The way stock markets function in the UAE is something of a riddle.
There is no trading volume to speak of because there is little money to be made trading on either the Abu Dhabi or the Dubai exchanges.
And then there is little money to be made in trading on either of these exchanges because there is no trading volume to speak of.
These simple observations could be repeated in either order and with increasing speed ad infinitum, like an investors' version of Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper.
The average volume traded daily on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange in the past year is just 63 million shares.
The Dubai Financial Market (DFM) does a lot betterr with close to 100 million shares changing hands a day on average in the past 12 months but even this is nowhere near the levels of trade seen in big global markets.
The giant exchanges, such as those in London, Paris and New York, trade similar amounts in mere minutes. But the size, scope and age of these granite institutions renders the comparison a little unfair.
But it could have been so different for the UAE markets.
Stock markets, particularly those as young as ours, need a blue-chip constituent or two to attract a healthy volume of stable institutional trade, analyst coverage and news. These are the lifeblood of any bourse.
A good blue-chip company is like an anchor tenant in a shopping mall - a global department store such as Bloomingdale's, or an Ikea. You come for the Ektorp sofa set but spend twice as much time and money on coffee, lunch and a car full of essentials you didn't know you needed.
Dubai almost did it with DP World. As it is, the ports operator often accounts for much of the trading volume of the DFM.
But the company sought a secondary listing in London last year - good news for DP World as international investors got easy access to it in the UK.
The move was not such good news for Dubai, though, as the institutional trading, the analysis, the news and the rest of the vital market players that go with them no longer have a need to visit the emirate.
A second chance at securing the elusive blue-chip anchor slipped by just days ago.
NMC Healthcare announced it would go public in a US$250 million (Dh918.2m) listing. But not in this, its home country. It will instead list on London's FTSE 250 index.
The Abu Dhabi hospitals company is 30 per cent owned by Dr BR Shetty, the serial entrepreneur from India who became part of the fabric of the UAE's business community building hospitals and clinics. Dr Shetty and NMC could have played as big a role in the development of the UAE's stock markets as they have in the development of our healthcare sector.
But, as always, a look at the market data shows just how easy Dr Shetty's decision must have been.
There is only one other company listed on the FTSE 250 in the healthcare and services sector.
Synergy Health Care traded about 60,000 shares a day at its lowest point in the past 12 months - about the same as the annual average for all the companies on the Abu Dhabi exchange combined. On a good day the stock commands about 2 million trades, a number beyond the wildest dreams of even the most attractive stock in this region. But this is a level of interest to which NMC can aspire on the FTSE 250.
If such a blue-chip anchor cannot be found in the UAE's private sector a government entity could step in to create one. The likes of Mubadala Development or Aabar, those strategic investment vehicles that are in some ways fashioned in the mould of large private equity houses, could list entities they buy as an alternative exit strategy, or identify acquisitions with a view to listing while retaining an equity interest. Or better still, a round of consolidation - such as the merger proposed yesterday by the Abu Dhabi property developers Aldarand Sorouh to create a giant of the sector.
The options are manifold but one thing is clear: the riddle of our markets will never be solved without institutional support.