National Commercial Bank (NCB), Saudi Arabia’s largest bank, has raised SR311bn ($83bn) in bids with its initial public offering (IPO), marking the biggest IPO raised to date in the Arab region.

A total of 1.26 million subscribers have invested in the 300 million shares offered to retail investors, according to the latest statement from NCB.

The shares represent 15 per cent of the bank’s capital and were priced at 45 riyals each, which was below original market forecasts. The subscription period closed on 2 November.

A further 200 million shares, the equivalent of 10 per cent of the bank’s capital, are allocated for subscription by the state-owned Public Pension Agency.

The offering was oversubscribed more than 13 times, and although the IPO was expected to appeal to investors, the level of funding raised was still “unexpected”, says Asim Bukhtiar, vice-president, head of research, at Riyad Capital based in Saudi Arabia, particularly given the slow start to the subscription period.

Following its launch, the IPO ran into criticism from some Saudi clerics who declared that the offering should not be permitted under Islamic law, due to NCB’s supposed investments in “haram” or forbidden sectors and industries.

The IPO was only 50 per cent subscribed after 11 days, before investors ramped up subscriptions in the final two days.

“[It was] a good turnout considering the size of the IPO, the participation restrictions on foreigners in Saudi IPOs and the recent selloff in the market due to the oil price decline,” says Akber Naqvi, executive director at Dubai-based Al-Masah Capital.

The offering is anticipated to pave the way for more IPOs in Saudi Arabia. “[It will] embolden other companies and entities sitting on the sidelines to firm up their IPO plans,” says Naqvi.

The kingdom’s Capital Markets Authority is already encouraging family-owned companies to consider listing to enhance the growth of its capital markets. 

“The government will still have to lead the way as Saudi IPOs carry a social component as they are viewed as a tool to distribute the nation’s oil wealth,” adds Naqvi.

The planned opening up of the Saudi market to direct foreign investment next year is also expected to encourage more IPOs.

“There will be greater institutional participation and more money flowing in,” says Bukhtiar.  

The next IPO in the pipeline is the family-owned Electrical Industries Company, which is due to open up for subscription on 11 November and close six days later.