(MENAFN - Arab News) The MENA IPO (initial public offering) market performed robustly in H1 2014 raising 2.4 billion from 16 IPOs. This has been the market's best performance in terms of volumes and proceeds in the aftermath of the economic crisis in 2008 when it raised 9.4 billion from 36 issues in H1 2008. The MSCI upgrading Qatar and the UAE to emerging markets from frontier markets sustained investment in developing social infrastructure and capacity building to host upcoming global events such as FIFA 2022 in Qatar and Expo 2020 in Dubai are the catalysts for recovery in regional equity markets. The probability of Saudi Arabia's equity market opening up to foreign investments also boosted recovery.
The economic crisis in 2008 which led to a meltdown in global equity markets also affected the equity markets in MENA. Despite sustained public spending by GCC economies to offset the fallout from the global economic slowdown business and investor sentiment suffered due to lack of liquidity in equity markets. A decline in trading volumes and negative investor sentiment strained stock markets causing many local companies to cancel or postpone IPOs. The Tadawul All Share Index contracted 55.2 percent in 2008. The Dubai Financial Market General Index lost 73 percent falling from 6003.3 at the beginning of 2008 to 1636.29 by the end of the year. From 200813 15 IPOs were cancelled and the number of listings declined from 52 in 2008 to 18 in 2009.
The IPO volumes and capital raised remained low after 2008. Liquidity in the market dried up further as banks in a few GCC countries like Saudi Arabia ceased lending for stock purchases due to high probability of defaults and consequently hefty provisions for impaired stock loans. Local companies chose other fundraising routes like sukuk over IPOs. Sukuk worth around 19.5 billion was issued in MENA in 2011 an increase of 183 percent over that in the previous year. In the same year IPO listings were the lowest with less than 1 billion raised down 67.9 percent from the previous year.
Equity fund raisings
As global economy recovered and liquidity increased the MENA IPO market started inching toward improvement in early 2013. In 1H 2013 14 IPOs raised 2.1 billion against 1.3 billion raised through nine IPOs in H1 2012. The announcement of the upgrade of the UAE and Qatar from Frontier Markets to MSCI Emerging Markets status on June 11 2013 provided the much needed impetus to regional equity markets to continue the rally into the second half of 2013 and forward. As investor confidence was restored the average daily turnover in MENA rose over 70 percent to 3.50 billion in 2013 from 2.0 billion in 2012. The Qatar and Abu Dhabi stock exchanges surged nearly 50 percent Y-o-Y by the end of May 2014. The Dubai Financial Market General Index rose 110 percent until May 2014 from that in the previous comparative period.
Increased foreign ownership limit especially in the Qatari market that raised foreign investment limits to 49 percent from 25 percent in May 2014 is expected to improve the flow of foreign funds into regional equity markets. This would also set IPO markets in momentum. The likely opening of the Saudi Arabian stock market-the largest equity market with a market capitalization of around 560 billion as of July 2014 in MENA-to foreign investors would bode well for MENA markets. The significant investments in developing the necessary infrastructure for Expo 2020 in Dubai and FIFA 2022 in Qatar could help improve business and investor sentiment in the region.
The number of private equity exits through equity listings started declining in 2008 as firms held off monetizing returns on investments due to poor valuations; however the number of exits is expected to pick up. The number of PE exits in MENA fell from 18 in 2008 to one in 2009. As valuations improve the pressure to monetize investments could contribute significantly to IPO activity in the future. In H1 2014 three of the seven private equity exits were through the IPO route.
GCC countries had the largest share of IPO listings in MENA constituting nearly 78 percent of capital raised from 64 IPOs between 2009 and 2014. In H1 2014 they accounted for 90 percent of the capital raised through IPOs in MENA with 10 IPOs raising nearly 2.1 billion. Saudi Arabia is the prime issuer in terms of number of issues and capital raised in the MENA IPO market. The country accounted for nearly 38.5 percent of total proceeds raised from 41 IPOs between 2009 and 2014.
Saudi Arabia also led with four IPOs in H1 2014 including the much anticipated listings of Abdul Mohsen AlHokair Group and Al-Hammadi Company accounting for 25 percent of total issued value. The Finance Ministry's announcement for the initial listing of Saudi Arabia's largest lender National Commercial Bank is expected to spur IPO activity in Saudi Arabia.
The largest deal in H1 2014 by Mesaieed Petrochemical Holding Company a subsidiary of Qatar Petrochemical garnered 905.3 million. It accounted for about 40 percent of total capital raised in 1H 2014 and was five times oversubscribed. This was Qatar's first IPO since 2010. Three new issues in the UAE contributed to about 20 percent of total capital raised in MENA. The issue of Marka a chain of retail and food outlets which was not operational at the time of listing was 36 times oversubscribed.
In terms of capital raised industrials (includes petrochemical companies) and IT & telecom led the IPO activity raising over 50 percent of total capital. The issue of Gulf Marine Services of the UAE and Mesaieed Petrochemical Holding of Qatar in 2014 constituted nearly 50 percent or 1.2 million of the capital raised. The financial services sector saw the highest number of IPO listings accounting for around one-third of total listings since 2009.