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MIDEAST DAYBOOK: Libya Ratings Cut; Saudi Housing; Qatar Telecom

March 2 (Bloomberg) -- Fitch Ratings said it downgraded Libya’s long-term foreign and local currency issuer default ratings to BB from BBB. The ratings remain on rating watch negative, Fitch said.

Egypt’s bourse, home to the world’s worst performing benchmark index this year, risks losing international investment after failing to resume trading amid protests from local investors who fear deeper losses.

Libyan rebels dug in for battle after repulsing attacks by forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi that fueled talk of a civil war, as the full membership of the United Nations rebuked the regime.

Israel may start a new peace initiative with the Palestinians as concern rises that Middle East turmoil will lead to renewed pressure on each side to resume talks. {EXTRA <GO>} for more on Middle East turmoil.

Saudi King Abdullah’s pledge to increase spending on housing by 55 billion riyals ($15 billion) probably will do little to relieve the country’s home shortage unless it’s coupled with long-delayed changes in mortgage financing laws.

WHAT TO WATCH: * Bahrain said there were no Saudi Arabian military tanks in the Persian Gulf country. * Qatari consumer prices rose at the fastest pace in more than a year as transportation and food costs increased. * Reopening Egypt’s stock market was delayed by logistics issues and the closure of banks, the exchange’s Vice Chairman Farid Saleh said. * Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. maintained its 10 percent supply cut for Murban crude, the emirate’s largest export grade. * Carlyle Group, the world’s second-biggest private equity firm, halted plans to invest in Egypt amid unrest that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, co-founder David Rubenstein said. * The United Arab Emirates is interested in taking part in the recapitalization of Spanish savings banks, the Madrid-based government said in a statement on its website.

CONFERENCES: * The Saudi Economic Forum in Riyadh, where the CEOs of Alinma Bank and Saudi Electricity Co. will give presentations. * Global Financial Markets Forum organized by National Bank of Abu Dhabi in Abu Dhabi. * Argus Mideast Gulf and Indian Ocean Oil conference in Dubai, focusing on oil and products trading in the middle east.

MARKETS: * Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.4 percent. * Crude oil futures for April delivery rose 0.3 percent to $99.90 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 8:01 a.m. in Dubai. * Gold for April delivery lost 0.1 percent to $1,430.3 an ounce. * Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index plunged 6.8 percent, Kuwait Stock Exchange Index dropped 2.5 percent, ADX General Index fell 0.6 percent and Bahrain All Share Index lost 0.5 percent. Muscat Securities Market surged 4.1 percent, Dubai Financial Market General Index gained 1 percent, and QE Index rose 0.1 percent. Morocco Casablanca Stock Exchange Index gained 0.3 percent. * Tunisia’s stock exchange regulator suspends trading until further notice.

EQUITY MOVERS: * Etisalat (ETISALAT UH), the Abu Dhabi-based phone company seeking control of Kuwait’s Zain (ZAIN KK), missed a second deadline in its attempt to acquire a 46 percent stake for $12 billion, Zain’s second-biggest shareholder said. * Zain Iraq, a unit of Kuwait’s Mobile Telecommunications Co., borrowed $400 million from the World Bank’s International Finance Corp and other lenders. * Bahrain Telecommunications Co. (BATELCO BI), the phone company known as Batelco, may consider a revised offer to buy a 25 percent stake in Zain Saudi Arabia, Chief Executive Officer Peter Kaliaropoulos said. * National Industries Group (NIND KK) of Kuwait had its ratings lowered to B2 from B1 at Moody’s Investors Service. The outlook on the ratings remains negative. * A panel of Egyptian judges recommended the annulment of a 966,000 square-meter land sale to Palm Hills Developments SAE (PHDC EY), an Egyptian real-estate developer, by the government because the plot wasn’t sold at an auction. * Gulf Navigation Holding (GULFNAV UH) was raised to “neutral” from “sell” at EFG-Hermes Holding with a price estimate of 34 fils a share. * Agthia Goup PJSC (AGTHIA UH), a United Arab Emirates-based food producer, signed a license agreement with Chiquita Brands International Inc., to manufacture and distribute Chiquita brand products in the Middle East. * Egypt for Poultry (EGPL EY) plans to buy back 2.365 million shares within a month from the first day of resumption of trade on the Egyptian Exchange.

FINANCIAL RESULTS AND MEETINGS: * Qatar Telecom QSC (QTEL QD), the Persian Gulf nation’s largest company by revenue, said fourth-quarter profit fell 5.2 percent amid increased competition in its home market and as margin on earnings declined. * Industries Qatar (IQCD QD), the Gulf emirate’s state- controlled petrochemical and steel maker, said full-year profit rose to 5.6 billion riyals from 5 billion riyals in 2009. The board proposed a dividend of 5.50 riyals a share. * Al Jouf (JADCO AB) shareholders meeting on capital increase. * Ash-Sharqiyah Development (ASACO AB) shareholders meeting.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Shaji Mathew at

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