Author: Gordon Platt

SAUDI ARABIAN BOURSE ALLOWS FOREIGN CROSS-LISTINGS

By Gordon Platt

The Saudi Arabian stock exchange, known as the Tadawul, has taken a major step toward becoming a regional exchange.

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Islamic bloc wins control in Kuwaiti parliament

The Capital Market Authority (CMA) will allow selected foreign companies to cross-list on the Tadawul if they are already trading on another exchange with comparable rules.

The CMA is hoping to attract listed companies in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. It has reserved the right to reject any applicant. The Tadawul, the biggest bourse in the Arab world, is soon expected to allow foreigners to directly own shares of Saudi companies.

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) will play a bigger role in supervising the kingdom's financial sector under a cooperation agreement recently signed with the CMA. The regulators will coordinate supervision of corporate governance, risk management, initial public offerings, sukuk and mergers and acquisitions.

Meanwhile, in the United Arab Emirates, sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the country's president, has offered to pay off the majority of the personal debts of nearly 7,000 of his citizens. The sheikh, who is also ruler of Abu Dhabi, will pick up a big chunk of the tab for low-income citizens with debt of less than $272,000. The debtors must agree to set aside 25% of their monthly salaries to pay down the remainder of their debt.

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, says a long-delayed $27 billion cultural and tourism project, known as Saadiyat Island, will go forward with a completion date of 2017. The project will include branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums, as well as a national museum, a maritime museum and a performing arts center.

Kuwaitis went to the polls on February 2 and an Islamic bloc won control of the country's parliament, in cooperation with conservative tribal-based lawmakers. The parliament has the authority to block legislation but not to introduce new laws. Therefore, it is not clear how successful the Islamists can be in advancing their goal of making Islamic law the basis of all legal codes. Kuwait's emir, sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, called the election after the prime minister stepped down over an alleged payoff scandal that triggered mass protests.