Mideast's biggest banks climb on plans for foreign ownership

Remigio Civitarese
Marzo 13, 2018

MidEast shares were mixed, with Qatar surging after Qatar National Bank said it would raise its ceiling for foreign ownership. Most other Gulf bourses were also firm.

Saudi Arabia's main index jumped 1.1% to 7,781 points, Dubai slipped 0.7% to 3,166 points, Abu Dhabi was flat at 4,534 points, Qatar rallied 5% to 8,663 points, Egypt soared 2.1% to 16,742 points, Kuwait eased 0.6% to 6,726 points, Bahrain dropped 1.1% to 1,353 points and Oman declined 0.6% to 4,875 points.

QNB, in which the government is by far the biggest shareholder, said it would recommend to shareholders increasing its non-Qatari ownership ceiling to 49 percent of capital from 25 percent. Foreign investors now own about 7 percent of QNB, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. But investors welcomed the news as a sign that authorities were willing to relax rules to bring more foreign money into the market.

Qatar National Bank is seeking to almost double its foreign ownership limit as the biggest lender in the Middle East and North Africa by assets diversifies.

Saudi Industrial Investment Group said annual profit increased more than ten-fold.

Exchange data released after the close on Sunday showed foreign investors were net buyers of Saudi stocks last week to the tune of $115 million, as they positioned for expected decisions by equity index compilers in the next few months to upgrade Riyadh to emerging market status.

QNB, Qatar's largest lender, is all set to allow higher up to 49% foreign ownership limit (FOL) in its capital, a move that gives more visibility for the bank in the global arena.

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