New rules for listed companies in the pipeline

17 February 2006

A set of corporate governance guidelines is being drafted which will eventually govern the activities of listed companies, Abdulla al-Turaifi, chief executive officer of the Securities & Commodities Authority, said in remarks delivered on behalf of Economy & Planning Minister Sheikha Lubna al-Qassimi to a seminar organised by the Dubai Ethics Resource Centre on 5 February. 'There is a need to improve the levels of trust in the UAE market by enhancing the rule of law and voluntary disclosure,' Al-Turaifi said. Corporate governance regulations would address management responsibilities, shareholder rights, conflicts of interest and transaction transparency.

UAE laws on corporate governance are insufficient to deal with business realities and are deterring foreign investment, said Omar bin Sulaiman, director-general of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). 'There's a lot of cash around but we've not even scratched the surface of foreign direct investment [FDI]. The FDI we all look forward to attracting may never touch our shores,' he said in remarks delivered to the seminar on his behalf. FDI in the UAE stood at $9,000 million in 2004, according to the Economy & Planning Ministry. 'Our potential remains under-leveraged and under-utilised The cash-rich Gulf has not produced one bank among the top global 100.' Bin Sulaiman said long-term growth requires increased transparency, state-of-the-art IT, skilled human capital, knowledge transfer and integration into the global economy, as well as the adoption of global standards.

Most corporate governance regulations are obsolete and the process of changing the law is moving very slowly, Bin Sulaiman added. However, DIFC regulatory body Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) has enshrined corporate governance rules in its markets law and the Abu Dhabi Securities Market has drafted a code of best practice for voluntary compliance by companies listed on the exchange. Internationally accepted standards are central to the ambition of the financial markets,' said DFSA chairman Habib al-Mulla. 'We need to build a truly international capital market, not a discredited offshore market for tax evasion.'

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