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Saudi Makes More Gains on Economic Reform, Other Markets Lag | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Ministers of Saudi Arabia discuss the National Transformation Plan (NTP)- Reuters

Saudi Arabia’s stock index scored its fourth session of gains on Thursday following the announcements of various economic reform plans, while most other bourses lost steam on profit taking.

Riyadh’s index nudged up 2 points to 6,607 points.

The Saudi government published a five-year National Transformation Plan (NTP) on Monday, part of a wider set of reforms launched in April as “Vision 2030”. The plan will develop government action and establish the necessary foundations to accommodate its ambitions and requirements. This will help fulfill the ambitions of the Vision.

“Investors are absorbing the impact on various sectors and how to position their funds to capture the best returns over the long term after the announcement of the economic transformation plan,” said a Riyadh-based fund manager.

One aspect of the plan, which sets targets for government agencies and includes spending on new initiatives across various sectors, includes building 1.5 million homes over the next seven or eight years, the housing minister said at a press conference in Jeddah late on Wednesday.

Majed al-Hogail said the kingdom would offer foreign and local property developers partnership deals in a vast housing construction program to reach that target.

Dar Al Arkan, one of the top developers in the kingdom, rose 0.8 percent its third session of strong gains. The stock had jumped its daily limit for two consecutive days, after the developer said late on Tuesday it was in talks with the government to provide housing under the kingdom’s economic reform plan. It did not give further details.

But Emaar Economic City, another company that said it was in talks with the Housing Ministry, slumped 6 percent on profit taking. Shares in the company are still up 9.2 percent from a week ago.

The Gulf’s largest dairy producer Almarai added 1.4 percent after announcing its board had approved a new five-year business plan for 2017-2021. Under the plan, Almarai is targeting the deployment of capital investment worth 14.5 billion riyals ($3.87 billion) during the period.

But the petrochemical sector lost steam, erasing earlier gains as Brent prices retreated from their 2016 high. The sub-sector index dropped 0.6 percent, with Saudi Kayan Petrochemical declining 2.3 percent.


Shares in Dubai’s Shuaa Capital fell 2.7 percent, as investors booked profit following its recent price gains. On Wednesday the Islamic investment firm said that Abu Dhabi Financial Group had reached an agreement to buy the 48.36 percent stake of the investment bank held by Dubai Banking Group. The transaction, for which no value was disclosed, is subject to regulatory approvals, it said.

But mid to large cap stocks helped support Dubai’s main index, which closed up 0.5 percent, notching its third session of gains. Air Arabia and Dubai Financial Market, the only listed bourse in the Gulf, gained 2.3 and 1.6 percent respectively.

In Abu Dhabi the bourse was pulled 0.6 percent lower as investors cashed out of blue-chip banks which have been advancing over the last week.

First Gulf Bank and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank lost 2.5 and 0.7 percent to close at 11.95 dirhams and 6.15 dirhams respectively. Shares in both lenders are up over 1.5 percent from the start of the week.

HSBC recently raised its price target for ADCB to 7.2 dirhams, but lowered its price target for FGB to 12.2 dirhams and maintained a “hold” rating on both stocks.

Similarly in Qatar, the index fell 0.8 percent, snapping a four day winning streak as investors exited shares which have been rising. Ezdan Holding and Qatar National Bank, which together make up more than one third of the total market value, each retreated 1.1 percent.

“When markets start to look toppy, profit taking is the normal course of action,” said a Dubai-based fund manager. Adding that investors are leaving enough cash at hand to reposition funds close to second quarter financial reports.

In Cairo, the main index fell 0.3 percent, but remains near 3 week highs. Pioneers Holding fell 0.5 percent. On Thursday the company said its shareholders approved increasing issued capital by 708 million Egyptian pounds through the distribution of bonus shares.