Blue chips off the menu after former broker's stock swap

Depressed markets and sinking share values have convinced one Dubai broker to swap stocks for sandwiches.

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Depressed markets and sinking share values have convinced one Dubai broker to swap stocks for sandwiches by opening a delicatessen in the emirate's financial hub.

While investors may have lost their appetite for blue chips, the former Rasmala executive Nabil Al Rantisihopes they still have space for burritos and bagels.

The Palestinian, 34, who grew up in Dubai, set up his 1762 deli last September. The restaurant name refers to the year John Montagu, the British fourth Earl of Sandwich, reputedly ordered roast beef between two slices of bread during a card game.

"We are serving 400 to 500 customers a day," said Mr Al Rantisi, who was the head of capital markets at Rasmala's regional trading desk until last June. "We are making more revenue than most brokerage companies at the moment. It's a funny time."

Many brokerages closed their UAE operations last year after the Arab Spring and European debt crisis reduced trading volumes. The value of equities traded by UAE brokerages declined 45 per cent to Dh57 billion (US$15.51bn) last year compared with the same period a year earlier. Fifty-seven brokerages are operating in the Emirates, down from 103 at the beginning of last year.

Many foreign investment banks have restructured their operations and shed jobs to cope with falling volumes. Germany's Deutsche Bank recently moved its head of equity capital markets back to London from Dubai. Nomura, based in Tokyo, closed its Dubai equity research unit, and the UK's HSBC has shut its retail brokerage unit in the Emirates.

"Being in the DIFC [Dubai International Financial Centre] for three and a half years made me understand what restaurants were offering, because I had lunch here every day. I literally went to every eatery several times, tried everything on the menu and knew all the pricing," said Mr Al Rantisi.

1762 is soon to open in the Limitless Towers in Jebel Ali and an expansion into Abu Dhabi is planned.