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Wednesday, 26 January 2011 - Foreign bankers run into Saudi sands

The Kingdom Tower at night in Riyadh
City of broken dreams: Riyadh has offered little reward for many western investment banks
Dubai’s infrastructure, relative liberalism and gaudy villas may make it the natural investment banking hub for the Arab world, but Saudi Arabia is potentially the region’s most lucrative market.
Yet about half a decade on from a “big bang” of financial reforms that caused scores of blue-chip international financial institutions to set up bases in the largest Arab economy, business has resoundingly failed to live up to the hopes of fee-hungry bankers.
A stock market crash in 2005-06 wiped about $500bn off the Saudi bourse and hastened a drive by the then recently formed Saudi Capital Markets Authority to reform and liberalise the country’s financial sector.