Armenia's stock exchange seeks to boost currency operations

YEREVAN, March 21 (Reuters) - Armenia’s stock exchange plans to boost currency operations by luring back commercial banks and introducing a new online platform and a mechanism of deferred settlements, its boss told Reuters on Monday.

NASDAQ OMX Armenia, the only active stock exchange in the former Soviet republic, is part of NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc. It saw the volume of currency transactions decline by 58 percent year-on-year to $313 million in 2015.

“We are concerned that there are no currency operations on the stock exchange and we are trying to change our business model,” Director General Konstantin Saroyan said.

He said demand for dollars had declined and commercial banks were buying foreign currency elsewhere: on the interbank market, via over-the-counter deals and central bank interventions.

“We are also planning to launch a Tom Next (Tomorrow Next) mechanism of deferred settlements,” Saroyan said. The exchange currently requires upfront deposits for forex transactions.

“Analysing the situation in the economy, I feel that demand for dollars has declined due to a decline in remittances and a decline in imports,” Saroyan said.

Armenia, a country of 3.2 million people, depends heavily on aid and investment from former Soviet overlord Russia, whose economic downturn has hit Armenian exports and remittances from Armenians working there.

Armenia’s imports declined to $3.254 billion in 2015 from $4.424 billion in 2014. Remittances dropped to $867 million last year from $1.2 billion a year earlier. (Reporting by Hasmik Mkrtchyan; Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Dmitry Solovyov and Mark Trevelyan)