Qatar banking shares rise on merger talks

Qatari banking stocks were a rare highlight on an otherwise lacklustre day for Arabian Gulf equities yesterday, with bourses in the UAE and Saudi Arabia drifting lower.

Shares in Masraf Al Rayan dominated trading on the Qatar Exchange yesterday after the bank confirmed reports it was holding merger discussions with Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar. The merger, if completed, would create the country’s second-largest bank by assets and its largest Islamic lender.

Masraf Al Rayan shares ended the day up 6.1 per cent at 37.65 riyals, their highest close since September. Qatar National Bank, the country’s largest lender, finished up 2.5 per cent at 161.10 riyals.

Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar are not publicly listed.

In Dubai, banking shares lead a handful of gainers yesterday. Emirates NBD finishing up 1.1 per cent at Dh8.40, while Shuaa Capital and Dubai Islamic Bank also gained.

The Dubai Financial Market General Index closed down for the second consecutive day, ending off 0.8 per cent at 3,505.18, dragged lower by Emaar Properties and Emaar Malls.

Shares in GFH ended the day unchanged at Dh1.90, after the Dubai-listed Bahrain investment firm said that infrastructure work on the first and second phases of its Tunis Financial Harbour project was nearing completion.

In the capital, the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange General Index ended the day virtually unchanged in thin trading, closing off 0.01 per cent at 4,479.04.

FGB led big name losses, closing 1.2 per cent lower at Dh12.65, cancelling out gains by Etisalat and ADCB.

In Saudi Arabia, the Tadawul closed down 0.6 per cent at 7,031.11, its second consecutive negative close. NCB led big name losses, finishing off 2.0 per cent, offsetting gains by Etihad Etisalat and Arab National Bank.

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