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ECSE Launch Planned For August

by Amanda Banks, Tax-news.com, London

05 June 2001


The launch of the Eastern Caribbean Securities Exchange (ECSE), initially planned for March 2001, now looks set to take place in August of this year. The exchange, which is the region's first attempt at an organised securities market, will be based in St Kitts as an associate institution of the sub-regional Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, and is said to be a model of international integration, with all electronic trading and a T+1 settlement system.

The ECSE will cater to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS); namely Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts, St Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Anguilla and Montserrat. In place of share certificates, the fully automated exchange will be linked via local telecommunications providers, and will offer an electronic book-entry system for recording the ownership of securities.

The Exchange recently launched its website as part of a raft of marketing education and awareness tools designed to enhance financial literacy and understanding of financial markets and products, and for the good folks at the ESCE, it seems to be full steam ahead for August.

All well and good. What's the problem? Speaking of the projected launch last year, James Fleming, project manager for the Capital Market Development Project seemed confident: 'The response has been very, very encouraging, very supportive and companies have indicated that it will take some time to develop this market, but that they are very supportive and they think that it is a crucial development for the future development for the region.'

However, between them the islands only have around 28 public companies, and 'very supportive' though they might be, not all of them want to list on the new exchange. Add to this the fact that when it opens to business the ECSE will be the fifth 'mini-exchange' in the Caribbean, following the lead of Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, and the Bahamas, all of which are having a lean time of it at the moment. So far this year, Barbados has had two days with no trades whatsoever. In light of this,some feel that a single regional exchange, such as the Caribbean Regional Exchange for Stocks and Securities proposed in 1988 by Jamaica's former prime minister, Michael Manley, might have been a more viable proposition in terms of growth potential than the ECSE.

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