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Capital Markets

Saudi Arabia's waiting game

The IPO market appears to be picking up, yet overall investment banking activity in the kingdom remains subdued, especially for international players. Despite that, the market’s potential means most will stick around.

Investors in the Saudi stock market are enjoying a boom at the moment. In mid-March the Tadawul All Share Index (Tasi) was trading at around 9,300 points, more than 2,300 points up on the same time a year ago and its highest level since July 2008.

High valuations make it a good time to issue shares and, after several years of disappointing deal flow on the equity markets, many company owners are doing just that. Perhaps the most important to emerge so far this year has been the initial public offering of National Commercial Bank (NCB), the country’s largest bank. The government is hoping to sell 15% of the shares to the public before the end of the year.

That deal has been expected for many years and should help to add more depth to the stock market and greater transparency to the banking sector. But NCB is far from alone. Numerous other firms are being linked to flotations this year, ranging from home improvement retailer Saudi Company for Tools & Hardware to hospital operator Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Group and Saudia Cargo Company, a subsidiary of the national airline.

It makes for quite a contrast to 2013, when just five companies made the jump on to the Tadawul, raising SR1.9

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