Small potatoes in the global market

Lisa Napoli Aug 1, 2007

Small potatoes in the global market

Lisa Napoli Aug 1, 2007


Doug Krizner: All the volatility in the stock market has created massive trading volume. Yesterday more than 2 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, 3 billion nearly on the NASDAQ. These markets are among the biggest in the world, but what lies at the other end of the spectrum? We sent Lisa Napoli to the world’s smallest exchange.

Lisa Napoli: Welcome to the Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan in downtown Thimpu, the capital city of this tiny Himalayan kingdom sandwiched between India and China.

This place is nothing like the stock exchange floors you’ve seen in the movies. It’s one room on the first floor of an office building, with fluorescent lights and a few computer terminals.

In the middle of this particular Tuesday, it’s practically deserted. Only one of the nation’s four stockbrokers is here.

Yeshi Om: Today, we don’t have any transaction-even though it’s a trading day.

That’s Yeshi Om, a broker for the Bhutan National Bank.

Trading takes place just twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 a.m. — if there are any trades to make.

Kandhu Om: Someone wants to buy 2,000 shares at 180, but there’s no seller.

That’s Kandhu Om, the IT manager for the Royal Stock Exchange. A giant black board with little white letters displays the latest share price to visitors.

Chief executive Tashi Yezer says the exchange has grown since its launch in 1993:

Tashi Yezer: Initially we had 2,000 to 3,000 shareholders, now we have 16,000 shareholders.

And now it has a total of 16 stocks. The combined capitalization of them all is equal to about $100 million. Consider that the market cap of just one American stock, Google, is $50 billion.

At the Royal Securities Exchange of Bhutan, $2 million worth of stock is traded in a year. On the NASDAQ market in New York, $120 million is traded in a minute.

Meanwhile markets in China are soaring to record highs, and millions of people are signing up for accounts there. Next-door neighbor Bhutan, with just 700,000 people, can never compete, but still this market is a way for the Bhutanese to get a taste of capitalism.

Broker Yeshi Om would like to be busier, like she was when trained in Mumbai.

Yeshi Om: I think it will take time to grow.

Given that Bhutan didn’t even have hard currency until about 30 years ago, its little stock exchange has already come very far.

From Thimpu, Bhutan, I’m Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

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