Bond market no better than average, say Thai Investors

Thailand''s bond investors who participated in FinanceAsia''s local currency bond poll 2001 seem underwhelmed by the progress being made to develop the local market.

Looking at the results from Thai participants in FinanceAsia's local currency bond poll 2001, you could be forgiven for thinking they are fairly indifferent about their domestic debt capital markets.

For our six questions that focused specifically on how investors saw the market developing, on a scale of one to five ù with one being excellent and five unacceptable ù three, or average, was the box ticked most often.

For example, 74% of investors said the quality of documentation was average, 54% felt the same about the quality of information and transparency, while another 40% deemed the development of new products average.

The lack of liquidity is an area that needs improving, something of a recurring complaint from investors across Asia. Although 26.6% of respondents consider this above average, around 40% disagree and say that it is not good enough.

We invited investors to make additional comments about the local market and many of them regarded what they see as a lack of government/ regulatory support to aid market development.

"There is no authority directly in charge, and that is why the bond market is so slow to develop," says one investor.

"The development has been too slow," adds another. "The government has failed to encourage different types of long-term investors.

The failure to provide fair opportunities for investors was perhaps the biggest single issue that investors would like to see addressed. "We need regulation that gives an equal playing field for all types of investors," suggests one respondent. "For example, banks can do short sales of fixed income instruments while the opportunity to do this is denied to mutual fund investors."

One fund manager feels that the tax system is prohibitive. "The main obstacle has been the slow process of getting the tax code amended and the laws changed," he argues. "For us, the Insurance Department has not been very responsive."

On a more positive note, the government's decision to make it mandatory for all bond deals to have a rating has been well received. "Investors are well supported by ratings and can make better and informed decisions," feels one investor.

"It is a good development for the bond market and encourages a better quality product," remarks another.

As far as investor's bank preferences go, a different bank came out on top in each of the four categories. The results were calculated using a weighted system whereby three banks could be selected with the best bank gaining five points, the second place three and where a single point was given for third spot.

Citibank came up smelling of roses as the bank used most often for primary issues. The bank's score of 44 beat HSBC's 34 points into second place, with Standard Chartered in third with 32.

HSBC got some compensation in the best bank for corporate credit research with a final tally of 47. Merrill Lynch popped up in second place with 39, with Citibank in third on 32 points.

There were joint winners for the category of best foreign bank in the secondary market. Both HSBC and ABN AMRO with scores of 38 with Citibank just behind them with 37 points.

In the same category for domestic banks, Thai Farmers was a comfortable winner with 83 points, while its closest challenger Bangkok Bank had a score of 39.

Full results of the poll will be published in September's five-year anniversary issue of FinanceAsia magazine.