MIDEAST STOCKS-Banks hold back most of Gulf; lender FAB boosts Abu Dhabi

 * FAB in talks to buy Bank Audi's Egyptian unit * Aramco closes down at 34.5 riyals * Masraf Al Rayan extends gains on FY profit By Ateeq Shariff Jan 22 (Reuters) - Most major Gulf stock markets weakened on
Wednesday, largely pulled down by losses in banks, but Abu Dhabi
bucked the trend on the back of top lender First Abu Dhabi Bank
(FAB). Saudi Arabia's benchmark index retreated 0.2%,
offsetting earlier gains in the day. Samba Financial Group declined 1.6%, while Saudi British Bank was
down 1.7%. State-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco slipped 0.3% to
34.5 riyals. EFG Hermes on Wednesday initiated Aramco's coverage
with a "neutral" rating, in line with most other brokerages, and
set a target price of 34 riyals ($9.06) per share. The Abu Dhabi index gained 1% with First Abu Dhabi
Bank rising 1.4% and International Holding
soaring 14.9%. United Arab Emirates' largest lender, FAB, is in talks
potentially to acquire the Egyptian subsidiary of Lebanon's Bank
Audi, Reuters reported, citing two sources familiar
with the matter. Bank Audi Egypt has grown from a three-branch operation
acquired by Bank Audi in 2005 to 50 branches with total assets
of $4.4 billion at the end of September, Bank Audi's Chief
Financial Officer, Tamer Ghazaleh, said last week, when he told
Reuters the bank was considering selling the unit. In Dubai, the index fell 0.2%, driven down by an
8.6% plunge in Mashreq Bank and a 1% decrease in Emaar
Properties. Qatar's index eased 0.1% as market heavyweight
Industries Qatar dropped 0.5% and Qatar Fuel
was down 0.7%. However, it saw some support from Qatar National Bank and Masraf Al Rayan, which were up 0.3% and
0.5%, respectively. The latter reported a higher annual profit on Tuesday. Outside the Gulf, Egypt's blue-chip index added
0.8%, buoyed by a 0.9% increase in the country's biggest lender,
Commercial International Bank, and a 1.7% rise in El
Sewedy Electric. SAUDI ARABIA fell 0.2% to 8,42 points ABU DHABI gained 1% to 5,234 points DUBAI eased 0.2% to 2,849 points QATAR slipped 0.1% to 10,681 points EGYPT rose 0.8% to 13,752 points BAHRAIN added 0.5% to 1,651 points OMAN was down 0.1% to 4,056 points KUWAIT lost 0.2% to 7,093 points ($1 = 3.7511 riyals) (Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru; editing by Nick
Macfie) 

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