November 26, 2017 / 7:23 PM / 3 months ago

Foreigners still net sellers of Saudi stocks in wake of corruption crackdown

DUBAI, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Foreign investors were net sellers of Saudi Arabian equities for a third straight week after authorities launched a major crackdown on corruption, but by a smaller margin than in the previous week, exchange data showed on Sunday.

The crackdown, which has involved the arrest of dozens of senior officials and businessmen and the freezing of over 2,000 Saudi bank accounts, has alarmed investors, who fear it could damage the economy and lead to forced sales of assets.

Foreign investors sold 835 million riyals ($223 million) of Saudi stocks and bought 598 million riyals in the week through Nov. 23, resulting in net selling of 237 million riyals.

That compares with net selling of 309 million riyals in the week to Nov. 16 and 1.08 billion riyals in the week to Nov. 9, immediately after the purge was announced.

The latest data also showed selling by Saudi individual investors easing. They sold 10.5 billion riyals in the latest week and bought 9.5 billion riyals. In the previous week, they were net sellers by a margin of 2.4 billion riyals.

Some individuals have been pulling money out of the market for fear it could be seized in the crackdown, according to local fund managers. But in the latest week, high net worth individuals turned net buyers by a small margin.

Saudi institutions, mostly mutual funds and corporations, have been heavy net buyers since the crackdown was launched; regional asset managers think much of this buying was by state-linked funds deliberately supporting the market to avert a panic.

The data showed institutions were net buyers to the tune of only 1.34 billion riyals in the latest week, compared with 2.87 billion riyals in the previous week. (Reporting by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Alison Williams)

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