First Dubai IPO in five years sees surge of interest as economy booms

IPOs dried up in Dubai when its financial crisis erupted five years ago

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The first initial public offer of shares on Dubai’s main stock market for five years was 36 times subscribed, a sign of massive interest in equities among retail investors as the emirate’s economy booms.

Investors subscribed 10 billion dirhams ($2.7 billion) to the fixed offer of 275 million shares in Marka (IPO-MARK.DU), which were priced at 1 dirham each, Jamal Al Hai, chairman of the company’s founders committee, said in a statement on Friday. The excess money will be returned to investors.

IPOs dried up in Dubai when its financial crisis erupted five years ago, and since then restrictive listing requirements have encouraged several United Arab Emirates companies to list in London rather than at home.

Healthy again

But the Dubai economy is now healthy again, and the Dubai Financial Market’s (DFM) main index .DFMGI is up 51 percent year-to-date, making it the world’s strongest major market. Marka’s IPO may pave the way for more IPOs in coming months.

Marka is a “cash shell” which does not have any current operations; it says it will spend proceeds of the IPO on opening over 100 fashion retail outlets, restaurants and cafes in the UAE and across the Gulf Arab region in the next five years.

The IPO raised 55 percent of the company’s capital and the rest was contributed by 151 founders, including some of the UAE’s most prominent businessmen. Bankers have said Marka aims to list its shares on the DFM around the first week of June.

Last month the smaller of Dubai’s two stock exchanges, NASDAQ Dubai, saw its first IPO since the financial crisis, a $175 million offer by Emirates REIT REIT.DI which was 3.5 times oversubscribed.

In addition to heavy interest among retail investors from the UAE and Gulf Arab states, Dubai is attracting fresh fund inflows from foreign institutions before index compiler MSCI’s upgrade of the UAE to emerging market status late next month.

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