Major Dubai free zone operator becomes latest to offer IPO

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A major free zone operator in Dubai owned by the sheikhdom’s ruler said Thursday it would make an initial public offering on the local stock market, the latest state asset to list in an effort to boost the city-state’s bourse.

The TECOM Group, whose 10 holdings include Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City, plans to offer 625 million shares on the Dubai Financial Market. TECOM said it planned to offer investors dividends of $218 million a year for the next three years.

The offer would represent 12.5% of all shares of TECOM, a subsidiary of Dubai Holding, part of the vast government enterprises informally known as Dubai Inc. and overseen by its ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

TECOM reported having revenues of over $480 million in 2021, with a profit of nearly $320 million.

“With our intention to list … we are expanding our contribution to Dubai’s financial market and bolstering our vision to further unlock the emirate’s economic and business growth potential,” said Malek Al Malek, TECOM’s chairman.

TECOM said it hoped to begin trading its shares on July 5.

The listing is part of a wider plan announced last November by Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the son of Dubai’s ruler, to list 10 state industries on the stock market to boost its profile and raise new capital for the skyscraper-lined emirate.

Dubai is home to 3.5 million people and has seen a surge of interest as the sheikhdom weathered the pandemic and kept its vital tourism and real estate markets afloat. TECOM is one of Dubai’s top operators of free zones, which allow foreign companies to operate in a tax-free environment and maintain 100% of their ownership.

Dubai’s Water and Electricity Authority, known as DEWA, began trading a portion of its shares for the first time in April after raising over $6 billion during its IPO.

A renewed wave of IPOs has struck across the Gulf Arab states, likely fueled by the listing of the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Saudi Aramco. Even long-haul carrier Emirates, the jewel of Dubai Inc., has been discussed as a possible IPO target.

But risks remain — particularly after Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched attacks on the country at the start of the year.

“Although the UAE continues to exercise de-escalation diplomacy and self-restraint, there can be no assurance that tensions will not continue to escalate in the region, or that further attacks will not happen,” the prospectus warned.

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