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Kazakhstan’s New AIX Exchange Outflanked by KASE

Tuesday 12 February 2019

ALMATY (Nikkei Asian Review) — Six months on from the launch of the Astana International Financial Centre, Kazakhstan’s attempts to open up its capital markets appear to be foundering, with just one listing to date and a resurgence of the existing bourse.

Moreover, doubts over transparency in the country, which the new centre was supposed to alleviate, persist as a barrier to foreign investment.

The Astana centre was launched to great fanfare in July last year, destined to be a hub for international investment in the region, and to serve as a platform for the privatization of Kazakhstan’s state-owned companies. It has its own regulator and a stock exchange, the AIX, which has the backing of international financial giants, Goldman Sachs, the Shanghai Stock Exchange, the Chinese government-owned Silk Road Fund and NASDAQ.

In a bid to address international concerns over transparency, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev described the Astana centre as the region’s only exchange “with a special legal regime that will operate based on English Law.” It will “guarantee the protection of rights to all investors and businesses”, he says on the exchange website, while also offering “tax privileges for up to 50 years” for participants. There will also be “simplified currency, visa and labour regimes.”

However it has faced teething problems and a fightback from the country’s existing bourse, the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange (KASE), in the old capital and commercial centre of Almaty.

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