Libya bourse resumes trading after year closure

Libya's Stock Exchange resumed trading on Thursday just over a year after the country's conflict forced it to close.

Officials on the trading floor rang a bell then shouted "Allahu Akbar!" or "God is great!" to signal the start of trading on a bourse which, its backers say, could take off now that it is unshackled from the restrictions imposed by ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Trading got off to a hesitant start. After the first few minutes, the only stock showing any sign of movement on the huge electronic trading screen was Tijara bank, whose shares rose to 26.02 Libyan dinars, from 25.27.

"There are few buyers and sellers. People are afraid of falling prices" said Ahmed Mejburi, a broker for Economic Group Libya who sat at his desk on the trading floor watching the screen.

"The market has been closed for one year. It'll start weak and, step by step, get back."

The re-launch of the exchange sends a message that Libya is open for business again after last year's war. It is also likely to attract interest from foreign investors seeking opportunities in the new Libya.

The companies listed on the exchange have a combined market capitalisation of about 3.9 billion Libyan dinars ($3 billion), general manager Ahmed Karoud said last month in an interview.

The biggest companies include Jumhiriya Bank, Sahara Bank and Wahda Bank. A bourse official said that, to avoid volatility on the opening day, trading would be briefly suspended if shares rose or fell by more than 1.5 percent.

Under Gaddafi, the bourse attracted fitful foreign interest. Investors were keen for a slice of the lucrative Libyan market but they were often put off by red tape, currency restrictions, and arbitrary rulings from Gaddafi and his inner circle.

The head of the bourse said he planned to make the bourse a more attractive place for foreigners to invest. Speaking to Reuters last month, Karoud also said five public share offerings as well as two funds would be listed this year.

(Source: Reuters)

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