Qatar's banking shares ended higher on Wednesday after two lenders in the sector said they had started merger talks, while Dubai-listed DAMAC Properties surged on a report its chairman might take it private.
The Qatar index advanced 1%, led by a 5% jump in Masraf Al Rayan after it and Al Khaliji Commercial Bank said they had started negotiating a potential merger that could create a combined entity with more than 164 billion riyals ($45.04 billion) in total assets.
Al Khaliji Commercial Bank, which is not part of the index, soared 10%.
"The potential merger will lead to the creation of one of the largest Sharia'a (Islamic) compliant banks in Qatar and the Middle East," the banks said in a filing.
QNB Financial Services in a research note said Al Khaliji has a very liquid balance sheet position which could benefit Masraf.
Saudi Arabia's benchmark index added 0.4%, helped by a 7.3% rise in Dr Sulaiman Al-Habib Medical Services.
But Fawaz Abdulaziz Alhokair slid 4.2% after it reported annual losses.
Dubai's main share index gave up early gains to close steady, with logistic company Aramex shedding 4.9% after it traded ex-dividend.
Elsewhere, DAMAC Properties, owner of the only Trump-branded golf club in the Middle East, jumped 7.2%, following a Reuters report its chairman is weighing a buy out of minority shareholders and taking the company private.
Hussain Sajwani, who founded the company nearly two decades ago, has been exploring the deal since late 2019 after DAMAC's share price plunged over the past two years, one of the sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
In Abu Dhabi, the index traded flat, with First Abu Dhabi Bank losing 0.9%.
** Egypt was closed for a public holiday.
($1 = 3.6416 Qatar riyals)
(Reporting by Ateeq Shariff in Bengaluru. Editing by Jane Merriman) ((AteeqUr.Shariff@thomsonreuters.com; +918061822788;))