STOCKS NEWS MIDEAST-Earnings still strong in UAE; Industries Qatar in Q1 miss

Reuters Middle East

0540 GMT - Strong profit reports from companies in the United Arab Emirates may sustain investors' bullish mood on Monday, adding to a generally positive earnings season.

Etisalat, the Gulf's second-largest telecommunications operator by market value, reported an 11 percent rise in first-quarter profit on Sunday as its revenue and subscriber base increased and capital expenditure and taxes declined.

The firm made a net profit of 2 billion dirhams ($545 million) in the quarter, beating analysts' forecasts for 1.8 billion dirhams.

Separately, Etisalat said it had signed a two-part, 3.15 billion euro ($4.36 billion) loan to help fund its acquisition of a 53 percent stake in Maroc Telecom.

Investors have generally appeared to view the acquisition as positive, though the stock has underperformed the market this year, sliding 2.1 percent while Abu Dhabi's index is up 20.1 percent.

The Abu Dhabi benchmark slipped 0.4 percent to 5,153 points on Sunday but remains close to its eight-year peak of 5,212 points reached last week.

"The recent bullish rally is facing profit-taking but a few banking stocks are showing recovery again from the support levels," Shiv Prakash, senior technical analyst at NBAD Securities, says in a note.

"The trend is expected to remain bullish for the coming sessions if the support level of 5,000 remains intact."

In Dubai, logistics firm Aramex posted a 14 percent in first-quarter net profit to 78.7 million dirhams, in line with EFG Hermes' estimate of 77.5 million dirhams.

The emirate's main index rose 0.6 percent on Sunday, although trading volume fell by about 40 percent from the previous session, which could indicate some investors have started withdrawing from the market in anticipation of a downward correction.

In Qatar, petrochemicals and metals company Industries Qatar may come under pressure after it posted a 38 percent drop in first-quarter net profit to 1.59 billion riyals ($437 million), below analysts' average forecast of 1.77 billion riyals.

However, the drop appeared largely due to one-off maintenance shutdowns of some facilities; the company had said in January that it planned several shutdowns for a total of 200 days in the first three months of 2014, compared to 59 days of closures in the same period of 2013.

Outside the Gulf, Asian shares are sluggish on Monday after a weak performance by Wall Street at the end of last week and increasing tensions in Ukraine. (Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Andrew Torchia)

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