Listed SMEs have better profitability ratios, higher return on assets but lower liquidity: RBI paper

Credit and Finance for MSMEs: Though retail investors’ participation facilitates aftermarket liquidity of SME IPOs, the paper suggested broadening the investor base to suit the risk-return combination offered by the alternate investment markets.

Listed SMEs have better profitability ratios, higher return on assets but lower liquidity: RBI paper
The paper noted that SME IPOs preceded by a boom market period are more underpriced, leaving room for investors to invest more in SMEs.

Credit and Finance for MSMEs: Even as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) listed on the two SME exchanges in the country, BSE SME and NSE Emerge, have better profitability ratios, higher return on assets and asset utilisation ratios and also debt-equity ratio in comparison to the smallest 25 per cent of firms listed on main boards, they have lower liquidity as reflected in a lower quick ratio, current ratio and cash to current liabilities, a working paper by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) noted. 

The paper added that the lack of aftermarket liquidity remains a problem in SME exchanges with the turnover ratios declining significantly even within the first 60 trading days after listing, indicating paltry trading in the SME exchanges in India.

However, according to Ajay Thakur, Head, BSE SME, SME exchange platforms are more related to investment rather than trading. Once SMEs mature over time with better compliances and are ready to migrate to the main board, liquidity gradually starts improving, Thakur told FE Aspire.

Moreover, “Post listing what benefits SMEs get and how their profitability grows is more important. If that happens then I think SME exchanges have served their purposes,” he added. BSE SME is expecting 60-70 SMEs to list this financial year. Both the platforms, BSE SME and NSE Emerge were launched in 2012.

Though retail investors’ participation facilitates aftermarket liquidity of SME IPOs, the paper suggested broadening the investor base to suit the risk-return combination offered by the alternate investment markets. At the same time, “protecting retail investors’ interest remains important given that many of the SME IPOs have generated negative Buy-and-hold abnormal return/Cumulative Abnormal Return (BHAR/CAR).”

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“This indicates the high risk associated with investing in SME exchange markets for retail investors,” the paper said. BHAR is a strategy for investors to buy and hold stocks for a long time to calculate abnormal returns while CAR lets investors measure the performance of an asset over a particular time period. 

In this context, SME IPOs’ response data summary, according to the RBI paper, showed that the role of mutual funds, banks and other financial institutions as investors in such markets is still limited. While the capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) had taken steps to enhance the role of anchor investors in SME IPOs by relaxing the minimum size criteria, a lot more needs to be done in this direction particularly since a handful of SME IPOs have anchor investors’ participation, the paper said. 

In June 2018, SEBI had reduced the minimum anchor investor size from the existing Rs 10 crore to Rs 2 crore which attracted several anchor investors to participate in the initial share sale of SMEs. 

On the other hand, the paper noted that SME IPOs preceded by a boom market period are more underpriced, leaving room for investors to invest more in SMEs. “Contrary to the general perception, it was found that the extent of underpricing in both the SME exchanges is lower when compared to the respective main boards and over time the extent of underpricing has reduced in SME exchanges.”

However, the average underpricing being lower in SME exchanges vis-a-vis the main boards could likely be due to tepid market response to SME IPOs in India rather than an indication of lesser information asymmetry, though a more detailed investigation into the same is required for a better understanding, the paper said. 

Also read: MSMEs, startups can use 5G test bed free of cost for six months: Govt

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