MEIRA CEO discusses spread of IR in Middle East
John Gollifer, MEIRA’s (the Middle East Investor Relations Association) new CEO, has praised Oman’s Muscat Securities Market for championing IR among its public companies.
The Muscat Securities Market, which is the only stock exchange in Oman, released a circular to its listed companies earlier this year encouraging them to appoint an investor relations representative to their company and to create an investor relations section of the company website.
The communication was advisory, but it stated that appointing an investor relations professional could help companies access the capital markets and improve corporate governance practices.
The Muscat Securities Market ‘didn’t mandate the appointment of an IRO or the creation of an IR section on the website, but they were clearly raising the profile of the function,’ Gollifer says. ‘It’s quite pragmatic and sensible – the last thing that companies like is being told how to run their business. But I think companies worth their salt will recognize that communications with investors are important, and this serves as a timely reminder that IR serves a purpose.’
To underscore the commitment, Muscat Securities Market invited MEIRA to host a seminar on the value of investor relations to the Middle East. Gollifer says around 20 companies were represented by more than 30 individuals. There are currently 118 companies listed on the Muscat Securities Market, according to the stock exchange’s website.
Gollifer says the Muscat Securities Market’s efforts reflects the spread of investor relations across the Middle East, a process that began in 2015 when the UAE introduced a similar circular encouraging public companies to appoint an IRO, create an IR section of their websites, publish disclosed information and publish investor presentations.
Qatar will issue a similar circular in October that will also encourage companies to hold at least one investor conference call and submit an annual report to the Qatar Stock Exchange.
Gollifer says these advisory circulars strike the right tone of encouraging companies to build an IR function without mandating it.
‘It helps to bear in mind that the markets are developing at different rates,’ he says. ‘The profiles of smaller companies and larger companies are very different. To tell the smallest company on the exchange that they have to hire an investor relations professional wasn’t what [the Muscat Securities Market] intended. But they did make very clear to all of their listed companies that they would be following up over the following year and seeing how companies have responded.’
Gollifer most recently served as the general manager and executive director of the board of the UK’s IR Society, a post which he held for six years. Before that he spent 11 years at Singapore’s SGX exchange as senior vice president and head of IR. During his time in Singapore, he established and ran the IR Professionals Association of Singapore.
Although the Middle East has many unique facets, Gollifer says he’s been surprised by the similarities with the Asian market that he was working in a decade ago.
‘Remarkably, the Middle East is not dissimilar to Asia many years ago, in terms of the great goals and aspirations that can occur over a period of time,’ he says. ‘Most companies have quite small free floats, with sovereign wealth fund holdings, government holdings and family holdings, so free flows are relatively small in international terms. [In the Middle East] there’s increasing recognition that IR is a vital part of a public company.’