UAE bourses remain the most active in terms of IPO activity in the GCC, accounting for 74 per cent of the total capital raised in the first half of 2011, according to PriceWaterhouse Cooper.
This activity comes against a backdrop of uncertain IPO markets in the GCC. Capital markets have remained mostly subdued as a result of political unrest in the Arab world and reports of further delays and postponements of IPOs.
The first half of 2011 saw poor performance in IPO offerings, with the number reduced by 50 per cent, from 8 to 4. Deal values also dropped by 57 per cent, from $830 million (Dh3.04 billion) to $358 million, according to PriceWaterhouse Cooper (PwC). This drop reflects continued investor caution amid economic uncertainties.
"Across the GCC we've seen low volumes of trading which affect the listing of IPOs. The delays were mainly because of the situation in the stock market. We will have to get more companies under one sector in the market to attract more liquidity," Mousa Haddad, head of MENA equity at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News.
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Last year, IPO activity in the GCC was dominated by Saudi Arabia's Tadawul. This year Saudi Integrated Telecom Company floated the only IPO on the Tadawul, raising $93 million in May. This performance contrasts sharply with the seven IPOs in the first half of 2010 which raised $685 million.
"Although the Saudi market has been uncharacteristically quiet in terms of IPOs in the first half of 2011, from what we are seeing we anticipate a number of flotations coming to the Tadawul in the second half. However, with the arrival of the fasting month of Ramadan and the summer holiday period, late September or early October is likely to be the earliest we see the next Saudi IPO," said Steve Drake, head of PwC Capital Markets Middle East.
This year, UAE-based real estate company Eshraq Properties Company raised $225 million on the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange and accounted for 63 per cent of the total amount raised in the GCC. The two other IPOs in the UAE during the first half included the $18 million issue by Insurance House and a $22 million issue by Wataniya.
"The three IPOs in the UAE during the first half have brought a much-awaited end to the drought of IPOs on the UAE exchanges. Most notably, the IPO by Eshraq Properties, a company in the recession-hit real estate sector, is a major confidence booster for both investors as well as other companies planning IPOs in the near future. We have also seen continued interest in equity offerings by regional companies looking to list on international markets where there are perceived valuation benefits in certain sectors such as oil and gas. We believe that there is pent-up demand for IPO capital in the market, however realistic pricing and a strong growth story are crucial to draw investor interest and market demand," said Drake of PwC Capital Markets Middle East.
However, despite the UAE's high activity in contrast to the rest of the GCC, other analysts believe it may be a while before the UAE market picks up again. "The UAE has been a bear market for years and is going to continue for the time being. There have only been small swings up and down and nothing significant. Nobody makes money and the trading volumes are becoming lower and lower," said Haddad.
"The UAE stock exchange is looking to encourage private companies to be listed. There is a plan for this and it will have a positive impact on the market but it will take a long time before the effects are evident," he added.