January 24, 2018 / 2:37 PM / 3 months ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Earnings boost Qatar in sluggish region

* Doha Bank surges on annual earnings, dividend

* Suggests bank coping with embargo by other Arab states

* Medicare Group climbs after hiking dividend

* Zain Saudi rises despite fourth-quarter loss

* Waha Capital soars in Abu Dhabi

By Andrew Torchia

DUBAI, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Corporate earnings and dividend news boosted Qatar’s stock market on Wednesday by suggesting the economy is coping with the impact of an embargo imposed by other Arab states. Other Gulf markets were sluggish.

Qatar’s stock index rose 1.1 percent in heavy trade, leaving it within 6 percent of its close just before the embargo was imposed last June. Late last year, the embargo pushed the index more than 20 percent lower.

Foreign investors from outside the Gulf were active players in the market on Wednesday, accounting for about 27 percent of buying and about the same proportion of selling, exchange data showed.

Doha Bank gained 4.2 percent, rising above its July peak to its highest level since March. The company reported 6 percent growth in annual net profit, an acceleration from 3 percent growth in the first nine months.

This suggested that with aid from the government, the bank has withstood withdrawals of deposits triggered by the embargo. Data released on Tuesday showed deposits by foreigners in Qatari banks rising in December for the first time since the embargo.

Medicare Group surged 4.5 percent after reporting a 23 percent rise in annual profit, accelerating from 2 percent growth in the first nine months, and raising its dividend to 4 riyals a share from 3 riyals. The stock has doubled since mid-November.

Qatar Insurance fell 2.0 percent, however, after reporting annual net profit dropped to 418 million riyals ($115 million) from 1 billion riyals a year earlier, in line with expectations. It kept its cash and stock dividends unchanged.

Saudi Arabia’s index edged down 0.2 percent with most petrochemical shares pulling back after gains in recent days.

But telecommunications firm Zain Saudi added 1.1 percent after announcing annual net profit of 12 million riyals ($3 million). It had posted nine-month profit of 57 million riyals, implying a fourth-quarter loss of 45 million riyals, below NCB Capital’s forecast of an 8 million riyal profit.

In Dubai, the index slipped 0.4 percent with decliners outnumbering advancing stocks by 22 to seven. Courier firm Aramex lost 2.3 percent.

Abu Dhabi fell 0.4 percent although Waha Capital jumped 8.5 percent in its heaviest trade since last January, to its highest level since March 2017.

A securities analyst at an Abu Dhabi bank said investors were expecting high dividends from the company and this could be a driver. But Wednesday’s move was too big to assume it was a dividend-led event, so a big transaction by a major investor may have been involved, he added.

SAUDI ARABIA

* Index fell 0.2 percent to 7,479 points.

DUBAI

* Index dropped 0.4 percent to 3,463 points.

ABU DHABI

* Index slipped 0.4 percent to 4,627 points.

QATAR

* Index rose 1.1 percent to 9,359 points.

EGYPT

* Index fell 0.2 percent to 15,171 points.

KUWAIT

* Index edged up 0.1 percent to 6,636 points.

BAHRAIN

* Index rose 0.3 percent to 1,337 points.

OMAN

* Index edged down 0.1 percent to 4,974 points. (Additional reporting by Stanley Carvalho in Abu Dhabi, editing by Larry King)

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