The GCC saw a rise in initial public offerings (IPOs) in 2022 despite secondary market volatility, surpassing the previous year’s record high. The total number of IPOs in the region increased from 20 in 2021 to 48 in 2022, marking a 140% rise. Proceeds from GCC issuers increased by 211% from $7.5bn to $23.4bn over the same period. The growing number of successful IPOs in the region has attracted considerable investor interest. Following an uptick of activity in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, in 2022 the two Gulf countries ranked third and sixth, respectively, in terms of full-year IPO proceeds in global markets. Much of the activity observed that year was a result of various regional government initiatives such as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and the UAE’s national blueprint We the UAE 2031.

Success amid Turbulence

IPOs remained buoyant in the GCC throughout 2022. This was despite some volatility in secondary markets, such as the MSCI GCC Countries Combined Index. The index saw a modest increase of 1.2% in the first half of 2022, followed by a significant decrease of 7.5% in the half. Performance was also affected by oil prices, which rose by 55.1% in the first half of 2022 only to drop by 30.9% in the second half. The resilience was largely due to the confidence of regional issuers in the business fundamentals of their companies and their effective communication with the market, which helped to generate a high level of investor appetite. Additionally, the strong performance of certain sectors in the region, such as technology and renewable energy, contributed to the overall resilience in the face of challenging global conditions.

The GCC has yet to experience the IPO downturn that has affected many markets worldwide. The global financial market’s volatility has led to a drop in IPO activity outside of the region, which has helped GCC companies sell equity at high valuations. In 2022 capital markets across the globe struggled due to various factors, including the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, inflationary pressures, geopolitical tensions and policy decisions by central banks to tighten monetary policies. As a result, equity issuances slowed.

Some countries even saw a halt in issuances, making 2022 a difficult year for global IPO markets. Compared to 2021, global IPO proceeds decreased by over 70%, with IPO earnings in the US markets declining by 90%, and the UK and European markets experiencing a significant downturn. In 2022 global IPO markets generated $173bn in proceeds through 1154 IPOs, compared to $618bn via 2682 offerings in 2021.

GCC countries are a prime target for investors seeking to profit from high oil prices and other factors. Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE collectively accounted for over 7% of the total MSCI Emerging Markets Index as of December 2022, while in December 2017 GCC markets accounted for only 1.2%, according to a report from the financial services firm EFG Hermes. The region’s share is expected to experience significant growth in the coming years due to its efforts to invest heavily in infrastructure, promote economic diversification and open up to foreign investment.

Regional Champions

In 2022 Saudi Arabia maintained its position as the leader in IPO issuances among GCC countries, with 34 out of 48 regional IPOs debuting on either the Saudi Exchange or Nomu – Parallel Market, an alternative market with softer listing requirements. This demonstrated the fact that, despite global headwinds, investors were drawn to the Kingdom’s market. The UAE topped in terms of IPO earnings, receiving nearly 59.7% of the issuance proceeds, or around $14bn, from its 11 issuances in 2022.

The UAE was home to the two largest IPOs in the region in 2022, with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) raising $6.1bn from its listing on the Dubai Financial Market in April and polyolefins manufacturer Borouge raising $2bn on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange in May, highlighting the attractiveness of such offerings. In addition, the joint Abu Dhabi-Riyadh listing of Americana, a MENA food franchisee, raised $1.8bn in late 2022. The Americana IPO was a successful operation. The company had been listed previously in the Kuwait Stock Exchange, but was privatised in 2017 for $3.5bn. Its new owners valued the company at $6.2bn. The IPO was the first dual listing on the Saudi and Abu Dhabi exchanges, and it highlighted the progress that GCC markets have made, including in terms of inter-exchange cooperation. This progress showed that the GCC has the potential to become a major player in the global economy.

Successful Listings

Dubai’s IPO market was notably active in 2022. The March 2022 listing of DEWA was the largest IPO in the GCC that year, raising $6.1bn at a time when global investors were looking for profitable opportunities amid general uncertainty. The offering size increased substantially, with 8.5bn shares sold at Dh2.48 ($6.45) each, up from an initial 3.3bn shares. As of early 2023 DEWA was the largest company by market capitalisation on the Dubai exchange. DEWA drew the interest of investors due to its consistent cash flow and potential for generating dividends. These factors were also evident in other major Dubai listings in 2022, when Salik, Empower and Tecom Group – all majority government-owned entities – raised a collective $2.2bn.

Several important consumer-focused companies were also listed in 2022. For example, Jeddah-based Nahdi Medical Company raised $1.4bn from an IPO in March 2022. In October 2022 health care operator Burjeel Holdings listed on the Abu Dhabi market and raised $300m. Taaleem, an educational company, raised $205m in a November 2022 listing in Dubai, highlighting the country’s economic diversity, a dynamic also seen elsewhere in the GCC. These listings show that smaller companies with innovative business models are increasingly sharing space in capital markets with larger, government-related companies.


Despite potential risks posed by interest rate hikes, geopolitics and secondary stock market and oil price volatility, 2022 saw strong IPO activity, and the trend could extend to 2023. As of mid-March 2023 the GCC IPO pipeline looked promising, with an estimated 20 to 40 companies involved in both announced and possible IPO issuances. The region continues to attract strong interest, driven by oil prices expected to remain above $70 a barrel in the medium term.

The pipeline is likely to be strengthened in the coming years by efforts to privatise government-owned assets as part of broader economic diversification and private sector development plans. For example, Oman is aiming to privatise more than 30 government-owned firms over 2021-25. The Oman Investment Authority, the sultanate’s sovereign wealth fund, plans to exit eight investments at the time, raising $1.3bn in the process.

The GCC is experiencing a favourable climate for IPO issuances, and indications point to this trend continuing in the near future. As of February 2023 GCC markets were trading at a premium to emerging market peers. The MSCI GCC index price-to-earnings ratio was 13.77 in 2023, compared to the MSCI Emerging Market Index at 11.96, indicating investor confidence.