Securities watchdog drafts laws to regulate unquote debt issues

The securities watchdog is drafting new guidelines to regulate unquoted debt paper issued by listed companies, its Director General said Tuesday. The securities watchdog is drafting new guidelines to regulate unquoted debt paper issued by listed companies, its Director General said Tuesday. The move comes after the Securities & Exchange Commission recently mandated quoted companies secure bank guarantees or credit ratings for their debt issues.

Unquoted debt paper issued by listed companies, should now carry an investment grade credit rating, a bank guarantee or assets pledged to the value of funds being raised.

“It’s not very healthy to have listed debt paper being issued without proper monitoring or regulation. The guidelines will strengthen the ruling we made a few weeks back,” Channa de Silva told LBO.

Since the new ruling, the SEC has approved few private placements which were either rated or issued with a bank guarantee.

“The listed debentures have a good price discovery mechanism and the risk gets lowered to that extent when it’s rated or guaranteed, whereas unlisted issues, there is no price discovery mechanism and the risk is higher,” he said.

The strict enforcement is also expected to give more work to Sri Lanka’s two credit rating agencies and a little push to the corporate bond market.

Rated debt issues have been slow to take off, with only 37 issues carrying a credit rating by Fitch Ratings Lanka, a unit of Fitch International.

The local debt market is also dominated by government debt that stands at over a trillion rupees.

“If you look at the stockmarket, you can seek brokers’ advice for a private placement by any listed company. But in a bond market, there isn’t adequate information out in the market, if an issuer has cash to pay, meet their interest commitments and so on. SEC regulations are very welcome,” says Priya Thamotheram, Lanka Ratings Chief Executive.

(US$ = Rs. 100)

-LBO Newsdesk: Lboemail@yahoo.com