Libya’s Stock Exchange hopes to resume trading by the end of the month after being shut down during last year’s conflict, and five public share offerings are planned for 2012, General Manager Ahmed Karoud said on Thursday.
In an interview at the exchange’s new offices in western Tripoli, Karoud told Reuters the bourse hoped to increase the number of its foreign investors from the 0.5 percent share they represented before the uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi.
“We are seeking to restart trading operations and hope to succeed by the end of February,” he said.
The bourse has 13 listed companies, including the exchange itself, with a combined market capitalization of about 3.9 billion Libyan dinars ($3 billion), Karoud said. The biggest companies include Jumhiriya Bank, Sahara Bank and Wahda Bank.
Karoud said some of the listed companies might not resume trading initially, as some have yet to approve their 2011 statements.
“It is not certain that they all will come back. Maybe seven, eight companies may only come back by the end of February. Maybe one more at the end of March,” he said.
“Some companies could not convene (board) meetings during the war, so their financial statements have not been approved by the company itself. I can’t allow (a company) to restart trading unless I have checked its financial statements.”
Karoud said five IPOs were in the pipeline for this year, including some for oil and construction companies, but said it was still too early to give an exact timeframe.
“I expect to have five new companies this year,” he said.
He said pre-war plans to list Libya’s two mobile operators, Libyana and al Madar, would go ahead, but there was no timeframe yet. He added two funds would also be listed, of which one would be an Islamic finance fund of no more than 250 million Libyan dinars.
“The Libya Reconstruction Fund will be the first fund to be listed and will float in June. Its capital will be around 500 million Libyan dinars, and the fund will be for five years,” he said. “(The other) one will be listed according to the Islamic Sharia perspective.”
He said there were also plans to create a fund that would seek to buy back shares from Libyan investors struggling with a liquidity crisis in the country.
Karoud said he hoped the leadership change in the North African country would introduce new regulations to help attract foreign investors to the five-year-old exchange.
“The state operated a closed economy, and there were many restrictions against foreigners in the market,” he said.
“The market itself does not prevent foreign investors from trading in the market. The main problem that faced foreign investors was how to transfer the funds outside the country.”
Karoud, who has been director of the bourse since December after its previous manager left during the war, said he would meet with Libya’s central bank governor to discuss the issue.
He said he had received interest from foreign investors but did not say from where. “I can say they have expressed interest in the Libyan Stock Market in general, but their main focus is the banking and insurance companies,” he said.
The Libyan bourse closed its doors days after the uprising began in the eastern city of Benghazi in February last year.
“We faced a huge problem with the Libyan government because they wanted us to keep the stock market open. We told them that we can’t open at this time. Later in May, they forced us out of the premises at gunpoint,” Karoud said.
The bourse has now moved to an area on the western outskirts of the capital. A trading board still stands overlooking a busy street at the exchange’s previous premises.