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Business trickles back to Gulf dealmakers

Amid unabated political change, Middle East investment bankers are seeing a gradual return of deal flow after years of scarcity. Euromoney asks them where and why that might be happening, and how far it can go.

Along with Dubai’s property rebound, Gulf stock indices – which have outperformed other emerging markets this year – suggest a gradual uptick in confidence in the Middle East’s investment banking industry.

According to Dealogic, in the 12 months ending July 2013, Middle East investment banking revenue (excluding Israel) was higher than in both of the two previous 12-month periods.

Middle East (ex Israel) investment banking revenue By product type

"After almost five years of relative quietness, you’ve begun to see the level of caution among investors in the region beginning to ease," says Yorick Van Slingelandt, co-head of Middle East investment banking at New York-based advisory firm Moelis & Company. Makram Azar, vice-chairman for investment banking at Barclays, agrees: "There’s a definite sense that M&A activity in the Middle East has started to pick up over the past year compared with the first few years after the crisis."

Even compared with other emerging markets, Gulf investment banking activity is still way below its level in the years leading up to the crisis. Then, there was a proliferation of increasingly aggressive and sometimes leveraged state funds in the region, a series of big IPOs in Saudi Arabia, and the $5 billion IPO of Dubai ports company DP World.

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