The Near East Opportunities Fund, which raised $20 million in June, plans to be fully invested before the end of October with 75 per cent of the initial capital targeting Israeli shares (MEED 9:6:95). By the start of August, the fund had invested $14 million or 70 per cent of initial capital in Israeli stocks, but had invested in only one unlisted Arab equity. The fund, managed by Edinburgh-based Martin Currie Investment Management, took a stake in Byblos Bank, the first Lebanese bank issue to be offered to foreign investors (MEED 19:5:95, Lebanon).
According to Martin Currie’s first monthly newsletter, published in August, 22 per cent of the capital will be invested in Arab markets. Lebanon and Jordan will account for 5 per cent each, and Egypt will account for 12 per cent. Hermes Financial is providing local support in Egypt, and initial investment in that market is expected soon, focusing on privatisation issues.
Further investment in Lebanon will depend on the opening of the Beirut stock exchange, now scheduled for 18 September. In Jordan, the market is awaiting approval of a new investment law, which is expected to ease the way for foreign investors such as the Near East fund. Other offshore funds have made slow progress in investing on the Amman stock exchange. Foreign & Colonial, which manages the largest Middle East fund, has not bought any Jordanian equities since its launch in November 1994.