Of the 61 stocks with a listing on the Dubai Financial Market (on March 4th) 40 of them did not have a single transaction. That works out to be an enormous 65% of the stock market listings that remains dormant. If one looks at the remaining 35% of the market, many of them have one or two digit trades, and that’s in a good day. The question that one needs to ask is, why bother listing these stocks in the first place? According to the resourceful web portal Zawya.com, one major trade-starved bank listed on the DFM, has a 10% share free float, hence it is controlled and managed by one single prominent family. This share does not trade and it oddly didn’t decline in the 2005 UAE stock market crash unlike almost every other stock.
A strange phenomenon has to be that of GCC cross border listings. On this day for example, Gulf Finance House which is listed in
Another abnormal occurrence must be those firms that most people have never heard of such as the “Aerated Concrete Industries” company (zero trades), one simply known as “Shop” (apparently they have malls, also zero trades) as well as the interestingly named “United Kaipara Dairies” (you guessed it, zero trades). Pundits can recall the UAE Ministry of Economy’s ultimatum concerning the listing of all public joint stock companies two years ago, but couldn’t that be coupled with a minimum amount of shares being held by non founders?
Some companies in
Keep in mind that this is a firm that was valued by investors at $120 Million the day before its suspension and had nothing to its name except three derelict pieces of land “in a good location”. Please read the following line carefully, as the herd mentality of the region manifests itself fully. In February 2006, Bishah, which reported impressive profits to the tune of 206,000 Riyals ($55,000) and turnover of One Million Saudi Riyals in 2005, was valued by investors at a staggering 489 Riyal per share giving this grand daddy of all fiascos an astronomical value of 2.5 Billion Saudi Riyals ($650 Million). Fortunately, the Saudi Arabian Capital Market Authority was quick to react and intervened only one year later to suspend the stock’s trading. These fantastical figures translate into a PE ratio of 13,000 (plus or minus one thousand) meaning that should you be a lucky investor in Bishah you will be able to recoup your hard earned cash in the year 15,000 AD or so; a great stock for those of us looking for long term investment opportunities.
What must be done is some form of fine tuning with regards to the regulations to at least maintain a façade of tackling the issue of equity, market and index manipulation. Illiquid stocks should not be featured in the primary market, nor should they be used in the calculation of the index. Regulators should also be more proactive and react quicker against firms such as Bishah to protect investor’s interest. Introducing market reforms such as the above two will provide investors with a more realistic picture of the available investment opportunities in terms of both, the liquidity and the quality of the listed equities.