Taking stock

Saudi Arabia promotes Tadawul market’s strength amid IPO boom

The Saudi Capital Markets Forum is underway in Riyadh, showcasing reforms in the Gulf's largest market and new technology investments

Saudi Arabia's Tadawul stock exchange. (Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia's Tadawul stock exchange. (Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia is touting the strength of its stock exchange as the Saudi Capital Markets Forum gets underway today in Riyadh. The two-day forum is being hosted by the Saudi Tadawul Group, the parent company of the kingdom’s main stock exchange that goes by the same name, which had a market cap of $2.9 trillion at the end of January.

The kingdom has sought to attract foreign investment through its capital markets by implementing reforms, aligning regulatory frameworks with international standards and gaining inclusion in major global indices while at the same time pursuing investor outreach and investing in technology and infrastructure, according to Saudi Tadawul Group CEO Khalid Al-Hussan.

The hard work appears to be paying off. IPOs in Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been booming since late 2021. The total number of shares traded on the Saudi exchange exceeded 8 billion in January, an almost fourfold increase from the prior January, according to data published by the exchange.

“Momentum is great, and all the indications so far for 2024 are excellent,” SNB Capital’s Head of Investment Banking Zaid Ghoul said in an interview with Bloomberg, highlighting a surge in share trading in recent months. The level of activity is encouraging more firms to prepare for IPOs, Ghoul said.

The Saudi Tadawul is also looking beyond capital markets. Last month, it announced plans to buy a 33% stake in the Dubai Mercantile Exchange, bolstering its position in global commodities markets. Once the deal closes, Saudi Tadawul will become the largest shareholder next to the CME Group and the exchange will be rebranded as the Gulf Mercantile Exchange.

Thinking shorter term: Most major stock markets in the Gulf fell in early trading today after data showed U.S. producer prices increased more than expected in January, adding to concerns over inflation and dampening hopes for early rate cuts by the Federal Reserve, Reuters reports. Most GCC countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, peg their currencies to the U.S. dollar and follow the Fed’s policy moves closely.

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