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Thai bourse readies depositary receipts to attract SE Asian listings

Coming this year, new tool meant to give frontier markets greater access to capital

Pakorn Peetathawatchai tells the Nikkei Asian Review how he intends to connect the Stock Exchange of Thailand to its Southeast Asian neighbors. (Photo by Takaki Kashiwabara)

BANGKOK -- The Stock Exchange of Thailand will allow foreign companies to list depositary receipts by the end of 2018, seeking to make itself a hub for raising capital in Southeast Asia.

The exchange will focus on companies listed in neighboring nations -- Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam -- SET President Pakorn Peetathawatchai told the Nikkei Asian Review on Thursday.

The bourse and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand are working with counterparts in these countries to make the idea a reality, said Pakorn, who took the post this month.

The SET also hopes to increase the liquidity of neighboring markets byencouraging Thai-listed firms to list through depositary receipts and cross listing, Pakorn said.

"We don't just want [their] assets," he said. "We want to co-create and co-promote [their] markets."

Depositary receipts are negotiable instruments that represent a foreign company's securities. They are issued by the bank or brokerage that holds the shares. The receipts give companies access to overseas markets and let them raise funds in foreign currencies, while investors can trade foreign shares in their own currencies.

Thailand will become the first member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to launch depositary receipts, though the Singapore Exchange lists American depositary receipts of selected companies.

The stock markets of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam have a combined capitalization of less than one-third that of the SET. Access to investors trading on Thailand's exchange would give those companies a new source of funding.

"They can become cross-border players," Pakorn said.

Companies in these emerging markets also offer attractive growth potential for Thai investors. The four Mekong River nations have among the fastest economic growth rates in ASEAN, while Thailand ranks among the slowest.

The SET aims to boost market capitalization to 28 trillion baht ($852 billion) by 2023, up from 17.5 trillion baht currently, and overtake the Singapore Exchange to become the "largest bourse in Southeast Asia." The exchange also looks to increase market cap by 250 billion baht yearly through initial public offerings and 200 billion baht through secondary listings.

"If we want to grow or we want to be attractive, we need to have more products connected to the region," Pakorn said. The bourse also plans to create a new Thai market where companies in the four neighboring countries can list.

The Thai exchange also looks to encourage the listing of infrastructure projects from neighboring nations, having entered talks with regulators there. "Funding to invest in infrastructure is what [these developing economies] need the most," Pakorn said.

Laos has issued baht-denominated bonds in the Thai market since 2016. But the country is reaching its debt ceiling and it needs to find alternatives such as depository receipts or infrastructure trusts, Pakorn said.

A real estate investment trust with hotel properties in Indonesia and Vietnam as underlying assets listed in Thailand in December. The Strategic Hospitality Extendable Freehold and Leasehold REIT was SET's first foreign listing. Pakorn expects more international listings during his four-year tenure.

"We need to establish ourselves as a funding venue of the region," he said.

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