Feb 27, 2013 (LBO) - Listing minority stakes in state entities is a two to three year process, but there is positive response to the move from the highest levels of the administration, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Nalaka Godahewa said.
"Sri Lanka Insurance is already in the pipe line. By 2015 it will come to the market," Godahewa told the LBR-LBO Chief Financial Officers forum Tuesday.
"Before that we need to bring others to the market."
Godahewa said the policy of the administration was not to privatize state entities, but listing minority stakes was not privatization as many people would own the stock.
"We are telling the government that this is not privatization, it is actually peoplisation," he said. "You are putting out state entity shares to a large base of ordinary people to buy."
"The good thing is that at senior levels of government, that acceptance is there. Now it is a matter of who comes first."
Two years ago the state abandoned plans to list SriLankan Catering, a profitable unit of SriLankan Airlines after going through most of the preliminary process of listing.
In countries like Malaysia where stock market capitalization exceeds gross domestic product, listing of state entities contributed in a big way to market growth.
Lloyd Fisher, an emerging markets investor, who took part in the forum said in the early 1990s Malaysia had caught the eyes of international investors with the listing of Tenaga Nasional, the state power utility and Malaysia Telecom.
Sri Lanka Telecom is now listed.
Critics say many of the large state entities in Sri Lanka are making losses because elected rulers tends to use them to as spending tools to buy votes, thereby boosting state consumption.
State entities also borrow from banks, taking the savings of ordinary people to run losses.
In addition to the deficit in the current account of the budget, which makes the central government a net consumer, economic analysts say losses in state enterprises which boost state consumption is a key drag on the island's overall domestic saving rate.
Losses at the state petroleum utility alone are about 1.5 percent of gross domestic product.
Ironically however they are classed with private enterprises when calculating the domestic saving rate, leading to a widely held but mistaken idea that 'Sri Lanka's people have a low savings rate'.
But there are still some profitable state entities including state banks, port and airport utilities which could also tap into the markets to raise capital for their own expansion, instead of depending on debt or capital injections at tax-payer expense.
India has already listed many state enterprises and is gradually selling down the state share.
In Vietnam more than 200 state enterprises have been listed for privatization following the latest economic downturn following the collapse of a credit bubble partly caused by recent 'stimulus spending' and the state is tightening finances.