Cambodian Stock Exchange is popular, but has only one stock

People stand near a stocks graph during a launching ceremony at the Cambodian Securities Exchange (CSX) in Phnom Penh on April 18, 2012. The Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX) finally began trading shares on April 18, nine months after it officially opened, when a water monopoly became the first firm to list.

Jeff Horwich: It's been a roller coaster ride for the world's stock exchanges the last few years. So why would anyone want to start a new exchange in this climate? Cambodia's got the answer. The Southeast Asian country just recently launched a stock market.

Here's Nidhi Dutt in Phnom Penh.


Nidhi Dutt: This may be what you think of when you imagine the floor of a stock exchange.

Traders yelling

But thousands of miles from the frenzy of Wall Street, three stock brokers sit patiently at their computers in Phnom Penh. Their attentions focused on one stock.

Yes. Just one.

Traders can buy a share in the state-owned Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority for around $1.50. It started trading in April and so far, it's the only stock listed on Cambodia's brand new stock exchange.

In Channy is the president of Acleda Bank. He says the ability to now buy shares is actually pretty exciting to Cambodians, because when their stock market opened last year, even that wasn't available. The market opened for business -- with no stocks.

In Channy: The experience from the one company that is already listed on the stock market is enthusiastic. So more Cambodians like to explore, like to learn from that process, and like to have the experience of buying shares in a state-owned company.

When it went public, the Water Supply Authority's IPO was popular. In fact, public demand for the shares was 17 times the number on offer. On the first day of trading, its shares jumped 48 percent.

Though, again, this is the only stock available. A handful of other state-owned companies are planning their debut on Cambodia's stock exchange. They're expected to list alongside the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority later this year.

Scott Lewis is from Leopard Capital, a Phnom Penh based private equity firm.

Scott Lewis: I do find it ironic that here in a country that suffered a brutal form of Communism, that at a time when people in the West are questioning the capitalist system and free markets, that people here much more faith and are excited by free markets and embracing capitalism.

It's a busy morning at this local food market in Phnom Penh. The average Cambodian earns less than $3 a day and most of that is spent here on food and other basics. Few have money left over to invest in stocks. But as the economy grows, the trading floor of the world's newest stock exchange is sure to get busier.

In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I'm Nidhi Dutt for Marketplace.

About the author

Nidhi Dutt is a contributing reporter to Marketplace.

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