There was little fanfare for the latest listing on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.
Just a handful of day traders watched yesterday as Eshraq Properties became the 66th company to list shares on an exchange where trading volume has fallen to a third of the average.
"Can you say we will make money from buying the shares of Eshraq?" an Emirati day trader asked company officials. "I've lost half my capital over the past year."
He said he owned a Dh1 million (US$272,000) portfolio a year and a half ago. Now it is worth just Dh500,000.
The booths of the exchange once buzzed with the urgent chatter of brokers as traders launched their buy and sell orders via paper aeroplanes over the heads of rival investors jamming the trading room floor. Many of those trading booths stood empty yesterday morning, some with the lights off. Today, just 58 licensed brokerages are operating in the Emirates - down from 110 a year ago.
The latest listing comes as the UAE's two main exchanges struggle to find a way out of the doldrums as political unrest in parts of the region, the European sovereign-debt crisis and the threat of a global economic downturn have taken a toll on markets.
Day traders and brokers are not alone in fleeing local bourses. Foreign investors, who account for 37 per cent of trading on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), are also exiting. The ADX has lost Dh325.6m in the form of foreign outflows since the beginning of last month.
In Dubai, the loss has been even more pronounced, with Dh634.6m flowing overseas from the Dubai Financial Market in the same period.
Eshraq sold 825 million shares at Dh1 each in an initial public offering (IPO) in May. The listing was the second in Abu Dhabi this year. Insurance House, a casualty insurer, raised Dh66m in March. Beyond these two listings, the future of IPOs in the country looks bleak.
"We need institutional investors, we need market makers, we need other roles such as short selling, borrowing and lending," said Rashed Al Baloushi, the deputy chief executive at the ADX. "These elements would encourage and attract investments in our markets."