x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Short line for Kuwaiti regulator's top job

Stringent conditions for the post make it difficult to fill

Reforming the Kuwaiti stock market is sure to be a tough job - so tough that the top 18 candidates have turned it down thus far. The Kuwaiti parliament approved in February a much-delayed bill to set up a watchdog for the bourse, which has been plagued with irregularities in prices and disclosure. The appointment of the chief should have taken place in May, according to the law. But analysts have said the stringent conditions for the job have made it difficult to fill. They include a five-year ban on all investments for the head and his family members.

"Let me tell you something, many among those whom I have called have declined and we have reached number 18, but we will make a choice soon," the Al Rai daily quoted Sheikh Nasser al Mohammed Al Sabah, the prime minister of Kuwait, as saying. The remarks were made in a Wednesday meeting with editors of local newspapers. The regulator is seen as a major step in reforming the state-dominated economy of Kuwait, which has plans to become a regional financial centre.

Sheikh Nasser said many of the candidates declined because "they had interests they cannot give up managing", but the government would not rush to fill the post. The regulator of the second-largest Arab bourse will oversee initial public offerings, mergers and acquisitions, and will have the power to impose fines and prison sentences, through a special court, of up to five years for violators. Kuwait officials recently enacted rules with which the country's 100 or so investment companies will have to comply by June 2012.

The regulations set a maximum leverage ratio of two to one and a cap on borrowing from foreign banks. At present, only about half of Kuwait's investment companies meet the criteria. In the first quarter 28 companies, comprising about 12 per cent of all listed companies in Kuwait, failed to submit financial results. Five of those were already suspended over missing financial information. Public companies in Kuwait are notorious for failing to meet profit-reporting deadlines, especially in times of economic distress.

* with Reuters