November 6, 2017 / 2:26 PM / a year ago

MIDEAST STOCKS-State funds support Saudi as crackdown drags down neighbours

* Saudi would have dropped without state buying -fund managers

* Al Tayyar Travel plunges after founder reported detained

* Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding continues slide

* Shares rise in firms key to Prince Mohammed’s reforms

* Dubai property firms weak; could be hit by less Saudi money

By Andrew Torchia

DUBAI, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Buying by government-linked funds supported Saudi Arabia’s stock market on Monday, asset managers said, but most other Gulf bourses fell as the Saudi crackdown on corruption sent shivers through the region.

After falling in early trade, Riyadh’s index rebounded in the closing minutes to finish 0.1 percent higher in active trade - repeating its pattern on Sunday, when it ended up 0.3 percent after an early tumble.

Several regional fund managers said they believed Saudi state-linked funds were deliberately supporting the market to prevent a panic after a new anti-corruption committee detained dozens of leading political and business figures.

Although many investors think the crackdown could be positive for Saudi Arabia in the long run, by addressing a longstanding problem and increasing the power of reformist Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, there are fears that people implicated may be forced to liquidate their investments.

“The market would have dropped 5 or 10 percent without the presence of government funds,” said one fund manager.

Al Tayyar Travel plunged its 10-percent daily limit after the company quoted media reports as saying its founder Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar, who holds direct and indirect stakes totalling 29.72 percent in the firm, was being held in the probe.

Kingdom Holding, which had tumbled 7.6 percent on Sunday after its billionaire chairman Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was detained, sank a further 5.3 percent. National Industrialization Co (Tasnee), in which Kingdom holds a 6.2-percent stake, fell 1.2 percent.

After the close on Sunday, Kingdom said it had the support of the Saudi government, and its share price is now close to the company’s book value as of June 30.

But the anti-corruption committee has the power to seize assets at home and abroad before the results of its investigations are known, so investors worry that significant amounts of wealth could disappear from the market.

Declining stocks outnumbered gainers by 135 to 42. Among the gainers were state-linked firms expected to play key roles in Prince Mohammed’s economic development plans, such as National Commercial Bank, up 2.9 percent.

Other Gulf markets dropped as jittery retail investors sold stocks because of the uncertainty in Saudi Arabia, said Shakeel Sarwar, head of asset management at Securities & Investment Co (SICO) in Bahrain.

“This is a knee-jerk reaction. When the uncertainty clears, markets will stabilise,” he said.

However, some other fund managers said there could be a chilling effect on Gulf bourses in general if investment flows from Saudi Arabia shrank because of the crackdown, or if Saudi investors were forced to repatriate funds.

Saudis are estimated to own several percent of some Gulf stock markets, and are significant investors in some Gulf real estate markets. They traded 12.5 billion riyals ($3.4 billion) of Dubai property in the 18 months through June, according to official Dubai data.

Dubai’s stock index sank 1.2 percent on Monday as high-end developer Emaar Properties dropped 1.8 percent and DAMAC Properties lost 2.0 percent.

Abu Dhabi’s index sagged 0.4 percent as Aldar Properties fell 2.2 percent. Qatar dropped 1.4 percent as Qatar International Islamic Bank slid 3.4 percent in its heaviest trade for several months.

In Kuwait, blue chips fell sharply in what analysts said was profit-taking after sharp rises early this year on the back of expectations for index compiler FTSE Russell to upgrade the country to emerging market status.

National Bank of Kuwait tumbled 4.5 percent and logistics giant Agility lost 2.8 percent.


* The index edged up 0.1 percent to 6,985 points.


* The index lost 1.2 percent to 3,544 points.


* The index slipped 0.4 percent to 4,435 points.


* The index fell 1.4 percent to 8,015 points.


* The index fell 0.8 percent to 14,073 points.


* The index sank 2.3 percent to 6,319 points.


* The index dropped 0.9 percent to 1,266 points.


* The index rose 0.5 percent to 5,079 points. (Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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