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Can Malaysia meet the competition?

"Customers who find that traditional securities trading services do not justify higher per-order fees will begin to exploit direct Web-based trading in droves by the middle of 2000," Lane Leskela, principal analyst for Dataquest's e-business Asia/Pacific programs was recently quoted as saying.

Dataquest believes that Japan, Taiwan and Korea will be home to the bulk of Web- based securities traders and online retail banking customers for at least the next three years. Analysts point out that Malaysia's KLSE still lacks the dotcom-type companies to draw the kind of interest other markets have attracted.

One dark omen in this otherwise sunny picture is the failure of MESDAQ Mesdaq, Malaysia's technology stock market to attract any other company in the nine months after its first listing, Supercomal Technologies Berhad, a wire and cable-maker. It appears that in the near future, it will be difficult to attract world-class start-ups to the Malaysian exchanges when the pull of NASDAQ is at an all-time high.

Fahizul concedes that some "fine-tuning" needs to be done to the MESDAQ's present framework. "For example, the requirements where more than 50 percent of an applicant company's revenue must originate in Malaysia should be looked into. Remember being an IT company is being a global company and its revenue is derived globally as well," he said. Fahizul believes that such requirements should be relaxed or reviewed in consultative discussions with netrepreneurs.

He suggested Malaysia take the cue from the Stock Exchange of Singapore, which amended its listing rules last September as part of an effort to keep local start-ups at home. "It allowed companies that were losing money to list on the main board of the exchange provided that the company had a market capitalization of at least S$80 million at the time of the listing, based on the issue price, or an aggregate pre-tax profit of at least S$10 million in the last one or two years. This is a good way to entice Internet start-ups to stay home," he said.



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