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July 8, 2008

Laos to launch stock market in 2010
Communist Laos plans to open its first stock market in 2010 with a $10 million investment from South Korea and technical help from Thailand, Reuters quoted the country's central bank governor as saying Monday.

Shares in three state firms - a power utility, a telecoms company and a bank -- would be allowed to trade in over-the-counter transactions in a trial run later this year, Bank of Lao PDR Governor Phouphet Khamphounvong told reporters.

"By 2010, we will have a fully-fledged bourse with help from the Korean stock exchange, which will hold a 51 percent stake in the exchange," Phouphet said after signing a pact with Thai stock regulators to help develop the Lao bourse.

"The Koreans will help develop our market quickly because we are quite late compared to our neighbours," he said.

Cambodia, where growth has taken off in the last few years due to relative political stability, plans to launch a stock market in 2009.

Neighbouring Vietnam already has share markets in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

One of the poorest countries in Asia, Laos has gradually opened its tiny economy to foreign investment since the Pathet Lao Communists adopted market reforms in the mid-1980s.

In its 2008 outlook, the Asian Development Bank forecast nearly 8 percent economic growth, led by mining and hydropower, for the country of nearly 6 million people.

Phouphet said the Lao trading platform would be based on Korean technology. The Stock Exchange of Thailand would urge Thai brokerages to help Lao firms list in both countries, he said.

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