x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Arqaam to open Beirut research unit

The Dubai-based investment company will provide coverage of about 300 equities with a market capitalisation of at least US$500 million (Dh1.83 billion).

Arqaam Capital, an investment company based in Dubai, is opening a research division in Beirut and plans to hire 100 analysts over the next three years. It will provide coverage of about 300 regional equities with a market capitalisation of at least US$500 million (Dh1.83 billion). Arqaam will initially focus on equities in the MENA region and then expand to include stocks from other parts of the world such as Turkey, said Ali Khan, the managing director and head of brokerage at the company.

Demand for equities research is growing in the region as talks continue about the integration of Gulf stock exchanges as a means of lifting stagnant trading and boosting stock prices. Sultan al Mansouri, the Minister of Economy, last month proposed closer co-operation between exchanges following a meeting of market regulators in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. And Essa Kazim, the chief executive of the Dubai Financial Market (DFM), said last month that leaders were discussing a possible merger of the Dubai exchange and the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.

The DFM is also awaiting approval from regulators to acquire NASDAQ Dubai, the other equities and derivatives exchange in the emirate. Arqaam, the businesses of which include equities brokerage, equities derivatives and corporate finance, will hire the analysts to cover sectors such as banks and financial services, industries, petrochemical, telecommunications and property. "It's a broadly focused research effort across sectors. We will initially look at MENA equities starting from Egypt to Qatar and then add more regions to our coverage," Mr Khan said.

GCC equities markets, with the exception of the Dubai bourse, have all risen since the beginning of this year. The Bloomberg index of the region's biggest 200 stocks has advanced 11 per cent in the past 12 months; Saudi Arabia's Tadawul All Share Index has added 10 per cent; while the DFM General Index has climbed 3 per cent. Arqaam, which was the first regional investment bank to become a member of NASDAQ Dubai's derivatives platform, has been in operation for the past three years and has seen volumes at its brokerage business increase by 40 per cent on average each quarter in the past 12 months, said Riad Meliti, the company's chief executive.

The full-service investment bank, which has a focus on institutional investors, is also planning to double its staff of 65 by the end of this year. skhan@thenational.ae