ECONOMY

Nicosia bourse seeks to get foreign firms listed

NICOSIA (Reuters) – The Cyprus Stock Exchange plans to restructure listing costs to attract foreign companies to the bourse after a major revamp of the market slated for later this year, a senior official said yesterday. Battling dwindling interest from local investors, who have been stung by a sharp boom and then bust in recent years, stock exchange authorities are looking overseas for a boost and are likely to start a public relations blitz in Britain, home to a large Cypriot community. «We are going to restructure our listing fees and procedures to make the market more competitive than others,» said Nondas Metaxas, the bourse’s general manager. «Cyprus can be a listing base for funds that trade in the region. Take Ireland and Malta, they have been successful in this field.» The strategy is part of efforts to raise the image and depth of the market, which investors fled in the wake of a steep correction to a 700 percent rally in 1999. The market, whose stocks are valued at a total of 2.23 billion Cyprus pounds ($4.7 billion), so far does not have any foreign companies listed. Banks hold the bulk of the market capitalization. The 157 companies listed on the bourse are to be separated into three markets this year in relation to their compliance to corporate governance guidelines. Companies will be divided into main, parallel and alternative markets. «We have plans for a derivatives exchange and a common trading platform with Athens, but our immediate target is the introduction of the three markets,» Metaxas told Reuters. The main market is to include blue chips that are in full compliance with corporate governance rules, have a minimum capitalization of 7 million pounds and a free-float amounting to at least 25 percent of their shares. Metaxas said between 10 and 20 companies are likely to meet the criteria for the main market. Introduction of the three markets will require approval from Parliament. «We hope we will be ready before the first half of 2004,» Metaxas said.