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A Short History on the Dubai Stock Exchange

The Dubai Stock Exchange (DSE), also known as the Dubai Financial Market (DFM), is one of the leading stock exchanges in the Middle East. It was founded in the year 2000 and has since played a significant role in the development of Dubai's economy. In this article, we will explore the history of the Dubai Stock Exchange and its journey to become one of the most important financial institutions in the region.

The Dubai Financial Centre Gate Building shown here is the heart of Dubai's financial industry

Early beginnings

Before the establishment of the Dubai Stock Exchange, the region's financial industry was limited to a few commercial banks and insurance companies. The lack of a stock exchange made it difficult for companies to raise capital and for investors to buy and sell shares. As a result, many companies relied on bank loans or international markets to raise capital.

The idea of establishing a stock exchange in Dubai was first proposed in the 1990s. The Dubai Government recognized the importance of having a financial market that would enable companies to raise capital and attract foreign investment. In 1999, the Dubai Government passed a law that paved the way for the establishment of the Dubai Financial Market.

Founding of the Dubai Financial Market

The Dubai Financial Market (DFM) was officially launched on March 26, 2000. The founding members of the exchange were the Dubai Government, Dubai Islamic Bank, National Bank of Dubai, Commercial Bank of Dubai, and Emirates Bank International.

At the time of its establishment, the DFM had a market capitalization of AED 6.7 billion (approximately $1.8 billion). The exchange's first trading day saw 16 companies listed.\

In its early days, the DFM faced several challenges, including low liquidity and limited trading volumes. To overcome these challenges, the exchange implemented several measures, including introducing new financial products and services and partnering with international exchanges to attract foreign investors.

Growth and expansion

Over the years, the Dubai Financial Market has grown significantly, both in terms of the number of listed companies and the volume of trades. Today, the exchange has a market capitalization of over AED 1.5 trillion (approximately $408 billion) and is home to over 60 listed companies.

The DFM has also expanded its services, introducing new financial instruments and products to attract more investors. In 2005, the exchange introduced an index futures contract, which enabled investors to hedge against market fluctuations. In 2007, the exchange introduced real estate investment trusts (REITs), which allowed investors to invest in the real estate market without actually owning property.

In 2008, the Dubai Financial Market expanded its operations by acquiring the Dubai International Financial Exchange (DIFX). The DIFX was established in 2005 as a separate exchange to cater to international investors. The merger of the two exchanges resulted in the formation of Nasdaq Dubai, which became the international financial hub of Dubai.

The Dubai Financial Market has also played a significant role in promoting Dubai as a global financial center. The exchange has signed several partnerships and agreements with international exchanges, including the London Stock Exchange, the New York Mercantile Exchange, and the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Investing in Dubai-listed stocks Remains Dififcult

As we covered in our detailed article on stock investing, buying Dubai-listed stocks remains difficult due to tight regulations. Non-UAE stock brokers do not provide access to Dubai stocks. If you are looking to buy individual Dubai stocks, you will need a trading account with an authorized Dubai bank, more on that here.

However, you may still invest in Dubai and UAE stocks through ETFs based outside the UAE.

International ETFS containing companies that are listed on the Dubai Financial Market include:

Challenges and controversies

Despite its success, the Dubai Financial Market has faced several challenges and controversies over the years. One of the most significant challenges was the global financial crisis of 2008, which had a major impact on the exchange. The DFM lost over 70% of its value during the crisis, and trading volumes plummeted.

In 2009, the Dubai Government announced that Dubai World, a state-owned conglomerate, was facing significant debt problems. This led to a major sell-off in the DFM, with the exchange losing over 6% of its value in a single day. The Dubai Government subsequently received a $10 billion bailout from Abu Dhabi, which helped stabilize the economy and restore investor confidence.

Another challenge facing the DFM is the dominance of family-owned businesses. Many of the companies listed on the exchange are owned by wealthy families, and there is a lack of diversity in the types of companies listed. This has led to concerns about transparency and the influence of family businesses on the market.

There have also been controversies surrounding the governance of the Dubai Financial Market. In 2012, the Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) issued a directive ordering the exchange to restructure its board of directors and adopt more transparent governance practices. The directive was issued after concerns were raised about conflicts of interest and the independence of the board.

Future prospects

Despite these challenges, the Dubai Financial Market remains a key player in the region's financial industry. The exchange has continued to introduce new products and services, including an ETF platform, which has attracted a growing number of investors. The DFM is also planning to launch a derivatives market, which will enable investors to trade options and futures contracts.

The Dubai Government has also announced plans to further develop the financial industry in Dubai. In 2020, the government launched the Dubai Strategic Plan 2021, which aims to position Dubai as a leading global financial hub. The plan includes initiatives to attract foreign investment, promote innovation in the financial sector, and develop a skilled workforce.


The Dubai Stock Exchange, also known as the Dubai Financial Market, has come a long way since its establishment in 2000. The exchange has played a significant role in the development of Dubai's economy, enabling companies to raise capital and attracting foreign investment. Despite facing several challenges and controversies over the years, the DFM has continued to grow and expand, introducing new products and services and partnering with international exchanges. With the Dubai Government's continued commitment to developing the financial industry in Dubai, the future prospects of the Dubai Stock Exchange look bright.

For more information on how to invest in Dubai's stock market, as well as how to invest in international markets as a UAE-resident, check out our free guide here.


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