x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Depa mulls departure from Nasdaq Dubai listing

Depa, the design company that fitted out some of Dubai's most prestigious buildings, is considering delisting from the Nasdaq Dubai stock market to enhance trading in its shares.

Depa has a successful international business, specialising in interior design for luxury hotels and resorts. Delores Johnson / The National
Depa has a successful international business, specialising in interior design for luxury hotels and resorts. Delores Johnson / The National

Depa, the design company that fitted out some of Dubai's most prestigious buildings, is considering delisting from Nasdaq Dubai to enhance trading in its shares.

One option for the company is to move its equity listing to Singapore, according to Dubai financial sources. It might also shift to the Dubai Financial Market (DFM), the emirate's local exchange.

The sources, who declined to be named, said a move to the South East Asian trading hub was Depa's favoured option but that a listing on the retail-driven DFM was also being considered.

A spokesman said: "Depa is looking at a number of options with regard to its equity listing but has taken no decision to change markets." A board meeting this month is expected to decide the matter.

Depa, a leader in the international interior design business, kitted out the Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa in Dubai, as well as the city's Metro and some of its malls.

Its shares were listed on the Nasdaq Dubai in 2008 at US$1.55, but have struggled to get anywhere near that level since. Last week, they closed at 46 cents.

A Nasdaq source said: "They told us they are considering a move because they want more volume trading in the stock. The stock is well liked by the international investment community, and at the moment they are banging up against the 49 per cent barrier for foreign ownership. A move to Singapore would lift that barrier.

"They [Depa] might also look at the DFM, where there are more retail investors."

In addition to "signature" projects in Dubai, Depa has a global business, specialising in interior design for luxury hotels and resorts. In 2010 it spent Dh295 million ($79.6m) to buy Design Studio, a Singaporean company in the same industry but retained its listing on the Singapore Exchange (SGX).

A move to the SGX would be another blow to Nasdaq Dubai, the market intended as the emirate's hub for global equity trading.

The global ports company DP World would be the only equity traded in any significant volume on the market.

Last week, the Abu Dhabi-based company NMC Healthcare declared its intention to float on the London Stock Exchange, rather than on any of the UAE's three markets.

Last year, Depa signed its biggest contract, with a deal to fit out 27 lounges at Doha's new international airport. It is also close to signing big contracts in Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

Depa was founded in 1996 by the current chief executive, Mohannad Sweid.

The financial crisis, and resulting delays and cancellations in big-ticket projects around the world, hit Depa's financial performance in the past two years. In 2010, revenue fell 33 per cent to Dh1.8 billion. There was some improvement in margins and growth in the first half of last year.

In a trading update last month, Depa said that revenue for last year was expected to be in line with the previous year but that gross profit would be higher.

fkane@thenational.ae

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