Economy & Planning Minister Sheikha Lubna bint Khaled al-Qassimi, delivering the keynote address at the Third MEED Middle East Capital Markets conference in Dubai on 20 September, called for further reform of the federation’s legal framework to encourage more companies to go public.

‘I have called for an amendment of the Companies Law in areas where I thought it was detrimental to further expansion, so I suggested that we amend the articles which make it almost impossible for successful family businesses to go public,’ she told the gathering. The amendment would change the much-maligned legislation that requires an established company wishing to stage an initial public offering (IPO) to sell at least 55 per cent of shares – thus depriving the former owners of control. Sheikha Lubna wants to reduce this level to 25-30 per cent.

‘Can you imagine how much good change would be effected if all notable family and private businesses go public? It will create the opportunity to dynamise the stock exchange, diversify the economy, create wider equity participation and produce resilience in the market,’ she said, adding that more amendments to the Companies Law were being called for.

The minister also highlighted the authorities’ ongoing efforts to police public share offerings firmly. ‘When the Central Bank of the UAE intervened to prevent open credit extension to potential subscribers of new IPOs, it was motivated to check market over-exaggerations and misleading information. The measure was truly preventative and well-justified. The market became less erratic and less jittery, but did not lose its energy.’

Sheikha Lubna welcomed the advent of the Dubai International Financial Exchange (DIFX), due to open on 26 September (see below).