Big business groups not tempted by stockmarket
The biggest and most successful entrepreneurs in the country are yet to find the capital market a lucrative source of financing for their companies that they built over the years.
The low interest rates in the money market and the opportunity to take foreign loans, the requirement for transparency and accountability for listed companies and inadequate fiscal and other financial benefits for listing put the entrepreneurs off.
Take, for instance, the case of Meghna Group of Industries, which is one of the biggest conglomerates in Bangladesh, with an annual turnover of $2 billion (nearly Tk 16,000 crore) and asset of $1 billion.
The group has 32 companies and 30 industries with more than 15,000 employees, 3,000 distributors and 1,000 suppliers across the country.
But none of the companies of the group is listed on the stock exchange.
“Good companies must be given due premium so that they are encouraged to come into the capital market,” said Mostafa Kamal, chairman of Meghna Group of Industries.
The host of regulatory requirements from the two stock exchanges, the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission and the central bank act as barriers.
“We are now getting foreign and local loans at lower rates and don't feel the need to raise capital from the stockmarket,” Kamal added.
PRAN-RFL Group, which is one of the largest and fastest growing conglomerates in the country, has around 50 units but only one -- Agricultural Marketing Company, which is commonly known as AMCL Pran -- is listed.
“We can take a lot of risk to expand the business when the companies remain within the family. That won't be possible if we get listed on the capital market,” said Ahsan Khan Chowdhury, chairman and chief executive officer of Pran.
Chowdhury also said they are getting bank loans at lower rates now.
He, however, is hopeful that all big corporate houses will enter the stockmarket in 10 years' time.
The other big and well-known business conglomerates like Abul Khair Group, Bashundhara Group, City Group, Partex, Akij and PHP Family are not listed on the stockmarket.
However, business groups like Square, Beximco, ACI, Summit, Orion, Unique, BSRM and S Alam have one or more listed entities in the market.
Saifur Rahman, spokesman of BSEC, said the regulator has created the platform by modernising public issue rules for raising capital from the stockmarket.
But it is the responsibility of merchant banks as well as stock exchanges to bring big and fundamentally sound companies into the market, he said.
“As a regulator we can provide all the policy support, but we cannot do the marketing needed to bring new companies into the market,” said Rahman, also an executive director of the BSEC.
The listing on bourses raises transparency and accountability of a company, said Md Sayadur Rahman, president of Bangladesh Merchant Bankers Association.
But there are many who are resistant to transparency and accountability. “So, they are not interested in coming to the market.”
He also said the declining interest rates in the money market is also discouraging entrepreneurs from joining the stockmarket.
The cost of taking loans from banks is now cheaper than raising funds from the capital market, according to Rahman.
He went on to call for more incentives to get the big conglomerates into the market.
The 10 percentage point tax incentive is not enough to attract the big and successful companies, he said, adding that the tax gap between the listed and non-listed firms should be at least 15 percentage points.
“The companies should also be given VAT incentives if they get listed on the bourses,” he added.
The companies that do not want to join the stockmarket should be approached in a “focused way” so that they feel interested to be listed, said KAM Majedur Rahman, managing director of the Dhaka Stock Exchange.