CORRECTED-Kazakhstan hopes to lure stocks investors with relaxed rules, privatisations

(Corrects Khajiyeva’s title)

ALMATY, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Kazakhstan hopes to attract foreign investors to its underdeveloped stock market by relaxing regulations and offering stakes in some of its biggest companies, a senior market regulator said on Tuesday.

The Central Asian nation has long struggled to create a liquid and efficient stock market which could provide Kazakhs with additional investment opportunities and help local companies raise capital.

“Over the last few months the National (central) Bank has adopted a series of regulations aimed at liberalising the stock market rules and creating favourable conditions for investors and issuers,” Maria Khajiyeva, director of the securities market supervision department at the central bank, said.

Khajiyeva, who spoke at a meeting with officials from the London Stock Exchange and the investment banking arm of Barclays, said the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange (KASE) now allows foreign investors to trade on its platform without setting up offices in Kazakhstan.

KASE introduced T+2 settlements last year, making trading easier for traders based in time zones other than Kazakhstan’s, six hours ahead of GMT.

Khajiyeva said the bourse also hoped foreigners would be attracted by public offers of stakes in Kazakhstan’s biggest companies.

The Kazakh government, whose finances have been hit hard by the oil price crash, plans to float companies such as state oil firm KazMunayGaz, flagship carrier Air Astana, leading telecommunications operator Kazakhtelecom and railways firm Kazakhstan Temir Zholy within the next four years.

The total value of equities traded on the Kazakh Stock Exchange (KASE) was just $3.8 billion last year, compared with, for instance, $41 billion traded on the Dubai Financial Market and $120 billion reported by the Moscow bourse. (Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; editing by Dominic Evans)