March 19, 2018 / 1:54 PM / 4 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Qatar up about 1 pct, outperforms lacklustre Gulf markets

* Abu Dhabi and Qatar advance while rest of region dips

* Qatar lifted by proposed increase to foreign ownership ceiling

* Emaar Properties’ rebound supports weak Dubai

* Saudi Telecom and Banque Saudi Fransi drop

* Privatisation plan boosts Egypt’s Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals

By Saeed Azhar

DUBAI, March 19 (Reuters) - Qatar’s main stock index rose nearly 1 percent on Monday as a planned increase in foreign ownership limits boosted blue-chips and helped Doha to outperform the rest of a region weighed down by weak global stocks and oil prices.

The gain in Qatar’s index was powered by a 2.9 percent surge in heavyweight Industries Qatar and a 1.8 percent rise for Qatar National Bank. The two announced last week that they were raising ceilings for foreign ownership of their shares, which will boost their weightings in emerging market equity indexes.

Vodafone Qatar jumped by 9.4 percent to close at 8.63 riyals on buying from retail investors after recent declines.

Qatar Insurance rose 7.8 percent, recovering from heavy losses last week, when it was removed from some FTSE equity indexes.

Arqaam Capital upgraded the stock to a buy this week on what it called compelling valuations and an earnings rebound. Its price target is 43.6 riyals. The stock closed at 37 riyals.

A portfolio manager in Qatar said foreign investors had stepped up buying recently, encouraged by the rise in foreign ownership limits. Exchange data showed foreign investors were net buyers on Monday by a ratio of almost four to three.

The exchange announced that the Al Rayan Qatar exchange-traded fund would list on Wednesday, giving the market a second locally listed ETF as part of efforts to improve liquidity and attract more investment.

In the United Arab Emirates, Dubai dropped 0.3 percent as financial and construction stocks weighed on the index while Abu Dhabi gained 0.2 percent with support from consumer and telecoms stocks.

Emaar Properties closed 0.5 percent up after finsihing near a 20-month low on Sunday. The weakness in Emaar’s shares, which are down 10 percent iin the year to date, has been a major factor in the Dubai market’s lacklustre performance.

“Emaar is affected by renewed concerns about the health of the Dubai real estate market in the face of upcoming supply,” said Vrajesh Bhandari, portfolio manager at Al Mal Capital.

Saudi Arabia’s index was also down 0.2 percent, pressured by Saudi Telecom’s 2.4 percent decline and a 1.8 percent drop for Banque Saudi Fransi.

Telecoms company Zain Saudi bucked the trend, rising 2.6 percent after saying it had extended the maturity of a 2.25 billion riyal ($600 million) loan.

Egypt’s index gave up initial gains to close 0.6 percent lower, hurt by selling in Telecom Egypt, which dropped 3 percent.

Sidi Kerir Petrochemicals rose 2.8 percent after it was named among companies that will float more shares under a privatisation scheme.

Egypt announced on Sunday the names of 23 state companies that will sell stakes from this year under its plan to raise 80 billion Egyptian pounds ($4.6 billion) through minority share offerings on the Cairo bourse.

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index shed 0.2 percent to 7,711 points.

DUBAI

* The index lost 0.3 percent to 3,183 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index rose 0.2 percent to 4,543 points.

QATAR

* The index rose 1.0 percent to 8,890 points.

EGYPT

* The index lost 0.6 percent to 17,172 points.

KUWAIT

* The index fell 0.5 percent to 6,725 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index lost 0.3 percent to 1,348 points.

OMAN

* The index edged down 1.2 percent to 4,833 points. (Editing by Andrew Torchia and David Goodman)

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