Politically and financially troubled Myanmar just opened its first and only stock exchange to local investors, trading just one company with a market cap of $598 million.
That makes the country’s stock exchange the second smallest in the world behind Cambodia, which touts an market capped at $103.1 million. It’s a microscopic slice of the global market cap, which was estimated to be around $70 trillion in mid December by Visual Capitalist.
The debut is largely symbolic for the country, which is among the poorest in the world, reported the Wall Street Journal. The majority of Myanmar’s citizens don’t use banks to hold their savings, but instead hoard their cash in wads and still barter for goods. Retirement accounts, asset management, hedge funds, and mutual funds are even more elusive in the country.
“We can now proclaim to the world that we are no longer a backward nation [because] we have a stock exchange,” said Maung Maung Thein, outgoing deputy finance minister and chair of the securities and exchange commission. Thein called the opening a farewell gesture to the new government. The stock market was set up by the military-backed government.
The one stock on the market is First Myanmar Investment, a health care and real estate conglomerate that started in 1992 and derives most of its revenue from real estate. The company isn’t creating any new shares, but moving existing trades on to the stock market.
But it does raise questions about the future success of the market. The incoming government, dominated by the National League for Democracy which is headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, isn’t filled with academics or finance professionals, but rather, activists and former political prisoners, the Journal reported.