TEL AVIV May 13 Israel's stock exchange hopes to recover from a sharp downturn in its fortunes which cost the jobs of two top executives last year with a new plan to boost trading volumes, its recently appointed CEO said on Tuesday.
Yossi Beinart, chief executive officer of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE), said he planned to hire sales people to help attract new company flotations and also aimed to allow trading of companies not listed on the exchange.
Beinart, a former president and CEO of the North American Derivatives Exchange (NADEX), took the reins at TASE in January after longtime CEO Ester Levanon stepped down along with Chairman Saul Bronfeld after criticism for not doing enough to boost trading volumes.
Bronfeld was replaced by Amnon Neubach in March.
Beinart said the recruitment of sales staff was part of a more active attempt to promote TASE's services - needed because of the tendency of many technology-oriented Israeli companies to list their shares on the U.S. Nasdaq exchange.
"We never went out to sell, we just waited for them (companies) to come ... We have to be proactive and not be a utility," Beinart told Reuters after a news conference on Tuesday.
"We have to go out and look for business," he said, adding he would like to create a welcoming environment for biotech companies in particular just as the Toronto bourse is a haven for energy firms.
Beinart faces a challenge to revive activity on the bourse, given its number of listed companies has dropped to 485 from 654 in 2007, while average daily trading volume has fallen sharply the past two years.
Volume over the first four months of 2014 recovered somewhat to nearly 1.3 billion shekels ($376 million) worth of shares a day from 1.1 billion in 2012, but remains well below a daily average of more than 2 billion in 2010.
Beinart said he would work to add another 100 companies to TASE in the next five years and generate volume of 2.5 billion shekels a day. He said his chief goal was to cater to small and medium-sized companies and offer them a package of services such as analysis, investor relations and road shows.
Neubach and Beinart said a plan by the securities authority to turn TASE, owned by banks and other members, into a for-profit exchange was moving forward.
"All of them understand something has to be done," Neubach said. "When and how is too soon to say. But we hope (it will be done) between a year and a year and a half."
Beinart also said the bourse was working on increasing the number of entities which could be traded on the bourse, including companies listed on other exchanges, such as Israel stocks listed in the United States.
On the issue of regulation, which has grown since the global financial crisis began in 2008, Beinart said there needed to be some easing in reporting requirements, but argued regulation was not as strict as some companies made it out to be.
"It may be a public relations problem," he said.
($1 = 3.4537 Israeli Shekels) (Editing by David Holmes)