Middle East: Gulf bourses dream again

Sherelle Jacobs
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With resurging local interest and new catalysts for foreign investment, prospects are finally looking up for Gulf stock exchanges. Challenges remain, but new companies are already beginning to explore listings.

When fears of a US-led military strike against Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons surged in August, they sent tremors through the Gulf’s stock exchanges. Indices plunged. Dubai Financial Market’s main index fell by 7% in one day: its most dramatic one-day fall since the emirate’s 2009 debt crisis.

But when the bourses recovered quickly, analysts took it as further confirmation of an improved sentiment that has been slowly crystallizing over the past year. After a rollercoaster decade, the latest chapter of which was the 2008 crash, the region’s stock markets could be on the up again.

Recent stock flotations hint that this might be the case. Overall, IPO activity has been sluggish in the Gulf over the past few years. There were just 12 IPOs each year in 2009, 2010 and 2012, according to Dealogic. In 2011, the number...