Investors on the Nasdaq Dubai will have the choice of just two local stocks to trade today following the delisting of Damas International.
It comes as MSCI, an international index compiler, prepares to deliver its decision on whether the UAE stock exchanges should be upgraded to emerging market status. "Nasdaq Dubai is a cost centre right now with hardly any revenue," said Mohammed Ali Yasin, a capital markets expert and the former chief executive of Shuaa Securities.
"It was a good idea in the boom days. They needed that exchange and they knew that the laws of the land weren't going to move as fast."
Trading on Damas shares halted yesterday as the company delisted from the Nasdaq Dubai after a consortium of investors including Qatar's Mannai Group took over the company.
That left Depa and DP World as the only remaining listed companies. The exit of Damas brought down the total number of combined debt and equity listings on the Dubai bourse to 12.
Nasdaq Dubai was not available to comment yesterday.
The UAE has three stock exchanges, the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, Dubai Financial Market (DFM) and Nasdaq Dubai. The country is currently classified as a frontier market.
Traders are expecting that MSCI this month will once again postpone a decision on whether to promote the country to its emerging markets indexes.
Nasdaq Dubai equities have been largely shunned by retail investors who prefer to trade on the DFM, which has more stocks and greater liquidity, enhancing their chances to book intraday gains.
Since the bourse' inception in 2005, it has struggled to boost the number of listings and liquidity.
In 2010, the UAE handset retailer Axiom Telecom pulled out of its initial public offering just days before its expected listing citing "liquidity concerns".
Yesterday, 52,329 shares traded with a value of US$531,139 (Dh1.9 million) a fraction of the Dh89.7m traded on the DFM.
"Investors considering to invest in the bourse will think twice because liquidity has become so shallow making exits difficult when they want to liquidate investments," said Wadah Al Taha, the chief investment officer, at Al Zarooni Group, an investment company in Dubai.
"Now is the right time to move ahead and contact local and regional companies, discuss with the wider investment community, on how to adopt a practical plan to increase listings on this bourse," Mr Al Taha said.
"Because if there are no listings, there will be no trading."
Nasdaq Dubai registered losses amounting to Dh15.7m last year, according to financial statements published by Dubai Financial Market Company. DFM Company acquired a 67 per cent stake in Dubai's second bourse through cash and shares in 2010.
"Nasdaq Dubai needs a big push, from the Government, through the privatisation of gems and big names, float even 5 per cent or 10 per cent to gain interest and momentum again," said Haissam Arabi, the chief executive of asset-manager Gulfmena Investments in Dubai.
Emirates Airlines, the biggest carrier in the region, in 2010 said it was ready to offer its shares to the public once it receives approved by the Dubai Government, but no updates have been announced since.
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