEAST STOCKS-Banks help Saudi rise early on, Qatar continues rally

DUBAI, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Banking shares helped Saudi Arabia’s stock market rise in early trade on Sunday, while Qatar headed for a seventh straight day of gains as investors bought ahead of annual dividend announcements.

The Saudi index was 1.0 percent higher after an hour with all 12 listed banks climbing after Saudi Arabia’s central bank lifted the maximum loan-to-value ratio for mortgages taken out by first-time homebuyers to 90 percent from 85 percent in an effort to stimulate mortgage lending.

National Commercial Bank, the biggest lender, added 1.8 percent and Al Jazira Bank surged 2.7 percent.

In addition, financially troubled Saudi Binladin Group said on Saturday that some shareholders in the construction giant might transfer part of their holdings to the state in a settlement with authorities, who detained several members of the founding family in an anti-graft drive.

Government ownership could be positive for banks owed billions of dollars by Saudi Binladin if it helps the group return to profitability. However, it could also involve a restructuring of the debt or more pressure on banks to make provisions or write off some of the debt.

Shares in Advanced Petrochemical dropped 3.2 percent after the company estimated its 2017 net profit fell to 631.1 million riyals ($168.3 million) from 731.9 million riyals.

Qatar’s index added 0.7 percent as a broad-based rally continued, with Qatar National Bank, the top lender, gaining 1.1 percent ahead of its fourth-quarter earnings announcement on Tuesday.

Dubai rose 0.5 percent as real estate blue chip Emaar Properties surged 2.0 percent. But Abu Dhabi edged down 0.1 percent despite a 2.1 percent gain by Waha Capital in active trade. (Reporting by Andrew Torchia, editing by Louise Heavens)

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