Russian Bid Eases Syria Fears, Dubai Soars

09/11/2013 11:00 am EST

Focus: GLOBAL

Dubai business owners and UAE investors can finally breathe a sigh of relief, since Russia, Syria's biggest ally, came up with a bid to ease the tension between Syria and the US, writes Hadeel al Sayegh of The National.

Dubai's index soared the most in four years following a Russian-backed bid to get Syria to surrender its chemical weapons.

The proposal from Syria's biggest ally, has eased worries from retail investors over a potential spillover to the Arabian Gulf.

"Russia is trying to play the diplomatic middle man in the story, this surge is all thanks to Putin," said Sebastien Henin, a portfolio manager at The National Investor, an Abu Dhabi-based investment bank. "Maybe we will avoid a big mess."

The Dubai Financial Market General Index (DFM) jumped 8.5%, the most since December 14, 2009, to close yesterday at 2,522.15, reversing a panic sell-off over the past two weeks. The potential diplomatic solution came after the Russia foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said the country was working on an "effective concrete plan."

Property and construction stocks led the surge. Dubai Investments, the owner of stakes in more than 40 companies, rocketed 14.4% to Dh1.74 a share. The maximum share price gain allowable on a given day on the Dubai bourse is 15%.

Arabtec Holding, Dubai's biggest contracting company, jumped 11.2% to close at Dh2.37 a share yesterday. Shares of Emaar Properties, the developer behind the Burj Khalifa, gained 8.4% to Dh5.75 each.

The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange General Index jumped 5% to close at 3,671.59 points, led by property and banking stocks. Aldar, the developer behind Yas Island, and Ferrari World, advanced 12.2% to close yesterday at Dh2.47 a share. Sharjah Islamic Bank gained 13.3% to Dh1.36 a share.

Tariq Qaqish, the head of asset management at the Dubai-based Al Mal Capital, said: "The latest political development was seen as great news for investors, as everybody had been concerned about the possible contagion effect on the Gulf states."

Brokers said the steep 7.9% decline in stocks from August 25 had highlighted the need for a market maker to manage volatility.

A market maker is a broker-dealer who balances supply and demand for shares by serving as a matchmaker between buyers and sellers.

"We need a mechanism in place when the market goes to an extreme to prevent such big fluctuations," said Fathi Ben Grira, the chief executive at Mena Corp in Abu Dhabi. The UAE federal market regulator, the Emirates Securities & Commodities Authority, approved regulations to govern market-making last October.

Dubai's index is ranked second among the top performing benchmarks globally this year, rising as much as 55%, after a previously laggard stock market steamed ahead to better reflect the UAE's underlying economic fundamentals.

"I think the market and people overreacted to the news flow in recent weeks. We are a top market—at the same time, we have strong retail participation in the market, so we shouldn't be surprised to see such volatility in the market in the coming weeks," Mr Henin said.

The sharp move had proved that the previous declines "were purely political risk, than a fundamental story within the GCC economies", said Mr Qaqish.

"The volatility had been the work of retail investors. It needed some correction. It couldn't come from the fundamentals because they were good, so it had to come from somewhere else: Syria."

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