UAE keen to enhance investment in Pakistan

KARACHI: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday expressed interest in increasing investment into Pakistan from an existing six billion dollars level through exploring opportunities in various economic sectors, its minister said.

“We have already invested around six billion dollars into Pakistan,” said Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, head of UAE Ministry of Culture, Youth and Social Development, during a visit to the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX). “We will continue to explore ways of strengthening this relationship.”

Nahyan, who is also the chairman of Abu Dhabi Group, said Pakistan is UAE’s strategic partner and participated in the development of UAE and its institutions. “We are indebted to this country and we have been investing here in good times as well as in bad times,” he said. “UAE will invest more in Pakistan.”

The UAE, a federation of seven states in Middle East, is the biggest investors in Pakistan among all the member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman.

During the 2004-2010 period alone, the UAE’s public and private sectors invested around $3.74 billion in Pakistan.

A number of UAE companies are currently operating in the country, including Emirates National Oil Company, International Petroleum Investment Company, Etisalat, Dana Gas, Al Ghurair, Emaar, DP World, Abraaj Capital, Thani, Danata, Atharihra Agricultural Company, Julfar, Emirates Investment Group, Arab Company for Packaging and Al Nasser Holdings.

Abu Dhabi Group also owns Bank Alfalah and United Bank Limited.

The UAE’s ministry acknowledges vast foreign direct investment and joint venture opportunities in infrastructure development, electricity generation, water desalination, agricultural-based industries, insurance and real estate.

Muneer Kamal, chairman at PSX hoped that the two countries would be able to chart out newer avenues of cooperation and joint ventures during the UAE minister’s visit.

“I am glad that UAE believes in Pakistan’s economic potential.”

Nadeem Naqvi, managing director at PSX said the PSX is the best performing market in Asia with its benchmark KSE 100-share Index delivering more than 40 percent gains since January 2016 to date.

“The country is quickly reclaiming its shares of foreign investments and the reclassification of the equity market to the MSCI’s (Morgan Stanley Capital International) Emerging Market Index is a manifestation of global investor confidence in Pakistan,” Naqvi said.

The country’s equity market decided to open its shares for trading in public and diversify its shareholder portfolios, currently limited to brokerage houses. The divestment of gross 60 percent shares is a part of demutualisation process under which three stock exchanges (in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad) had been integrated into the PSX.

The PSX is expected to fetch around $136 million through the sale of divesting its majority 60 percent stakes. It would sell 40 percent of its shares to investors and another 20 percent as free-float through an initial public offering.