September 30, 2018 / 7:48 AM / 2 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Firm oil prices lift Saudi, Bank of Sharjah boosted by merger talk

DUBAI, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Firm oil prices lifted most Gulf stocks on Sunday, led by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, while Bank of Sharjah shares surged on news that the bank may get involved in three-way merger talks.

The Saudi index was up 0.5 percent in early trade, lifted by a 0.7 percent rise in Saudi Basic Industries and a 1 percent rise in Al Rajhi Bank.

A gain of more than 1 percent in Industries Qatar and Qatar National Bank lifted Qatari stocks by 0.8 percent in early trade.

Stocks in oil producing countries are showing strong momentum with oil prices at a four-year high, as U.S. sanctions on Tehran squeezed Iranian crude exports.

Kuwait and Russian stocks have also shown sharp gains in the last quarter. The Kuwait index, which was up 0.2 percent in early trade, is up more than 9 percent so far this quarter.

The Dubai index climbed 0.6 percent, helped by a 3.1 percent gain in contractor Arabtec which has been riding high since announcing a 3.2 billion dirham ($871 million) contract earlier this month, won by a consortium involving one of its units.

Abu Dhabi’s index was down 0.3 percent due to weakness in First Abu Dhabi Bank, but Bank of Sharjah was up 3.7 percent.

The bank shares rose after Reuters, citing sources aware of matter, reported the Sharjah government is considering a possible merger between Bank of Sharjah, Invest Bank and United Arab Bank that could create a lender with about 66.2 billion dirhams ($18.0 billion) of assets.

Reporting by Saeed Azhar; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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