Myanmar continues capital-market projects despite virus

Myanmar continues capital-market projects despite virus

Foreign investment in Myanmar’s fledging capital markets should increase quickly after the pandemic subsides, as the country pushes ahead with new trading platforms for stocks and bonds, according a Securities and Exchange Commission of Myanmar official.

The Southeast Asian nation started allowing foreigners to invest in equities on March 20 -- four days before the country reported its first coronavirus cases. That’s one reason foreigners purchased shares in only three of the six listed companies as of July 1, with a combined 175 million kyats (US$128,790) worth changing hands, mainly in First Myanmar Investment Co Ltd and Myanmar Thilawa SEZ Holdings Public Ltd.

“If we say we don’t suffer any impacts of Covid-19, then it is just a lie,” Htay Chun, an SEC commissioner, said in a phone interview on Friday. “But it is fair to say that we are not hit as badly as some developed markets.”

Ever Flow River Plc recently made its debut on the Yangon Stock Exchange despite the coronavirus outbreak, and two other companies, one in the telecom sector and the other an infrastructure developer, have also applied for listing, he said, declining to give the names.

“Post pandemic, we expect to see three or four new main-board listings every year,” he said. “Listed companies can offer foreign investors as many shares as they want,” though a firm’s designation changes into a “foreign entity” if overseas ownership exceeds 35%.

The planned opening of a “pre-listing board” in August has been pushed back to the final quarter of this year, though the goal of having 10 companies at the outset hasn’t changed, Htay Chun said. A programme of corporate-bonds issuances has also been delayed, but should see a “pilot run” by December with help from the International Finance Corporation, he said.

The central bank’s recent reduction of interest rates should boost investment in Myanmar’s stock and bond markets, as people with bank deposits may seek alternative, the regulator said. That will also “help attract more foreign investors after Covid-19.”


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