This morning (2 April) South Africa’s securities exchange, the JSE Ltd, announced a revised strategy to attract more listings from African countries, as they say international interest in investing into the continent’s growth story continues to soar. The JSE is closing its Africa Board and moving the 2 listed companies onto the Main Board (listing requirements for the Africa Board are the same as for the Main Board) or to Alt-X if they are growth companies. The JSE is also stepping up trading in depository receipts (DRs) and offering a broader range of exchange-traded funds and debt instruments.
Siobhan Cleary, Director of Strategy and Public Policy at the JSE, said in a press release: “The JSE’s existing African offering includes 12 African companies. In future, there will be no differentiation (for listing purposes). For equities, this will mean that we will list the companies on the Main Board or AltX as applicable. We will also actively market and profile the African companies that are already listed.”
She says the move is driven by demand for capital and also by the increasing supply of capital from investors. African consumer markets are increasingly being targeted by local companies and companies from overseas, including a growing wave of foreign direct investment activity. Other very active channels for investments are private equity funds, hedge funds and other investors. “We think it is time that stock exchanges started to play an appropriate role in channelling the investments.”
In October 2011 South Africa’s National Treasury announced that companies previously viewed as foreign listings would in future be treated as domestic and this makes it easier for South Africans to invest in JSE-listed African stocks and makes it easier for foreign companies to raise capital. South African institutions will apparently be able to include JSE listed companies among their domestic asset holdings. Second, the JSE has developed good relations with several stock exchanges on the continent through the African Stock Exchanges Association and the Committee of SADC Stock Exchanges. Third, there are increasing investment flows into the continent’s markets and more funds focused on the region, seen as high growth compared to many world markets.
Nathan Mintah, Chairman of the JSE’s Africa Advisory Committee, commented: “This evolution in JSE’s strategy is a step in the right direction in the quest to increase capital flows into the rest of Africa. Offering issuers and investors the ‘whole JSE’ market platform for access to instruments across the capital structure in equities, mezzanine, and fixed income combined with the JSE’s liquidity will clearly benefit all stakeholders and serve as a catalyst for product innovation in areas such as exchange traded products for the rest of Africa.”
The JSE is diversifying the instrument range it offers investors from the rest of the continent. Cleary says: “We already have four interest-rate instruments from the rest of the continent, as well as an African exchange-traded product. We will give increased focus to listing further debt and quasi-equity products in future. These will also include DRs, which are traded like shares and offer investors the same economic, corporate and voting rights as holding underlying shares directly. DRs enable issuers to reach investors located outside their home markets while reducing the risk of cross-border investment.” The JSE altered its listing requirements last year to accommodate DRs, which will provide a way for African companies to raise capital on the JSE without requiring a secondary listing. DRs are applicable for African companies regardless of whether they have an existing listing on an African exchange or any other exchange. Freely traded in South African Rands, this will allow African companies to market themselves to both South African and international investors.
Cleary says there is a pipeline of companies interested and she expects more African listings this year. The JSE is competing with international exchanges such as London and New York for key listings, and also with Australia and Toronto for mining listings. Recently Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote said (see article in Financial Times, for instance) he would take the $11bn Dangote Cement for a London listing in 2013, and last year Zambia’s Zambeef also opted for London.
The two listings on the JSE Africa Board, launched in February 2009, were Trustco from Namibia and Wilderness Safaris from Botswana. The JSE says both prefer to be ranked with their sector peers and in industry sectors. Quinton van Rooyen, Trustco Group MD, commented: “This repositioning of Trustco allows the company, whilst keeping its African identity, to be benchmarked against its peers, on a world-class platform. This can only be beneficial to Trustco and the extensive African investment community.” The JSE is also pledging roadshows and analyst events to highlight the African companies from outside South Africa.
The JSE believes that its approach provides a workable solution to the sometimes complex issue of investment on the continent. The JSE’s approach also contributes to the development of markets within their own economies. Cleary added: “There is an opportunity for the JSE to work with these exchanges and various development institutions to build capacity on the continent. It also gives the JSE the opportunity to evolve its Africa strategy. This has meant looking critically at what issuers – companies, governments and others – from the rest of the continent are looking for, and aligning their needs with the JSE’s objectives,” says Cleary.