x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Bourse chief woos investment

Roadshow targets Palestinians around the world

Wataniya Palestine, a mobile operator and subsidiary of Qatar Telecom, will launch its initial public offering (IPO) on the Palestinian Securities Exchange this year, the chief executive of the bourse said in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Ahmad Aweidah was in the capital as part of an extended roadshow to convince Palestinians around the world to invest in their home exchange.

"There are 11 million Palestinians in the world, but only 4 million live in the West Bank and Gaza," he said. "We don't see ourselves as the exchange of the Palestinian authority, but the exchange of the Palestinian people." Mr Aweidah acknowledged it was difficult to sell the "Palestine" brand to the financial community because of the perception it was unstable. "There is the story of the occupation, there are settlements. But there is another story. Palestinians have done a good job of institutional reform and maintaining security, which has translated into economic activity and increased economic growth," he said.

The Wataniya Palestine IPO, expected to be about US$187 million (Dh686.8m), is among the success stories. At least three other IPOs are set to launch before the end of the year, Mr Aweidah said. The Palestinian Securities Exchange, whose major stakeholder is Palestine Development and Investment Company (PADICO), has been undergoing regulatory changes to get approval from the Ministry of Economy to float its own shares on the bourse. Mr Aweidah said he was also aiming for a dual listing on a European stock exchange in the future.

The bourse's market capitalisation is $2.6 billion, with 41 companies listed from five sectors, and the average daily value of shares traded is between $2m and $5m. Many traders are able to deal electronically from home even when there is a curfew in place. Mr Aweidah said Palestine had been a profitable investment site despite the political turmoil. Foreign investors from the Gulf and elsewhere in the Middle East now own 45 per cent of listed Palestinian companies. During his lengthy roadshow, which also included stops in Chile, the UK, and Jordan, Mr Aweidah opened four new accounts from institutional investors who plan to put some money to work in Palestine, he said.

He said he hoped Palestinian businessmen would not only approach the bourse as investors but encourage foreign companies to list on the exchange. "It is one way of building bridges with the Palestinians outside," he said. halsayegh@thenational.ae