November 11, 2008

life in financial markets: killing the access to trading in small companies' shares

Killing a good concept due to one's false assumptions is commonplace. Take the latest example, seen in the Indian financial markets. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), announced, last week, its regulatory framework for stock exchanges to set up trading platforms for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). It opened its doors for Rs 100 crore-net worth stock exchanges to apply for setting up the SME trading platform. But the spoiler is the clause where it pegs the minimum trading lot size to be Rs 1 lakh.

An earlier Sebi discussion paper for SME trading platforms had recommended zero restrictions on size and track record for SMEs to raise equity capital but had recommended a minimum application size of Rs 5 lakh in a SME's primary equity issue. All this is meant to deter retail investors from burning their fingers with fly-by-night operators.

But in the process, it is likely to drive away liquidity-supplying day traders, speculators and arbitrageurs as they would not want to place orders of Rs 1 lakh and more for a company whose share capital might not be more than Rs 1 crore. This, many market traders say, is going to kill the liquidity from day one of listing itself.

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