By Shakeel Ahmad
April 15 () - Abu Dhabi's stock market rose to a near five-year high on Monday, lifted by First Abu Dhabi Bank, while petrochemical stocks led gains on Saudi Arabia's main index.
The Abu Dhabi index was up 0.9 percent after hitting its highest since May 2014.
The Saudi index was up 0.4 percent with its top petrochemical maker Saudi Basic Industries gaining 1.1 percent and Riyad Bank advancing 2.1 percent.
Bank Albilad rose 1.5 percent after its first-quarter net profit grew more than 23 percent.
The bourse has gained 16 percent so far this year as foreign buyers rushed in ahead of and after its entry into the FTSE Russell's emerging market index on March 18.
Foreign investors have been net buyers of Saudi stocks every week this year and bought 1.21 billion riyals ($322.64 million) of shares on a net basis in the last week, according to stock exchange data released late on Sunday.
In Dubai, the index rose 0.6 percent, supported by a 5.3 percent gain in Dubai Investments and a 1.4 percent rise in Dubai Islamic Bank . The lender said that it regularly looks at expansion opportunities, including buying other financial institutions.
The United Arab Emirates' largest sharia-compliant bank is in talks with shareholders of unlisted Noor Bank over a possible acquisition of the Dubai-based lender, three sources familiar with the matter told last week.
"We see the likelihood of a deal going through as high, driving the consolidation theme in UAE," Arqaam Capital said in a note. It said Noor was now the only unlisted bank in the UAE, following the merger of Abu Dhabi counterparts Al Hilal and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.
Qatar's index edged 0.1 percent lower, as Qatar Electricity And Water shed 2.4 percent after its first-quarter net profit fell nearly 22 percent.
The company further said it aims to generate 40 percent of its profit from foreign investment arm Nebras Power over the next 10 years.
Egypt's blue-chip index inched down 0.1 percent, slipping for the third straight session, with investment firm Egypt Kuwait Holding falling 1 percent.
($1 = 3.7503 riyals)
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