Gulf stocks fall on jitters over Saudi anti-corruption probe

Major Gulf stock markets mostly dropped early Tuesday because of continued jitters about Saudi Arabia’s sweeping anti-corruption investigation, which could disrupt Saudi investment flows into the rest of the region.

The Saudi stock index fell 1.6 percent after 75 minutes of trade. Shares linked to people detained in the investigation led falls.

Among them, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding plunged its 10 percent daily limit, bringing its losses in the three days since the investigation was announced to 21 percent.

The fall has wiped off about $2 billion from Prince Alwaleed’s fortune, previously estimated by Forbes magazine at $17 billion.

Al Tayyar Travel, whose founder Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar was detained, plunged 10 percent for a second day. The company said it was operating normally and had the support of the government, but the slide in its shares suggests investors feel its fate is bound up with that of its founder.

Dallah Healthcare fell 3.8 percent after its controlling shareholder, billionaire Saleh Kamel, was held. Housing builder Red Sea International dropped 6.8 percent after chairman Amr al-Dabbagh was detained.

Declining stocks outnumbered gainers by 164 to nine. In the past two days, many banks and other blue chips stayed firm, but almost all stocks were caught in the sell-off on Tuesday. Real estate firm Dar Al Arkan was the best performer, rising 1.7 percent.

However, many fund managers think the overall market may recover by the close because of buying by government-linked funds acting to prevent a panic. The market followed that pattern on Sunday and Monday.

In Dubai, the index slipped 0.6 percent with Emaar Properties dropping by that margin and DAMAC Properties tumbling 3.7 percent. Saudis have been significant investors in Dubai real estate and this flow of money could conceivably shrink because of the crackdown.

The index in Abu Dhabi, less exposed to Saudi money, inched up 0.1 percent. But Kuwait continued to slide, with its index losing 3.8 percent. National Bank of Kuwait , which had tumbled 4.5 percent on Monday, lost a further 2.1 percent and logistics firm Agility sank 3.9 percent.

Most Saudi portfolio money had already left Qatar earlier this year because of Riyadh’s diplomatic dispute with Doha. But the Qatari index was still caught up in the regional downtrend on Tuesday, dropping 1.6 percent as Qatar Navigation , the most heavily traded stock, sank 2.0 percent.

Source: Reuters