* QNB up on strong Q1 results, double-digit loan growth
* Saudi SABB up on in-line Q1 profit, positive spillover to peers
* Dubai Islamic Bank up again after positive Q1 results
* Abu Dhabi’s Union National Bank jumps on Q1 earnings beat
By Celine Aswad
DUBAI, April 12 (Reuters) - Generally positive first-quarter results from Gulf banks helped lift financial stocks on Wednesday, while Saudi Arabia’s third-largest telecoms operator jumped by its daily limit after reporting its first ever quarterly net profit.
Shares in Qatar National Bank, the largest lender by assets in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), rose 1 percent after it announced net profit of 3.2 billion riyals ($879 million) for the three months to March 31, up 12 percent from the prior year period and beating Arqaam Capital analysts’ forecast of 3.0 billion riyals.
Loan growth was up 33 percent year on year to 536 billion riyals, while customer deposits rose by 34 percent to 541 billion riyals.
Its peers that trade on Doha’s exchange were also strong, with Commercial Bank climbing 2.4 percent. The index gained 0.7 percent.
In Saudi Arabia, banking shares were also robust with all but one of the 12 lenders advancing. Confidence in the sector was lifted after Saudi British Bank reported earnings that were broadly in line with estimates. Its shares closed 2.3 percent higher.
The lender made a first quarter net profit of 1.04 billion riyals, down 9.3 percent from the year-ago period. SABB attributed the fall in net profit to higher operating expenses, but said it was partially offset by a 1.6 percent increase in operating income.
Shares in telecommunications operator Zain Saudi jumped 10 percent to 10.05 riyals in their opening minutes of trade after the company made its first ever quarterly net profit since listing in 2008, of 45 million Saudi riyals. That compared to a loss of 249.7 million in the prior-year period, and beat analysts’ estimate of a loss of 104 million riyals.
Zain Saudi’s sales rose 9 percent to 1.92 billion riyals. Analysts at NCB Capital attributed the surprisingly positive result to strong top-line growth, a record-high gross margin of 67.3 percent, and lower-than-expected depreciation and financing costs.
“We are currently Neutral on the stock with a price of 7.6 riyals. If we annualize the results of this quarter, the stock is trading at a price-to-equity of 31.2 times, significantly higher than the regional average of 16 times. Positive results, (the) tower sale are expected to continue to drive the stock going forward,” NCB Capital said.
The positive mood spilled into the shares of its chief competitors, Saudi Telecom Co and Etihad Etisalat , with the former adding 1.8 percent and the latter jumping 7.1 percent.
Riyadh’s index rose 0.9 percent in the highest daily traded volume in a month. But shares of the largest listed stock, Saudi Basic Industries fell 1.2 percent as they went ex-dividend on Wednesday.
Elsewhere, Dubai Islamic Bank extended its prior session gains to add 1.7 percent; on Tuesday the lender reported a 4 percent rise in first quarter results. The index on which it trades,, gained 0.2 percent on Wednesday.
In neighbouring Abu Dhabi, Union National Bank surged 6.4 percent after the company reported first quarter results that came ahead of analysts’ expectations.
The lender made a net profit of 452 million dirhams ($123.06 million); three analysts polled by Reuters forecast a quarterly average profit of 443.62 million dirhams and this compares to a net profit of 450 million dirhams in the year earlier period.
UNB’s loans and advances grew 8 percent from the first quarter 2016 and customer deposits rose by 5 percent.
The index, however, fell 0.2 percent.
In Egypt, the index fell 0.1 percent in very thin volume, as the majority of investors stayed clear of the market in light of heightened domestic political risk.
Egypt’s parliament on Tuesday unanimously approved a three-month state of emergency, days after two church bombings killed at least 45 people.
Utility company El Sewedy Electric dropped 4.0 percent despite reporting a tripling in its full year 2016 net profit to 3.95 billion Egyptian pounds ($217.87 million). The floatation of the currency in November had a positive impact of 1.31 billion pounds, the company said.
El Sewedy’s board also approved plans to convert some of its shares to Global Depository Receipts (GDR) and to establish two new companies; one to operate in real estate development and the other in insurance brokerage.
The company also seeks to reduce its capital by 5 million pounds to 2.18 billion pounds by writing off 5 million treasury shares.
* The index rose 0.9 percent to 7,099 points.
* The index added 0.2 percent to 3,541 points.
* The index declined 0.2 percent to 4,555 points.
* The index climbed 0.7 percent to 10,489 points.
* The index added 0.2 percent to 7,042 points.
* The index edged down 0.1 percent to 12,984 points.
* The index edged up 0.1 percent to 5,557 points.
* The index fell 0.4 percent to 1,357 points. ($1 = 3.6730 UAE dirham) ($1 = 18.1300 Egyptian pounds)
Editing by Susan Fenton