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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cambodia’s bourse sees record low volume

Cambodia’s bourse sees record low volume

In the frenzied run-up to the national election Sunday, Phnom Penh has been the site of concerts, rallies and streets packed with campaigners. But the energy hasn’t spread to the halls of the Cambodia Securities Exchange.

At the close of trading Tuesday, five business days had elapsed without a single share bought or sold, the longest drought since the exchange, or CSX, first offered Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority stock in April 2012. The run lasted from July 17 until the 23 — not counting the weekend in between when the bourse shuts. Volume picked back up at the close yesterday, when 100 shares moved at a price of 6,300 riel ($1.58), unchanged from Tuesday.

Explanations for the slump differ, as explanations for why the exchange is performing poorly usually do. CSX officials say that the dearth of activity is a natural by-product of the election campaign that started on June 27, when business takes a back seat to politics. But analysts disagree, arguing that prices were too high for what buyers were willing to pay.

Because only one company is listed, it is also not abnormal for the exchange to go a few days with no activity. But this month was worse than others. In addition to the five-day slump, there was also no volume on July 1, 8, 10, and 11. A combined nine days passed in July with zero trading, a record in the short history of the exchange.

Soleil Lamun, deputy director of the market operations department, said that within such market conditions, with only one stock listed for more than a year, people can lose interest over time.

“The recent low trading can be seen as unusual. It is likely related to the pre-election events,” Lamun said.

As for whether this is a sign of more to come: “We cannot say [investors] have abandoned their appetite for the market in the future. We are convinced that they are opting for the wait-and-see position, and we remain optimistic as always that the market activities will recover and grow forcefully once more companies come on the CSX’s list. And this could be seen from the end of the year onwards. Of course, the market would fail if the current situation persisted for a few more years.”

Stephen Hsu, CEO of underwriter Phnom Penh Securities, said the non-trading had nothing to do with the election but was instead a matter of pricing. During the sluggish month, the lowest offered price for water authority shares was 6,300 riel — the same as the original IPO price — while the highest bid value was only 6,200.

“It is not caused by the election, since this issue has occurred several times in the market,” he said, adding that if the situation continues, the CSX and all companies in the securities business here will face bankruptcy.

Ming Ban Kosal, director general of the Securities Exchange Commission of Cambodia, which regulates the sector, said the slowdown is due to investors, who are busy campaigning, and a reluctance to buy until results of the elections are known.

“If there is any problem, we will take some actions [to improve the situation],” he said, referring to possible incentives for investors to buy.

Nearly two years after the country’s landmark bourse launched in July 2011 — although the first public offering wasn’t until April the next year — only one company has listed: the state-owned Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority.

Two other state-owned enterprises, Telecom Cambodia (TC) and the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port were expected to join the utility.

The port, however, is still working on its IPO, and in March, TC’s plan to list was derailed following an alleged embezzlement scandal and a shake-up at its top levels.

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