Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE, generated two-thirds of the investment banking fees in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) last year, accounting for $382.9 million and $433.9 million, respectively, despite the slowdown as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
According to a report by global data firm Refinitiv, investment banking fees generated in the MENA region amounted to $1.2 billion during 2020, down 12 percent year-on-year and the fourth-highest total since 2000.
Of the total, $441.2 million was generated from advisory fees related to mergers and acquisitions, an increase of 12 percent compared with 2019. Fees generated from debt capital markets rose 10 percent year-on-year to $282.3 million.
“This represents the highest annual fees total since our records began in 2000. Meanwhile, equity capital market underwriting fees declined 61 percent to $86.9 million, marking the lowest full-year equity fees total since 2016,” Refinitiv said in its report.
Government and financial agencies contributed the most fees, amounting to $450.7 million. Both entities represented 37 percent of total fees, up from 22 percent in 2019.
Osama Ghanem Alobaidy, adviser and professor of international business law at the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh, told Arab News the figures were “a remarkable achievement” by MENA countries during tough year for the world economies due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“The pandemic brought the world’s economic activity to a near standstill as countries around the world imposed travel, business and work restrictions and closures to halt the spread of the virus,” he said.
“The uncertainties in the business and capital markets have already contributed to buyers delaying or cutting back on their mergers and acquisition plans, thus affecting and reducing investment banking fees of financial institutions,” he said, adding that mergers and acquisition transactions in the US, for example, fell by more than 50 percent in 2020.
HSBC bank earned the most investment banking fees in MENA during 2020, with a total of $104.8 million, an 8.6 percent share of the total fee pool.
Alobaidy said that this was not a big surprise, “taking into account HSBC’s large presence and representation in the MENA region.”