Emerging Markets Roundup: Middle East



By Gordon Platt


Clifford Chance is the first global law firm to receive approval from Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry to create a Saudi-foreign legal partnership in the kingdom.


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Photo Credits: SAUDI ARABIA: FEDOR SELIVANOV / Shutterstock.com

The firm plans to begin operating January 1, 2014. Many major international law firms have a presence in Saudi Arabia through affiliated offices, but Clifford Chance is the first to have a formal legal presence with Saudi partners. It plans to hire a banking lawyer and a capital markets specialist from its Riyadh affiliate, Al-Jadaan & Partners, which will hold a 25% stake in the new firm, with Clifford Chance owning 75%. Saudi Arabia’s legal system is based on shariah, or Islamic law, with litigation in Arabic. Clifford Chance has no plans to enter the local litigation market, but will stick with work on financial transactions.


The Saudi stock market, the Tadawul, had a hot initial public offering in March. Shares of healthcare firm National Medical Care soared more than 350% on their debut March 13, accounting for more than 59% of the day’s trading. Riyad Capital, the investment arm of Riyad Bank, managed the IPO, in which half of the shares were reserved for individual investors.


In Dubai, Franklin Templeton introduced two shariah-compliant equity funds and a sukuk fund for retail investors. The firm already manages more than $1.1 billion of shariah-compliant assets for institutional clients. Qatari investment bank QInvest announced the first open-architecture, shariah-compliant managed account platform. Known as QMAP, it enables institutional investors to select from a range of funds and hedge funds to invest in.


At the Arab League summit in Doha on March 26, leaders condemned Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime for violations against the Syrian people. The summit passed a resolution giving Arab states the right to arm Syrian rebels. Leaders also said they welcome calls for dialogue in Yemen and Bahrain. They approved a $1 billion fund to finance projects and programs in Arab East Jerusalem, with a quarter of funds coming from Qatar.  The Islamic Development Bank will manage the fund.