Traders fear fresh failure in MSCI bid

With a month to go until MSCI reviews the UAE and Qatar's eligibility for inclusion in its Emerging Market index, the market is already convinced that the two countries will be unsuccessful.

The UAE and Qatar missed out on being included into the MSCI index twice last year, in June and December. Jeff Topping / The National
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Stock traders and analysts believe UAE and Qatari markets have not done enough to secure a long-awaited upgrade to emerging market status when MSCI completes its latest review next month.

For each of the past three years, the UAE and Qatar have repeatedly tried and failed to secure inclusion to the index in a bid to attract billions of dollars of foreign direct investment controlled by tracker funds and emerging market investors.

The index provider will announce whether or not to reclassify the UAE and Qatar in a review that is due to take place in the middle of next month. An MSCI spokeswoman said the exact timing of the review would be revealed later this month.

But traders said the UAE had done nothing since its last attempt in December to improve its chances.

"Our eligibility is currently weak," said Talal Touqan, the head of equity research at Al Ramz Securities.

Investment bankers said as the UAE had made no changes to its market infrastructure since December, an upgrade was no more or less likely than before.

"It's the same state as before, nothing has changed," said Ahmed Beydoun, the managing director and regional head of equities at Deutsche Bank.

"All the arguments for and against haven't changed. It's a question of re-evaluation by MSCI."

The MSCI Emerging Markets index has a market capitalisation of US$7 trillion (Dh25.71tn).

The UAE and Qatar missed out on inclusion to the index twice last year, in June and December, as the index provider reviewed the two countries' market systems.

The UAE was held back by poor market infrastructure, while Qatar's chances were foiled because of strict limitations on international investment in local companies' shares.

In June, the UAE implemented the delivery-versus-payment system, also known as DvP, to ensure that trades are settled at the same time as cash is delivered.

The move was hoped to clear the last hurdle for MSCI inclusion, but the index provider said it would require more time to fully assess the last-minute implementation of the procedure.

In December, MSCI signalled investor wariness over the DvP system in the event of failed trades, where a forced sale of assets without the owner's consent can occur.

A month earlier, the Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) had announced the beginning of a consultation on new rules enabling securities lending, short-selling, market making and liquidity providers - intended to boost liquidity on markets by giving investors many of the tools on offer to them on developed markets.

The introduction of the new rules were cited by MSCI as a possible way of resolving the issues with DvP. The implementation of the new rules would be "a big deal for MSCI" and go a long way towards alleviating investor concerns, Mr Touqan added.

But Mr Beydoun said the UAE still had "a decent chance of being upgraded" next month.

"Since the last review, exchange volumes have improved considerably, enabling investors to test the recent infrastructure more satisfactorily," he said. "This was raised as an important point by MSCI."

In March, a spokesman for the SCA said the regulator's policy priority was issuing regulation on the mutual fund sector before the end of next month.

The new market rules were expected by the end of the year "subject to developments on the market", the spokesman added.

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