Qatar Exchange urged to turn up foreign investment limit

Commercial Bank of Qatar (CBQ) and Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) have called for Qatar Exchange to increase the number of their shares available to foreign investors to 25 per cent of their market capitalisation.

In an exchange statement, the changes are expected to be realized in six to nine months.

The statement was released before equity index compiler Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) decides next week whether to upgrade Qatar to emerging market from frontier status.

Qatar’s stringent foreign ownership limits have caused it to miss out on upgrades in the past.

Currently, foreign ownership limits for CBQ and QIB are 25 per cent of their free share floats, a slighter  proportion of their total capital.

The exchange statement noted that Doha Bank had recently raised its limit to 25 per cent of capitalisation, and predicted other Qatari companies would imitate CBQ and QIB. “Other companies are expected to follow this approach.”

Eonomy Minister Youssef Kamal was quoted saying that some other companies have expressed their willingness to amend the current FOL set at 25 per cent of their free float shares to 25 per cent of their full capital, in the exchange statement.

Kamal said several companies had actually exceeded 25 per cent as Ooredoo and Vodafone Qatar had foreign ownership limits of 100 per cent. He said the government was keen to open its stock market further to foreign investors in order to make the country a regional investment hub.

It remains unclear, however, if Qatar’s latest moves will be enough to win it an MSCI upgrade.

Qatar government owns 52 per cent of Ooredoo , 17 per cent by Qatari government-related entities and 10 per cent by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, leaving only a minority of shares open for trade in practice.

According to Reuters, Qatar’s exchange said in 2011 that it was in talks with individual firms to raise foreign ownership limits, originally imposed to protect the country’s control of its assets, but that it did not plan any blanket increase.


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