March 30, 2017 / 3:22 PM / 8 months ago

Nigeria's stock exchange gets green light for public listing

LAGOS, March 30 (Reuters) - The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) has been given a green light by its members to become a publicly listed company, it said on Thursday.

The members also approved the appointment of South African bank FirstRand and local investment firm Chapel Hill Denham to guide it through the process of becoming a listed company, the NSE said.

The second-biggest bourse in sub-Saharan Africa after Johannesburg and a main entry point for investors in Africa, the NSE is owned by stockbrokers and some institutional investors.

It has around 200 listed companies, all included in its benchmark share index.

As a first step, the NSE will change its ownership structure from a mutual company of brokers to add new shareholders.

NSE president Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede said this demutualisation “will bring the Nigerian capital market on a par with other international jurisdictions, result in enhanced governance (and) transparency”. It will also attract “strategic partners, investors and good quality issuers”, he said.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), the continent’s most developed stock market, has been a listed company since 2006.

The equities market in Nigeria, now Africa’s largest economy, was until 2013 one of the world’s best performing frontier markets but low liquidity levels and currency restrictions have since deterred foreign investors.

The value of trading on the bourse declined by 22.3 percent to 74.1 billion naira ($236 mln) in February from a month before, as foreign buyers stayed on the sidelines.

Nigerian shares have lost 5.2 percent so far this year after a 6.2 percent fall last year. In dollar terms, they shed 40 percent in 2016 as the naira lost a third of its value on the official market.

Nigeria is in its first recession in 25 years as a result of low oil prices which have slashed government revenue, hammered its currency and caused chronic dollar shortages, frustrating businesses including listed companies.

The stock exchange has already said it will fast-track the listing of exchange-traded derivatives this year to help investors manage risk and has created a counterparty clearing house to support the process.

“As a demutualised entity that is profit-seeking, the NSE will be in a better stead to capitalize on new income opportunities ... and be able to better support economic growth,” NSE chief executive Oscar Onyema said on Thursday. (Editing by Catherine Evans)

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