x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Shuaa chief steps down for personal reasons

The chief executive of Shuaa Capital, the country's largest investment bank, steps down from his post.

The chief executive of Shuaa Capital, the country's largest investment bank, stepped down from his post Wednesday after making what he called a "personal" decision. Iyad Duwaji's 14-year tenure at the helm of Shuaa saw the firm grow from a small player in a frontier market to one of Dubai's leading financial institutions. Since Mr Duwaji joined Shuaa, the company vastly broadened its investment banking, asset management, private equity, research and brokerage businesses.

"I am honoured to have been part of Shuaa for so long and have seen it develop into a market leader and a regional brand," he said in a statement. "My decision to leave is a personal one." Mr Duwaji said he planned to form a private equity firm after leaving Shuaa. He will remain chief executive until a successor can be found, and will keep his place on Shuaa's board of directors. "As the central figure and mastermind behind Shuaa Capital, Mr Duwaji presided over the firm's transition from a small investment company in 1995 to the region's leading investment bank," said Majid al Ghurair, the Shuaa chairman.

"Mr Duwaji has also played a vital role in shaping the financial services landscape of the region, and has always been recognised for pioneering and promoting the GCC, and particularly the United Arab Emirates, as a destination for capital." But there were rocky times during his stint at Shuaa, which began when the firm was called AGICO. Last September, the company was fined almost Dh3.5 million (US$953,000) by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) for manipulating shares in DP World on March 31 last year.

Shuaa, which owned a substantial stake in the ports operator, was found to have bid up the price of the company's stock on the final day of Shuaa's financial year, helping boost its earnings. It was also found to have obstructed the subsequent DFSA investigation. Shuaa was also involved in a long dispute last year over a Dh1.5bn convertible bond it issued in 2007 to the Dubai Banking Group (DBG). Shuaa said DBG was required to accept repayment of the Dh1.5bn in Shuaa shares, which are listed on the Dubai Financial Market. But DBG baulked as the value of Shuaa's shares had declined substantially over the one-year tenure of the bond, and accepting the original terms of conversion would have implied a paper loss of more than Dh1bn.

The firms resolved the dispute in June, with DBG taking a 48.4 per cent stake in the company as repayment. Shuaa's second-quarter profit declined 57 per cent from the same period last year, but Mr Duwaji said he expected the company to remain profitable in the third quarter, Reuters reported. Shuaa shares fell 3.6 per cent Wednesday. @Email:afitch@thenational.ae