Libya’s stock market opened on Thursday, the first day of trading since the fall of Moammer Gaddafi in August last year, with a turnover of less than $10,000.
Only 452 shares of a Libyan bank were sold for a value of 11,752 dinars ($9,300) during the five hours of trading. The Libyan Stock Market (LSM) index closed at 1,473 points.
“We opened trading in 10 companies with a capital value of 3.9 billion dinars,” bourse general manager Ahmed Karoud told AFP before the opening ceremony which was attended by transitional government officials and potential buyers.
“People are afraid so they want to see what happens on the first and second day,” Karoud added hoping the pace of trade to pick up over the coming work week.
“Such an institution is vital for development,” Economic Minister Ahmed al-Koshli told journalists.
Foreign investors would soon be able to join trading the bourse’s chairman said in his statement.
“Foreign investors will be able to own up to 10 percent of shares,” Mohammed Fakroun told AFP. He emphasised that the country’s central bank would decide the new rules on foreign investment very soon. Libya prohibited absolute foreign ownership during Gaddafi’s 42 year long reign.
Most of the listed shares on the bourse are in the financial sector and include insurance companies and private banks. A cement company has also made it to the stock market on the back of a reconstruction boom.
Karoud added that Islamic funds, real estate firms, oil companies and telecommunication giants like Al Madar and Libyana are next in line and will start trading in June.
The bourse chairman hoped Libya will become the main financial link between Europe and the rest of Africa once again and promised to model the stock market on Abu Dhabi’s.
“We still don’t have a government but we have the capacity and infrastructure necessary to become the financial hub of North Africa,” he said while predicting a new chapter of foreign investment, innovation and development.
The bourse’s chairman was also keen to stress the country’s transformation.
“Libya is safe again and thinking of its people and economy,” Fakroun said. He announced a five-year tax break to all trading companies in a bid to boost trading on the stock exchange.