Oman wealth fund eyes IPO spree after record listing

Oman Investment Authority is gearing up for an ambitious divestment plan that may include several dozen listings over the next five years as the Gulf sultanate chases an upgrade to emerging-market status.

Thuraiya Ahmed Al Balushi, the wealth fund’s manager for economic diversification, said about 30 assets are in the pipeline with the priority on initial public offerings. They include landmark deals in energy and logistics that are poised to exceed this year’s record-setting IPO from OQ Gas Networks SAOG, she told Bloomberg News.

“OIA aims to enhance private-sector participation and to deepen the capital market, paving the way for an upgrade by MSCI from frontier to emerging-market status,” Al Balushi, who also sits on the board of state energy firm OQ SAOC, said in an interview.

Oman and Bahrain are the only countries in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council not classified as emerging markets by MSCI Inc.

The Omani fund oversees about $47 billion in assets from real estate to technology and commodities across more than 50 countries, according to its 2022 annual report. Its holding companies include OQ Group, Oman LNG, Minerals Development Oman and Oman Airports.

As of now, the fund is seeking to list as many as five large firms by 2026, Al Balushi said. The October share sale for OQ Gas Networks, which raised $749 million, marked the biggest listing since the 2010 IPO of telecom operator Nawras, now known as Ooredoo Oman.

The Muscat Stock Exchange is among the smallest bourses in the region, with a market capitalization of just over $23 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Last year, the Gulf state tapped advisers for its stock exchange, part of a push to draw more listings amid an IPO boom in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai.

Earlier this month, the country’s credit rating was upgraded by Moody’s Investors Service to Ba1, one notch below investment grade, as an oil windfall helped the OPEC+ member improve its debt affordability.

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