Bahrain’s Gulf Finance House to delist from London bourse



Bahrain’s Gulf Finance House has announced plans to delist its global depository receipts on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), which have barely traded over the past year.

The group has yet to make a decision on whether to delist from the Kuwait Stock Exchange, where its shares are the highest traded by volume of any listed entity.

GFH, the shares of which are also listed in Bahrain and Dubai, last week said it was considering delisting in London and Kuwait.

“GFH would like to inform its shareholders and the markets, that it has decided to terminate its global depository receipt programme, and has initiated procedures to delist the GDR from the London Stock Exchange,” it said yesterday.

A Bahrain-based official with GFH, who did not wish to be named, said that the delisting process in London would likely be completed by the middle of May.

Although the statement said that the group’s listing in Kuwait would continue, the matter has yet to be conclusively decided, the Bahrain-based official said.

Just 48,445 GFH GDR shares have been traded on the LSE in the past year, 30,000 of those on Thursday.

“Given that there has been virtually no activity in the bank’s GDR on LSE, GFH’s board of directors has decided that terminating the programme is in the best interests of the bank,” the group said.

GFH’s shares are suspended across all four markets as it carries out a share capital reduction plan, with trading due to resume on Tuesday.

The group’s Dubai shares last traded at 23.3 fils, down 22 per cent since the start of the year.

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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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