Islamic bank BLME to seek Dubai’s first listing in four years

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Bank of London and The Middle East (BLME), Britain's largest stand-alone Islamic bank, plans to seek a listing on the Nasdaq Dubai bourse next month in what would be the emirate's first stock listing for over four years.

The most recent listing on either of Dubai's stock two markets occurred in early 2009, when construction firm Drake & Scull listed. The global financial crash and Dubai's corporate debt crisis then intervened, pushing the markets down sharply and freezing most equity issuance.

Dubai property prices have rebounded this year and the emirate's main stock index is up 64 percent year-to-date. This has prompted at least several companies to consider listings; in addition, the Dubai government said this year it would make a big effort to develop its Islamic finance sector.

"BLME believes that this is the right time for listing given the current market conditions and the increasingly prominent role of Dubai in Islamic finance," BLME said in a statement on Monday.

Chief executive Humphrey Percy said he expected the listing to occur in October this year.

BLME said it would list in Dubai through a holding company, offering 195.7 million shares in the holding firm at an expected listing price of $2.57 each, implying a share sale worth $503 million.

No new shares would be issued; the shares would be sold by existing holders, who would receive 25 shares in the holding company for each BLME share.

BLME, which offers corporate banking and wealth management services, was founded in 2006 with the backing of Kuwaiti investors, including Boubyan Bank which held 21.8 percent of BLME shares as of December 2012.

Percy told Reuters in an interview in May that his bank was aiming for 15 percent growth in assets this year. It currently holds over $100 million in assets under management across a range of Islamic funds, including a fixed income fund rated A by Moody's Investors Service.

BLME has just opened a representative office in Dubai, which it said would help the bank expand its business in Gulf Arab countries as well as in Britain.

Nasdaq Dubai, set up in 2005 and two-thirds owned by Dubai Financial Market, is by far the smallest and least liquid of the emirate's two stock markets. It has only seven listed equities, despite regulations and infrastructure that comply with international standards.

Dubai Financial Market, the main stock market, is the only listed bourse operator in the Middle East.

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