December 20, 2016 / 7:59 AM / a year ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-Qatar supported by $44 bln bank merger plan; other markets dip

DUBAI, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Banking shares in Qatar made strong gains on Tuesday morning after three Qatari banks said they were in talks on a potential $44 billion merger, but other markets in the Gulf retreated on profit-taking.

Masraf Al Rayan jumped 4.4 percent after the Islamic lender announced it was in initial talks with Barwa Bank IPO-BABK.QA and privately listed International Bank of Qatar to merge, in a deal that would create the second largest bank in Doha.

The possible consolidation spurred interest in other lenders, with the largest bank by assets, Qatar National Bank , adding 1.8 percent. The main Qatar equities index was up 0.4 percent.

But selling of blue chips weighed on the Saudi Arabian index , which was down 0.6 percent after half an hour. Petrochemical producer Saudi Basic Industries shed a further 1.1 percent after dropping 3.7 percent on Monday in response to its plan to cut its second-half cash dividend from a year earlier. Saudi British Bank was down 1.8 percent.

Builder Abdullah Al Khodari, which had surged 9.3 percent on Monday, pulled back 2.2 percent.

In Dubai, the index was down 0.3 percent with decliners outnumbering gainers 15 to six. Heavyweight Emaar Properties retreated 1.0 percent. (Reporting by Celine Aswad; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

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