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Citi and HSBC among banks to share fees from IPO of Dubai’s main utility

Banks including Citigroup, HSBC Holdings and Emirates NBD Bank are set to share as much as 357-million dirhams in fees for working on the landmark initial public offering of Dubai’s main utility.

Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (Dewa) raised $6.1bn in its IPO, the second-biggest deal this year, ushering Dubai into the ranks of the world’s top listing venues. Dewa said the government, which sold an 18% stake in the utility, would pay a 1% selling commission for the IPO, as well as a discretionary fee of up to 0.6% of the deal size.

In its pricing statement, Dewa said the selling commissions would amount to 213.7-million dirhams. The three joint global coordinators — Citi, Emirates NBD and HSBC — will receive most of that amount, according to people familiar with the matter. 

The rest will be split among the four joint bookrunners: Credit Suisse Group, EFG-Hermes, First Abu Dhabi Bank, and Goldman Sachs Group, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information isn’t publicly available.

The banks are also expecting to receive a discretionary fee, though the final amount has not been set yet, the people said. 

Representatives for Emirates NBD, Credit Suisse, EFG-Hermes, HSBC and First Abu Dhabi Bank declined to comment. Dewa, Citigroup and Goldman weren’t immediately available for comment. 

The Dewa payout comes in a difficult year for equity underwriting, as market volatility has caused deals to be scuppered or delayed. Global equity underwriting fees could sink more than 50% this year if the high volatility persists, according to analytics firm Coalition Greenwich.

Wall Street banks Goldman and Morgan Stanley both reported an 83% slump in equity underwriting revenues in the first quarter from a year earlier, dragging down overall investment banking revenues.

But in the Middle East it’s a different story. IPO proceeds in the Gulf this year are more than double those in Europe, causing bankers in London to focus more on the region.

Dewa’s IPO was the first of 10 planned listings of state-owned companies in Dubai, as part of the city’s efforts to boost trading volumes and catch up with an IPO boom that’s swept rival exchanges Abu Dhabi and Riyadh. Its successful debut paves the way for upcoming issuers to try to tap the demand for new offerings in the Gulf region, which has been bucking the volatility roiling other markets.

Underwriting fees in the Middle East tend to be lower than in other markets such as the US, where banks can earn about 5% of deal value for an IPO. Still, Dewa will compare favourably to the meagre fees paid out by Saudi Arabia for the record-breaking float of state oil company Aramco. 

The kingdom paid banks just more than $100m for the $29bn IPO in 2019, a tiny proportion by global standards both as a portion of the deal size and in absolute dollar value.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on