February 21, 2019 / 2:18 PM / a year ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Qatar rises as blue-chips climb, top lender weighs in Egypt

    * Qatar's MPHC hits four-month high
    * UAE's International Holding jumps on acquisition deal
    * Nine of 10 Saudi banks slide
    * Saudi's Amiantit plunges on restructure
    * Telecom Egypt drops on profit forecast miss

    By Ateeq Shariff
    Feb 21 (Reuters) - Qatar's stock market rose sharply on Thursday as its
blue-chip shares gained after a spate of selling, while Egypt's index was driven
lower partly by its top lender. 
    The Qatari index rose 1.1 percent, with 15 out of 20 stocks
advancing. Heavyweights Qatar National Bank and Industries Qatar
 gained 2 percent and 1.9 percent respectively.
    Qatar was the best performing Gulf market in 2018 after a limit on foreign
ownership of stocks was raised. It continued last year's performance into
January but began a downward trend in February.
    The index is still 5.5 percent lower this month, but the latest rise
suggests it has become attractive again to investors on cheaper evaluations. 
    Its listed companies are due to split their shares from one to 10 to satisfy
a regulatory requirement, which will make the stocks even more affordable to
buy, especially for smaller investors. 
    Mesaieed Petrochemical surged 7.1 percent to reach its highest
since October 2018. The company had reported a 27 percent rise in annual profit
and a hike in its dividend to 0.8 riyals ($0.2198) per share from 0.7 riyals. 
    Egypt's blue-chip index fell 0.4 percent as profit-hunting pulled
Commercial International Bank down 1.4 percent. 
    The index has gained 16.3 percent so far this year, led by COMI, which has
risen nearly 25 percent. 
    A heavyweight stock, Egypt's biggest lender has been a pull-and-push factor
for the index, which fell in three sessions of February, all led by the bank
which has had four days of losses this month. 
    Telecom Egypt dropped 4.5 percent after its full-year profit fell
below expectations. It reported a net profit attributable to shareholders of
3.48 billion Egyptian pounds ($198.97 million), against forecasts for 3.66
billion pounds.
    The Abu Dhabi index increased 0.7 percent with the country's largest
lender First Abu Dhabi Bank rising 1.1 percent.
    International Holding Co jumped 5.1 percent after it signed a deal
to acquire PAL Cooling Holding. IHC earlier said it will issue 1.31 billion
ordinary shares in return at 1.41 dirham per share. 
    Saudi Arabia's index dropped 0.2 percent, with National Commercial
Bank sliding 1.1 percent.
    Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co slid 9.8 percent after its board
recommended a decrease in capital to 640.6 million riyals ($170.82 million) from
1.16 billion riyals as part of its plan to restructure some financially troubled
group companies.
    The company said in a subsequent announcement that it had closed Ameron
Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia Concrete Products Company.
    Dubai's index traded roughly flat, but real estate firms continued
their gains with Emaar Properties rising 1.3 percent. 
 SAUDI ARABIA  The index         fell 0.2 pct to 8,547 points
 DUBAI         The index          was up 0.1 pct at 2,634 points
 ABU DHABI     The index        rose 0.7 pct to 5,098 points
 Qatar         The index        increased 1.1 pct to 10,192
 EGYPT         The index          fell 0.4 pct to 15,147 points
 KUWAIT        The index        gained 0.4 pct to 5,502 points
 BAHRAIN       The index        was flat at 1,405 points
 OMAN          The index        was also flat at 4,056 points
($1 = 3.6728 UAE dirham)

($1 = 17.4900 Egyptian pounds)

($1 = 3.6405 Qatar riyals)

($1 = 3.7502 riyals)

 (Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; Editing by Jan Harvey)
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