Qatar seeks to spread wealth with IPOs
Doha, February 22, 2013
By Una Galani
Qatar is planning a wave of new listings on the local exchange. While the planned IPO bonanza may be socially driven, it looks a bit ambitious from a financial standpoint.
The aim is to boost the private sector and give Qatari nationals a chance to participate in the country's global financial expansion. It may also be a way to modernise the traditional relationship between the absolute monarchy and its citizens.
Sovereign fund Qatar Holding is spinning off assets to create a new $12 billion investment firm, Doha Global Investment. Another firm, Infrastructure Investment, is expected to be marketed as a play on the $120 billion worth of spending the emirate is planning for the 2022 football World Cup. Finally, according to sources, Qatar Petroleum is preparing to spin off a number of assets in an offering.
The IPO wave is also designed to foster a more responsible spending culture among the nationals of one of the richest countries in the world. The government provides free education and healthcare, but three-quarters of its citizens still have large debts, mostly over $70,000, according to a government report. Instead of boosting savings, the emirate's infamous public-sector salary increases keep luxury-car dealers busy and fuel inflation.
The listings will go some way to stave off any mumblings that the tiny local population of around 250,000 isn't sharing the benefits of the state's massive spending on everything from luxury department store Harrods to Egypt. Qataris are not complaining, but in the post-Arab Spring era, monarchs across the Gulf are anxious to give their citizens less reasons to complain.
However, with privately-owned firms said to be also eyeing the market, there are concerns that Qatar won't be able to absorb all the new issues. The stock exchange has a total market capitalisation of $130 billion, but liquidity among the 40-odd stocks is poor, and the free floats tiny.
What's more, the emirate's most recent stock issues haven't gone well. Shares in Vodafone Qatar, which floated in 2009, trade at a 14 percent discount to its offer price.
At some point the emirate may realise that there are also other ways than the stock exchange to tackle its social issues.
* Qatar is planning a series of initial public offerings on the Doha exchange, according to three sources familiar with the Gulf emirate's plans.
* Qatar announced plans on Feb 11 to create and list two firms, Infrastructure Investment Company and Doha Global Investment, according to The Peninsula.
* Infrastructure Investment is expected to give investors exposure to entities involved in the massive build out in the country ahead of the 2022 football World Cup, the sources said.
* Doha Global will be a $12 billion investment firm, backed by $3 billion of assets from sovereign fund Qatar Holding.
* The listing of Doha Global will take place in six to eight weeks, Hussain Al-Abdullah, Qatar Holding's vice-chairman, said at a news conference. Credit Suisse is advising on the listing. - Reuters Breakingviews
(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own)