Saudi exchange boss sees more IPOs

Foreign investment is expected to flood into the market from 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 06 September 2018
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Saudi exchange boss sees more IPOs

  • Authorities are working on several initiatives including a package of incentives for local companies to list
  • Launch of stock index futures should bring an influx of money from overseas

RIYADH: A package of incentives is to be offered to Saudi companies to list on the Riyadh-based stock market, with more initial public offerings (IPOs) expected next year, according to the CEO of the exchange. The Saudi Stock Exchange, known as Tadawul, expects IPOs to pick up next year, its chief Khalid Al-Hussan told Reuters, while the launch of stock index futures should bring an influx of money from overseas.
Al-Hussan said authorities were working on several initiatives including a package of incentives for local companies to list.
So far this year, the Tadawul — which has a capitalization of around $490 billion — has seen one IPO on the main market and one on the parallel Nomu market.
“The application pipeline of new listings, both in Nomu and the main market today, is very healthy,” Al-Hussan told Reuters.
He was speaking as the Tadawul announced the signing of an agreement with global index provider MSCI to jointly launch a tradable index later this year.
The move is set to serve as the basis for investment instruments including derivatives and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), executives said in Riyadh.
The index will be open to both domestic and international investors, and follows the announcement that the Tadawul is to be upgraded by MSCI to “emerging market” status, in a move tipped to see billions of dollars of foreign investment flood into the market from 2019.
“The joint tradable index will be available in the fourth quarter of 2018,” Al-Hussan told reporters.
“The establishment of this index provides a platform for the development of futures traded and other traded products, in the financial market.”
MSCI said that the index would be based on the broader MSCI Saudi Arabia index series, part of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.
Tadawul said in a separate statement it would introduce exchange-traded derivatives in the first half of 2019, Reuters reported.
“The creation of the joint tradable index provides a strong foundation for the development of index futures and other exchange-traded products,” said Al-Hussan.
“As the Saudi market is fully integrated into global emerging market indices, including MSCI, the launch of an index will pave the way for ETFs and other products that enable investors to broaden exposure and diversify ... risk while enhancing the overall efficiency of the market.
“The creation of the joint tradable index will be a milestone for launch of financial products, while Tadawul aspires to achieve more.”
He also pointed to the development of the Saudi exchange ahead of an expected initial public offering in energy giant Saudi Aramco, which is set to be the world’s largest listing.
“I think the Saudi stock exchange will continue to develop its markets to be ready for Aramco and other issues,” Al-Hussan added.
Henry A. Fernandez, MSCI’s chairman and chief executive officer, said that Saudi Arabia had gone through a “remarkably rapid period of change” in the past few years.
The Tadawul and MSCI will be working closely in a “win-win” situation, he added.
“This joint index is possible as a result of the Kingdom’s adoption of international standards and desire to create additional investment opportunities for domestic and international investors,” said Fernandez.
“The jointly launched index is a result of the Saudi market applying international standards and desire to provide additional investment opportunities to investors.”
Fernandez added that the composition of new MSCI-Saudi tradable index is not yet fixed, but said that “the index provider will publish standards later.”
The news follows a string of reforms on the Saudi market, including the easing on restrictions on foreign ownership of companies.


No need for more talks over draft budget: Lebanon finance minister

Updated 21 May 2019
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No need for more talks over draft budget: Lebanon finance minister

  • Lebanon’s proposed austerity budget may please international lenders but it could enrage sectors of society
  • Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens at 150 percent of GDP

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s finance minister said on Tuesday there was no need for more talks over the 2019 draft budget, seen as a vital test of the government’s will to reform, although the foreign minister signalled the debate may go on.
The cabinet says the budget will reduce the deficit to 7.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) from last year’s 11.2%. Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens at 150% of GDP.
“There is no longer need for too much talking or anything that calls for delay. I have presented all the numbers in their final form,” Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said.
But Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil suggested the debate may go on, telling reporters: “The budget is done when it’s done.”
While Lebanon has dragged its feet on reforms for years, its sectarian leaders appear more serious this time, warning of a catastrophe if there is no serious action. Their plans have triggered protests and strikes by state workers and army retirees worried about their pensions.
President Michel Aoun on Tuesday repeated his call for Lebanese to sacrifice “a little“: “(If) we want to hold onto all privileges without sacrifice, we will lose them all.”
“We import from abroad, we don’t produce anything ... So what we did was necessary and the citizens won’t realize its importance until after they feel its positive results soon,” Aoun said, noting Lebanon’s $80 billion debt mountain.
A draft of the budget seen by Reuters included a three-year freeze on all forms of hiring and a cap on bonus and overtime benefits.
It also includes a 2% levy on imports including refined oil products and excluding medicine and primary inputs for agriculture and industry, said Youssef Finianos, minister of public works and transport.
“DEVIL IN THE DETAIL“
Marwan Mikhael, head of research at Blominvest Bank, said investors would welcome the additional efforts in the latest draft to cut the deficit.
“There will be some who claim it is not good because they were hit by the decline in spending or increased taxes, but it should be well viewed by the international community,” he said.
Jason Tuvey, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, said: “The numbers will be of some comfort to investors, but the devil will be in the detail.”
“Even if the authorities do manage to rein in the deficit, it probably won’t be enough to stabilize the debt ratio and some form of restructuring looks increasingly likely over the next couple of years,” Tuvey said.
The government said in January it was committed to paying all maturing debt and interest payments on the predetermined dates.
Lebanon’s main expenses are a bloated public sector, interest payments on public debt and transfers to the loss-making power generator, for which a reform plan was approved in April. The state is riddled with corruption and waste.
Serious reforms should help Lebanon tap into some $11 billion of project financing pledged at a Paris donors’ conference last year.
Once approved by cabinet, the draft budget must be debated and passed by parliament. While no specific timetable is in place for those steps, Aoun has previously said he wants the budget approved by parliament by the end of May.
On Monday, veterans fearing cuts to their pensions and benefits burned tires outside the parliament building where the cabinet met. Police used water cannon to drive them back.