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Does the Gulf’s breakout year signal lasting change?

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There was no Aramco-sized blockbuster offering, but the Middle East’s capital markets were awash with plus-sized IPOs in 2022. A growing belief in its future – aided by high oil prices and diversity from hydrocarbons – is compelling investment banks to hire across the region’s big-three markets: Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

For years the Middle East flirted with becoming a capital markets power, without ever quite succeeding.

All too often, the region was its own worst enemy. A successful share listing might trigger a headlong rush of similar offerings, overwhelming markets and compelling wary investors to retreat. Some stock offerings were badly managed; others were stymied by a poor economic backdrop and low oil prices.

Often, geopolitics was a disruptive force. In 2017, Emaar Development completed the largest initial public offering in Dubai for three years, raising $1.3 billion. Yet it was nearly derailed when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) launched a corruption crackdown that ensnared billionaires and ministers. Emaar’s stock fell 4.3% on day one and has never traded above its IPO price of Dh6.03 ($1.64).

But it feels like a corner was turned in 2022.

In the current year to December 8, a total of 47 IPOs were completed in the region, raising $20.6

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Global Private Banking and Wealth Management editor
Elliot Wilson is Greater China editor and Private Banking and Wealth Management editor. He joined the magazine in 2020 having been a regular contributor focusing on China and the Indian subcontinent, Russia and Eastern Europe/the CIS. He is based in Hong Kong.