Foreigners make comeback at the Pakistan Stock Exchange

Published: October 1, 2017
The five additions FTSE made from Pakistan were: MCB Bank, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines, Bank Alfalah, Millat Tractors and Thal Ltd. PHOTO: FILE

The five additions FTSE made from Pakistan were: MCB Bank, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines, Bank Alfalah, Millat Tractors and Thal Ltd. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: Most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is, says American business tycoon, Warren Buffet. “The time to get interested is when no one else is. You can’t buy what is popular and do well.”

It seems that foreigners are paying heed to what Buffet said. In a new development, foreigners have staged a loud comeback at the local bourse, injecting a 15-month high value of over $28 million in September.

Of the past 15 months, foreigners have remained net buyers in just three months – with September being the third – while in the remaining months they remained net sellers.

Foreign buying has returned at a time when locals had chosen to remain on the sidelines, trade volumes had dried up and the benchmark index had dropped 22% to 41,206.99 points on August 31, 2017 from an all-time high closing of 52,876.46 points on May 24, 2017.

“The KSE-100 index gained 2.9% in September 2017 … on a quarterly basis, the benchmark index declined 8.9% in first quarter of fiscal year 2018 – the worst quarterly performance in 36 quarters or 9 years since Jun 2008/4QFY08,” Topline Securities’ analyst Adnan Sami Sheikh said in a note to clients.

Earlier, the PSX snatched the best Asian market title in calendar year 2016, but foreign investors remained net sellers of over $361 million at the market, according to National Clearing Company of Pakistan Limited.

Last month (September), foreigners bought stocks in the banking sector worth $14.5 million, cements $11.6 million, fertilisers $10.9 million and oil marketing companies $9.5 million, but sold stocks in the oil and gas exploration and production companies sector worth $13.7 million, Sheikh added.

Analysts said foreign investors have made value buying in the said sectors. The banking stocks had overreacted to developments including Habib Bank Limited’s New York branch fiasco, which it settled by paying a penalty of $225 million.

Besides, National Bank of Pakistan received two back-to-back setbacks as it unearthed a scam of Rs18.5 billion at Bangladesh branch and lost a litigation of Rs48 billion against its pensioners at the Supreme Court.

Similarly, fertiliser prices in international markets had shot to a recent time high of $290 per ton.

Additionally, significant recovery in international oil prices during the month attracted foreign investors to indulge in value buying.

Foreign investors were also estimated to inject up to $70 million in PSX names following FTSE, an international company specialising in index calculation, included five additional stocks from Pakistan in its Asia Pacific ex-Japan Index with effect from September 18, 2017.

The five additions FTSE made from Pakistan were: MCB Bank, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines, Bank Alfalah, Millat Tractors and Thal Ltd.

Earlier, foreigners injected $7.9 million in June 2017. The month had seen a return of the PSX to MSCI Emerging Markets (EM) after 9 years in the Frontier Markets Index.

Pakistan had estimated foreign buying worth $500 million in the event of PSX’s return to MSCI EM – another international index service provider.

In actual, they invested larger part of the estimated amount in the event, but continued sale by the foreign ‘passive funds’ at the time reduced net foreign buying volume to mere $7.9 million.

Earlier, foreign investors injected slightly over $22 million in July 2016. This was last month that followed a long lull from foreign investors at the local bourse.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2017.

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