In a bid to open Sri Lanka’s corporate debt market to foreign investors, country’s capital market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is currently in discussions with the Central Bank to facilitate the issuing of foreign-denominated debt by the corporate sector, according to SEC Chief.
“We are currently discussing with the Central Bank to see how we can allow our companies to issue dollar bonds,” SEC Chairman, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa said.
This i nitiative will be further facilitated through bringing in trading platforms such as Bloomberg/ Reuters because foreign investors prefer to invest via a custodian bank or through Bloomberg/ Reuter’s platforms.
“We are going to allow Bloomberg/ Reuter’s etc. to bring their trading platforms to the Colombo Stock Exchange’s (CSE) system, so that foreigners can easily operate because they prefer them,” he further said.
At present, bond trading is carried out through the Automated Trading System (ATS) at CSE.
The proposal to allow local corporates to issue US dollar-denominated bonds is incorporated under SEC’s eighteen policy decisions to develop the Sri Lankan corporate bond market. For this purpose, a consultation paper has already been uploaded in SEC’s website seeking public comments.
When asked whether the Sri Lankan citizens and corporates will also be allowed to buy these dollar bonds, Dr. Godahewa said that it was open for discussion and still no concrete decision been made in that respect.
Meanwhile, the new NDB Chief, Rajendra Theagarajah proposed the SEC to consider the possibility of opening the rupee-denominated debt to foreigners.
“Perhaps you could also consider during your consultations, whether Sri Lankan corporates and the banks can actually raise and list rupee-denominated debt in Sri Lanka for foreigners.
If we can get our payment and settlement system conducive, I think this will also be a window for discussion,” Theagarajah noted.
According to Dr. Godahewa, during the last six months, there have been 10 debenture issues raising Rs.24 billion, which is more than the total raised through all the Initial Public Offerings combined during the last 3 years.