A royal decree was issued on 9 October approving the licences granted to the first 13 insurance providers under the 2003 co-operative insurance companies control law. The long-awaited approval by the Council of Ministers (cabinet) paves the way for the companies to stage the initial public offerings (IPOs) mandatory before they can receive final approval from the Commerce & Industry Ministry to incorporate and launch operations (Saudi Arabia, MEED Special Report, 22:9:06, pages 55-56).
The royal decree does not specify any form or timing for the IPOs and the issue is understood now to be in the hands of the Capital Market Authority (CMA). Firms are obliged to offer at least 25 per cent of their capital, with some variation depending on whether or not they are affiliated to a bank such as SABB Takaful and NCB Takaful. Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) gave its approval to the companies in early 2005 (MEED 11:3:05).Many of the 13 institutions have already appointed financial and legal advisers for the IPOs. SABB has retained parent HSBC while NCB has appointed Al-Malaz Financial Consultants. However, the likely timing is complicated by the fact that the CMA in early October announced the dates of the next three IPOS, which CMA chairman Abdulrahman al-Tuwaijri subsequently said would fill the pipeline until the end of the year (see above).'It will be interesting to see how this is tackled,' says a Riyadh-based analyst. 'A royal decree now would imply that the IPOs would take place by the end of the year, or at the very least by early 2007. But Al-Tuwaijri would not have made his statement without higher approval.'