Published March 8th, 2006 - 12:25 GMT

The 1st Middle East IPO Summit, held in Dubai, has been hailed as a milestone event in the growing, region-wide drive towards the privatisation of Gulf companies.

As “IPO fever” spreads throughout the GCC – 116 initial public offerings are expected between 2006 and 2008, up from 25 in 2005, and 12 in 2004 – the region’s first exhibition and conference dedicated to the public listing of Gulf companies gathered 300 high profile delegates at the Al Murooj Rotana Hotel, on the edge of the rapidly developing Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

Among the leading industrialists participating in the summit was Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Zamil, Chairman of the Zamil Group of Saudi Arabia. “The market here and the families who are active business partners in this region have a lot to learn to understand the mechanisms of going public,” said Dr. Al-Zamil. “These are standard things elsewhere in the world, but they are new in this region, so such a meeting, such an exchange of ideas with specialists, is of great importance to everybody.

“We have to learn a lot. We have to avoid the mistakes other people have committed, and I don’t think those mistakes could be discovered except through an event like this. To me, as chairman of the board of a leading company, these meetings are far more important than any other activities we spend the same time on, because they help us plan for the future.”

Dr. Al-Zamil welcomed the unprecedented gathering of IPO experts in Dubai. “These are the brains that you need as an owner, as a chairman, as a president of a company. For 48 hours, they are all in one hotel – they are all in one room,” he said.

Commenting of the significance of the 1st Middle East IPO Summit, CEO of JAJ Consultants, which provides back-end service support to clients in the Gulf, said, “IPO fever has gripped the entire region. There’s more awareness about IPOs and this event has been great for connecting people – companies that want to go public and investment bankers looking to take them public. It’s a good platform for networking. There are a lot of decision-makers here – CEOs, chairmen, a large number of key regional players. I’m going home with a lot of contacts and a lot of leads.”

Shailesh Dash, Head of Research with Global Investment House, which was a Diamond Sponsor for the summit, said, “In terms of networking this is the best place to be. You have investment bankers, families, corporates who are looking at going for IPOs, so in terms of opportunities to work with these people, it’s the right place to be. ”

Dash said that the topics covered during the summit would help GCC companies to assess if they are ready for a stock market listing. Highlighting “the learning curve” that many participants are on, he said the summit covered important milestones that companies must cover before they think of going for an IPO, including corporate governance.

Khaled Sifri, Chief Corporate Officer of UAE-based SHUAA Capital, a gold sponsor of the summit, said, “I have been able to interface with people I wouldn’t see under normal circumstances. Instead of going out and holding 20 meetings with different people over a period of three months I’ve had an opportunity over two days to meet them all at the same time.”

Commenting on the timing of the summit, Sifri said, “If you’re holding an IPO conference in this region, any time in the last two years and for another couple of years into the future will always be timely. This is a timely event, not because of the day or the month, it’s because of the era.”

Azhar Zafar, Partner – Transaction Advisory Services, with Ernst & Young, said, “The summit was very timely, very topical and addressed the key issues in the region. There was a cross section of people at the summit, and all the leading institutions, and the participants were very keen to know what investment banks can offer, what advisors can offer, and to listen to the experiences of other issuers who have gone into IPO.”

Zafar said the major talking point of the summit was the need to change or improve the current requirements for listings. “The regulatory framework is under review and people are talking about that. All the countries in the Middle East are emerging in terms of the diversity of industry sectors and rules and regulations. There are a lot of changes under way and it’s all for the better.

“The show has been positive, but we need to go away and make the right things happen. It’s important to do the right thing for the industry, for the issuers, for the investors. Protection must be afforded to both,” he added.

Barth de Ridder, Divisional Director, Conferences & Training, IIR Middle East, the organiser of the event, said, “With an increasing number of GCC companies considering IPOs in the next couple of years, the 1st Middle East IPO Summit has been a timely and very important milestone. The feedback we’ve received from our expert speakers and delegates from around the Gulf has been uniformly positive – issues have been highlighted, experiences shared, potential pitfalls explained, and all those involved have gained a deeper understanding of what steps must be taken for stronger listings and the overall growth of GCC economies.”

Gareth Parry, Project Director of the IPO Summit, said, “The level of interest in the two-day event has been phenomenal. There is a sense of what has been called ‘IPO fever’ in the Gulf, but what has come through very strongly in the summit’s sessions and workshops is the need for those involved to proceed correctly and sensibly in order to ensure the long-term, positive contribution of new IPOs to regional economies.”

The 1st Middle East IPO Summit, held from February 25th-28th at the Al Murooj Rotana Hotel, Dubai, resembles a Who's Who of the financial world, including senior managers at DIFC, Zamil Group, DIFX and DFSA. Experts include Mohammed H. Abudawood, Vice Chairman, Abudawood Group of Companies, Saudi Arabia; Dr. Karim El Solh, Chief Executive Officer, Gulf Capital, UAE; John A. Sandwick, Managing Director, Encore Management S.A., Switzerland; Fadi Ghandour, President & CEO, Aramex International; Rick Lacaille, Chief Investment Officer, State Street Global Advisors and Steffen Schubert CEO, Dubai International Financial Exchange.

Global Investment House is the diamond sponsor for IPO Summit, whilst the gold sponsors are SHUAA Capital and Gulf Capital. The silver sponsors are Dubai Bank, Gulf International Bank, Atlas Investment Group, and Zawya and the Associate sponsor is JordInvest.

Associated media include ISI Emerging Markets, The Banker, CNBC Arabia, MENAFN and the Middle East Monitor.

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