Emaar Properties, National Central Cooling Company (Tabreed) and Dubai Investments Company can usually be relied on to be among the most-traded stocks. In early September, all three hit their highest levels since 1998. Emaar constantly attracts attention as its high-profile real estate ventures hit the headlines. The company also released a statement hinting that third-quarter profits might be better than had been forecast, although since neither the new nor the old predictions were revealed, the tip was somewhat meaningless. Nevertheless, investor confidence climbed.
Tabreed stock has been on an upward trajectory for some time after a period of trading below par. Regional expansion plans took another step forward in early August when a shareholders’ agreement was signed for a venture in Bahrain, following the launch of Qatar District Cooling Company (Qatar-Cool) in April. Bahrain District Cooling Company will disappointingly be known as Tabreed Bahrain, missing a golden ‘B-Cool’ marketing opportunity. Without a real competitor in the market, and with acres of prime-mover advantage, the stock will continue to attract attention over the medium and long terms.
Increased buying of popular stocks also reflects a return of liquidity to the market. ‘ATCC [Arab Technical Construction Company] began returning money to investors [who oversubscribed to its August share offering some 65 times], injecting liquidity into the market,’ says Walid Shihabi, head of research at Dubai-based Shuaa Capital. Given that the value of the oversubscription amounted to more than AED 13,000 million ($3,500 million), even allowing for heavy leveraging there is a sizeable wad of cash available for share trading.
However, not all felt the benefits. ‘Banks have not been doing particularly well,’ says Shihabi. ‘And Etisalat [Emirates Telecommunications Corporation] stock has been underperforming in the last couple of weeks.’ Some of this can be attributed to the calming of the investor euphoria that greeted the award to Etisalat of the second mobile licence in Saudi Arabia. There are also mounting rumours that the clock might be ticking faster than many had expected on the end of the operator’s local monopoly (see Cover Story).
Looking forward, the talk once more is of imminent IPOs. Following those of Amlak Finance, Finance House and ATCC, next up will be Aramex, lead arranged by Shuaa and The National Investor, and Damas Jewellery, managed by Emirates Financial Services – both due to come to market in the fourth quarter, probably in that order. On recent form, investors will pile in.