Will Pakistani firms qualify Fortune Global 500 in near future?
by Khalid Aziz
ISLAMABAD, Aug. 6 (Gwadar Pro) - Given the huge gap of $20 billion between annual revenue of the smallest entity on the Fortune Global 500 list and that of the largest Pakistani enterprise, it looks like a far cry that any Pakistani firm will grow enough in near future to make it on Fortune’s global ranking.
However, industry experts believe that provided some policy reforms and behavioural changes on company as well as national level, Pakistani firms do have the potential to make a place in this elite club of companies.
Dr. Nadeem Haq, Vice Chancellor Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Islamabad, said that Pakistani firms need to expand globally to make a place in the Fortune Global 500 index. “Unfortunately, Pakistani laws do not allow local firms to invest abroad as recently the government rejected a proposal by Lucky Cement to establish a plant in Africa,” he said. Dr. Haq, in his recently-published paper on Pakistan Stock Exchange, points out to the problems in board composition and management structures of the listed companies, which have plagued their growth. “Pakistani enterprises operate like family businesses that have limited appetite for growth or raising money to fund expansion,” he said.
Dr. Haq said that as many as 31 corporate families in Pakistan who own majority shares in several listed firms had the ability to qualify the Fortune ranking in a few years if they allowed their businesses to expand through public offerings. In April, Pakistan’s largest footwear exporter Service Global went public to raise funds for its joint venture with China’s Chaoyang Long March Tyre Co. The IPO was heavily oversubscribed as the company received offers to the tune of Rs. 8.95 billion against its issuance size of Rs. 1.55 billion. Similarly, in June, Citi Pharma raised Rs. 2.3 billion through its IPO, which was also oversubscribed twofold.
“This indicates a greater level of investors’ trust in Pakistan’s economy following China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and it’s high time for raising money through the stock exchange,” Dr. Haq said.
The state-owned Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Ltd. (SNGPL) is currently the largest Pakistani firm with annual sales of over $ 4.5 billion, as against the $ 24 billion annual sales of Rite Aid, the smallest firm on Fortune Global 500 list. Rehan Sheikh, an executive director with SNGPL, said that the firm had a chance to qualify the ranking after completion of Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline projects. “However, these require peace in Afghanistan and relaxation in US sanctions on Iran,” he said.
An industry analyst with S&P Global Pakistan, who wished anonymity, said that apart from global expansion, innovation and branding were the ways for Pakistani firms to compete with the Global 500 firms. “As Chinese high-tech firms are coming to Pakistan under CPEC, there is a chance for Pakistani firms to invest in modern technology and make a mark worldwide,” he said.
Iftikhar Ahmad, GM Marketing with SAIF Group, a conglomerate in textile, real estate and cellular networks, said that Nishat Group, Gul Ahmad and Lakhani Group had every chance to ascend to the Fortune Global 500 ranking. “They are continuously expanding,” he said.
Shabbir Elahi, a stock broker with Askari Securities, said that Pakistani equity market was very primitive in nature. “However, CPEC is building momentum and we can see Pakistani firms growing enormously in near future. As I can see, the benchmark KSE-100 index of the PSX can cross the 60,000 points mark by 2023,” he said.
Gwadar Pro also contacted Javed Afridi, owner of Haier Pakistan, who is also rolling out Chinese car and bus brands in Pakistan, officials of Byco Petroleum and Pakistan State Oil, head of Sustainable Development Policy Institute, and a number of stock analysts with Arif Habib Securities and Topline Securities for the article.