Emirates likely would have no trouble with a public listing in London as investors would scurry to cash in on some of the airline's projected growth.
Dubai is considering listing some of its largest and most valuable state-controlled companies such as the Emirates airline in a move that could raise billions of pounds in revenue.
Mohammed al-Shaibani, Dubai’s finance chief, revealed that some of the state-owned companies could also be partially floated on the London Stock Exchange and signalled that the emirate views the UK as a strategic location for future investment.
“We have a lot of entities here [in Dubai] that can also go public and that should be a fantastic way to raise capital if we need it,” Mr Shaibani said.
The senior official, who oversees the Dubai government’s main investment holding company, said that Emirates, Fly Dubai, Dubai Airports and the sheikhdom’s aluminium smelting company were among a list of government related entities (GREs) that could all be sold to the public at some point to raise funds.
“We also have the option of secondary issues [including the London Stock Exchange],” said Mr Shaibani.
With annual revenues exceeding $21bn (£12.5bn), Emirates is the jewel in Dubai’s business empire and a company that would command a significant premium if its shares were to be partially listed.
By 2020, the company aims to be carrying 70m passengers a year, nearly twice the number it currently flies. By that time it will operate a giant fleet of 250 aircraft from Dubai, which will boast two of the world’s busiest airports.
“We are dead serious. I cannot list it [Emirates] now because there is still value to be created there. We don’t want to give away value just like that,” he said.
“Ideally we would like to list here but we also have the option of a secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange, which is very strategic for us because we are the largest shareholders.”
Listing companies such as Emirates and the low-cost spin-off Fly Dubai would be a departure for Dubai’s government which under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum has focused on building up state-controlled GREs as reliable sources of revenue.
Dubai has geared its economy towards commerce and investment since its domestic oil production began to peter out at the beginning of the last decade.
Mr Shaibani has been one of the main architects in rebuilding the emirate’s financial reputation and balance sheet after the global financial crisis and high levels of debt shook confidence in its economic model.
Dubai’s financial problems worsened in 2009 when it surprised global markets by saying it needed to freeze $26bn of debt owed by one of its largest GREs, Dubai World.
But the emirate’s economy has bounced back strongly since and many of its legacy debt issues have now been successfully contained.
The Telegraph reported last week that Dubai’s government had reached an agreement to roll over a $10bn bond facility with the Abu Dhabi-based Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates at a lower rate than the 4pc it had originally agreed to pay five years ago.
Mr Shaibani, who is chief executive of the Investment Corporation of Dubai, also indicated that Britain remained an attractive area for investment especially in terms of property deals.
State-controlled DP World already backs the first major commercial harbour to be built in the UK in a generation at the mouth of the Thames. London Gateway Port, which was only made possible through the £1.5bn investment from Dubai and project finance, received its first international shipment last year.
“The UK is very strategic for us,” said Mr Shaibani. “Traditionally we have always felt the UK was a very healthy market.”
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Photo Credit: Brazil's soccer legend Pele shakes hands with Nabil Sultan, second from left, vice president of Emirates Airline. Bebeto Matthews / Associated Press