Gulf markets raised a miniscule $843.9 million (Dh3.1 billion) in 2011 as companies shied away from local bourses, a report has found. This is a decline of almost 70 per cent on the $2.8 billion in 2010, while funds raised in the fourth quarter alone clocked in at just over $200 million, down 83.5 per cent over the same period of 2010. \"Companies chose other fundraising routes over IPOs in 2011, which was another year of low capital market activity,\" Phil Gandier, Mena head of Transaction Advisory Services, Ernst & Young, said in a report yesterday. \"Low investor interest continued in the Mena region as companies chose Islamic funding, such as Sukuk, which saw a record year, as the preferred route for fundraising.\" While IPOs had a difficult year in 2011, Gandier estimates that things could pick up this year. \"Investors and issuers in the region remain concerned over the volatility of capital markets and this will likely continue in the next quarter,\" he said. \"[But] the number of announced IPOs continues to grow across the region. The moment economic conditions and investor sentiment improve, we could see a flood of IPOs in the regional bourses.\" But Samer Darwiche, an associate at Gulfmena Investments, is less optimistic about the prospects for this year, and that any activity will likely remain on the region\'s biggest bourse in Riyadh. Activity to be low \"I would suggest that activity will still be low and focus will remain on Saudi Arabia. It is worth remembering that although the number of IPOS in Saudi decreased from nine in 2010 to five in 2011, they all performed well after being listed,\" he said. \"I don\'t see any IPOs this year other than in Saudi Arabia, and if there is any I don\'t see them attracting much interest.\" The largest IPO of 2011 in Mena was UAE\'s Eshraq Properties Company ($229.1 million) followed by Saudi Arabia\'s Hail Cement Company ($130.5 million) and the United Electronic Company ($105.6 million). Saudi Arabia led the country standings in 2011, raising $460.5 million through IPOs in all of 2011, followed by the UAE with $271.3 million and Oman with $63.9 million. Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Syria were the only other Mena countries with IPO activity in 2011.