Three years after the stock market regulator suspended the shares of Amlak Finance, one of the largest financial institutions in the UAE, investors such as Ali Abdullah Ragban are still waiting for answers.
Mr Ragban said he made a number of million-dollar investments through Amlak Finance in property and also bought its shares from 2004 to early 2007 during Dubai's property boom, only to see the value of the assets fall by more than half.
With the third anniversary of the share suspension coming on Wednesday, what bothers Mr Ragban, an Emirati, is not that some of his investments have soured but that nobody will tell him what is going on.
"Amlak needs to be more transparent. It needs to provide better communications with its shareholders," says Mr Ragban. "Everyone knows that the [property environment] is bad, but they need to give a better picture about where the company is and show there is at least a road map towards recovery."
Amlak is 55 per cent publicly-listed, with the remaining 45 per cent owned by the Dubai property giant Emaar.
Along with Tamweel, Amlak was the engine of Dubai's six-year residential property boom, writing the largest number of home loans of any lender in the emirate. The Sharia-compliant lenders relied on short-term borrowing to fund the 20-year loans they wrote. Neither lender had a banking licence that would have given it a secure base of customer deposits, which is a cheaper source of funds than capital markets. The mismatch between the companies' long-term assets and short-term liabilities was exposed when the red-hot property market fizzled towards the end of 2008, and the credit crunch closed access to new funding.
The Government of Dubai stepped in with restructuring plans, floating the possibility of merging Amlak and Tamweel. The Securities and Commodities Authority suspended trading in both companies' shares on November 23, 2008. But Amlak's future was again thrown into doubt when Dubai Islamic Bank increased its stake in Tamweel to 57 per cent on September 26 last year. This gave Tamweel the funding it needed to resume trading but effectively put an end to the plan to merge it with Amlak. Tamweel restarted its mortgage lending, and trading of its shares resumed on May 10 this year.
Amlak, meanwhile, has remained forgotten. It reported losses of Dh177 million (US$48.1m) in 2009, followed by Dh219m last year. This year it has lost Dh143m in nine months.
"Amlak is one of the companies that are hugely exposed to Dubai's property market, therefore a plan to make it succeed is important," said Tariq Qaqish, a fund manager at Al Mal Capital in Dubai. "For the sake of Dubai's economy, the mortgage market should be revived."
In a statement to the Dubai stock market last week, the company said that a Federal Government committee "continues to explore the possibilities of a balance sheet restructuring". A company spokesman declined to elaborate. Nabil Farhat, a partner at Al Fajer Securities in Abu Dhabi, thinks problems in Dubai's private sector have taken a back seat to the fiscal crisis that struck Dubai in 2008.
"It seems that the priority for the Government since the global financial crisis has been to take care of fiscal issues related to the Government and government-related entities," he said. "Amlak's biggest shareholder is Emaar Properties and, therefore, constitutes as a private sector company."
Dubai's debt problems shook global investors when the emirate unexpectedly announced in November 2009 that it was seeking a standstill on more than $20 billion of debt owed by Dubai World, triggering a wave of credit downgrades for government-linked companies.
Abu Dhabi has also seen its share of distress from tumbling property prices. Aldar, a publicly listed company, received $5.2bn of assistance from the Abu Dhabi Government earlier this year.
Since Tamweel resumed trading, the stock has been among the most active on the Dubai Financial Market, says Haissam Arabi, the chief executive at Gulfmena Investments in Dubai. He argues that Amlak returning to the market after a restructuring "would be a sensible option for shareholders who still want to be part of the story and bet on a turnaround for the company, while giving the opportunity to those who want to sell their holdings and cut their losses."