Dec 10, 2015

Myanmar stock exchange signals new economic era

Myanmar opened its first stock exchange on Wednesday, despite having no companies listed until next year.

Six groups have been approved, but delays in confirming underwriters pushed back the timeframe for listings.

The Yangon Stock Exchange is housed in a newly restored colonial-era building.

It underlines Myanmar's drive to revitalise its economy, following the victory by Aung San Suu Kyi's pro-democracy party in elections last month.

The lack of active trading did not stop officials from screening a mock-up of the stock exchange for guests.

The companies to be listed include the Japan-backed Thilawa Special Economic Zone and First Myanmar Investment run by tycoon Serge Pun.

Vice-President Nyan Tun, who rang the opening bell, said he hoped the bourse would become a regional player.

David Grayson, chief executive of New York-based brokerage Auerbach Grayson, said there was strong interest from investors in Myanmar and it was a positive sign that officials had promoted their plans for the market abroad.

Deputy finance minister Muang Muang Thien met financial institutions and other investors in New York in October and visited the New York Stock Exchange's trading floor.

However, Mixo Das, an analyst with Nomura in Singapore, said the bourse would need to build a track record of good governance, trading history and market liquidity.

"I think the stock exchange in Myanmar will be much like the ones in Laos or Cambodia - more as a source of national pride and learning experience for the first several years," he said.

Yangon Stock ExchangeImage copyright AP
The bourse in Laos has just two companies listed, while Cambodia's stock exchange has attracted just one.

Rajiv Biswas, of IHS Global Insight, said the exchange would help develop the country's financial system, with the listing of larger banks and companies promising to help set up equity and pension funds.

It could also help a new government, run by Ms Suu Kyi and her party, privatise some state-owned enterprises, he added.

Myanmar has been under military rule for about half a century and faces challenges including rampant corruption, a murky legal system, dismal infrastructure and a widespread distrust of the financial system.

The country of 51 million people has abundant natural resources and is well positioned between India, China and southeast Asia.

Source: BBC