A total of $5 million has been allocated for the establishment of the Brunei stock exchange, which will be launched “within the next few years”, the second finance minister said on Thursday.

YB Dato Seri Paduka Dr Hj Mohd Amin Liew Abdullah said the government has been working with Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) to lay the groundwork, such as setting financial regulations, systems and infrastructure.

“The establishment of the stock exchange will help investors participate in equity investments and alternative stocks such as exchange traded funds, foreign equity stocks, bonds, investment funds, securitised products and real estate investment trusts,” he said during a meeting of the Legislative Council (LegCo).

Second Finance Minister YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin speaks during a meeting of the Legislative Council. Photo: Infofoto

Addressing the parliament during the budget readout for the finance ministry, YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Amin said the launch of capital market activities would create employment for locals and promote more investment into Brunei outside of the energy sector.

“However, the establishment [of the stock exchange] is subject to the development and implementation of infrastructure in terms of legislation, systems and operations, and the willingness of stakeholders.”

The launch of a securities exchange has been discussed for years, but efforts are gathering pace with new capital market rules introduced in February last year.

The exchange would boost the domestic financial sector, provide an alternative funding source for small businesses and improve the country’s corporate governance, AMBD said in a statement to Reuters last June.

The country’s financial regulator told the news agency they are targeting a launch within two-years. Initial focus would be on listing equities, adding bonds and sukuk (Islamic bonds) at a later stage.

Anirvan Ghosh Dastidar, the CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Brunei, said the launch of a securities exchange would be a “step in the right direction” for Brunei’s diversification efforts.

“It opens doors for FDI (foreign direct investment) to come in,” he told The Scoop in a recent interview. “The logical question is, what are you going to list in the capital market? But who knows, once there is a capital market there could be some kind of divestment of government-linked companies.”

About a dozen companies could be potential candidates, including the country’s telcos, downstream oil and gas service firms and financial institutions such as Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD), which held $9.5 billion in assets at the end of 2016.

BIBD, the sultanate’s biggest lender, planned an initial public offering on the Malaysian stock exchange in 2017, but according to news reports, has postponed the IPO to the first half 2018. It would be the first Bruneian company to be publicly listed.