x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Dubai bourse hit by new analyst report

Gloomy outlook for region renews talk of markets merger

The hits keep coming for the Dubai Financial Market (DFM). The bourse absorbed another blow yesterday as a London-based analyst for the Bank of America (BoA) cut his price target for the company's shares while keeping an "underperform" rating on the stock. This is the second reduction in the target price in less than a month. On April 12, a Shuaa Capital analyst cut its target to Dh1.20 a share from Dh1.58, maintaining a "sell" rating on the stock.

At Dh1.60, the BoA's target is higher than Shuaa's, but the rationale for the negative outlook is the same: slumping trading volumes. DFM shares were flat yesterday at Dh1.74 each. The BoA analyst said trading volumes last month were down by 34 per cent from March and were off 28 per cent compared with April last year. Concern for the Dubai bourse has been growing even before it announced first-quarter results. It posted a net income of Dh53.6 million for the first quarter, down 32 per cent from the previous quarter, as trading commissions sank by 40 per cent.

The numbers were no surprise. The gloomy trading climate in the UAE has triggered discussion within the financial community about combining the Dubai and Abu Dhabi stock markets. Essa Kazim, the chief executive of the DFM, said yesterday there had not been direct talks between the exchanges but noted any decision would be made at government level - not exactly a complete denial that a merger could be in the works.

Of course, a speedy settlement of the Dubai World debt restructuring talks could bring investors back to the floor, but the BoA forecasts that liquidity concerns for the DFM would still remain until "a cyclical bottom is achieved". Arguably a bigger key for the stock than Dubai World would be if capital markets throughout the UAE were revived through an influx of initial public offerings. But there are few of those on the horizon.

The bank predicted DFM shares would not see a sustained rally until trading rose to "well above 2009 levels" - a target that at the moment appears quite distant. halsayegh@thenational.ae