Moscow Exchange bets on retail investors, more listings

MOSCOW, Oct 14 (Reuters) - The Moscow Exchange banks on the growing number of retail investors at home when foreign investors cut their exposure to Russia, and stands ready to host more listings in the near future, the bourse’s chief executive told Reuters.

Russia’s largest bourse, the Moscow Exchange, saw its business booming this year as amateur investors turned to trading amid coronavirus lockdowns and record-low interest rates.

The Moscow Exchange expects the number of retail investors to reach 10 million in 2021, a target deemed reachable on the three- to five-year horizon less than a year ago, CEO Yuri Denisov said in an interview.

In September, the bourse saw 610,000 people open accounts to trade on the Moscow Exchange, in which the central bank owns a 17.8% stake.

“This shows high interest in the stock market; people are looking for alternatives to deposits. The main factor here is the declining deposit rates, that’s why alternative sources of incomes are so interesting,” Denisov said.

Russia slashed rates to record lows this year to make lending cheaper and help the economy recover from a crash in prices for oil, its key export, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Denisov, who became MOEX’s CEO in May 2019, said individual investors proved to be “an effective stabiliser” for the market as they bought 335.4 billion roubles ($4.36 billion) worth of shares this year, often replacing foreign investors if the latter were selling Russian assets.

Foreigners accounted for about half of stock trading in Moscow and held roughly a third of OFZ government bonds as of September.

Three to five new companies are planning to issue shares on the Moscow Exchange in the next few quarters, Denisov said. He did not disclose the names but predicted the number of listings would grow.

In recent years, the Moscow Exchange has implemented infrastructure reforms, including new settlement systems and a central securities depository, making local listings more attractive and easing access for individuals amid globally increased market volatility.

To attract more clients, the bourse plans to offer early hours trading on its currency markets in 2021 and will expand the range of foreign blue chips on its stock market.

In November, the bourse will offer rouble-denominated shares in several U.S. flagships, such as Coca-Cola and Tesla , taking the overall number of foreign shares it trades to 300 by end-2021, Denisov said.

$1 = 76.9374 roubles Writing by Andrey Ostroukh Editing by Katya Golubkova and Gerry Doyle