Analysis and News

A Caribbean Stock Exchange

BY GEOCAP's Contributor: Nirav Chetty and Matthew Gaul

The idea of an integrated regional securities market was initially championed by Jamaica in the lead up to the Grand Anse Declaration. The relevance of a regional stock exchange and its economic implications continue to guide calls for its achievement. Bruce Golding (former Prime Minister of Jamaica) made an early call for such an exchange and expounded that it would stimulate “real economic growth in the region through capital investments in the creation of new businesses.”

Despite progressive efforts on the movement of capital across the Caribbean region, the execution of a regional exchange has proved elusive to date. Early efforts targeted the information asymmetry on capital market development and economic growth, evidenced by CARICOM’s work on capital market education and awareness. The Caribbean Single Market and Economy has benefited from cross border trading and cross-listing equities. However, cross-border activity remains low.

We will now give an overview of the two main regional exchanges.

Jamaica Stock Exchange

JSE is the first stock exchange to be established in the Caribbean. Operations commenced in February 1969. Its performance lagged behind Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange for many years.

However, the past decade has seen a gallop ahead of its closest regional competitor. Against the country’s mountain of debt (well in excess of 100% of GDP during the early 2010s), the attraction of capital to the stock exchange is impressive, standing at a circa $5.3 billion (USD) market capitalisation by December 2015.

Bloomberg ranked the JSE as a top-performing bourse in 2015 and 2019. The JSE has innovated with an online trading platform that allows the Jamaican diaspora and small retail investors to invest in companies in their home country and a junior market launched in 2009 (over forty companies listed on JSE’s Junior Market).

In October 2019, the Financial Times labeled the JSE as the “world’s best performing over the past year” due to a 35% one-year expansion to October 2019 and a 600% five-year expansion.‍

In pre-pandemic 2019 the JSE Junior Market Index increased by 3.15%. This market welcomed the listing of six new securities during the year, bringing the total listings to forty-four securities. Market activity on the Junior Market recorded an increase of 78.06% in the number of transactions, an increase of 134.52% in the volume traded, and an increase of 112.73% in the value traded.

Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange

The Trinidad and Tobago Securities Industry Act 1981 founded one of the most vibrant stock exchanges in the Caribbean region. It proves to be a key source of non-bank funding for public companies and assists in the country’s development.

The Securities Industries Act of 1995 importantly created the T&T Securities Exchange Commission, the market regulator. A comprehensive update to the rules governing the capital market occurred in the Securities Act 2012.‍

The stock exchange can be decomposed into several sectors such as energy, trading, property, banking, nonbanking, conglomerates and manufacturing. In pre-pandemic 2019, there were 44 listed companies in the first tier of the exchange. The Non-Banking Finance sector was the most active sector by volume with 32.96 million shares traded (42.9% of the market’s total volume) followed by the Banking Sector with 13.62 million shares traded (17.61% of the market’s total volume).‍

The Cross Listed Index advanced by 19% in 2019— indicating the attractiveness of T&T’s liquid capital market to external companies. ‍Cross-listing refers to a company placing its shares on an external stock exchange to its primary listing jurisdiction. It differs from dual listing, which refers to the creation of two distinct legal entities, managed as a single company.

For example, the metals, mining and petroleum organisation formerly known as BHP Billiton is listed as the BHP Group plc (London Stock Exchange) and BHP Group Limited (Australian Securities Exchange).

Total Market Capitalisation as at December 31, 2019 stood at 11 billion USD.

Takeaway

There are currently nine stock exchanges in the CARICOM region, including the Guyana Stock Exchange. While there are several functioning stock exchanges in the region, they are individually small and illiquid and their combined market capitalization is low relative to other emerging markets.

In 2018, CARICOM completed national consultations on a regional securities market. Momentum continued in 2019 with the July Montego Bay Summit decision to advance capital integration via the finalization of a model securities legislation.

The model securities market law is an important step towards a common legal market space and the adoption of a common approach related to the authorization of issuers and securities, prospectus disclosure rules, and the licensing of market intermediaries. ‍

An integrated Caribbean Exchange will propel businesses across the region and help with the access to capital constraints faced.

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