At a recently held press briefing by Moin Fudda,
Managing Director, Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE), talked about the new
trading system introduced at all the three stock exchanges in Pakistan.
He said that introduction of this system would minimize the speculative
activity that often emerges when shares are bought or sold in large
quantities. Many of the jobbers deduce from such transactions that
either a windfall is expected or that particular company is facing some
problems. Whereas, most of these transactions fall in normal trading
activity — particularly by the fund managers.
The KSE introduced the automated trading system in
1997 that was based on "disclosed trading system". According
to that system all the transactions executed by the members were
disclosed, both before and after, execution of such trades. The
undisclosed trading system refers to the fact that the transactions
executed by the members through the automated trading system are neither
disclosed to counter-parties nor to the market participants.
One may tend to believe that the KSE has taken a
novel step. However, it is fact that disclosed a large number of stock
exchanges around the globe follow undisclosed trading system. It is
believed that the disclosed system encourages speculation, compromises
confidentiality of transactions and promote front-running.
The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP)
has always been very supportive and continue to extend support for
bringing transparency and improve efficiency of the market. This is
reflected by the fact that a number of reforms have been introduced
during the last three years. This includes establishment of National
Clearing Company of Pakistan, introduction of T+3 settlement system,
registration of the brokers and agents, restructuring of the Board of
Directors and currently the implementation of the undisclosed market.
The KSE has prepared trading system which was tested
prior to its introduction. During the test necessary modifications were
carried out to ensure smooth and proper functioning of the system. The
new system has become effective from October 7, 2002 for which the
necessary notification have been issued.
However, some critics believe that with the
introduction of undisclosed market manipulation power of some of the
large brokers has been enhanced. They say, "The market is dominated
by a few big brokers and Badla providers. Their activities
were evident in the previous system, but now they can create as much
havoc as they like. Though the names of buyers and sellers will not be
disclosed, it will still not be possible to keep it confidential.
Previously it was disclosed, now they will have to spend extra energy
and time to find out the names."
The capital market in Pakistan has gone through
radical reforms and transformation. The confidence building elements in
the trading of shares and securities have continuously improved. The
launching of undisclosed trading is a another step forward that will
discourage speculation and front-running. In order to strengthen and
rationalize the procedure for the compliance of capital adequacy
requirements, as a part of risk management policy, the local stock
exchanges have also introduced various measures.
On corporate governance, there is a marked
improvement in timely submission of annual reports with better
disclosures of material information by the listed companies. The stock
exchanges are constantly in touch with the SECP to ensure successful
implementation of the code of corporate governance which is now part of
the Listing Regulations.
It may be said that the regulators have taken various
measures to bring transparency and improve the efficiency of equities
market, but the regulators have not been able to eliminate insiders
trading. Another front on which local stock exchanges have not been able
to do much is, education of investors. In the past, many investors had
lost their life savings in equities market. A large number of retail
investors is still shy, despite the fact that equities offer incredibly
high rate of return.
It is on record that the level of research reports
prepared by brokerage house has gone down in the recent past. If one
reads the recent reports it becomes evident that they often try to
entice investors to invest in certain scrips. Traditionally research and
trading departments of brokerage houses were separated by iron-clad
doors. It is more or less evident now that trading departments grossly
influence research reports — to the extent that they should invest or
should not invest in a particular scrip.