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Abu Dhabi stocks up on talk of letting foreigners buy shares

Abu Dhabi stocks rose the most in a month on bets the government may permit foreigners to buy shares of Emirates Telecommunications Corp. and amid optimism Europe’s policymakers will take steps to ease the debt crisis. Etisalat, as the phone company is known, advanced the most since June. First Gulf Bank PJSC, Abu Dhabi’s third-biggest bank, increased 1.3 percent. The ADX General Index gained 0.6 percent, the most since June 21, to 2,485.51 at the close in the emirate. Dubai’s DFM General Index slipped less than 0.1 percent, while the Bloomberg GCC 200 Index of stocks in the region gained 0.2 percent.

State-controlled Etisalat will “soon” allow foreigners to own its shares, Al Khaleej reported, citing Group Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar. Etisalat is 60 percent owned by state-controlled Emirates Investment Co., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. European and U.S. equities rallied July 27 on bets the European Central Bank would begin a new round of joint-bond purchases to ease borrowing costs in Spain and Italy, while Germany and France pledged to do everything to protect the euro.

“A report that Etisalat will soon allow foreigners to own its shares supported the market Sunday in addition to the good results announced by the Abu Dhabi banks last week,” said Samer Darwiche, a Dubai-based analyst at Gulfmena Investments Ltd.

First Gulf Bank, which last week reported a better-than- expected 14 percent jump in quarterly profit to 1.02 billion dirhams ($278 million), advanced to 8.72 dirhams, the highest since May 29. U.A.E. banks are recovering after the global financial crisis slowed lending, hurt investment banking revenue and led to an increase in bad loans.

The ECB will hold talks in the coming days, and the Federal Reserve will announce Aug. 1 whether it intends to take extra measures to bolster the U.S. economy. All of the six Gulf Cooperation Council’s members except Kuwait peg their currencies to the dollar.

“Assuring a safe euro means lower hedging costs for foreign traders in our markets,” said Talal Touqan, the Abu Dhabi-based head of research at Al Ramz Securities.

About 21 million shares traded in Abu Dhabi Sunday, compared with a 12-month daily average of about 59 million. The Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast and business activity slows, has started.

Crude for September delivery rose 0.8 percent to $90.13 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on July 27. Gulf Arab oil exporters, including the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, supply about a fifth of the world’s oil.

Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index gained less than 0.1 percent after climbing 1.5 percent Saturday.

Qatar’s QE Index gained 0.7 percent, Oman’s MSM30 Index fell 0.2 percent while Kuwait’s gauge was little changed and Bahrain’s measure decreased 0.4 percent.

Etisalat rose 1.4 percent, the most since June 21, to 9.35 dirhams. The company said last month it’s up to the federal government to decide on foreign investments after Emarat Alyoum reported a law that governs Etisalat may be amended to allow foreign and institutional investors to hold shares. Etisalat’s second-quarter profit rose 17 percent to 1.87 billion dirhams, beating analysts’ estimates. The shares have increased 2.4 percent this year compared with a 3.5 percent gain for the benchmark ADX General Index.

In North Africa, Egypt’s EGX30 Index gained 0.1 percent. Israel’s market was closed for a holiday.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 30, 2012, on page 5.

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