(Adds foreign investors in second paragraph.)
Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Trading on the Libyan Stock Exchange will resume in January or February after an armed rebellion against the regime of Muammar Qaddafi forced it to close, Chairman Ahmed Karoud said today.
Karoud hopes the leadership change in the North African nation would introduce fresh regulations and help attract foreign investors to the five-year-old exchange. Foreigners own less than 1 percent of the shares listed on the bourse, Karoud said in an interview in Tripoli.
“We want new rules,” said Karoud, the new head of the exchange, which has been closed since Feb. 20. “We want foreign investors in Libya.”
Business in Libya, an Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries oil producer, is starting to return to normal after a seven-month revolution toppled Qaddafi’s regime. Members of the ruling National Transitional Council are negotiating a new government as fighting continues in two cities still controlled by Qaddafi loyalists.
The bourse has 13 listed companies, including the exchange itself, with a combined market capitalization of about 3.9 billion dinars ($3.2 billion), Karoud said. The biggest companies include Gumhouria Bank, Sahara Bank and Wahda Bank, which together account for about half of the market capitalization, he said.
Karoud said he is waiting for an end to the violence and for the establishment of a government before trading resumes. He voiced hope that the new cabinet would pass a law that would allow foreign investors to transfer money outside the country to increase interest in the exchange.
Initial public offerings that were planned for June by Libyana and Almadar, the country’s two mobile telephone operators, may be scheduled for next year, he said. The bourse may also begin to list funds next year, he said.
Shares fell about 6 percent on Feb. 17, the day the revolt started, Karoud said. In May, Qaddafi forces demanded the exchange to open at a time when banks were closed and the bourse’s branch in the city of Benghazi was under rebel control.
The Qaddafi regime wanted “to say to the world, its OK. We have no problems,” Karoud said. When the bourse’s management refused to reopen, the exchange was given 24 hours to vacate the trading floor in Omar Mukhtar neighborhood, he said. The bourse moved to an area on the western outskirts of the city. A digital trading board still stands overlooking a busy street at the exchange’s previous location.
--Editors: Inal Ersan, Peter Branton
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