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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Govt mulls setting up 'social bourse 02-21

Govt mulls setting up 'social bourse'

To provide platform for non-profit entities raise capital in transparent manner

The Union finance ministry has sought the views of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) for the creation of ‘social stock exchanges’, people with direct knowledge of the matter said. These exchanges will provide a platform to help non-profit entities such as non-governmental organisations, trusts, cooperative societies and even political parities raise capital in a transparent manner.
Sources said the idea behind the exchange was aimed at providing a transparent, technology-based platform for investments in social welfare projects in India.

The UK, South Africa and Brazil have experimented with public trading platforms for social entities. On these platforms, capital is raised by dividing the cost of a project into smaller denominations that are made available for purchase. Investors can choose from a number of projects for investments and keep a tab on the status of the projects by following the disclosures and announcements made by the company.

What is a social stock exchange?

A platform for raising capital for social purposes
Who can list on this exchange?
Non-profit organisations like NGOs, trusts, cooperative societies and even political parities
What's the investment rationale?
Not to earn any economic return but to make a social impact
Are there such exchanges in other countries?
Brazil, South Africa and United Kingdom are said to have experimented with the concept
When will it be launch in India?
The ministry of finance is said to have floated a concept paper on ‘social stock exchange’. It has sought feedback from stakeholders such as Sebi

“It is a wonderful concept. There are many people who want to invest in a social cause, but are not sure about where to invest,” said J N Gupta, former executive director of Sebi and founder of proxy advisory and corporate governance firm SES. “If social enterprises become as transparent as listed companies, it will give them more credibility.”

According to people in the know, the ministry has sought Sebi’s suggestions on various aspects such as trading, disclosure requirements and monitoring.

Some experts said the initiative might involve a number of challenges such as selection of companies, pricing, and market-making. “Scrutinising social enterprises, to keep away the bad ones from listing, will be a difficult task. Such an exchange will have hardly any liquidity and might end up being just an electronic capital-raising platform,” said an official at a stock exchange, on condition of anonymity.

Gupta of SES said the move would help the social economy, but added there could be concerns such as pricing of securities, liquidity and settlement.

Globally, social projects have been listed on exchanges such as Brazil’s Socio-Environmental Investment Exchange and the South African Social Investment Exchange. However, these exchanges have ended up as mere online donation platforms.

About a decade ago, the government had floated a similar idea — that of creating a trading platform for listing of a large number of small and medium enterprises () in India. It was felt an SME exchange would help small entrepreneurs raise capital to fuel growth and expansion, with less stringent regulatory norms.

In 2011, Sebi had cleared a framework for listing SMEs, with listing and disclosure requirements that were easier compared to main stock exchanges. In 2012, the  had started India’s first SME exchange. Subsequently, the National Stock Exchange also launched its SME platform. Currently, about 50 companies are listed on the SME platforms of these two exchanges.

Experts said setting up a social stock exchange might be difficult compared to an SME exchange, an extension of the main stock exchange.

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