Executive Focus: Ludwik Sobolewski, President and CEO, Warsaw Stock Exchange
What were the highlights of Warsaw Stock Exchange's financial performance in 2011?
SOBOLEWSKI: The highlight of 2011 was that we had an extremely good year when it comes to the IPO market. The Polish capital market was ranked at the very top position in Europe and in the world in terms of the number of new companies entering the market. In addition, Poland scored high in regards to the value of IPOs. Despite the quite negative circumstances, we have proved to be quite resistant to the economic crisis by our record high turnover in 2011. This is a confirmation of what we have established in previous years, when Warsaw Stock Exchange became the leader in IPOs.What is your outlook for IPOs this year?
SOBOLEWSKI: So far the IPOs in 2012 have not been as good as in the previous year. However, we still expect a number of companies to appear on our market. So far we had seven new companies debuting on our Main Market, including international companies. Our strategic goal and strategic intention is to attract not only businesses from the domestic economy, but also from other markets such as Central and Eastern Europe and even beyond the region. The figures, as I said, are a little bit disappointing, when compared with the results from 2011. Hopefully, the sentiment of investors will improve as we are ready to open the market for new transactions. This will also be a year of continuation of the Polish Privatization Program as part of the frame of transformation of the Polish economy, which we have been undergoing in recent years. In 2012, there should also be some state-owned companies entering the market. Without a doubt such companies will attract interest from both domestic and international investors, as has happened in previous years.What is the breakdown of activity on the WSE in terms of domestic and international investors?
SOBOLEWSKI: Our strategy is to consistently build up a portfolio with a wide range of investors. We are satisfied to state that, as of now, almost 50% of the turnover on our equity market is generated by foreign clients, placing orders through either local brokers or international and global investment firms. More than 30% is coming from domestic institutional investors, such as investment funds or pension funds. This is also a strong pillar of this part of the investment base in Poland. We are also quite satisfied with having some participation of individual clients; in recent years it was at a level of 20% in reference to equity markets. On one hand, this diversification means that the capital available for companies for investment has different sources. On the other hand, it causes a certain problem, like our interdependency with the outside world. However, this is a necessary cost, so to speak, of our development. We are quite determined to continue in this way, because the more investors we have, including the international players, the better liquidity is on the market. At the end, this better liquidity makes the market more attractive for international business, which we very actively target as we think that Warsaw Stock Exchange has the potential to become a regional market place.What is the strategy behind the introduction of energy futures and the development of a gas trading scheme?
SOBOLEWSKI: 2011 was a very important year in our history because we made decisive steps in order to become a commodity exchange. Until 2011, a very adequate association which you might have with the Warsaw Stock Exchange was that it is a financial instruments exchange. However, after 2011, we have a double identity. Preserving the first one, we are now becoming a major trading floor for commodities. We now have trading in energy and in electricity. And with the future liberalization of gas and possibly other strategic resources, there is more opportunity for us to extend the scope of our business. Apparently, having this double identity will also help us to be resistant to various circumstances, which do occur or may occur in the future. We are not that dependent on the situation in the financial area. This is a very good diversification for us as a listed company with its own responsibilities towards the shareholders.What is your general economic outlook for Poland for 2012-2013?
SOBOLEWSKI: In 2011, GDP growth was above 4% and the estimate for the current year is around the level of 3%. This would be, as pace of growth goes, much higher than the Western part of the European Union. The question is whether the situation in the Euro zone might deteriorate to the point which would make this growth problematic to achieve in Poland. So far we are coping quite well because we are not that dependent on exports to other countries. Polish internal consumer demand is quite strong. Thus, we are quite optimistic about what can happen during this year. Of course, our success depends on how the situation in Europe and in the world will develop. Therefore, the prospects could be even better, if not for this external context. But even taking this into account, I think that we are on a quite optimistic trajectory.