DUBAI - Emerging market-focused investment bank EFG Hermes is "very bullish" on Gulf markets this year, expecting more, smaller initial public offerings (IPOs) from the region from a year earlier, Mostafa Gad said on Monday.

Smaller deals are likely to become the norm in 2024 as the private sector becomes the main issuer seeking capital, a boon for mid-market focused investment banks like EFG Hermes and a change from large bulge bracket deals from government privatisations, investment banking head Gad said.

"The inflow [of issuers] is coming more from the private sector. For banks that require a certain amount of a certain magnitude of offerings for them to justify their presence, maybe they can struggle a bit", Gad said in an interview with Reuters.

Gad said his bank tends to focus on deals between $300 million and $700 million, and added he would like to see the team, which currently has 50 bankers covering the region, expand and is looking to hire junior analysts.

The Gulf has bucked expectations of a muted start to the year with public share sales from Dubai's public parking space operator Parkin, Saudi Arabia's Modern Mills, and Saudi healthcare firm Avalon Pharma.

Bankers are rushing to get deals done before Ramadan and before markets close during the celebratory Eid holiday and ahead of the summer, leaving a few weeks to launch several IPOs in the region. Ramadan is expected to start next week while Eid is forecast to take place around mid-April based on the lunar calendar.

"We will have a very crowded window from Eid to summer. Post Eid to summer, I think it is very, very crowded" before the window reopens in September, he said.

Most of the deals are likely to come from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and there is an increase of activity from Kuwait, he said. Oman is now getting more attention from the global banks, he added.

Oman's state energy firm OQ started its privatisation programme last year and floated its pipeline business through the sale of a 49% stake, raising $771 million. OQ also floated its oil and gas drilling business Abraj Energy Services, which raised $244 million also last year.

Among the private companies that are expected to go public this year are UAE-based supermarket chains Spinneys and Lulu, Reuters has previously reported.

Saudi Arabia's Milling Company 3, one of several flour milling privatisations in the kingdom, is also planned for 2024.

Companies domiciled in the GCC raised $11 billion in IPO proceeds in 2023, down 45% from 2022. GCC IPOs accounted for 40% of proceeds raised in EMEA during 2023, down from 56% during 2022, LSEG data showed.

(Reporting by Federico Maccioni and Hadeel Al Sayegh in Dubai. Editing by Anousha Sakoui and David Evans)