October 11, 2017 / 8:15 AM / a year ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Insurers drag down Saudi, UAE and Qatar firm

DUBAI, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Insurance stocks dragged down Saudi Arabia’s market early on Wednesday while bourses in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar were firm.

The main Saudi index fell 1.2 percent in the first hour as shares in 32 of Saudi Arabia’s 33 listed insurance firms sank, with AICC dropping 4.2 percent. The only gainer in the sector was Bupa Arabia, up 1.4 percent.

Most insurers had slid on Tuesday after regulators ordered nine insurance brokers to stop business, citing regulatory violations. The central bank has taken a tough stance on compliance in the sector during recent months, suspending business at several firms, and investors are bracing for a possible shakeout in sector.

Bank Aljazira, which had plunged its 10 percent daily limit on Tuesday after announcing it would resubmit a request to the regulator for approval of a 3 billion riyal ($800 million) rights issue, fell a further 4.6 percent in active trade.

Petrochemical blue chip Saudi Basic Industries was also a casualty, falling 1.8 percent. But another petrochemical firm, PetroRabigh, rebounded 1.3 percent after plunging 7.0 percent on Tuesday.

Dubai’s index rose 0.6 percent on the back of a 0.8 percent rise by Emaar Properties, while a 1.3 percent rise by Dana Gas helped the Abu Dhabi index climb 0.6 percent.

Qatar edged up 0.2 percent as Qatar First Bank , the most heavily traded stock, rose 0.3 percent. Qatar National Bank, due to announce third-quarter earnings after the close, moved sideways.

Kuwaiti telecommunications firm Zain stabilised after dropping sharply in the past two days because of concern about the possible impact on its Iraq business of tensions over the independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan. (Reporting by Andrew Torchia; editing by Peter Graff)

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