African business, politics and lifestyle
Challenge for African stock markets
One of the biggest obstacles to investing in African stock markets is the paucity of listed companies and the limited number of shares traded on them.
So the prospect of two fairly major delistings is not a particularly comfortable one for African exchanges at a time they are trying to encourage more companies to list and to capitalise on the growing investor appetite for Africa.
Bharti Airtel is delisting its Lusaka-listed Celtel Zambia unit – the second biggest company by market capitalization on the Zambian stock exchange – following a mandatory offer to buy out minority shareholders.
Meanwhile, Greek Coke bottler Coca-Cola Hellenic – the world’s second biggest Coke bottler – plans to buy out the Nigerian Bottling Company and turn it into a wholly-owned subsidiary in a $126 million deal. It already owned two-thirds of the shares.
In neither case is there a suggestion the parent company will not be planning to pump in more investment – quite the opposite in fact as Africa is increasingly seen as a place to get above average returns and with excellent growth prospects.
But taking the companies off the stock exchanges removes the chance for other investors to get that direct exposure to the African opportunities.
There was a chance South African retailer Massmart could disappear from the bourse too after WalMart announced a buyout plan, but the U.S. giant now intends to keep the Johannesburg listing – so Massmart investors can keep their participation in the expected growth it sees in Africa.
Overall it hasn’t been a bad year for African stock exchange listings given that we’ve seen Nigeria’s Dangote Cement – the biggest firm in sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa – float its shares in a listing which valued it at $14 billion at the time (now nearer $12 billion)
That said, the free float – the proportion of shares held by investors likely to trade – is only just over 5 percent.
African stock exchanges certainly have their work cut out to encourage more companies to see them as the best place for raising finance. Questions have long been raised over whether Africa needs so many small national exchanges and whether it might not be to everyone’s advantage to have listings on fewer, bigger markets.