Arab Stock Markets Tumble; Dubai Index Has Biggest Loss Ever
March 14 (Bloomberg) — Stocks plunged across the Arab world,
accelerating a retreat after a three-year rally, amid concern that
share prices rose too high relative to earnings.
Dubai’s key index dropped 12 percent, its steepest decline ever and the
biggest loss in the region. Emaar Properties PJSC, the Middle East’s
biggest real-estate developer, led the retreat and slid to a nine-month
Egypt’s benchmark fell the most in a year, prompting the government to
buy shares. EFG-Hermes Holding SAE, the country’s largest investment
bank, lost a quarter of its market value. In Saudi Arabia, the largest
Arab market, stocks slid for a third day and the benchmark index set a
“Fear is gripping investors, who are selling in panic,” said Shahid
Hameed, head of asset management at Securities & Investment Co. in
Manama, Bahrain. Prices fell in every market in the region except Oman
and Tunisia, where indexes added 0.1 percent or less.
Stocks around the region have tumbled from all-time highs after a
buying frenzy, spurred by record oil prices, caused the value of Arab
markets to double to $1.3 trillion last year. The Dubai Financial
Market Index has lost 40 percent in the first quarter, the biggest drop
among 77 stock indexes tracked by Bloomberg News globally.
Along with the outlook for profit, a record number of planned initial
share sales has also hurt stocks. At least 100 companies want to go
public, more than double the 2005 number, according to ABQ Zawya Ltd.,
a business-information service in Dubai. Investors have sold shares to
raise cash for new issues.
The Dubai index, tracking one of the two markets in the United Arab
Emirates, tumbled 81.17, or 12 percent, to 611.86 as of 2:40 p.m. local
time. Emaar Properties dropped 7.2 percent to 15.5 dirhams. In Abu
Dhabi, the U.A.E.’s other stock market, the general index declined
186.74, or 4.4 percent, to 4021.26.
Egypt’s CASE 30 Index fell 5.9 percent to 5922.16, the biggest
fluctuation among markets tracked in global benchmarks. The measure
earlier dropped as much as 11 percent. The CASE more than doubled in
each of the past three years and reached an all- time high on Feb. 1.
The Egyptian Capital Market Authority bought stocks, limiting the
decline, Chairman Hanie Sarie el Din said. The stock market was closed
for half an hour today to prevent the market from crashing, he said.
EFG-Hermes fell 25 percent to 33 Egyptian pounds. Arab Cotton Ginning,
the largest publicly traded cotton maker in Egypt by market value, fell
24 percent to 10.5 pounds.
“Investors in Egyptian stocks are psychologically affected by today’s
declines in Persian Gulf markets,” said Mohamed Radwan, head of
equities at Delta Securities in Egypt.
Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index fell 741, or 4.7 percent, to
14,900, according to the stock exchange’s Web site. Saudi Basic
Industries Corp., the world’s biggest chemical maker by market value,
fell 4.9 percent to 1318.
Shuaa Capital PJSC, a Dubai-based investment bank, estimated on March 2
that Saudi stocks were trading at 38.6 times forecast earnings. The
ratio exceeded the 18.6 for the CASE 30 and 12.7 for Morgan Stanley
Capital International’s Emerging Markets Index, a global benchmark.
“There’s no justification for Saudi stocks trading at
price-to-earnings ratios of almost 40,” Khaled Abdel Majeed, chief
executive officer of U.K.-based MENA Capital, said at a Euromoney
conference in London.
Today’s losses follow a global slump last week in emerging markets. The
MSCI index, consisting of companies based in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and
23 more markets, tumbled 4.1 percent in its biggest loss since the
first week of 2005.
Most of the region’s markets are excluded from indexes like MSCI’s
because of restrictions on international investors. Saudi Arabia limits
trading largely to residents. Companies in other Persian Gulf
monarchies cap the amount of stock that foreigners can hold.
“In almost all of the Persian Gulf, retail investors control the
market and they are one of the main factors behind the panic selling,”
said Alfred Fayek, a senior account manager at EFG-Hermes, said in a
telephone interview from Dubai.
Egypt isn’t the only country to step into the market amid the retreat.
The government-run Kuwait Investment Authority will buy shares on the
local stock exchange after the nation’s index declined, Finance
Minister Bader al-Humaidhi said in a statement on state-owned Kuwait
News Agency on March 8.
The Kuwait Stock Exchange Index fell 382, or 3.7 percent, to 10,057 in
today’s trading. The gauge has lost about 17 percent of its value since
reaching a record on Feb. 7.
Saudis Won’t Intervene
Saudi Arabia’s market accounts for more than 60 percent of the value of
Persian Gulf equity markets. The Tadawul index has tumbled 28 percent
since reaching a record on Feb. 25.
Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf said his government won’t intervene
to stop the slide, the Saudi-owned television station Al-Arabiya
reported. Saudi politicians had demanded state action to stop the
market decline, Arab News reported.
U.A.E. officials said their government is unlikely to prop up stocks.
“Fears that Saudi investors might pull out from Persian Gulf markets
following recent declines in the Saudi stock exchange have prompted the
declines” in neighboring markets, said Haissam Arabi, head of asset
management at Shuaa Capital, which manages $2.2 billion in assets.