He served for nine years as BSEC chief. His report card? Imperfect. | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 17, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:16 AM, May 17, 2020

He served for nine years as BSEC chief. His report card? Imperfect.

One word that would accurately sum up M Khairul Hossain's nine-year-long tenure as the chairman of the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission would be indulgent.

None of his predecessors was given as long as he has to serve at the helm; Sultan-uz-Zaman Khan, MA Sayeed, Monir Uddin Ahmed, AB Mirza Azizul Islam and Faruq Ahmed Siddiqi all served for three years.

So, arguably, the blame for the terribly low confidence on the country's bourse lies squarely on his shoulders.

In the past nine years, opportunistic companies were given the free reign to get listed, raise funds and then disappear into thin air in a few years.

Take the case of C&A Textile, which in 2015 had raised Tk 150 crore from the stock market. Two years later, the textile maker had shut its factory and stopped publishing financial statements, leaving the investors ruing the loss of at least Tk 150 crore.

If the companies did not shutter, they would announce that they were perennially making losses, so no scope to reward their investors through dividends.

And it is almost always the general investors who are the losers, as the sponsors would wash their hands off the companies before they tanked.

In the last nine years, the BSEC has given approval to 91 companies to get listed with the bourses. Of them, 11 have become junk stocks and 12 'B' category companies.

When a listed company fails to provide any dividend or hold an annual general meeting or had brought the shutters down on its factory, it is considered as a junk stock.

The 'B' category companies are those that fail to provide at least 10 per cent dividend.

Despite the junk stock and lower category companies creating woes for general investors time and again, the stock market regulator did not do anything of note to prevent a repeat of such incidents.

They kept regurgitating the same thing on its chairman's orders: that it was following the disclosure-based initial public offering system, which bears no responsibility of the companies' performance.

So, the investors need to be careful, the BSEC maintained.

When a company raises a huge sum and shuts its factory within just two years, the regulator has to take responsibility, said Abdul Mannan, a stock market investor.

"If it happens once, it's a fluke; twice, it's a coincidence; and thrice, it's a trend. And this happened over and over again. The regulator never took any steps against the issue managers -- they should have been punished."

On the other hand, the issue managers of junk stocks tend to be the few same ones. "This was an interesting thread, but the regulator was silent," he added.

But, some good companies like Runner Automobiles, Bashundhara Paper Mills and RSRM also got listed in the last nine years.

And yet, gambling was rampant in the stock market, said a merchant banker requesting anonymity.

"Some junk stocks were hot cakes and the well-performing ones were crashing. Over time, it eroded the confidence of both foreign and local investors alike."

And yet again, the regulator's role here was found wanting.

"It is true that a few sponsors and gamblers were fined during his [Hossain's] tenure, but it was too little compared to the magnitude of their offences," he added.

Another misstep Hossain took was extending the tenure of the struggling closed-end mutual fund sector in 2018 for another ten years -- without taking the investors' consent.

The decision hit the investors hard as they were looking forward to handsome returns once the tenure of several mutual funds end between 2019 and 2022, said a stockbroker.

"They will have to wait for another decade to get returns on their investments. This decision made many foreign investors livid," he added.

The whole commission devoted all its energy in making phone calls to institutional investors, merchant bankers and stockbrokers to not dispose of their stakes to pull up the index, said another merchant banker to speak candidly on the matter.

"This is not the commission's job as per the BSEC Ordinance."

Even recently it has taken some steps that will further gnaw at investor confidence such as resetting the floor price of stocks to stop further rout of the exchanges during the pandemic.

"The decision though has ultimately made the market illiquid and hit investor confidence again."

On the other hand, margin loan provisioning is being deferred for the last 10 years, which has created many zombie institutes, the merchant banker added.

During the stock market crash of 2010, merchant banks and stockbrokers had provided huge sums of margin loans against stocks. Those loans have gone sour as the stock prices kept plummeting and the stocks could not be sold.

Contacted, Hossain said: "During my tenure, I have done many reforms, which have been listed in the press release. I have no further comment to add."

The BSEC has sent out a 44-page press release on May 14.

As per the press release, Hossain's accomplishments include demutualisation of the bourses and the corporate governance code, shortening of time for IPO application, modern integrated surveillance software, special tribunal of capital market-related cases and a letter of intent signed by the Bangladesh Bank, BSEC and the Insurance Development and Regulatory Authority for coordinated surveillance and supervision.

Prior to join the commission Hossain was the chairman of the state-owned Investment Corporation of Bangladesh from September 2009 to May 2011. Before that he was a professor of the department of finance at the University of Dhaka.

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