Kuwaiti traders wear protective face masks, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus, as they stand on the upper floor since the lower main hall is closed to traders at the Kuwait Boursa stock market trading in Kuwait city, Kuwait March 1, 2020. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee
They do have reasons to cheer... Shares of Borsa Kuwait had a hectic first day of trading. Image Credit: Reuters

Kuwait City: Boursa Kuwait surged more than tenfold in its trading debut on Monday as it became only the third publicly traded exchange in the Middle East. Shares in the bourse operator rose as high as 1,210 fils, after being sold at 100 fills in an offering to Kuwaiti citizens last year. It's the strongest debut of any stock in Europe, the Middle East and Africa for a year.

They pared the increase to 1,091 fils as of 11:16 a.m. local time, with the country's Premier Market up 0.3 per cent.

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The trading debut was initially expected to take place in April and comes ahead of Kuwait's upgrade to the group of countries classified as emerging market by MSCI Inc. in November, a move anticipated to trigger inflows from foreign investors.

Boursa Kuwait joins Dubai Financial Market and Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Ltd. as publicly traded regional exchanges. The sale of 50 per cent of the company to individuals followed a 44 per cent sale to a consortium of domestic and international investors last year, and was the last stage of a privatization process.

The remaining 6 per cent is owned by the country's Public Institute for Social Security.

Been at it already

While Monday marked the stock's exchange debut, the shares have been traded on the local over-the-counter platform since January 15. The price of 100 fils a share was set by the Capital Markets Authority law that mandated the privatization of the Kuwait Stock Exchange.

Boursa Kuwait "is being listed at a 40-50 per cent discount to its EM peers, despite enjoying higher margins, returns on capital, and historical earnings growth," said Gus Chehayeb, the chief investment officer at Sancta Capital Group in Dubai. Sancta Capital has been buying Boursa Kuwait shares in the over-the-counter market since January.

"Note that Kuwait has a history of redistributing its wealth among its citizens by essentially gifting them stakes in recently privatized lucrative state-owned assets," said Chehayeb.

The companies traded on Kuwait's exchange have a combined market value of about $91 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compares to $157 billion for the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and $265 billion for the combined markets of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.