Pakistani firms have potential to qualify Fortune Global 500 list

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Observer Report 
Islamabad

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, says a report published by Gwadar Pro.

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 added 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.

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