Saudi Shares Fluctuate as Food Producers Decline, Banks Climb

Saudi Arabian shares fluctuated between gains and losses on the first day of the trading week as food producers dropped while banks gained as earnings advanced on lower provisions.

Almarai Co., Saudi Arabia’s largest food producer by market value and Savola Azizia United Co., the kingdom’s second largest producer, paced the losses, while Al Rajhi bank, the largest publicly traded lender and Bank Al-Jazira, the smallest Saudi Arabian bank, led the gains.

The 146-company Tadawul All Share Index dropped less than 0.1 percent to 6,652.11 at the 3:30 p.m. close in Riyadh. The gauge has fallen for four days, the longest such streak since Oct. 16.

“The market is trying to position itself based on fourth-quarter results that were completed on Wednesday evening,” Fuad Aghabi, investment director at Ajeej Capital in Riyadh, said. “The results were overall positive with banks showing better profitability on lower provisioning and most petrochemicals on higher oil prices.”

Savola dropped 1.6 percent, the most since Jan. 18, to 30.6 riyals, the lowest in more than a year. Savola posted a 99 percent slump in fourth-quarter profit, it said on Jan. 17.

Almarai decreased 1.3 percent, the most since Oct. 31, to 110 riyals. Almarai’s fourth-quarter profit rose 14 percent to 283.8 million riyals, falling short of the average estimate of 300 million riyals by two analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Saudi Basic Industries Corp., the world’s largest petrochemical maker, declined 1.2 percent to 106 riyals, the lowest since Jan. 10.

Results From ‘Heavyweights’

Al Rajhi advanced 0.3 percent to 81.75 riyals after reporting a 14 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit. Bank Al-Jazira jumped 5.3 percent, the most in 15 months, to 18 riyals. The bank said on Jan. 17 its fourth-quarter loss narrowed to 27 million riyals from 266 million riyals a year earlier.

“Investors are digesting fourth-quarter results from the heavyweights,” Asim Bukhtiar, an equity analyst at Riyad Capital, said. “Petrochemicals and banks will set the direction for the remainder of the quarter.”

Etihad Atheeb Telecommunications Co. dropped the most in almost three months after the kingdom’s smallest phone operator said its net loss for the quarter ended Dec. 31 more than doubled from a year earlier. The company was also given a regulatory March 31 deadline to amend its financial position. The shares ended 2.3 percent lower at 14.55 riyals, after earlier today declining as much as 9.1 percent, the biggest intra-day retreat since at least March 2009.

Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange is the only Gulf Arab bourse open on Saturdays.

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