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MIDEAST STOCKS-Saudi rises on economic reform plans; better global mood boosts region

Published 2014-09-28 07:37:49

* Saudi to permit off-market trading of shares

* Government policy body to consider taxing unused land

* Savola rises after Americana indicates ownership may change

* Abu Dhabi's Waha Capital up as board considers share buyback

* Zain Kuwait falls as Bahrain unit extends IPO period

By Andrew Torchia

DUBAI, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's stock market led the region higher on Wednesday because of optimism over the government's economic reform efforts, while other marketswere buoyed by a more positive global mood.

The main Saudi index gained 0.8 percent to 11,081 points, with major mining company Ma'aden rising 3.1 percent.

The Capital Market Authority said on Wednesday that it would permit off-market trading of shares in companies which had been suspended or delisted from the exchange.

There are only a few such companies at present, but investors took the reform as a positive step for the market because it would reduce risks for shareholders in firms that were suspended because of accumulated losses.

"By allowing shares to trade OTC, this will help all shareholders to exit the shares if they wish," said Turki Fadaak, head of research at al-Bilad Investment.

Also, Saudi media reported on Wednesday that the Supreme Economic Council, a top policy body chaired by King Abdullah, would study whether to tax undeveloped urban land as part of efforts to end a serious housing shortage.

The proposal has been circulating in the government for years, but the involvement of the Supreme Economic Council could indicate an official decision is drawing near.

Such a tax might benefit the stock market as a whole by stimulating construction activity and reducing the amount of money locked up in land speculation.

It could be costly for some wealthy individuals and companies with large land banks, however; property developer Dar Al Arkan was the most heavily traded stock on Wednesday, dropping 2.6 percent.

Saudi food maker Savola rose 1.5 percent after Kuwait Food Co (Americana) asked for its shares to be suspended because its main shareholder, a firm owned by the al-Kharafi family, was reviewing its stake.

It was the first time that either Americana or the Kharafis had publicly disclosed the possibility of a change in the company's ownership. Savola is a potential bidder for the business.

REGION

Elsewhere in the region, markets edged up in line with global stocks and commodity prices, which were boosted by speculation that the U.S. Federal Reserve would maintain a pledge on low interest rates later in the day.

In Dubai, a spate of profit-taking by retail investors to raise money for the initial public offer of Emaar Properties' malls unit eased, and the market index closed flat. Emaar shares rose 0.5 percent.

After the close, Emaar said its existing shareholders would be allocated one share in the malls unit for every 36 held in the parent firm; 10 percent of the entire offer has been earmarked for Emaar shareholders in this way.

In Abu Dhabi, Waha Capital climbed 1.9 percent and was the most heavily traded stock; its board was to discuss a share buyback programme on Wednesday. The company has not said how big the programme might be.

In Kuwait, telecommunications firm Zain Kuwait fell 1.5 percent after its unit Zain Bahrain IPO-ZAIN.BH said it was extending the subscription period for its IPO on the Bahraini bourse by two weeks.

WEDNESDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

DUBAI

* The index closed flat at 4,985 points.

ABU DHABI

* The index rose 0.4 percent to 5,172 points.

QATAR

* The index edged up 0.2 percent to 14,165 points.

EGYPT

* The index rose 0.4 percent to 9,575 points.

SAUDI ARABIA

* The index gained 0.8 percent to 11,081 points.

KUWAIT

* The index edged up 0.2 percent 7,587 points.

OMAN

* The index inched up 0.1 percent to 7,497 points.

BAHRAIN

* The index climbed 0.3 percent to 1,473 points.

More from:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/17/mideast-markets-wrap-idUSL6N0RI1OU20140917

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