February 26, 2019 / 11:58 AM / 3 months ago

Casablanca stock exchange expects one or two IPOs this year- CEO

CASABLANCA, Morocco, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Casablanca’s stock exchange expects one or two small or medium sized (SMEs) companies to launch initial public offerings (IPO) this year, its chief executive officer said.

Few companies have gone public in Morocco in recent years, with just two doing so in 2018, when the combined market capitalisation of companies listed on the exchange fell 8.27 percent.

It launched a programme to prepare around 70 SMEs for listing in 2016, but so far none of them have launched IPOs.

“We expect to have around one or two companies a year to be listed from the ...programme,” from this year, exchange CEO Karim Hajji told Reuters in an interview. He gave no details.

He said funding for the economy remained dominated by banks in Morocco, where the lowest interest rates in Africa meant few companies were inclined to resort to the stock market.

Analysts say the Casablanca exchange been affected by a campaign on social media to boycott the Moroccan subsidiary of French diary company Danone and Les Eaux Minerales d’Oulmes - a listed bottled water company - over high prices.

A broad pull-back by foreign investors from emerging markets, has also had an impact.

Hajji said that the exchange, as well as promoting itself as a gateway to Africa in roadshows in the West, aimed to strengthen its ties to other bourses on the continent.

He also heads the African Securities Exchange Association (ASEA), whose African Exchange Linkage project (AELP) promotes closer links between bourses in Abidjan, Casablanca, Cairo, Johannesburg, Lagos, Mauritius and Nairobi with African Development Bank assistance.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Ulf Laessing and John Stonestreet

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