Monday, May 23, 2011

Investment Management in Oman

As the Sultanate continues its drive to diversify the national economy, the past few years have witnessed both the growth of existing companies and a flourishing of new ones. With expanding industries, a robust and conservative capital markets infrastructure and increasing trade, Oman stands poised to offer an array of attractive investment opportunities. Not surprisingly, a number of investment funds and investment managers, both domestic and international, are showing increased interest in Oman.

In order to establish or manage an investment fund, it is necessary to comply with the rules and procedures of the Omani laws and regulations that govern the capital markets sector. This article provides a brief overview of the legal and regulatory framework for the investment management sector and answers a pair of frequently asked questions.

The Legal and Regulatory Framework

The Capital Market Law, established by Royal Decree No. 90/1998, provides the legal framework for, among other things, the Muscat Securities Market, the authorities of the Capital Market Authority, and general regulation of Omani capital markets activity. With regard to investment funds, the Capital Market Law prescribes general organizational and operational requirements, while more detailed requirements are set forth in the Executive Regulations of the Capital Market Law issued by Ministerial Decision No. 1/2009.

However, we note that this legal framework is currently best suited to conventional investment funds such as mutual funds. Certain provisions of the Executive Regulations – for example, requiring subscriptions to a fund to be fully paid up front or requiring equal terms for all investor classes – could make it more challenging for some alternative investment funds, such as private equity funds or hedge funds, to operate in Oman. As the Omani authorities continue their drive to enhance the nation’s capital markets, we will continue to monitor the development of this legal framework.

Which kinds of capital markets activities require a license in Oman?

The Capital Market Law states that the following securities-related activities require a license from the Capital Markets Authority:

• promotion and underwriting of securities or financing of investment in securities;
• participation in the establishment, or in increasing the capital, of companies using securities;
• depositing, clearance, and settlement of securities transactions;
• the establishment and management of securities portfolios and investment funds;
• brokerage in securities; and
• management of trust accounts and custodianship of securities.

Note that establishment and management of investment funds are included on the above list and require a license from the Capital Markets Authority.

Are there general rules on a fund’s investment allocations?

The Capital Markets Law and the Executive Regulations prescribe an array of investment rules. Among these, the most general are:

• an investment fund shall invest at least 75% of its capital to achieve its main investment objectives;
• an investment fund that invests in securities:
o shall not hold more than 10% of the outstanding securities of any single issuer;
o shall not allow its investments in the securities of any single issuer to exceed 10% of the net asset value of the fund (this provision does not apply to index funds); and
o shall not borrow more than 10% of its net asset value; and
• an investment fund investing in real estate shall not borrow more than 30% of its net asset value.