DP World, the UAE's global ports operator, could be listed on the London Stock Exchange as early as May 26.
The company, which is 80 per cent owned by the Dubai World conglomerate, yesterday got approval from its shareholders to proceed with the listing, and for a share consolidation to create one new share for each 20 currently in issue. It is now waiting on the UK Listing Authority for formal approval of its prospectus and the admission of its equity to the London exchange, the LSE.
Crest, the London share settlement operation, is in the process of informing clients to prepare for the new listing after 10 working days.
News of the accelerated timetable for the LSE listing came as DP World announced strong trading for the first quarter this year, with a "sustained return to container volume growth".
"DP World has continued the improvements seen in 2010, delivering volume growth in the first quarter of this year. Our portfolio of 49 operational terminals has seen gross volumes grow 12 per cent to 12.6 million TEU [twenty foot equivalent units] driven by strong growth in the UAE, Africa and the Americas region. Like-for-like gross volume growth was 10 per cent," said Mohammed Sharaf, the port company's chief executive.
DP World shares, currently traded on the Nasdaq Dubai, rose 1.6 per cent to 69 US cents. They were issued at $1.30 four years ago.
"They are increasingly confident of the London listing, and the trading outlook is good, especially in the UAE. More people are using Jebel Ali [port] because of unrest in other parts of the Middle East," said Redwan Ahmed, an analyst at the stockbroker EFG-Hermes.
The London equity will be in the form of "depository interests", financial instruments with most of the characteristics of ordinary equity.
With a market capitalisation of US$10 billion (Dh36.73bn) a company would usually automatically qualify for inclusion in the important FTSE 100 index, but because DP World is incorporated outside the UK and is majority-owned by a single shareholder, that is not the case in this instance.
DP World said its "free float" - the quantity of shares traded on open markets - would remain at 20 per cent.
However, advisers believe it will be traded in London as an "FTSE equivalent" and will also benefit when the UAE is included in the MSCI index of emerging markets compiled by the US investment bank Morgan Stanley.
MSCI is coming under increasing pressure from international shareholders to include UAE markets in its emerging-markets index, subject to some important technical requirements from the Emirates' stock market authorities.
"Our portfolio of consolidated terminals handled 6.8 million TEU in the first quarter. While this reflects an 8.5 per cent increase ahead of the same period last year, had our five terminals in Australia not been deconsolidated from 12 March 2011, the terminals would have delivered 11 per cent growth ahead of the same quarter in 2010," said Mr Sharaf. "Like-for-like consolidated volume growth in the first quarter was 7.5 per cent.
"During 2010, the UAE region reported continued quarterly improvement in container handling volumes. This has continued into the first quarter of 2011 with 3 million TEU handled over the three-month period. While this is 12 per cent ahead of the same period last year it reflects a relatively weak comparable period in 2010," he said.
"Following this good start to the year, we believe we should deliver a better performance this year than last."
Profits last year were 35 per cent up on 2009 at $451m, marking a year of recovery for DP World after the financial crisis rocked global trade patterns the previous year.
The London listing will not raise any new cash for the company, which now has about $4bn in the bank after the sale of its Australian business last year for $1.5bn.