Mohammad al-Sheikh heads Saudi regulator

CMA, the Arab world’s biggest stock exchange, has new overseer

Saudi Arabia has appointed Mohammad al-Sheikh, a recently named World Bank executive director, to head the Capital Market Authority, which regulates the biggest stock exchange in the Arab world.

Mr Sheikh joins as partner from the Riyadh office of Latham & Watkins, the American law firm, which was associated with his own firm. He specialised in capital markets, mergers and acquisitions and restructuring, as well as Islamic finance.

A Harvard graduate, Mr Sheikh’s financial and legal background should help with his new role as the kingdom pushes forward with its plans to open up its nearly $400bn stock market to direct international buyers for the first time.

Mr Sheikh replaces Abdulrahman al-Tuwaijri, who had been at the helm of the agency since 2006 and was replaced this month by royal decree.

But Mr Sheikh faces a far rosier picture than his predecessor. In 2006, when Mr Tuwaijri was appointed, the Saudi stock market was in free fall, leaving local investors in panic.

This appointment is the latest in a series of reshuffles in the financial and political teams in Saudi Arabia, changes that have gathered pace since 2011. In a shift towards private sector expertise, a new central bank governor, Fahad al-Mubarak, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley, was appointed in 2011.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Majid al-Moneef stepped out of the race for Opec secretary-general after he was promoted within Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Economic Council, a Riyadh-based body that advises the king on economic policy.

“He will be asking the right questions required for such a position,” says one Riyadh-based economist.

Mr Moneef acted as Saudi Arabia’s governor to Opec and as a senior adviser to Ali al-Naimi, the long-standing oil minister of the world’s largest oil exporter.

***

Stuart Jones, the former Abu Dhabi-based US Treasury official for the Gulf has left the government to work for Ernst & Young, the consultants, in Dubai. His new role as executive director for assurance for the Middle East and North Africa region will touch upon some of his former tasks at the Treasury.

Part of his new job is to help E&Y build its advisory business for companies in the region. He will work with companies to improve financial controls and ensure that they are abiding by international regulations on issues such as corruption and anti-money laundering.

Having come straight from the enforcement side of the business, working for the US government on areas such as Iranian sanctions enforcement, Mr Jones is well placed to transfer his skills to the private sector.

“Some have the view that international sanctions or the UK Bribery Act or FCPA [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] don’t apply over here but they do,” says Mr Jones. “If you’re part of the international financial system – these things matter.”

He adds: “As this awareness continues to increase, boards and chairmen of boards are taking proactive steps to safeguard organisations.”

***

In Qatar, it emerged this week that Credit Suisse’s top investment banker for the gas-rich state Rami Touma had resigned. Mr Touma has run the Swiss lender’s investment banking unit in Doha since 2007.

The position is particularly strategic for the bank given that Qatar Holding, the state-backed investment fund, is its second largest shareholder. As a result, Credit Suisse has been the beneficiary of a large chunk of business from Qatar’s sovereign wealth vehicles, boosting investment banking fees.

Credit Suisse has begun shifting some of its staff from Dubai to Doha, which is making a play to challenge Dubai as the regional banking hub. In November, Credit Suisse and Qatar Holding agreed to form asset manager Aventicum Capital Management to boost investments in emerging markets.

Banking in Qatar has been under the spotlight in the last few weeks after the Financial Times reported that a UK investigation is examining allegations of a loan made to Qatar by Barclays at the height of the financial crisis, when the bank sought funds from the Gulf state. Credit Suisse also provided a loan to Qatar but unlike Barclays disclosed the deal to regulators at the time.

People on the Move is a column by the FT Middle East team. Contributions can be sent to middleeast@ft.com

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.