Most Gulf stock markets maintained their positive momentum on Sunday, supported by good corporate news, but major petrochemical producer Industries Qatar tumbled and dragged down the Doha bourse after announcing a dividend cut.
Industries Qatar plunged its daily 10 percent limit as Qatar's index dropped 2.4 percent. The company said late on Thursday that its board had recommended a 2014 dividend of 7 riyals per share, down from 11 riyals paid for 2013 and below analysts' average forecast of 11.13 riyals.
Many investors treat Qatari stocks as dividend plays, and payouts offered by local companies are usually among the highest in the Gulf.
Industries Qatar's dividend was a potentially negative signal for petrochemical producers around the region; they face tougher times because of the plunge of crude oil prices, which has been dragging down petrochemical product prices and eroding the advantage which Gulf producers enjoy from cheap feedstock.
Petrochemical stocks underperformed on Sunday in Saudi Arabia, where the sector's index edged up 0.5 percent. The overall Saudi market index rose 1.9 percent, largely on the back of banking stocks.
National Commercial Bank rose 1.9 percent, Al Rajhi Bank added 4.1 percent and Bank Albilad surged 4.8 percent. Albilad's board last Thursday recommended a 0.5 riyal per share dividend for 2014, its first dividend in at least five years, along with issuing one bonus share per four shares held.
Shares in Yanbu Cement jumped 3.2 percent after it said its fourth-quarter profit had risen 20.6 percent, even though full-year profit declined 2.3 percent.
Dubai's bourse jumped 2.7 percent in a broad rally led by property-related stocks. Major developer Emaar Properties rose 5.8 percent and its smaller competitors Union Properties and Deyaar climbed 4.2 and 4.7 percent respectively.
The emirate's property stocks were beaten down in the panic selling that engulfed the bourse during December as oil slid, and are attracting fresh interest as some investors realise an international city such as Dubai could actually benefit from cheaper oil if that spurs global growth. Also, having closed their books for last year, some funds may now be returning to buy blue chips such as Emaar with the new year's allocations.
Positive momentum in the sector could boost another Dubai property developer, DAMAC, which will list on the emirate's main bourse on Monday. DAMAC, currently listed only in London, last traded at 5.9 times its 2013 earnings, a big discount to Emaar and Deyaar's ratios of 20.5 and 31.8 times respectively.
Bourse operator Dubai Financial Market surged 6.7 percent, continuing the leg up which started last week after economy minister Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansouri said the United Arab Emirates government would favour a merger of the main Abu Dhabi and Dubai bourses, although the decision was up to the exchanges themselves.
Abu Dhabi's benchmark was nearly flat, but developer Aldar Properties jumped 2.9 percent.
Oman's index jumped 2.4 percent and shares in Oman Cables Industry rose 4.4 percent after it reported a 4.9 percent increase in 2014 profit. The company earned 17.7 million rials ($46 million) last year, slightly surpassing the estimates of analysts, who had on average forecast a profit of 17.0 million rials.
Kuwait's bourse added 1.1 percent and Egypt's index weakened by 0.4 percent as most stocks pulled back.
* The index rose 2.7 percent to 3,775 points.
* The index inched up 0.03 percent to 4,480 points.
* The index rose 1.9 percent to 8,445 points.
* The index dropped 2.4 percent to 12,014 points.
* The index edged down 0.4 percent to 8,910 points.
* The index added 1.1 percent to 6,563 points.
* The index jumped 2.4 percent to 6,403 points.
* The index inched up 0.04 percent 1,426 points. (Editing by Andrew Torchia)