Communist Laos Moves Towards Capitalism… Slowly

Courtesy of The Financial Times, a report that Laos recently established a stock exchange.  As the article notes:

“…Communist Laos will dip its toes into capitalist shores, when it launches the world’s newest bourse in Vientiane on Tuesday.

The exchange starts with just two state-owned stocks on the board: EDL Generation, which is controlled by the state-owned power company Electricite du Laos, and Banque Pour Le Commerce Exterieur Lao (BCEL), a state-owned bank.

But these are very early days, and the communist government is just testing the waters. Just 25 per cent of EDL and 15 per cent of BCEL were put up in the country’s first IPOs at the end of last year. Although there are few details, brokers said that both issues were oversubscribed.

“The government wants these two companies to boost investor confidence about the market’s benefits,” Dethphouvang Moularat, the exchange’s chairman, told the French news agency AFP. He is hoping that four or five other companies will list before the end of the year.

The exchange is a big step for the Laotians, who have started to move away from the command economy – the US removed trade restrictions in 2009 having ascertained that it was no longer a “Marxist-Leninist economy” — but they still have no interbank market and their connections to the international financial world are still developing.

The exchange is the brainchild of the South Korean stock exchange, which owns 49 per cent of the Lao bourse and has also been active in trying to get a Cambodian stock exchange off the ground, a project that has seen repeated delays.

Land-locked Laos, south-east Asia’s smallest economy, has gained a reputation as a sleepy backwater, but it has been quietly putting itself on the map. With real growth, albeit from a low base, of 7.7 per cent last year and similar predictions for this year, it is booming on the back of increased demand for metals – principally gold, copper, zinc and lead – and hydroelectricity, which it exports to its energy hungry neighbours in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

The country is also feeling the effects of China’s regional expansion, as well as the competition. Work has already begun on a railway line that will link southern China with Vientiane, and which will eventually extend on into Thailand.

It may still be a while before the Vientiane stock exchange competes with New York, London or even Hong Kong, but it’s certainly a good start.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 13th, 2011 at 6:24 pm and is filed under Uncategorized.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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