In addition, Shuaa is expanding its physical presence overseas, starting in the GCC with the launch of an office in Saudi Arabia. ‘The business opportunities in the kingdom are enormous,’ says Duwaji. ‘It’s by far the largest market in the region and is going to be very interesting in the next 10 years.’ Shuaa will offer all its business lines in the kingdom, including investment banking, brokerage, private equity and asset management. ‘Throughout the region, but particularly in Saudi Arabia, local industries are restructuring. I forecast a lot of activity,’ he says.

The company is not limiting its ambitions to the Arab world. ‘In the past few years we’ve concentrated 90 per cent on the Gulf. However, now we have decided to expand beyond the region and are looking at new markets easily covered from Dubai, including India and Pakistan,’ says Duwaji. The company plans to establish liaison offices in both countries and will eventually offer its entire range of financial services. But it is starting with its own portfolio in mind. ‘We’ll start with [investing] our own money to get a foothold,’ he says. ‘Stage two is to contact issuers who want to come to the DIFX, seeing Dubai as the gateway to liquidity.’

Further afield and on the doorstep of Europe, Turkey is also a tempting place to invest. ‘It has a different growth driver and has its potential entry into the EU. It is also a beneficiary of Gulf investment and we want to position ourselves to capture part of that traffic,’ says Duwaji. The deal flow includes some hefty transactions, such as Saudi telco Oger Telecom’s acquisition of a 55 per cent stake in Turk Telekom last November. The lack of IPO deal flow has made little dent in Shuaa’s profitability. The company recently posted healthy net earnings of AED 305 million ($83 million) for the nine months ending 31 December 2005, partly because of its diversified business lines. Shuaa has equity stakes including 50 per cent of brokerage firm Emirates Securities, 60 per cent of consumer finance company Gulf Finance Corporation, 20 per cent