Dubai Is The Destination Of Choice

Simeon Kerr

Financial Times
July 23 2008

Albert Momdjian, a banker with 18 years experience covering the
region – primarily from London – may miss UK nightlife, but in terms
of business, Dubai is the place to be.

The Lebanese-Armenian who works for Calyon, the investment banking
arm of Credit Agricole, says Dubai is the ideal spot for the French
bank to develop its Middle Eastern and African businesses.

"There is no comparison – the activity over here is far higher and
attitude is better," he says.

Calyon has grown in a more cautious fashion than other international
investment banks, such as Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley, which
have dozens of staff in their Dubai regional headquarters.

Saudi Arabia, so crucial to Calyon’s plans to date, has 10 staff,
as does the French bank’s Dubai base. Mr Momdjian travels to Riyadh
every fortnight.

George Pavey, co-head of Credit Suisse’s emerging markets equity
business for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, moved to Dubai in May.

Credit Suisse opened in the Dubai International Financial Centre back
in 2005 but focused on its private-banking business.

As a European emerging markets boss, Mr Pavey covers the region from
his Dubai base – just the set-up that Dubai officials envisaged when
creating the DIFC, selling the lifestyle proposition of Dubai along
with its well-connected airport.

Deutsche Bank is also relocating a co-head of its equity capital
markets operation for central and eastern Europe, the Middle East
and Africa to its DIFC headquarters.

In May, Citi moved its co-head of investment banking, Alberto Verme,
to Dubai.

Banks are also picking Dubai as the place to locate those responsible
for enhancing links with sovereign wealth funds.

Merrill Lynch hired Fares Noujaim, previously vice-chairman of the
board of directors at Bear Stearns, to be its regional boss and
sovereign wealth fund chief, while Lehman Bros appointed Makram Azar
to court these wealthy funds.

Mr Pavey says that Credit Suisse is not late to the party in the Gulf,
having covered the region from afar over the past few years.

Bankers were the final part of the puzzle, he says, but the bank
is taking a different approach from that of many of the other
international names that have set up their store in DIFC, with a
broader range of services than M&As and IPOs – especially lucrative
areas such as share financing.