Tunisia’s Bourse des Valeurs Mobilieres (BVMT) is expected to remain relatively immune to the international financial crisis in 2009. Mokdadi Hamadi, CEO of UBCI Finance, said that in light of the daily pressure investors apply to stock exchange prices, directors of traded companies should turn to new opportunities, and legally, intervention may take two forms. First, companies could buy back their own stocks, injecting liquidity into the market. This may ease the volatility of securities and reassure shareholders, in conformity with the article 72/73 of the Public Call for Savings.
The article stipulates that “the interventions of a company on its own securities must have the objective, in the interest of its shareholders, of either insuring liquidity in the market of the security concerned, or reducing the excessive fluctuations of its market price.”
Second, an intermediary in the bourse could close a contract of liquidity for a determined period.
At the end of September 2008, the rate of foreign engagement stood at 25% of bourse capitalization. Twenty- two percent of foreign shareholding is estimated to correspond to a stable and sustainable participation, acquired in a partnership framework in order to occupy a strategic position, in companies and also in Tunisian banks. In August, trading on the BVMT saw 3% of foreign holdings ceded so that foreign holding in the stock market capitalization shrank from 28% end July to 25% end August 2008.
Tunisian regulations in exchange matters are considered very well structured at the level of portfolio investment. Khaleb Zribi, managing director of CGF, a subsidiary of GAT, explained that the indicators reflect the good health of the country’s economy, which presents a safe, favorable and secure platform for investing in the BVMT.
Ninety percent of Tunisia’s entrepreneurial fabric consists of undercapitalized small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that resort to banking over- indebtedness in order to finance their activities in the short-term and their development projects in the medium and long-term. This not only burdens their financial load, but it also generates a higher rate of questionable debts in the country’s banking system. In the end, competitiveness of Tunisian export products could be affected, which is why the state has set up several instruments aiming to help the financial market by alleviating some of the indebtedness to banks, while at the same time favoring the reinforcement of businesses’ equity capital by opening their capital, Zribi said.
An enterprise traded on the bourse gains both in prestige and in recognition, which generally helps out the business’ image and market position. Introduction to the bourse also facilitates relations with social and administrative partners, as well as in the spheres of banking, finance and commerce. The stock market has generated more dynamism among enterprises and within the financial market, as means for potential growth are explored. Investors, however, are more likely to covet the short-term dividends, to the detriment of stable portfolios that perform in the long-term.
With 100 securities traded on the principal bourse and as many on the alternative market, Tunisia’s market shows signs of attaining the status of a major regional financial market over the next few years. The bourse has a structured and balanced listing system, while the exchange rate of securities listed fluctuates in ranges limited by statistical thresholds, from 3% to a maximum of 6.09%, so falls are always moderate. Also, the trading session has been extended to a duration of five hours and 10 minutes — 9 a.m. to 2:10 p.m. — offering investors new opportunities for arbitrage and positioning. The bourse is also enriched by improving financial establishments and a group of Tunisian enterprises that are growing more structured and better managed, in adherence with wider market norms.