Qatar: Islamic Bank, the Arabian Gulf's biggest Sharia-compliant lender, bought the Islamic banking portfolio of closely held International Bank of Qatar.

The sale includes corporate financing facilities and deposit account portfolios, according to a statement on the Qatar bourse website yesterday. No financial details were given. Calls to executives at Qatar Islamic weren't answered and an IBQ official declined to comment.

The central bank asked commercial lenders last February to stop taking new Islamic deposits and shut their Islamic branches by the year-end, because of concern they may have used funds from their conventional banking activities for Islamic loans.

IBQ said on August 21 it agreed to sell its Al Yusr Islamic retail banking unit to Barwa Bank. Central Bank Governor Shaikh Abdullah Bin Saud Al Thani said in an interview with the Qatar News Agency on December 11 that banks have the option to transfer Sharia-compliant accounts to an Islamic bank.

Qatar Islamic, which contributed $500 million to help finance Qatar's Barzan gas project, posted a 34 per cent jump in third-quarter profit to 407.2 million riyals ($112 million) as investment income increased.

The bank's shares declined 0.1 per cent yesterday, trimming the year's gain to 4.4 per cent, almost half the 8.1 per cent rise in the Qatar Exchange Banking Sector Index.

The yield on the bank's 3.856 per cent Sharia-compliant dollar bonds due October 2015 fell one basis point to 3.11 per cent yesterday, the lowest since November 14, according to prices compiled by Bloomberg.

Saudi Telecom

Saudi Telecom Company (STC) has bought a 60 per cent stake in Sale Distribution and Communications for 208 million Saudi riyals to strengthen its sales services, the telecom operator said yesterday.

Riyadh-based Sale is a leading retailer of mobile telephone connections in Saudi Arabia, STC said in a statement it posted on the website of the Saudi bourse. The operator, which is partly state owned, said it would finance the sale itself.

UAE markets closed

Financial markets in the UAE will remain closed next Sunday in celebration of the New Year, the Securities and Commodities Authority said in a press release.

The announcement follows a circular issued on Monday by the Federal Government Human Resources Authority.

— Compiled from staff reports and agencies