MIDEAST STOCKS-Cement caps gains in Saudi, Dubai's Arabtec leaps
DUBAI, April 19 (Reuters) - Construction-related shares underperformed Riyadh's stock market in early trade on Wednesday because of poor first-quarter earnings, though troubled Dubai builder Arabtec jumped after shareholders approved a capital restructuring plan.
The Saudi index was almost flat after 30 minutes of trade. But Arabian Cement slumped 5.6 percent after it posted a net profit for the three months to March 31 of 100.1 million riyals ($26.7 million), down 55.4 percent from the prior-year period. The company attributed the fall to lower sales volumes and prices.
It said its adoption of IFRS accounting rules had made no significant changes to its results. Companies in Saudi Arabia are now obliged to report earnings based on IFRS, and the securities regulator said last year that firms could report interim earnings as long as 30 days after the end of each period, rather than 15 days as previously.
Banking shares were buoyant with Arab National Bank gaining 1.8 percent after reporting quarterly net profit of 768 million riyals, up 2.5 percent from the prior-year period. This came ahead of NCB Capital's estimate of 631 million riyals.
"The variance was mainly attributable to higher-than- estimated operating income," said a note by NCB Capital.
Bank Albilad rose 1.6 percent after announcing quarterly net income of 229 million riyals, up 31 percent and close to NCB Capital's estimate of 220 million riyals.
Most Saudi banks have now reported earnings that were mostly flat or lower, with the exception of the two largest lenders, Al Rajhi and National Commercial Bank. Most results have come in ahead of analysts' expectations.
The Dubai stock index extended on Tuesday's 0.9 percent gain to add 0.2 percent, as Arabtec jumped 8.3 percent in heavy trade on news that shareholders had approved its 1.5 billion dirham ($409 million) new share issue and its plan to use existing capital to wipe out accumulated losses.
Emaar Properties continued to be bid up, adding 1.0 percent after a gain of 3.3 percent on Tuesday. The stock has been strong since the comany's annual general meeting on Monday.
Blue chips helped carry Abu Dhabi's index 0.3 percent higher. First Abu Dhabi Bank, the largest lender in the emirate, was up 0.5 percent and Aldar Properties rose 1.4 percent.
Qatar's index dropped 0.5 percent in a broad-based slide, with nine of the 10 most heavily traded stocks falling and the tenth trading flat. (Reporting by Celine Aswad; Editing by Andrew Torchia)
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