STOCKS NEWS MIDEAST-Earnings may lift some mkts; Dubai volumes fall

Reuters Middle East

0540 GMT - Strong first-quarter earnings posted by several companies across the Gulf could help lift local markets on Thursday after investors booked profits in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar earlier this week.

However, in Dubai buyers have so far refused to step in en masse, as trading volumes kept falling this week and reached a three-week low on Wednesday.

Dubai builder Arabtec Holding could come under pressure after its shareholders decided on Wednesday not to pay out the previously proposed 10 percent cash dividend for 2013. Instead, the company will make a 40 percent bonus share issue, up from the previous proposal of 30 percent.

Arabtec chief executive Hasan Ismaik also said the company would spin off and float 40 percent of its construction business in an initial public offer on the Abu Dhabi bourse slated for 2015. But the company's shares soared 50 percent last month and many analysts think the stock could see a significant pull-back at some point.

Dubai telecommunications firm du reported its first-quarter profit at 490.3 million dirhams ($133.5 million) on Thursday, above the average estimate of three analysts polled by Reuters who had forecast 433 million dirhams.

Meanwhile Dubai's Mashreq bank reported a 35 percent increase in first-quarter net profit to 575 million dirhams, slightly above Arqaam Capital's forecast of 549 million dirhams.

And another Dubai firm, Deyaar Development, said first-quarter net profit more than doubled to 52.1 million dirhams. SICO Bahrain had estimated the company would earn 30.6 million dirhams.

In Qatar, telecommunications operator Ooredoo reported a 9.7 percent rise in first-quarter profit on Wednesday to 887 million riyals ($243.62 million), beating EFG Hermes' estimate of 786 million riyals.

Bahrain Telecommunications Co (Batelco) posted an 8 percent rise in first-quarter profit. At 14.5 million dinars ($38.46 million), it came above the estimate of one analyst polled by Reuters who had expected 12.4 million dinars.

Asian equity and oil markets are little changed, after Brent crude dropped more than a dollar overnight.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

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