January 22, 2020 / 3:35 PM / a month ago

Casablanca stock exchange to ease foreign access-CEO

MARRAKECH, Morocco, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The Casablanca Stock Exchange is working towards easier access for foreign investors and wants more privatisations of state companies to help it regain emerging market status, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

Equity index provider MSCI lowered Morocco’s classification to frontier market from emerging market status in 2013, with economic growth dropping from 3% in 2018 to 2.3% in 2019 before picking up to 3.5% in 2020, the planning agency figures show.

Karim Hajji, speaking at a conference in Marrakech, said the exchange was trying to boost liquidity and would open short-term interest listings to foreign investors and launch exchange traded funds (ETFs), without offering further details.

Two companies are expected to launch initial public offerings this year after a programme to prepare small and medium-sized enterprises to list on the bourse, he said. The last two new listings were in 2018.

Most big publicly owned companies have already been listed but some, including airline Royal Air Maroc and the phosphates and fertilisers producer OCP are still entirely held by the state.

“I am doubtful that OCP would be privatised but maybe an affiliate or two of the group could be,” Hajji said.

Royal Air Maroc is likely waiting for profits to improve before it considers privatisation, he added, and “utility companies are not making enough money to privatise”.

The combined capitalisation of Casablanca Stock Exchange rose in 2019 to 626.6 billion dirhams ($65.2 bln) from 582 billion dirhams in 2018.

Hajji said the African Securities Exchanges Association, of which he is also president, will launch early next year a connectivity project to boost trading, cross exchange and cross listing between bourses in Abidjan, Casablanca, Cairo, Johannesburg, Lagos, Mauritius and Nairobi.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi, Editing by William Maclean

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