Capital markets reforms prefigure wider change
Legislation is pending that should liberalize Saudi Arabia’s capital markets and attract foreign investment and returning Saudi capital. The extent of these reforms will show how far the country’s leaders intend to open up an economy that needs capital investment and job creation.
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The Riyadh branch of Saudi British Bank, located in its headquarters building, is a hive of activity at 4.30 in the afternoon even at the height of summer when many Saudis are away on holiday. The busiest section is the dealing room, where shares are bought and sold online - there are more players in one branch of one bank than are often on the trading floor of most Gulf stock exchanges.
Activity on what is at present an over-the-counter market with daily trade of between two million and three million shares is expected to increase when the government introduces new capital markets legislation. This is likely to be published before the end of the year and will create a properly regulated, transparent market.
The prospect of a more dynamic market is not the only reason why Saudi Arabia's financial community is keen to see the shape of the new legislation.