DOHA: The Mena IPO market performed robustly in the first half of 2014 (H1, 2014) raising $2.4bn 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 $9.4bn 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, Arabic business portal Mubasher reported.
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 $19.5bn 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 $1bn raised, down 67.9 percent from the previous year.
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 to foreign investors would bode well for Mena markets.
The number of private equity exits through equity listings started declining in 2008, as firms held off monetising 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 monetise 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 $2.1bn. 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.
The largest deal in H1, 2014 by Mesaieed Petrochemical Holding Company (MPHC), a subsidiary of Qatar Petrochemical, garnered $905.3m. It accounted for about 40 percent of total capital raised in H1 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.