Qatar Exchange (QE) and Enterprise Qatar (EQ) are working with “a small number of IPO [initial public offering] candidates” to prepare them for stock market listings.

The exchange declined to identify the companies’ names “for confidentiality reasons and on the basis the details may change”.

The companies are set to list on the QE Venture Market, Qatar’s second market dedicated to small medium enterprises (SMEs), which has not listed any companies yet.

In order to change that QE and EQ are planning to provide financial aid to Qatari SMEs considering listings. The two parties signed an agreement on 15 February that will see to the creation of a subsidy programme for Qatari SMEs, which will pay the advisory fees associated with listing on the QE Venture Market.

“Qatar Exchange has been working hard with many market participants, but cannot predict when the market will have its first listing. It is conditional on a large number of external factors including company preparation time, regulatory approvals and market conditions to name a few, but the whole financial community is working toward a successful market as soon as possible,” says Rashid bin al-Mansoori, chief executive of the exchange.

The government also plans to lower the threshold for SMEs to list by adopting a new Commercial Companies Law, which is under review by the government. The draft law plans to change the minimum capital requirement for an SME listing to QR2m, down from QR10m.

The plan is part of a wider strategy to enhance Qatar’ stock market, which suffers from limited liquidity. Regulatory changes combined with the launch of initial public offerings and raising foreign ownership limits for some companies are meant to improve the appeal of the exchange.