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MIDEAST STOCKS-Abu Dhabi outperforms on financials and real estate, most Gulf markets rise

By Tuqa Khalid DUBAI, April 21 (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi stocks outperformed Gulf markets on Sunday on expectations that banks and real estate companies will benefit from new rules which would allow foreigners to own land and property in investment areas on a freehold basis.

The Abu Dhabi index rose 1 percent, lifted by RAK Properties, up 2.7 percent, and Aldar Properties , up 2.1 percent.

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank rose 1.8 percent and Union National Bank rose 2.3 percent.

The rise in investor interest came ahead of a company filing that said Al Hilal Bank's owner, the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, appointed Alaa Eraiqat as the lender's chairman.

Eraiqat is currently group chief executive of Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), which is expected to merge with Al Hilal Bank and Union National Bank (UNB) in the first half of 2019.

Eraiqat will serve as chairman at Al Hilal in addition to his current role at ADCB.

First Abu Dhabi Bank continued a recent rally to add 1.4 percent. The top lender in Abu Dhabi rose nearly 9 percent last week after obtaining regulatory approval to increase its foreign ownership limit to 40 percent from 25 percent.

Saudi Arabia's main index, the Tadawul All-Share benchmark , was up 0.5 percent, lifted by financials and telecommunications.

Islamic lender Alinma and telecommunications firm Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) were up 5.3 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively, after reporting strong earnings for the first quarter.

"Generally, the (Saudi) corporate results coming in today have been encouraging. Sentiment remains positive on foreign inflows as the next FTSE and MSCI inclusion nears," said Muhammad Faisal Potrik, head of research at Riyad Capital.

Saudi shares joined the FTSE Emerging All Cap Index in March with a weighting of 2.9 percent. In May, Saudi shares will join the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.

In Dubai, the index rose 0.2 percent on the back of a strong performance by real estate stocks such as Deyaar , Emaar Development and Emaar Malls which were up 3.7 percent, 2.1 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

Qatar's stock market inched up 0.1 percent on financials, as Qatar First Bank rose 1.1 percent, Qatar Islamic Bank gained 0.3 percent and Qatar Insurance company added 1 percent.

Egypt's blue-chip index was down 0.3 percent, with Alexandria Mineral Oils Co SAE shedding 3.6 percent and El Sewedy Electric slipping 2 percent.

"Regional markets have been focusing on passive flows from MSCI and FTSE events in Saudi and Kuwait while ignoring other markets like Dubai, Oman and Bahrain due to lack of catalysts," said Sanat Sachar, equity research analyst at Dubai's Al Mal Capital.

"We expect this theme to remain valid for the next couple of months and post that investors will start looking at other markets in search of better investment opportunities with cheaper valuations," Sachar added.

SAUDI The index was up 0.5 pct at 9,240 points ARABIA ABU DHABI The index rose 1 pct to 5,346 points DUBAI The index was up 0.2 pct at 2,821 points QATAR The index was up 0.1 pct at 10,355 points EGYPT The index was down 0.3 pct at 14,839 points BAHRAIN The index was flat at 1,446 points OMAN The index was up 0.1 pct at 3,984 points KUWAIT The index was up 0.1 pct at 6,249 points (Reporting by Tuqa Khalid, editing by Hadeel Al Sayegh and Louise Heavens)