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Qatar Foreign Ownership limits may remain through June

Qatar Foreign Ownership limits may remain through June

Trading on new SME market to begin by year-end; T-bill trading limited since December launch

January 26, 2012 1:47 by

Foreign ownership limits in Qatar, a key issue in the Gulf state’s potential upgrade by index compiler MSCI, are likely to remain at 25 percent through June, the bourse’s chief executive officer said on Wednesday.

“I wouldn’t expect news on any changes by June,” Qatar Exchange Chief Executive Officer Andre Went told reporters on the sidelines of an event in the Qatari capital Doha.

MSCI has delayed until June a decision on whether it will upgrade Qatar and the UAE from frontier market to emerging market status, a move that would boost liquidity on local markets.

Foreign ownership restrictions have been a central worry for MSCI, with Qatar limiting stocks to maximum 25 percent foreign ownership.

Trading in Qatar Exchange’s newly-launched junior market will likely begin by the end of the year, Went said. The exchange announced in May it would set up a secondary market for small to medium-sized businesses to help them access funding and provide investors more choice.

“We expect it to materialize by the end of the year, when we have a reasonable number of companies, anywhere from five to 10,” he said.

“It’s now up to the companies to engage in the IPO process. A number of companies have indicated interest. The IPO pipeline is there, and we’ve seen healthy interest.”

On the other hand, activity in Qatari Treasury bills has been limited since they began trading on the Gulf state’s bourse in late December, one banking source said.

“There has been very little activity. The whole idea was not to start with a big bang, but to create a benchmark for the local market,” the Doha-based banker said, declining to be identified.

“When they introduce bonds, momentum will pick up over the longer term.”

Qatar has been preparing to deepen its debt market for many months, but has proceeded cautiously. In March, Went said the bourse was considering whether to allow trading of bonds by the second quarter of last year, and would start with trading of government debt before slowly moving to corporate bonds.

The addition of T-bills is seen as likely to add depth to currently very limited local debt capital markets, providing additional instruments for banks and other institutions to invest in.comment on which debt instrument the exchange would issue next.

“T-bills target a very specific investor market,” Went said, declining to central bank in Qatar, the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter, has been issuing about 2 billion riyals ($550 million) worth of T-bills monthly with maturities ranging from three to nine months, to drain excess funds from the banking system and help create a domestic yield curve. (Reporting by Regan Doherty, Editing by Dinesh Nair and Mark Potter)

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