The number of African companies listing shares will rise by a quarter this year if all current plans for initial public offerings (IPOs) move ahead, according to Chicago-based law firm Baker & McKenzie (B&M).
Shares on many African bourses have offered enticing returns in the past five years, but investors have complained about a limited number of IPOs, high fees and poor liquidity.
However, 24 IPOs took place in 2014, a figure that was a third more than in 2013 and the highest level since the global financial crisis, while also generating 222% more value at $2bn.
By its reckoning, B&M stated that 30 African firms have announced plans to list in 2015.
“While there have been several false dawns for capital markets across Africa’s diverse economies and making predictions is notoriously difficult, we do see a more sustainable trend developing,” Koen Vanhaerents, head of capital markets at B&M told Reuters.
Firms in the real estate, financial and energy sectors were expected to be most active with the most listings on markets in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa in Sub-Saharan Africa and Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia in North Africa.
Vanhaerents added that improved corporate governance, better regulation and expanding economies were creating a more sound footing for African capital markets.
In a further pointer of the renewed appetite, 2014 saw only one cross-border listing by an African-domiciled firm, while this year there are already six planned.
Risks nevertheless remain, and Africa’s disproportionate exposure to global economic sentiment remains a source of volatility that in 2015 will continue to be affected by factors including the falling oil price and strong US dollar.
One development that stood out from the crowd was the self-listing of the Nairobi Securities Exchange, and event that was 660% oversubscribed and moved the listed shares by 147%.
In a positive sign for future listing in Kenya, CEO Peter Mwangi commented, “The NSE has raised the capital it needs to implement its strategy. With the capital the exchange will make investments to support the introduction of new products such as REITS, ETFs and derivatives.”