December 3, 2017 / 7:07 PM / 2 years ago

Polish bourse targets retiring business owners to boost listings

FILE PHOTO - A man passes in front of the WSE logo at the Warsaw Stock Exchange, Poland, March 6, 2012. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

WARSAW (Reuters) - The Warsaw Stock Exchange (GPW.WA) will try to persuade dozens of retiring business owners to sell their companies via the bourse as it strives to attract new listings, its chief executive said.

The state-controlled bourse has seen a decline in new listings in recent years, in part because low interest rates have allowed companies to raise money cheaply without the regulatory obligations that come with a stock market listing.

“We identified around 50 private companies, which in our view should be listed on the WSE,” Marek Dietl told Reuters in an interview approved for publication on Sunday.

Dietl, approved as CEO at the end of September, said the bourse would argue a listing - as opposed to a sale to another private investor - would allow retiring business owners to sell down their stakes gradually and would guarantee a market price.

“We would like to convince at least some of these companies’ owners to list them on the WSE,” said Dietl, the WSE’s fifth CEO since 2013 and the third since the nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS) won elections in 2015.

A generation of entrepreneurs who founded businesses in the 1990s after the collapse of communism are nearing retirement in Poland and other eastern European countries, with their children often not interested in taking on their work.

The WSE, which is working on a strategy update, also wants to launch its products and technologies abroad, but rules out takeovers due to the cost of buying rivals, Dietl said.

The WSE made an unsuccessful attempt in 2014 to merge with the Vienna bourse and some analysts have been wondering whether a similar project could be revived given the WSE’s cash pile.

Dietl said the WSE was sticking to its policy of paying out at least 60 percent of annual net profit in dividends, as well as its targets for core earnings of 288 million zlotys (60.2 million pounds) in 2020 and average annual revenue growth of 7 percent in 2014-2020.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Anna Koper; Editing by Mark Potter

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