* Saudi eases foreign investor qualifications, ceilings
* No big inflow of money likely, but positive long-term
* Emaar the Economic City surges on sovereign fund interest
* Qatar stabilises after sharp two-day slide
* Capital hike boosts Egypt's Eastern Company
By Andrew Torchia
DUBAI, Sept 4 Saudi Arabia led Gulf stocks
higher on Sunday as Riyadh eased restrictions on foreign
investment in its securities markets, while most other bourses
in the region were buoyed by strength in oil prices and global
equities at the end of last week.
As previously announced, the Saudi Capital Market Authority
lowered minimum qualifications for foreign institutional
investors in its markets and raised ceilings on foreign
ownership in stocks.
The reforms are not expected to cause a sudden surge of new
foreign money into the kingdom; actual foreign ownership of
stocks is well below the previous ceilings. Many investors
remain deterred by less-than-attractive valuations and a sharp
economic slowdown caused by low oil prices.
Nevertheless, the reforms are expected to help stocks in the
long term. The main index climbed 1.3 percent on Sunday
in a broad-based rise, with petrochemical investment holding
company Alujain rising 3.4 percent; before the
reforms, foreign institutions directly owned over 4 percent of
the company, a relatively higher percentage.
Emaar the Economic City (EEC) rose 3.5 percent
after Reuters quoted a source familiar with the matter as saying
Saudi Arabia's top sovereign fund, the Public Investment Fund,
was in talks to invest in King Abdullah Economic City, the huge
project being developed by EEC.
Insurer Wataniya, which had been languishing at a
five-year low, jumped 6.9 percent in its heaviest trade in four
In Dubai, the index added 0.7 percent with GFH
Financial, the most heavily traded stock, surging 4.6
Abu Dhabi edged down 0.2 percent because of weakness
in banks, with First Gulf Bank losing 1.3 percent. Most
of the 10 most heavily traded stocks barely moved.
Qatar's index edged up 0.1 percent as the market
stabilised in thin trade after falling sharply for two days on
profit-taking; late last month, it jumped on hopes for foreign
fund inflows when FTSE upgrades Qatar to emerging market status
in mid-September. Industries Qatar rose 1.5 percent on
In Egypt, the index added 1.3 percent on the back
of a 2.2 percent gain by Global Telecom Holding.
Egypt's top cigarette maker Eastern Company
rocketed 7 percent after its board approved a capital hike of
750 million Egyptian pounds ($84 million) through the
distribution of one free share per existing original share.
* The index climbed 1.3 percent to 6,099 points.
* The index gained 0.7 percent to 3,535 points.
* The index edged down 0.2 percent to 4,472 points.
* The index added 1.3 percent to 8,241 points.
* The index rose 0.1 percent to 10,850 points.
* The index fell 0.3 percent to 5,395 points.
* The index rose 0.2 percent to 5,728 points.
* The index dropped 0.2 percent to 1,141 points.
(Editing by Mark Potter)