UPDATE 2-Kuwait halts trade in 36 firms failing to report

Wed Apr 1, 2009 11:26am BST

Quotes

   

* Follows failure to publish 2008 earnings on time

* Includes Global, Kuwait's biggest investment bank

* Bourse closes up 1.1 pct

(Adds analyst, Global statement, details, background)

By Rania El Gamal and Ulf Laessing

KUWAIT, April 1 (Reuters) - Kuwait's bourse halted trading in more than a fifth of its listed companies, including Global Investment House GLOB.KW and Investment Dar TIDK.KW, after they failed to publish 2008 earnings on time.

The Arab world's second-largest bourse said on Wednesday it suspended trade and did not say when it would resume. Such suspensions have, in the past, lasted for days.

Global, the country's biggest investment bank, and Dar are both in talks with creditors to revamp their operations and get fresh loans.

"Trading in the shares of 36 firms will be halted ... starting Wednesday April 1 for not presenting the (2008) annual financial reports on time," the bourse said in a statement on its website.

Kuwait -- which recently approved a $5 billion stimulus plan for the financial industry [ID:nLQ655621] -- is the only Gulf Arab state without an independent authority supervising its bourse, and analysts have long demanded better regulation and clarity on stock market rules.

Foreign investors complain that important company news is only made available in Arabic and unsourced newspaper reports often move stocks.

SOME PROGRESS

A minimum of corporate data has to be released compared with other Gulf Arab states and some companies even release their results first in the local press over the weekend, to the dismay of investors.

Global will release its full-year results once it has approval from the country's central bank, which is currently reviewing them, it said in a statement on London's stock exchange, released after shares in Kuwait were suspended. It did not give a date.

The stock exchange also stopped trading in several other investment companies including Aayan Leasing and Investment Co (AAYA.KW), Noor Financial Co (NOOR.KW), the investment arm of Kuwaiti conglomerate National Industries Holding Group (NIND.KW), and Al-Mal Investment Co (MALK.KW), a firm controlled by the family owned conglomerate Kharafi Group.

Naser al-Nafisi, general manager of the al-Joman Center for Economic Consultancy, said the bourse had recently made some progress in transparency by requiring firms to disclose more than net profit or earnings per share.

"It is a first step but not enough," Nafisi said, adding that companies reporting late should be fined.

The Gulf Arab state aims to set up a financial regulator, but the legislation has been delayed for almost two years by political squabbling.

Kuwait's bourse .KWSE closed up 1.14 percent on Wednesday. (Editing by Sam Cage and Simon Jessop)