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The UAE’s bourses are not looking quite such an attractive place as they were a year ago, either for investors or bankers. Initial public offerings (IPOs) have slowed to a trickle, following a ban by the Economy & Planning Ministry on new firms going public. The slowdown has had little impact on the returns being made by Dubai-based Shuaa Capital. But the local investment banking heavyweight is looking abroad. ‘Last year, the [local] markets represented a big opportunity,’ says Shuaa chief executive officer (CEO) Iyad Duwaji. ‘Recently, the level of activity has dropped.’ Greenfield companies cannot go public and we support it. The public are not sophisticated [investors] and the risks are high. But it’s a problem in practice. Clearly, there are a number of bottlenecks in the UAE. The whole process is completely different from any other jurisdiction and every transaction takes three times the effort. We’ve decided to take a step back until the new companies law takes effect.’ Shuaa’s reaction to the lack of activity is manifold. One solution is teaming up with international banks to bring issues to other markets, such as the $626 million listing of UAE-based Petrofac on the London Stock Exchange. Shuaa partnered JP Morgan Cazenove as co-lead manager, while Credit Suisse First Boston and Lehman Brothers acted as joint lead managers and bookrunners. Dubai International Financial Exchange (DIFX) also offers hope. ‘My focus is to promote the flow of investment throughout the world into the region,’ says Duwaji. He sees the newly formed exchange, which sits in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), as the means to do this. ‘Issuers in countries other than the UAE are looking for a place from which to tap the liquidity pool. The same applies to a number of regional companies based in states where the capital market has either not developed or is small.’