The fast-growing market capitalisation of GCC stock exchanges is fanning global investor interest in the region and the wider Middle East, generating an unprecedented level of international attention from merchant banks and intermediaries. This is underlined by the number of international brokers that have joined DIFX and DIFC, drawn by the high volumes of conventional debt and equity being issued and enthusiastic investor response to sukuk Islamic bonds.

To further stimulate international investor awareness and understanding, the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) and Tradinfo- the Brussels-based investor relations advisors are bringing together leading players for the first Middle East Europe Trade Forum.

'MEET Dubai' takes place on January 15 at DIFC when top professionals from Europe including brokers, institutional investors, and finance specialists join professional counterparts from the Middle East. The forum aims to strengthen investment relations between Europe and the Middle East, setting up cooperative linkages between key operators in each region.

Nasser Al Shaali, Chief Executive Officer of the DIFC Authority, described the event as a 'ground-breaking initiative' that will improve mutual understanding and create many new investment opportunities. " This is the first time that so many international brokers from Europe and our own region will be able to get together to learn from each other and share experience," he said.

"As the region's international financial centre, DIFC takes the lead in stimulating greater financial and investment interaction between Europe and the Middle East" he added.

The listing of DP World alone, which debuted on the DIFX in late November, has given the region a centre-stage position in global markets. This was the Middle East's largest initial public offering, with retail and institutional investors laying out almost $5 billion to acquire a combined 23 per cent of the ports operator.

At the same time, the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) has seen growing interest from foreign institution investors, mainly for long-term funds. In one week alone during the second half of this year, foreign investors accounted for almost 30 per cent of all trading volumes.

The extent of international interest is confirmed by Eric le Boulch, president and CEO of France's CM-CIC Securities, and one of the main speakers at MEET Dubai." At a time when the Middle Eastern region is encountering a sustained development, as demonstrated by the recent operation by Lafarge, we are delighted to collaborate on such a unique event. The results of the ESN Research - covering 1000 Issuers in Europe by 10 Brokers over 14 countries - that are already experiencing a genuine interest both from our domestic and foreign investors, in particular through our ESN North America subsidiary, constitute an incredible gateway to Europe for any investor wishing to take a specific interest in this region of the world." he said.

Nicola Facciorusso, senior vice-president of the Sal Oppenheim brokerage, who will also be speaking, added: "Sal.Oppenheim will join this conference because this event is a unique opportunity in the Middle East to match mutual interest between our selected participant corporates and the interest of the investment community of the Gulf. This is last but not least our major target".

MEET Dubai is co-organised along with DIFC by Tradinfo, the Brussels-based investor relations advisors, and has Millennium Finance Corporation as gold sponsor.

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