February 29, 2012 / 10:07 AM / 7 years ago

"Clean Water Hero" pioneers Cambodian stock listing

PHNOM PENH, Feb 29 (Reuters) - After several false starts, Cambodia’s stock exchange may finally open its doors in April if a campaign to sell stock in the capital’s water utility draws enough investors.

The Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX) was supposed to start trading in September 2009 but the launch has been repeatedly delayed. It formally opened in July 2011, although there were no shares to trade. A mooted December opening never materialised.

The Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA) began a book-building exercise on Wednesday and its director general, Ek Sonn Chan, dubbed the “Clean Water Hero”, said he would be happy to meet potential investors individually to persuade them to buy.

The book-building will run until March 13 and the shares could start trading on April 18.

“That is our plan in doing the IPO, with book building, subscriptions and trading, but we will see whether the situation requires further delay,” said Ming Bankosal, director-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia.

PPWSA said it planned to sell 15 percent of its stock at a price of between $1 and $1.57 a share to raise between $13 million and $20.4 million.

“Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority is one of the leading companies in Asia,” Ek Sonn Chan told the investors present on Wednesday.

“I’m 61 years old. Who’s healthier than me? I’ve been drinking tap water from the Water Supply Authority for nearly 10 years now,” he said.

He forecast the firm’s revenue would grow more than 10 percent to $31 million this year and 12 percent next year to $35 million.

Against the odds, Ek Sonn Chan has turned the water company into an award-winning enterprise since he took over in the early 1990s, when the Cambodian state was still trying to recover from years of civil war and the ultra-maoist 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime.

There weren’t many foreign investors around on Wednesday but at least one seemed ready to bet on the stock.

“In terms of their performance, experience, with the plans they have, we think it’s a very interesting investment story, a very good story for Cambodia,” said Joseph Hoess, a Bangkok-based director of frontier market fund Dragon Capital. (Editing by Alan Raybould)

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