Taking Stock


Economic News

22 Jul 2010
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After many of Qatar's companies published their first half results mid-August, the astonishing level of net profits revealed promptly sent the local bourse straight through the roof.

By August 23, upbeat trading sentiment at the Doha Security Market (DSM) had sent its benchmark index to a close of 12,634.20 -315 points, or 2.56%, up on the previous day. Meanwhile, Market capitalisation (MCAP) jumped to an all-time high of QR358.4bn ($98.52bn).

This index level meant the DSM had reached a point some 86% higher than it had been at the same time back in 2004.

Leading the charge was Industries Qatar (IQ), whose shares broke the QR200 (($54.98) barrier that day, climbing to QR204 ($56.08) at the end of trading, up from the previous day's closing price of QR197.50 ($54.29).

Another indicator of the mood the market is in was the non-availability to non-Qataris that day too of Qatar Gas Transport Company (Nakilat) shares. This was because the permitted quota of 25% for foreigners had been breached. The company has proved highly attractive for both Qatari nationals and overseas buyers, as it has a relatively low price and good prospects.

Nakilat published a financial statement on August 15 covering the period from June 9, 2004 until 30 June 2005, during which time, the company made a net profit of QR28.88m ($7.94m).

Such stock is thus one of the first things such a hungry market is likely to gobble up. But with such high liquidity in Qatar and elsewhere in the Gulf these days, almost any stocks going seem destined for some dizzy heights. Banks, industrial sector players, energy companies and real estate outfits have all been recent high movers.

Most analysts agree that the current bull market is being fuelled by high oil and gas prices and demand, with this now having been sustained over a long period. The first half results - which revealed that listed companies had made some $5bn in net profits over the six month period, and that some had even doubled their profits on first-half 2004 - was yet a further shifting of gears upwards for the DSM.

Many see it is highly likely too that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future, as none of the fundamentals look like changing soon. Indeed, as oil and gas prices and energy demand continues upwards, the strength of many DSM companies should also keep increasing.

"I believe the bulls have some distance to run given the character of the expansionist local blue chips and valuations by regional standards," one analyst told the Gulf News on August 13.

Another recent factor that has been pushing the index up is the proposed merger of Qatar Insurance, Doha Insurance and al-Khaleej Insurance. This has benefited all three companies' shares, with massive gains recorded, even though the success of the merger is by no means certain.

After news of the proposal broke mid-August, the insurance section of the DSM closed the week 1.48% up on the previous close. The market's other sectors were also all up - services by 1.87%, banking by 1.37% and industry by 0.73%.

Yet, there are naturally enough some concerns. Given such spectacular rises, there is also a fear on the edge of the market that what goes up must come down. Some doubters worry about the youth of the market - set up in 1999, it missed the Asian financial crisis and has never experienced a major crash. Others say that a lot of the swelling in company net profits is also due to investment profits made from the DSM itself. While some may see this as merely a virtuous circle, others worry that a serious incident - such as a sustained drop in oil prices or a major outbreak of violence - might rapidly turn this into a vicious spiral.

It was not so long ago that some wondered if this might not be happening either. Back in April-May, the 20-stock Qatari Share Index fell sharply, with the number of shares traded dropping below the psychologically important 1m mark in mid-May. Many traders, used to continuously rising values, were caught on the hop.

However, by the end of the month the index had picked up again, closing only 3% down on its closing value at the end of April. The DSM had been going through some particular circumstances at the time too, with a first opening up to foreigners that did not appear to deliver the massive investments some had been hoping.

Now, optimists say, there are few grounds for expecting such a repetition, and while there may be minor corrections, the overall trajectory remains firmly skywards. With such outstanding profitability around, it seems this rosier view is also still out ahead, down at the DSM.

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