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Financial centres contend for prominence

Saudi economic city passes the IPO test

The anatomy of King Abdullah Economic City

With hundreds of billions of dollars of project finance expected to be raised in the Gulf over the next decade, the world’s largest investment banks are once again establishing offices in the Middle East.

Arab governments are vying with each other to provide the quality of regulation and the infrastructure that will attract the lion’s share of these banks’ activity and enable them to claim the title of the region’s financial capital.

Bahrain has historically been the choice of most of the international banks but Dubai and Qatar are investing huge sums in creating internationally acceptable legal and regulatory systems for their financial centres.

Now Saudi Arabia, where the regulator, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (Sama), runs the financial sector with an iron fist, is creating two locations that will house banks, brokers, regulators and leading corporations.

King Abdullah Economic City on the west coast will be a financial island, with 500,000 square metres of office space, 60,000 square metres of convention centres and hotels and start-of-the-art technology.

But this pales into insignificance compared with the King Abdullah Financial District, set on 3 million square metres in north Riyadh.

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