While there are few surprises among the names that appear in this year’s MEED 100 ranking of the region’s largest publicly listed companies by market capitalisation, the list provides a valuable insight into the current health of Middle East economies.

Market capitalisation is just one way of tracking the performance of companies and stock markets, but the MEED 100 can be seen as a bellwether that things are getting better.

Profits and share prices across the world took a battering during the global economic crisis of 2008-09, and the combined value of the MEED 100 companies was slashed by 46 per cent last year. The new list clearly demonstrates that the region is in recovery mode. The overall market capitalisation of firms in this year’s table is some 37 per cent higher, at a total $644.3bn, than in 2009.

Saudi firms continue to dominate the rankings, with state energy giant Saudi Basic Industries Corporation still by far the biggest listed company in the region.

Once again, more than half the list is made up by financial services and telecommunications companies, showing the shape of the region’s economy remains little changed from before the crisis.

In contrast to previous years, there were few new stock market flotations in 2009, and hence few new entrants to the list. The highest climber was Qatar’s Ezdan Real Estate Company, which conducted its initial public offering in February 2008. Several companies that dropped out of the table last year have now reappeared, pushing back out those that replaced them.

The real interest now lies in what will happen over the coming year. With a number of companies considering initial public offerings, and serious reforms of stock markets under consideration in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, the 2011 MEED 100 could see some interesting new entries.