x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Market designation a long time coming

The decision to designate the UAE an "emerging market" will bring the country specific advantages

Bankers and investors in the UAE are celebrating this week after the international rating service MSCI declared that this country can now be considered an "emerging market".

For six long years, stock markets in the capital and Dubai have aspired to this designation, and finally, at about 1am yesterday, they got their wish. Those outside the business may see that term "emerging market" as contrary to the UAE's prosperity and standard of living, but the professionals know that in this context the phrase has a specific meaning - and brings specific advantages.

Institutional investors - the huge pension funds, sovereign wealth administrators, and other movers and shakers of global investing, are prepared to invest in "emerging" markets, but generally shun the less-sophisticated, less-efficient exchanges in countries that carry the less-desirable "frontier market" label.

It was the introduction of technical improvements and safeguards in securities trading that made the upgrade possible. Now the access to major new sources of capital promises to galvanise local exchanges, with beneficial effects for much of the business community.

For some people, however, there is an element of "the glass is half empty" about the news. Until a year or two ago, investment money was cascading into "emerging markets" - most notably the BRICS countries - because stagnation and debt crises in the US and Europe had investors there and elsewhere searching far and wide for fresh opportunities.

More recently however the bloom is off the rose in emerging markets, as political and economic uncertainty has spread.

But this should not dampen the enthusiasm of the investment community here. Except in the technical sense, the UAE is not "emerging" at all; it is a sophisticated modern economy, diversifying away from its natural-resource base and fully integrated into the world economy.

Stock markets and related businesses here, now with added access to capital, have both motive and opportunity to continue to improve, bringing investors and promising businesses together, to the profit of both groups, and the whole society.