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For Laos's stock exchange debut, it only takes two companies to tango

Agence France Presse - December 27, 2010

Hanoi Even by the standards of Indonesia's modestly sized capital markets, a milestone about to take place in Laos on Jan. 11 would seem underwhelming.

But excitement is running high in one of Asia's poorest nations ahead of the planned opening of Laos's new stock exchange, with a grand total of two companies trading.

So far, only two firms have had initial public offerings: the EDL-Generation Public Company and the Lao Bank of Foreign Trade (BCEL), both state-owned.

EDL-Generation, a spinoff from state-owned Lao Electricity, has offered 217 million common shares this month at a fixed price of 4,300 kip (53 cents).

Investors showed the most interest on the final day on Monday, said Khouanetyphong Bouanevanh, in charge of the offer for underwriters BCEL-KT Securities. "Now is the last day to subscribe. They are lining up."

A notice in the Vientiane Times newspaper said the deadline had been extended to Monday "by public demand." BCEL's initial public offering, meanwhile, ended on Thursday.

The Vietnam News Agency reported that about 20.5 million BCEL shares were offered on auction at an average bid price of 5,910 kip. The offer was oversubscribed. Khouanetyphong said EDL would remain the majority owner of the new company, but foreign investors would be allowed to own 10 percent of shares while employees and other Laos residents were eligible for the remaining 15 percent.

He expects both EDL-Generation and BCEL to be the only two companies trading on Laos's new stock exchange when it opens for the first time in January.

"I think others are coming," said Khouanetyphong, who studied in Japan and expressed pride at being part of the process. "It's my great honor. I can tell my grandkids."

Communist Laos is one of Asia's poorest nations and is reliant on foreign donors. But the government has been trying to integrate the fast-growing economy into the wider world.

Chinese economic influence is rising rapidly in the country, which has traditional political ties as well as business links with Vietnam.

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