x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Kuwait investors threaten to bring protest to palace gates

Kuwaiti investors threaten to march on the Emir's palace as they intensify their protests after further falls in share prices.

Kuwaiti investors threatened to march on the Emir's palace today as they intensified their protests after further falls in share prices. Since June, the Kuwaiti stock market has fallen in value by 35 per cent; today it declined 3.5 per cent. The threat of further action follows demonstrations last Thursday, when 50 investors and traders gathered outside the Kuwait Stock Exchange demanding compensation, and that the government bail them out by buying into the market.

Now the protesters have switched their focus to government offices and are demanding that the state halt all trading on the Kuwaiti exchange. If not, they say they will march on the Emir's palace. That marks the most aggressive and volatile situation yet seen in the GCC as a result of the financial and markets turmoil. "We want the government to intervene to rescue the bourse and traders. We want the government to buy stocks. This month, I have already lost half of my investments in the bourse," one of the protesters, Hussein Tubayekh, told Agence France-Presse.

Another demonstrator said three traders today met Sheikh Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah, the Kuwaiti prime minister, to present their final demands. Those demands reportedly include that the government shore up the market by stepping up its direct investment in stocks in order to stop the decline in share prices. The meeting followed claims that the state has concentrated on bailing out major shareholders instead of smaller investors.

Last month, the Kuwait Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund, started to pump money into the market through investment funds and also began increasing its overseas investments. A Kuwait-based trader said the problem at the moment was that small investors were often unable to find any buyers for their shares, so every day they could only watch their investments plunge in value. The drop in Kuwait was mirrored across the GCC today as markets reacted to huge declines worldwide on Friday and to the 8.7 per cent drop in the Saudi Tadawul on Saturday.

The Dubai Financial Market fell 4.74 per cent, led by property and banking stocks, while the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange's index lost 3.77 per cent, again led by banks. The property and banking sectors are seen as most at risk from the financial crisis, and are key pillars of the Emirates economy. * with agencies afoxwell@thenational.ae