Bank of New York Mellon (BNY) is selling American depositary receipts (ADRs) for three Zambian companies as US investors tap growth in Africa’s biggest copper producer.
The ADR programs established last month for Copperbelt Energy, Zambeef Products and Zambia National Commercial Bank are the first in southern Africa outside South Africa, according to New York-based BNY Mellon, the world’s biggest issuer of the receipts.
“Investors recognise the fact that Africa is really the last substantial continent to offer genuine frontier markets with very real growth prospects,” said Mary Gormley, the bank’s London-based managing director of depositary receipts for sub-Saharan Africa.
Southern Africa is the world’s fastest-growing region after developing Asia with the International Monetary Fund forecasting Zambia’s economy to expand 6% this year. While the ADRs raise the profile of local companies, with BNY Mellon reporting interest from emerging-market funds, the securities risk draining liquidity from the stock market in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, said Caesar Siwale, chief executive officer of Pangea Securities in the city.
“It’s a very positive thing for Zambia and it’s an affirmation of the good fundamentals,” Siwale said yesterday in an interview from Lusaka. “But, it will probably end up making the liquidity situation on the local market worse.”
Because the three ADRs are unsponsored, which means the programmes aren’t backed by the companies, they will tie up blocks of shares that can no longer be traded in Lusaka, said Charles Mate, managing director of Stockbrokers Zambia. It would be better if the companies established sponsored ADRs, involving the sale of new shares to US investors, he said.
That “creates a win-win situation all round,” said Mate. “The current arrangement is not going to be liquidity-enhancing for the Lusaka stock exchange.”
Zambia’s all-share index has advanced 28% this year, outpacing a 15% gain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the same period. Zambeef, which produces beef, poultry and cooking oil, and owns its own retail stores, has climbed 17%, while Zambia National Commercial Bank has surged 39%. Copperbelt Energy, the biggest supplier of power to mines in Zambia, has declined 0.2%.
Foreign investors accounted for 52-million kwacha ($9.8-million) in turnover on the Lusaka Stock Exchange in the first eight months of this year, or about 41% of the total, according to the bourse. Foreigners were net buyers of Zambian shares in every month this year except January and July, stock- exchange data shows.
While ADRs offer US investors the opportunity to profit from growth in countries such as Zambia, they also benefit local stock markets and share prices, according to a BNY Mellon- sponsored study in 2008 by UK-based Oxford Metrica. Liquidity on home markets for a listed ADR increases by an average 32%, the study found.
“What we hope with the depositary receipts, and the next thing really for us, is to encourage the issuers to sponsor them which tends to help make them more attractive and more liquid,” said Gormley. Access to US investors will create additional liquidity over time, she said.
BNY Mellon has approached all three Zambian companies about the possibility of sponsored ADRs, she said.
South Africa has 90 listed depositary receipts, of which 60 are sponsored, Gormley said by phone from London on October 3. International investors have asked BNY Mellon to establish ADRs for other countries, including Namibia and Botswana, she said.
“For many years now, given the limited opportunities on their own doorstep, they’ve been looking at emerging markets and for the last couple of years they have begun to zone in on Africa,” Gormley said. “We expect to see the ADR story develop throughout Africa as international investors’ cash follows their interest.” – Bloomberg