ECONOMY

Romania bourse listings

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – A dozen big listings in two years will further boost growing interest in Romania’s small Bucharest bourse, bringing it to a par with Central European peers, its general manager, Stere Farmache, said. He said state-owned utilities, transport and banking companies, to be privatized in 2005 and 2006 by floating stakes on the bourse, are likely to attract more foreign investors, who are already banking on Romania’s accession to the European Union in 2007. «The bourse could triple its volume in two years,» Farmache told Reuters in an interview. «The average daily turnover could rise from 11 million euros ($14.58 million) to 25-30 million,» he said. «We would be very close and maybe even overtake… bourses in Central and Eastern Europe.» Analysts have said the Bucharest bourse, where only a handful of blue chips take the bulk of daily trading, has lacked the liquidity needed to attract heavyweight foreign investors. Romania had long planned to sell stakes in utilities and transport state companies on the bourse but only approved the floating of stakes in three electricity companies, two gas companies and the country’s main port and airport last year. «Of these (electricity transmission company) Transelectrica is the most advanced,» Farmache said. «It will probably be listed in the middle of the year.» Transelectrica, with a share capital of 6.6 trillion lei ($241 million), plans to list between 5-10 percent on the Bucharest bourse gradually until end-2006. The government is also considering floating around 10 percent of commercial bank Banca Comerciala Romana and savings bank CEC, slated for sale to strategic investors by 2006. Farmache said four private tourism, information technology and banking companies were also considering listing. Investors’ interest in the Bucharest bourse grew dramatically last year and continues this year, due to good macroeconomic indicators, recent ratings upgrades, falling interest rates, fiscal relaxation and currency appreciation, Farmache said. The BET-C composite index – reflecting the price movements of all stocks listed except for investment funds – reached a new life high this week, ending at 4,108.74 points on Wednesday. «The indexes reach historic highs nearly every week, » Farmache said.