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Asia’s oldest stock exchange aims for 1,000 new listings as India reforms taxes

Asia's oldest stock exchange BSE is aiming for one thousand new listings over the next four to five years as a rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on July 1 encourages more Indian companies to list their shares, Managing Director and CEO Ashishkumar Chauhan told CNBC.

"BSE already has 5500 listings, and India has more than a million plus companies. So a thousand for us is not a big number," Chauhan told CNBC in an interview. "I would be disappointed if we don't do a thousand."

Chauhan's upbeat view rests not just on the impact of GST, which aims to replace a thicket of state-level taxes with a unified rate across a series of goods and services, but also on other measures that government has rolled out in recent months, including India's demonetization initiative and a push towards adoption of digital payments in Asia's third-largest economy.

But the GST will be a game changer, he said, although some pain in the transitional period of about three to six months could not be avoided.

According to Chauhan, the GST will transform a greater part of India's informal economy to a formal one, by connecting companies to a single tax framework.

That'll spur companies with good business models to grow at a faster pace, and tap the exchange to raise more funds for further expansion, creating a virtuous cycle.

The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) logo is seen at the BSE building in Mumbai, India, January 25, 2017.
Shailesh Andrade | Reuters
The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) logo is seen at the BSE building in Mumbai, India, January 25, 2017.

India is one of the best performing stock markets in Asia so far this year; both the 30-share BSE Sensex and 50-share NSE Nifty have gained over 15 percent since January.

BSE has been a big beneficiary. Its benchmark Sensex index crossed the 31,500-mark to hit a record intraday high last week, its positive momentum largely driven by plentiful domestic liquidity.

"India's time in the sun has come," said Chauhan, and those currently are not invested in the markets could well take a second look, especially with the lackluster gains in precious metals and real estate over the past few years.

"The stock market has given very good returns, and with the tremendous inflows, the IPOs (initial public offers) will come in," he said.

According to Chauhan, foreigners own only 20 percent of the stocks listed on the BSE by value.

The big driver for BSE's performance is still the huge influx of retail investors coming into the markets.

"India actually saves a lot. On a GDP of around $2.5 trillion dollars, India saves close to 30 percent, that's $750 billion dollars a year. On a scale of 7 percent growth for the next 10 years, India will end up saving close to $10 trillion dollars," he estimated.

Chauhan said new equity, bond and real estate investment trusts are largely being subscribed by Indian investors. "Foreign capital is also coming in but that's like icing on the cake," he said.