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Bourse gears up for block trades

A man points to figures displayed by the CSX at a listing ceremony for the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone earlier this year.
A man points to figures displayed by the CSX at a listing ceremony for the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone earlier this year. Athena Zelandonii

Bourse gears up for block trades

A new block trading platform has been developed to spur interest in Cambodia’s languid stock market by allowing individuals and institutional investors to trade large volumes of shares outside daily market operations, a bourse spokesman said yesterday.

Lamun Soleil, director of market operations at the Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX), said the exchange had already developed an in-house platform and would soon submit it to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia (SECC), the market regulator, for approval.

“Our block trading platform has been already developed and ready for use,” he said. “It will, however, be launched only after there is approval from SECC on the relevant regulations [and] we plan to submit it to the SECC within a few weeks.”

Block trading platforms are common in more developed markets and geared toward institutional investors such as investment banks and hedge funds that want to execute large privately negotiated transactions of a stock’s shares. However, Soleil said the CSX platform would cater to both individual and institutional investors.

“[The] block trading facility is not principally aimed at institutional investors since our market is still small,” he said.

“We just want to complement the demand of investors, individuals or institutions, who want to do large transactions with a counterparty through negotiations outside the market.”

Soleil said the block trading platform would help reduce the price volatility that would otherwise result from an investor putting a large buy or sell order on a stock. Prices for block sales must be negotiated privately beforehand, usually resulting in a better price for the seller, and discounting for the buyer.

“There have been many demands from investors [for large volume trades], but we could not serve them, requiring them to do large trades in the auction market,” he said. “I believe that large-trade investors would be happier with this new method.”

Cambodia’s stock exchange, launched in 2011, has just four listed companies and is consistently bogged down by low trading volumes that have made it difficult to attract local and foreign investors.

Svay Hay, CEO of brokerage firm Acleda Securities, said that block trading could pave the way for new large institutional investors to come into the market, something the stock market has struggled to accomplish beyond its limited initial public offering (IPO) process.

“Block trading is a noncompetitive mechanism that allows institutional and huge investors to negotiate in private for the transaction of a determined amount of shares,” he explained. “While retail investors dominate the market, it’s good for institutional investors who are seeking to trade at larger sizes with block trades.”

Hay added that block trading could broaden the appeal of Cambodia’s stock market.

“The market needs block trading, especially for mandated and institutional investors, and also income investors who consider higher dividend yield versus the normal rate of return,” he said.

The nascent Yangon Stock Exchange introduced block trading mechanisms earlier this year, while the platform has for years been popular in more developed regional markets including Thailand, India and China, contributing billions of dollars in share sales.

Sok Dara, deputy director of the SECC, said that while he could not comment on whether or not block trading would get regulatory approval, “the SECC strongly supports all kind of initiatives to promote the securities market development”.

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