US lender joins other international finance firms in strengthening their presence in the Gulf
Bank of America-Merrill Lynch is moving its head of frontier markets research to Dubai, the lender told Reuters on Monday, as it looks to take advantage of growing investor interest in the Gulf and surrounding region.
The US lender joins other international finance firms in strengthening their presence in the Gulf, drawn by surging stock markets, index upgrades and, most notably, the opening up of Saudi Arabia's $530 billion bourse to foreign investors in 2015.
Hootan Yazhari, head of frontiers markets equity research at BofA-ML, will relocate from the bank's European headquarters in London to Dubai in November.
"About 80 percent of the frontier stocks we cover are within Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, so it makes sense that he will be based in Dubai, which will be the hub," a spokesman told Reuters.
Having ploughed significant resources into sales and trading teams in Dubai during the boom years of the late-2000s, many firms pared back their offerings or withdrew altogether as revenues crumbled in the wake of the stock market slumps triggered by the global financial crisis.
But stock markets are now rebounding across much of the region - Dubai's benchmark index more than doubled in value in 2013 and is up nearly 50 percent this year - helped by renewed investor confidence and upgrades to emerging market status by index compiler MSCI for Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
The announcement in July that Saudi Arabia would allow foreign investors to invest directly in its stock market for the first time from 2015 coupled with the expected return of company share sales on UAE bourses in the coming months, is forcing banks to rethink their plans for covering the region.
Goldman Sachs restarted its equity sales business in Dubai earlier this year, and Renaissance Capital opened an office in the emirate this summer.
Yazhari, who has worked for the bank since 2003, was previously head of its European oil and gas equity research team prior to his current role.