Morgan Stanley moves into DIFC, eyes QFC

31 March 2006
Morgan Stanley expects to double revenue from its activities in the Middle East this year. 'The region is facing unprecedented growth opportunities, which are sustainable and not just rooted in oil,' said Georges Makhoul, Morgan Stanley's regional head for the Middle East and North Africa, on 26 March. 'They are rooted in demography and pent-up demand. We have revenue opportunities that we're actively working on and which will effectively double [profits].'

The bank opened an office in Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) on 26 March, its first in the Middle East. The bank will offer private wealth management and investment banking services and have 25 banking staff.

The recent drop in regional stock exchanges has not had an impact on the firm's decision to establish a Middle East office, said chairman and chief executive officer John Mack. 'We're looking at a broad array [of activities], including infrastructure, asset management and commodities. We've signed a handful of mandates. The M&A [mergers & acquisitions] flow from the region is superb.' The bank is also looking at expanding its alternative investment business.

'The DIFX [Dubai International Financial Exchange] has delivered a platform to grow business and we can help local or government entities to list,' said Mack. Morgan Stanley was joint global co-ordinator with Deutsche Bank for the initial public offering (IPO) of shares in Kingdom Hotel Investments, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Holding Company, which became one of the first companies to list ordinary shares on the DIFX in early March.

Morgan Stanley has also applied for a licence to operate in the Qatar Financial Centre, from where it plans to focus on project finance activities. Merrill Lynch Bank (Suisse) is expected to start operations in the DIFC by the end of the second quarter.

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