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India: Exchange big hitters in battle for market share

India’s stock exchange heavyweights – the National Stock Exchange and the Bombay Stock Exchange – are gearing up for a fight for market share.

Spurred on by the threat of competition from new entrants and the prospect that India’s economy will continue to see growth of at least 7 per cent over the next few years, the NSE and BSE have announced a series of new products, hires and alliances.

India’s benchmark Sensex index has risen more than 70 per cent so far this year, making it one of the 10 best performing markets around the world. GDP, meanwhile, grew 6.1 per cent in the three months to the end of June, indicating the economy may have bottomed out.

The timing of the rebound, in the economy and stock market, could not be better for Madhu Kannan, chief executive of the BSE, the oldest of India’s more than 20 or so exchanges.

The appointment of Mr Kannan, who was only 36 when he took over in May, marked something of a change of strategy for an exchange that has been struggling to regain market share since its cross-town rival the NSE burst on to the scene nearly 15 years ago.

Before its arrival, the BSE had 80 per cent of the market. In 12 months the NSE hit the same level and the BSE has been trying to claw back market share ever since.

Mr Kannan hopes to upgrade the exchange’s technology, improve client relationships and make better use of its existing relationships with the Singapore stock exchange and Deutsche Börse.

In August, the BSE announced it had taken a 15 per cent stake in the newly formed United Stock Exchange to help drive the development and growth of both interest rate and currency derivatives markets. It will also start trading interest rate futures in the next couple of months.

But the NSE has pipped it to the post, becoming the first exchange, at the end of August, to resume trading in interest rate futures. A previous attempt to introduce the contract flopped in 2003 due to pricing issues and the regulator’s failure to allow banks to trade the product. The new contracts can now be traded by banks and are open to some foreign participation.

Ravi Narain, chief executive of the NSE, is upbeat about the exchange’s ability to grow and innovate and says he welcomes competition. He also wants the exchange to offer a full range of asset classes.

Since 2000, the NSE has, among other things, rolled out internet trading, exchange traded funds, a volatility index and currency futures. It is also looking at creating a platform for small and medium-sized enterprises, and appears to be responding to increased competition where it hurts. It said this month it would lower trading costs in futures and options and cash segments by 10 per cent.

Adding to the pressure on the NSE and BSE is the arrival of a significant new entrant to the market. The Multi Commodity Exchange of India, controlled by Indian markets entrepreneur Jignesh Shah’s Financial Technologies group, is poised to start its own stock exchange.

MCX-SX will form part of a portfolio offering trade in interest rate futures, ETFs and fixed income. The exchange already offers trading in currency futures.

Joseph Massey, chief executive of MCX-SX, believes there is room for another stock exchange at a time when the government is moving towards financial deregulation and is pushing to give India’s rural population the same access to financial services as their urban counterparts.

Currently 1.4 per cent of India’s population participates in the capital markets compared with 40 to 45 per cent in developed countries. In addition more than 90 per cent of exchange trade is confined to only 10 cities in India, according to the MCX.

Mr Massey says the scope for growth in the types of products on offer is also large, adding that while SME’s, currency, bonds and derivatives make up to 80 per cent of trade in other markets, many of these asset classes are still only in their infancy in India.

“Until recently the asset class in the public domain was equities. Other products were non-existent. Now we have the opportunity to provide different shades of investment products,” says Mr Massey.

Analysts say the combination of greater competition between the exchanges and strong fundamentals is great news for investors.

“The last 10 years have been remarkable. We’ve gone from being one of the least efficient markets to one of the most efficient. There are now 7,000 stocks listed,” says Sukumar Rajah, managing director and chief investment officer for Asian equities at Franklin Templeton Investments in India.

Mr Rajah says at the moment less than 5 per cent of personal savings in India are invested in the market. But with Indian GDP expected to grow at between 7 to 9 per cent on average over the next five to 10 years, he says the outlook for India is good.

“With this type of growth there is room for companies to expand . . . so for both local and global investors, this market will continue to be interesting.”

Source: FT, 20.09.2009 by Mary Watkins

Filed under: Asia, Exchanges, India, News, , , , , , , , , , ,

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