West Africa’s regional stock market the Bourse Regionale des Valeurs Mobilieres (www.brvm.org) has started trading from a new base in Bamako, Mali, after leaving Cote d’Ivoire because of the political crisis. Trading restarted in the new office on 1 March, reports Bloomberg news agency, but volumes are much lower.
The bourse suspended operations on 11 February, after security forces loyal to incumbent Cote d’Ivoire president Laurent Gbagbo seized its main offices in Abidjan to prevent it relocating. Once senior personnel were safely out, the BRVM managed to move enough of the settlement and clearing operations to start operating in the new offices. At least 10 commercial banks in Cote d’Ivoire closed and Gbagbo’s forces “nationalized” them.
Bloomberg says that it is only operating for foreign investors since most of the stockbrokers were based in Cote d’Ivoire and their offices were part of the closed banks. However stockbroker Securities Africa says that only locals can trade. Clearing and settlement would also require banks, although the BRVM has an associated regional central depository Dépositaire Central/Banque de Règlement S.A.
The political crisis in Cote d’Ivoire is getting closer to civil war. International bodies including regional grouping ECOWAS and the African Union says that opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, won a 28 November presidential election and is the legal president of the country, but Gbagbo refuses to accept the verdict. The United Nations says that almost 400 people have been killed and tens of thousands have fled. The economy has virtually stopped, with all financial systems, and Cote d’Ivoire’s €2.3 billion Eurobond went into default on 30 January.
The BRVM lists some 39 securities and acts as the regional exchange for 8 countries as an African innovation when it opened in 1998. Bloomberg reports BRVM head Jean-Paul Gillet saying that the value of trading on 15 March was CFA 86 million (US$182,300), down from a daily average of CFA 200 mn to CFA 500 mn in 2010: “We managed to restart the operations of the bourse after we reconstructed the system and the environment. The volume of transactions has been a bit affected, but the prices haven’t dropped as there has been no haste in selling.
“Given the situation in the country, Ivorian companies face difficulties in taking part in trading, so we mostly have international clients at the moment. Companies can’t work from Abidjan because members of their staff are missing or their offices are closed.”
Stockbroker Securities Africa lists the market capital of the BRVM at CFA 3.5 trillion CFA francs. Sonatel (SNTS), Sonatel, based in Senegal and including France Telecom as a shareholder, is the biggest listed company with CFA 1.65 trn in market capitalization. Other listings include 8 banks, including SGBCI (Societe Generale SA) and Ecobank Transnational Inc. Ivorian companies make up 33 of the 39 listings, according to BRVM website, and the BRVM Composite Index peaked at 174.89 on 11 Jan, but has since fallen 7.5%, in line with many emerging markets indices.