The UAE and Qatar will learn whether they have done enough to secure an inclusion in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index by tomorrow morning, with investors braced for another let-down.The two countries, currently rated frontier markets, are hoping to enter the MSCI index, considered the A-list of economies likely to grow rapidly over the next decade.
The two have failed four times since 2009 to secure a reclassification, expected to bring billions of dollars of inflows from passive funds tracking MSCI's indexes.
The index provider is due to release the results of its market classification review at 1am local time tomorrow.
But members of the Financial Services Association (UAE) were holding out little hope for an upgrade for the Emirates, largely because of "glitches" in the market infrastructure, said Arwa Hamdieh, the co-founder of the industry body.
"The perception among market players is that the upgrade most likely might not take place at this review due to unresolved issues related to the delivery-versus-payment (DvP) system and limits on foreign ownership which haven't been revised yet," she said.
The system ensures that securities are delivered at the same time as payment is received.
Lack of testing of market infrastructure sank the UAE's chances of an upgrade last June after a rushed implementation of the DvP settlement system.
Significant concerns remained over the system, particularly in the case of failed trades, MSCI said at the time of its latest review in December.
While MSCI said the implementation of draft market laws enabling securities borrowing and lending could resolve those issues, the UAE's Securities and Commodities Authority said in March it was unlikely to implement these regulations until later this year.
Volumes were tepid ahead of a decision that has sparked frenzied trading activity in the past.
The average value of stocks traded daily on the Dubai Financial Market General Index was US$28.1 million (Dh103.2m) during the past month of trading, compared with $41.9m in the month preceding MSCI's announcement last June.
Countries eligible for an upgrading must have at least three companies with a minimum market capitalisation of $873m, "good and tested" operational framework and a "significant" ease of capital movement and access to foreign investors. Last month MSCI said the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait met its requirements for minimum size and liquidity.
Regular assessments of the UAE's market regulations had helped the Emirates' exchanges to better assess their flaws but meeting the criteria for an MSCI upgrade should not be pursued to the exclusion of other market reforms, Ms Hamdieh added.
"The results desired from this upgrade could be significantly enhanced by improving the current offering and listing rules among the local exchanges by aligning them closer to international best practice," she said.
The MSCI Emerging Market Index, which tracks stocks in fast-growing economies including Brazil, Russia and China, tracks some $3.2 trillion worth of global equities.
South Korea and Taiwan are also seeking market reclassification from emerging to developed market status.from the national.