Interview with Mohammed Sohail — CEO, Topline Securities Limited
Following are excerpts from an exclusive interview with Mohammad Sohail:
PAGE: How do you review the performance of Pakistan Stock Exchange in CY17?
Mohammed Sohail: After strong performance over the past 5 years (2012-16) with KSE-100 returning 33% annually, the year 2017 turned out to be a tale of two halves. The first half saw a bull run as upgrade to MSCI Emerging Markets (EM) garnered risk-off euphoric sentiments, which rallied the market up to a peak of 52,876 points on May 24, 2017, registering 11% growth in first 5 months (Jan-May 24 2017). Subsequent to the upgrade, sentiments went south drastically as Pakistan’s weight in MSCI EM was lower than expected, while foreigners emerged as net sellers instead of buyers. Further, FY18 Federal Budget was unfavorable for equity markets. The final nail in the coffin was the infamous Panama Leaks, which led to the disqualification of Pakistan’s Prime Minister. These factors amalgamated into microscopic scrutiny of the economic shortcomings, with the market falling 23% from its peak.
PAGE: How is market expected to behave in CY18, which is likely the election years?
Mohammed Sohail: Some recovery is likely as uncertainties related to election will be over in 2018. However, who comes to power is important. Moreover Pakistan’s external account issue is very important. The way the ruling regime tackles this issue will be a key market driver in 2018.
PAGE: Which factor influences market more, balance of payment crisis or political noise?
Mohammed Sohail: I think balance of payment crisis has more effect on market.
PAGE: Has recent depreciation of Pak rupee helped in attracting foreign investors to Pakistan?
Mohammed Sohail: To some extent yes, again a lot depends on how Pakistan controls falling foreign exchange reserves. There is a fear that if adequate funding in foreign exchange does not come, we may see further erosion in the value of Pak Rupee. That is the reason some foreign investors are still cautious about Pakistan market.
PAGE: Why the number of new listing is dismal?
Mohammed Sohail: Issuers want to list when they can get good valuation. New listings come in a bull market. Moreover, there is no tax or any other incentive for listing the company at the local bourse. In the prevailing situation sponsors of business prefer to use their own funds and bank borrowing.
PAGE: Is there a need to reduce tax on listed companies for the conversion of private to public limited status?
Mohammed Sohail: If there are tax advantages, sponsors will prefer to list their companies at the local stock exchange. This has happened in Pakistan in 1990s
PAGE: Do you subscribe to the proposal that corporate tax on listed companies should be reduced to 25%?
Mohammed Sohail: Ideally yes, but then government needs to find new avenues to bridge the fiscal deficit.
PAGE: What is holding the Government of Pakistan from listing of state owned enterprises on local bourse?
Mohammed Sohail: Political pressure, regulatory and legal issues, losses and bad governance are the key impediments in the listing of state owned enterprises at the local stock exchange.
- Topline Securities is one of the fastest-growing brokerage firms in Pakistan.
- Topline is one of the largest Pakistan broker in terms of Equity Broking.
- It has one of the highest market shares in foreign flows in Pakistan. Official market share ranking is not available in Pakistan.
- Besides equity brokerage and research, Topline Securities is actively involved in commodity trading, advisory, investment banking and other capital market deals in Pakistan.
- Topline Securities is amongst the top two brokerage houses in Pakistan (based on Equity Brokerage Revenue as per latest financials).
- Topline Corporate Finance & Advisory (CF&A) is one of the most active investment banking & advisory outfits in Pakistan. In recent time it has also partner of with some of the international investment banking outfits.
- Topline CF&A has in recent times partnered with leading global bulge bracket investment banking firms such as, Morgan Stanley, UBS, NOMURA, CIMB, EFG HERMES, PWC, Deloitte, KPMG etc. for investment banking and advisory deals.
- Topline was Financial Advisor for the acquisition of a 40% equity stake of Pakistan Stock Exchange by Markhor consortium consisting of NASDAQ, DCE Partners, Kingsway and Bilbros.
- Topline Securities regularly arranges international showcasing of leading Pakistani listed companies by organizing road shows and investor conferences in Pakistan and leading global financial centers such as London, New York, Dubai etc.
Awards & Recognition
- Asiamoney ranked Topline Securities as the ‘Best Brokerage House’ in Pakistan in 6 out of the last 7 years.
- Topline Securities received ‘Best Salesperson’ award by Asiamoney in Brokers Poll for 7 consecutive years (2011-2017). This is the first and only example till date in Pakistan.
- CFA Association of Pakistan voted Topline Securities as the ‘Best Brokerage House in Pakistan’ in 2016 and 2015.
- South Asian Federation of Exchange (SAFE) voted Topline Corporate Finance & Advisory as the Top SPO (Secondary Public Offering) Financial Advisor 2015.
- Topline Securities won ‘Arabia Fast Growth 500’ award in 2012 by All World Network.
- Topline Securities won ‘Pakistan Fast Growth 100’ award in 2012, 2013 by All World Network.
- Topline Securities secured Best Trader/ Salesperson award 2009 by CFA Association. This was first such award secured by anyone in Pakistan.
- Topline Securities’ research team is recipient of ‘Best Analyst’ award from CFA Association in 2003 and 2004. This was the first such award to be won by anyone in Pakistan.
- CFA institute awarded Topline as the ‘Runner up’ for Best Corporate Finance House of 2016.