Gulf markets sluggish, EFG Hermes leads Egypt rebound
Reuters, , Monday 2 Mar 2015


Gulf stock markets diverged on Monday on mixed corporate news, while Egypt rebounded on bullish comments by government officials and executives and signs that the planned parliamentary election will go ahead soon despite legal issues.

Saudi Arabia's main index climbed 0.4 percent as property stocks dominated trading and Makkah Construction and Development was the main support, jumping 4.8 percent. The company, which which uses a different fiscal calendar from most listed firms, is expected to post quarterly earnings this month.

Retailer United Electronics surged 7.6 percent. The company has proposed no cash dividend for the fourth quarter but plans to issue bonus shares.

Market players expect its sales to jump in the first quarter after King Salman ordered all government bodies to pay their staff two months' salary as a bonus at the end of January, boosting consumer spending power. Many state-linked companies paid similar bonuses.

Al Rajhi Bank fell 0.4 percent as its shares no longer carried a dividend.

Overall, trading activity remained low compared with the last few weeks as the kingdom's market regulator said it was investigating possible insider trading in shares of telecommunications operator Mobily relating to its shock 2014 earnings restatement.

Until the scope of any legal action by the regulator becomes clear, many investors may stay cautious.

UAE, EGYPT

Dubai's index fell 1.0 percent to 3,789 points. But the benchmark found support after moving below 3,800 points, the lower bound of the narrow range in which it had traded for the last two weeks.

Builder Arabtec dropped 2.9 percent after Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm reported there were still disagreements between the company and the Cairo authorities about Arabtec's giant $40 billion residential construction project in Egypt. Arabtec has repeatedly said in recent months that it will soon conclude a final agreement on the project, but one has not been announced.

Emaar Properties, which said on Sunday that its board would discuss the dividend for 2014 this week, edged up 0.3 percent.

Abu Dhabi's bourse edged down 0.4 percent as heavyweight telecommunications firm Etisalat lost just as much, having jumped 5.2 percent in the previous two sessions on fourth-quarter results and dividends.

Qatar's index inched up 0.04 percent and Barwa Real Estate was the main support, jumping 2.0 percent after it appointed Salman Mohamad al-Muhannad, previously CEO of QNB Capital, its group chief executive. The company had only had an acting group CEO since May 2014.

Meanwhile, heavyweight Industries Qatar, the second-biggest petrochemicals firm in the Gulf, dropped 2.9 percent. The company's shares no longer carry the 7.00 riyals per share dividend, which equalled 4.5 percent of Sunday's closing share price.

Egypt's index climbed 1.9 percent, largely because of investment bank EFG Hermes, which surged 6.1 percent.

Chief executive Karim Awad said on Sunday that EFG Hermes was studying investments in renewable energy and hoped to start a leasing business in its home country within months. He also said the firm wanted to expand its operations, which include brokerage, asset management and advisory services, in the Gulf region.

Positive news also came from the government. Egypt's Investment Minister Ashraf Salman said on Monday that the country expected to attract $8 billion of foreign direct investment in the current fiscal year through June, up from $4 billion last year.

He also said authorities had started to devalue the pound gradually in order to protect central bank reserves while helping foreigners to repatriate profits.

Egypt's market had been weak in the previous few sessions amid uncertainty about the fate of the parliamentary election scheduled to start this month. On Sunday, a court ruled that part of the election law was unconstitutional.

However, the main election committee then said it was working on a new timetable for the vote and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi directed his government to amend the law within one month, suggesting the election will not be delayed long.

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