Participants at the 34th International Organisation of Securities Commission (IOSCO) African Middle East Committee Meeting and Conference held in Muscat on Tuesday.

Muscat: Several state-owned companies, including Oman Oil Refineries and Petroleum Industries Co (Orpic), are expected to float shares to the public.

Orpic plans to float an initial public offering (IPO) as part of a major government scheme to sell stakes in state-owned companies, which will also help reduce the budget deficit.

Serious talks
"There are serious talks at the Ministry of Finance to bring in some of the companies for share offers, but we have not received any formal application from them," said Abdullah bin Salim Al Salmi, executive president of the Capital Market Authority (CMA), adding "but we have discussed it in general."

He was talking to the media on the sidelines of the 34th International Organisation of Securities Commission (IOSCO) African Middle East Committee Meeting and Conference here on Tuesday.

The government will divest its stakes in these companies either by way of an IPO or by selling ownership to strategic partners or a combination of both.

Privatisation programme
The planned privatisation programme of a number of state-owned firms is under preparation and would be carried out in the next three years, from 2015 to 2017, after getting the necessary approvals.

The Ministry of Finance will work on a plan to decide on the companies as well as the timing for floating the issues, in close co-ordination with the CMA.

Although the government owns more than 60 companies, the state entities will be identified for divestment after taking into account various factors like the benefits to the economy, benefits to investors and the trend on the Muscat Securities Market (MSM). 
"We need to prepare a time-frame to see which one is ready to enter the capital market first. We want to see as many companies as we can, but it depends on the government," added Al Salmi.

Last year, the Oman government said the plan was to divest stakes in as many as eleven state-owned companies via IPOs in an apparent move to spur stock market trading and pass on the benefits of corporate earnings to the nationals. However, the authorities did not proceed with the plan as the state budget was in surplus.

Referring to the TruckOman IPO, the CMA chief said that the company would offer 40 per cent of its stake, if the share offer to its employees and community companies is also taken into account.

Al Salmi said the International Organisation of Securities Commission (IOSCO) African Middle East Committee Meeting is of great significance since the market capitalisation of stock markets in the region is around $1,200 billion.

Foreign ownership
"This is an important region in view of the large population and the countries in the region are showing robust economic growth," he said.

He said as much as 30 per cent of listed companies in Oman are owned by foreigners or foreign institutions.

The Muscat Securities Market is also attractive due to a better price-earning ratio and attractive yields offered by Omani companies.

Munir Gwarzo, acting director general of Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission, was elected the chairman of IOSCO's Africa and Middle East Committee.

The theme of the two-day meeting is 'promoting sound regulation through understanding the balance between its costs and benefits'.