By Stanley Carvalho
ABU DHABI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates plans to introduce initial coin offerings (ICOs) next year to provide companies with a fresh way to raise money, the head of the securities regulator said on Monday.
In ICOs, companies issue cryptocurrency tokens to investors, in much the same way as they issue shares in an initial public offer of equity.
“The board of the Emirates Securities & Commodities Authority has approved considering ICOs as securities. As per our plan we should have regulations on the ground in the first half of 2019,” Obaid Saif al-Zaabi told a seminar.
ESCA is drafting regulations for ICOs with international advisers and is working with the Abu Dhabi and Dubai stock markets to develop trading platforms for the offers, he said, adding that details would be announced later.
Weak equity markets coupled with low oil prices in the last several years have severely constrained IPOs in the UAE and the Gulf Arab region as a whole.
A new law may take effect in 2019 to facilitate IPOs in which family owners sell majority or 100 percent stakes in the companies they control, Zaabi said. "The Ministry of Economy has written to the prime minister’s office and we are awaiting approval.”
Other initiatives under way include having a minimum of 20 percent women on the boards of listed companies, he said.
(Reporting by Stanley Carvalho; Editing by Andrew Torchia and Alison Williams)