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Mon 30 Sep 2019 07:44 AM

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Family businesses in Kuwait should join stock market, minister says

More high-profile listings can be gained by 'speeding up the privatisation program and public-partnership project implementation', according to Minister of Commerce and Industry Khaled Al-Roudhan

Family businesses in Kuwait should join stock market, minister says
Minister of Commerce and Industry Khaled Al-Roudhan

Family businesses in Kuwait should be encouraged to sell shares on the country’s fledgling stock market, which is also trying to attract foreign investments in an effort to expand, according to a key minister.

“We think we have the muscles, the know-how, and all the opportunity to become a commercial hub,” Minister of Commerce and Industry Khaled Al-Roudhan said in an interview. “We’re trying to improve our business environment not only for foreigners but Kuwaitis too.”

Kuwait is working to help the exchange grow, Al-Roudhan said, touting upcoming IPOs, a “very ambitious” development program by the Capital Markets Authority focused on accessibility for foreign investors, as well as the lack of foreign ownership limits.

The Capital Markets Authority will start a public offering of its 50% stake in Boursa Kuwait next month, making it the second publicly traded exchange in the Gulf after Dubai. “This will enhance its profile further and increase its competitiveness,” according to Al-Roudhan.

MSCI will add Kuwait to its main index tracking stocks in emerging markets in June 2020, once some trading mechanisms are improved, in an upgrade that has been priced in by investors anticipating billions of dollars of inflows.

More high-profile listings can be gained by “speeding up the privatisation program and public-partnership project implementation,” Al-Roudhan said.

The minister also said:

  • Foreign investments of $1.5 billion entered as a result of the capital market upgrading to the EM category in the FTSE index
  • Approximately $2.5 billion is expected after the official upgrade of MSCI
  • S&P Dow Jones’s upgrade of Kuwait to an emerging market will encourage more foreign investment
  • Foreign direct investment under the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority reached $3.2 billion between 2015 and March 2019
  • Kuwait is creating a new path to bring more foreign investors to the area; six laws in the pipeline to help boost investment and commerce, including an insolvency law, import law and competition protection law

As part of a drive to open up the country and become a commercial and financial hub for region, Kuwait is working closely with Iraq to boost trade. A joint economic committee formed in 2014 met Sunday for the first time.

“We think there’s big room to improve the economic relationship with Iraq,” Al-Roudhan said. “Our trade with Iraq in terms of numbers is below expectation. What we did with Iraq is try to separate political issues from the economic, I think this is a benefit to both countries.”

Under former president Saddam Hussein, Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, occupying it for almost seven months before being ousted by a U.S.-led coalition. Both sides have signed a free-trade agreement and established a free-trade zone near the Safwan border, which Kuwait will finance and build.

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