Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat– “It changes from case to case”. With these words, a number of Saudi investors spoke about the pull of the stock market and its promises of quick riches. In the last few weeks, many dreams have been shattered as Saudi Arabia’s stock market crash left investors flummoxed. They stared at the television screens powerless to stop their life savings being withered away…
Deeply indebted to the banks and relatives that funded their ill-fated stock market adventure, many Saudis now live in fear of being apprehended by the collection agents and imprisoned for non-payments of debts. In 2005, banks in Saudi Arabia gave individuals 4 billion dollars in loans and credit.
Ahmad Salamah, head of the Red Crescent in the Saudi capital of Riyadh revealed that two individuals had been taken ill from the Ahli Bank and Rajihi Bank halls, suffering from breathing difficulties and high blood pressure, earlier this month. Rumors have been circulating that many investors collapsed and died after losing everything.
However, Sheikh Ibrahim al Hilwa, a custodian at the al Rajihi mosque, said it was difficult to prove that a sudden rise in the number of deaths had taken place because the autopsy only includes the medical verdict.
Noura al Saeed, a homemaker, said she lost 150 thousand Riyals in the stock market crash or most of the profit she had gained. With the continuing decline of the Tadawul All Stocks Index (TASI), she is at risk of losing the 300 thousand Riyals bank loan she had obtained. Noura had once hoped to buy a house for herself and her children after her divorce is finalized but is facing an uncertain future.
Mansour and his wife also suffered from the stock market fall. Both left their full-time jobs and invested heavily and bought shares for 2 million Saudi Riyals but have seen their value tumble to less than half.
With no sign the market is regaining some its strength, fear is growing that small private investors will resort to increasingly desperate measures to sell their remaining shares and cut their losses. Saad al Ahmadi joked that soon one will be able to buy share outside mosques and shopping malls.
Abid al Shahiri told Asharq al Awsat how he sold all his possessions, including his house, farm, restaurant and car, on a whim to finance his stock market adventure. Living in rented accommodation, Abid feared what the future might hold.
According to the Bloomberg News Agency, Saudi Arabia, probably generated $163 billion of oil revenue last year, the total was the highest in more than two decades.
The Kindom’s’s stocks trade at 38.6 times estimated earnings on average, according to a March 2 estimate from Shuaa Capital.
The Saudi market may lose between 24 percent and 40 percent from its peak during the next six months, Shuaa Capital analysts predicted in a report this month.