LAHORE STOCK EXCHANGE EXPANDING OPERATIONS

The opening of third branch in Punjab is an important milestone

From KHALID BUTT, Lahore
Dec 19 - 25, 2005

The Lahore Stock Exchange Board of Governors has agreed in principle to the SECP amendment that the chairman of the stock exchange should be a non-member. At an informal press briefing, Chairman LSE Syed Asim Zafar and Managing Director Hamid Imtiazi spoke at length about the issues as well as the initiatives undertaken at the Lahore Stock Exchange.

Talking about the impact of the government policies on the stocks trading, Syed Asim Zafar remarked that the contractionary monetary policy pursued by the economic planners for reigning in inflation initially created a setback for business activity in the bourses, but now things are stabilizing. He told that corporate earnings have improved and the average turnover is almost Rs 70 million.

He also announced the plans to formally open LSE branch in Multan. He told that after having encouraging response from Sialkot and Faisalabad, the enthusiasm of the Multan-based trading operations has prompted that decision. The opening of third branch in Punjab is an important milestone, he added.

About international risk management to be deployed at LSE, he made it clear that the assessments would be Lahore-based and independent of any trends from Karachi. He also announced the introduction of the stock index and sector wise indexes, besides LSE plans to initiate training courses for common members, media men and general public.

The Managing Director LSE Mr. Imtiazi, speaking on the occasion, said that almost 80 per cent of the turnover was internet-based, meaning people do not have to come to the LSE physically and can participate from their homes and workplaces.

Later talking to the pressmen, the MD LSE made a special mention of the LSE stance towards SECP amendment that non member should be the chairman of an exchange. He said that LSE has agreed in principle with the SECP stance.

About the degree of market response witnessed in Faisalabad and Sialkot, the MD LSE told that there were now 24 brokerage houses operating in Faisalabad and 12 in Sialkot. As regards the formation of a unified national stocks exchnage, the MD said that SECP has left that decision to the individual bourses, and if any such development takes place the integration would not be a forced one rather that would be based on consensus and voluntary participation.

FTA WITH THAILAND

As a part of signing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Pakistan and Thailand and to increase the two way trade volume up to US$1 billion level, a Thai delegation under the leadership of Thailand Minister of Commerce, Dr Phaichit Viboontanasarm, is arriving in Karachi.

The delegation has scheduled to land at the hub of economic activities on Tuesday (December 20). During its three-day stay in the metropolis, the delegation would hold meeting with apex trade bodies. Later, they would take off for Lahore and remain there for another three days for the purpose.

A source told that the delegation would call on the office-bearers and representatives of Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), Board of Investment (BoI), Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI), Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) and other trade bodies of the industrial zones of Karachi.

Some 15 Thai companies' office-bearers and representatives would comprise the delegation. During their comprehensive meetings with their Pakistani counterparts, they would brief about their products, including canned foods, auto parts and accessories, jewellery, decorative items, charcoal products, textile and PVC products.

The source said that the prime objective of the delegation was to pave way for signing FTA as soon as an understanding develops between the two countries. Quick exchange of trade delegations and holding of single country exhibitions at each other's soil could speed up the proceeding.

The source referred to the earlier visit of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to Thailand in mid year 2005, saying that during their one-to-one meeting between the two prime ministers, they held talks on all aspects for increasing trade activities and added that there were many opportunities in many fields and sectors for investment and to start joint ventures in both the countries.

Both the countries are keen to sign free trade agreement and the high officials of both sides have talked many times in this regard. There was a proposal that the two countries should have started free trade in specific four to five items until the FTA was signed. The items include Halal food, warm clothing and lobsters.

The two sides have also agreed to increase the two-way trade volume to UD$1 billion this year. However, facts revealed that trade between Pakistan and Thailand was only of $333 million and it was in favour of Thailand, as Pakistani imports from Thailand were $269 million while exports were only of $64 million last fiscal year.

Thailand has made heavy investments in infrastructure of Pakistan and there are huge opportunities for investment in various infrastructure development works. Moreover, Thailand is also keen to tender its services for developing Pakistan's tourism industry with its skilled human resource in this particular sector. Thailand has very good experience in tourism sector and it could help Pakistan promote this industry.

The source believed that the ratio of return in Pakistan was much higher than any other country. "We should create awareness regarding opportunities and potential in trade on both sides, as the exchange of delegations could be helpful for this purpose," the source added.

He was of the view that private sector was ready to welcome the Thai delegation and to come forward with solid proposals for increasing bilateral trade between the two countries and to formulate a thinktank to work exclusively on the trade relations between the two countries.