x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

No Nasdaq Dubai delisting for Jordan's Hikma - yet

Hikma Pharmaceuticals - the $918 million drug company from Jordan - says it has no immediate plans to delist from Nasdaq Dubai, amid discussions with officials on whether the UAE's exchanges will merge.

A generic version of Ciprofloxacin hydrochloride is manufactured at Hikma Pharmaceuticals's plant in Amman. The London listed company is considering opening a business development office in the UAE. Ali Jarekji / Reuters
A generic version of Ciprofloxacin hydrochloride is manufactured at Hikma Pharmaceuticals's plant in Amman. The London listed company is considering opening a business development office in the UAE. Ali Jarekji / Reuters

One of the region's biggest drug makers wants Nasdaq Dubai to find a cure for its lack of liquidity.

While Hikma Pharmaceuticals says it has no immediate plans to delist from its home on Nasdaq Dubai,it has held talks with bourse officials about whether the UAE's exchanges will merge.

The drug manufacturer from Jordan is listed on both the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and Nasdaq Dubai since 2005.

But Hikma says it has been talking with representatives of Nasdaq, as the medical company seeks to "explore more opportunities of how we want to handle our listing, liquidity [and] needing more investors", said Khalid Nabilsi, the chief financial officer of Hikma.

"We see Dubai as a hub for financial services, and we're keeping our listing on Dubai's [Nasdaq] stock exchange," Mr Nabilsi added.

"At the same time, we're talking to people responsible of the stock exchange if there's any consolidation [plans for] stock exchanges in the UAE."

The Emirates has three bourses, including the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and the Dubai Financial Market (DFM), into which Nasdaq Dubai has been incorporated. Sultan Al Mansouri, the Minister of Economy for the UAE, has said he hopes a decision on whether to merge these entities will be made by the end of this year.

"Now we will wait and see what their plans are, and take a decision of how we'll move ahead," said Mr Nabilsi. "So far, there is no plan to delist."

Of 13 listings on Dubai's second bourse, only 1 million shares traded on Thursday, at a value of US$5 million (Dh18.3m). On the same day on the larger Dubai bourse, the DFM, which functions in dirhams, trading in 26 stocks occurred, for a total value of $170m.

For Hikma, a wider pool of investors is important as the company rolls out ambitious expansion plans that include spending up to $290m this year on enlarging its existing business and acquiring others, according to Reuters. It is eyeing opportunities in countries such as Turkey, Iraq and areas within North Africa.

Hikma is also considering opening a business development office in the UAE, where the healthcare sector is forecast to increase 8.6 per cent this year to about $8.4 billion.

Jordan's healthcare market, by comparison, stands at $2.68bn, up 9.5 per cent from last year, according to research data from Business Monitor International.

A business development team here would most likely be situated in Dubai, taking advantage of Hikma's growing branded drug sales in the GCC region as well as recent investments made in India and China.

"It makes more sense to have our business development hub in Dubai," Mr Nabilsi told The National.

While he added that the plans had not been finalised, Mr Nabilsi anticipated employing 10 to 15 people who would join a sales and marketing team of about 50 individuals already in place here.

Hikma sells branded drugs and injectable medicines, as well as generic tablets via its West-Ward Pharmaceuticals business. Last month, it reported $918mof revenue last year, a 25.6 per cent increase over 2010, amid a profit increase of nearly 11 per cent during the same time.

The company said it forecast 20 per cent growth this year.

nparmar@thenational.ae