SoEs defy government decision on offloading their shares

Dhaka,  Tue,  19 September 2017
Published : 21 Mar 2017, 00:10:46

SoEs defy government decision on offloading their shares

Most show their shortcomings on listing rules
Rezaul Karim

Most of the 26 selected state-owned enterprises (SoEs) expressed their unwillingness to offload shares, officials said, frustrating top-level government directives for feeding the securities-starved bourses on good chips.

The minutes of a meeting held at the Ministry of Finance revealed that almost all the SoEs did not make any positive response towards floatation of their shares on the stock market.

Several of them said boards of the public enterprises find that they cannot comply with the existing listing rules of Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) and bourses in terms of offloading their shares for public subscription while others mentioned different excuses.

Finance ministry sources said the chief executive officers (CEOs) of the SoEs announced different deadlines repeatedly to offload their shares, but failed to comply with those.

Currently, the government is trying hard to get shares of the 26 SoEs offloaded on the capital market. "But the ministries and divisions concerned are extremely reluctant towards offloading," a high official of the bank and financial institutions division told the FE Sunday.

Progress in the SoEs divesting themselves was found disappointing as only eight have offloaded a portion of their shares to date. Offloading activities of 29 SoEs have been postponed, according to data available with the finance ministry. 

An inter-ministerial meeting is likely to be held this week with the SoEs concerned to review the implementation progress with the finance minister in the chair.

A senior MoF official said the board members of the SoEs show reluctance in going public despite directives from a top seat of the government.

Possibility of offloading shares of the rest of the SoEs is gradually fading away for some procedural complexities. As a result, the government could not float their shares on the capital market despite repeated suggestion from experts and investors, he also mentioned.

He said the finance minister will sit with the company bosses soon and set a final deadline for the divesting.

The officials of BFID are frequently corresponding with the SoEs to complete their preparation for offloading. But there is no significant progress yet. "They do not provide update on share offloading," he also said.

A commissioner of the BSEC, seeking anonymity, told the FE that in fact the state entities themselves are not interested in offloading shares.

Two of the 26 SoEs, namely the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB) and Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company (TGTDC), offloaded 23.75 per cent and 25 per cent of their shares respectively on the capital market.  Offloading more shares of the two companies is being pursued, a joint secretary of the finance ministry said.

Offloading shares of the rest 24 is still uncertain despite the finance minister's repeated requests since 2009.

Even Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's direction on offloading such stakes did not work, it is also mentioned in the document, he added.

Former finance adviser of the caretaker government Dr AB Mirza Azizul Islam said: "Firstly, size of the country's capital market is smal. Capital and debt size of the stock market will increase and scope of manipulation will reduce if shares of 26 SoEs are offloaded finally."

He also noted that most SoEs could not make any appreciable progress in divesting on the stock market despite government's directive repeatedly -- "that's unbelievable".
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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