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Merrill Lynch relocation boosts Dubai’s profile

merrill lynch|By TAP Staff| Dubai added to its financial market profile when Bank of America-Merrill Lynch announced on Monday it was moving its head of frontier markets research to the city. The move reflects the bank’s plan to take advantage of growing investor interest in the Gulf and surrounding region.

Global firms have been strengthening their presence in the wake of surging stock markets, index upgrades and most importantly the opening up of Saudi Arabia’s $530 billion bourse to foreign investors in 2015.

Bank of America sources told Reuters that Hootan Yazhari, head of frontiers markets equity research at BofA-ML, will relocate from the bank’s European headquarters in London to Dubai in November.

“About 80 percent of the frontier stocks we cover are within Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, so it makes sense that he will be based in Dubai, which will be the hub,” a spokesman told Reuters.

Having ploughed significant resources into sales and trading teams in Dubai during the boom years of the late-2000s, many firms pared back their offerings or withdrew altogether as revenues crumbled in the wake of the stock market slumps triggered by the global financial crisis.

But stock markets are now rebounding across much of the region — Dubai’s benchmark index more than doubled in value in 2013 and is up nearly 50 percent this year — helped by renewed investor confidence and upgrades to emerging market status by index compiler MSCI for Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The announcement in July that Saudi Arabia would allow foreign investors to invest directly in its stock market for the first time from 2015 coupled with the expected return of company share sales on UAE bourses in the coming months, is forcing banks to rethink their plans for covering the region.

Goldman Sachs restarted its equity sales business in Dubai earlier this year, and Renaissance Capital opened an office in the emirate this summer.