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17.06.2004 Business & Finance

BOPP public share offer launched

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Takoradi, June 17, GNA - The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning on Wednesday launched government's public share offer of 40 per cent in the Benso Oil Palm Plantation (BOPP) Limited in Takoradi. Dr Samuel Nii-Noi Ashong, Minister of State in charge of Economic Planning, who launched the offer, said the divestiture and privatisation drive of the government coupled with prudent fiscal and monetary policies was yielding positive results.

He said inflation rate had slowed down while interest rates on money market instruments have shown a declining trend. The benchmark 91-day Treasury bill rate moved from 34 percent at the end of June 2003 to 18.7 per cent in December 2003 and 16.9 per cent at the end of May 2004.

Dr Ashong said there was a shift of market preference in favour of long-term government securities.

Shares in listed companies and inter-bank money market rates also declined from 27 per cent in June 2003 to about 21.5 per cent in December 2003 and now stands at 18.5 percent.

He said commercial bank base rates have dropped from an average of 32 per cent to around 26 per cent and the cedi has shown volatility on he foreign market exchange market.

The depreciation of the cedi against the currency composite comprising the three major currencies, US Dollar, British Pound Sterling and the Euro, improved from about 24.8 per cent in May 2003 to about 8.9 percent in May 2004.

He said the progress made so far should be sustained in the face of oil price hikes to ensure a solid foundation for private-sector led growth in a globally integrated economic system.

Dr Ashong said it would be important to firmly establish a culture of fiscal and monetary practice and transparency.

"Maintaining stability in the current circumstances requires staying on the current path of fiscal deficit and public debt reduction and turning debt dynamics in support of a virtuous cycle of investment and growth rather than stifling it", he added.

Dr Ashong announced that Bank of Ghana would soon set central securities depository in Ghana to bring together in one location, securities listed on the stock exchange, over the counter securities, government securities, mutual funds and unit trusts.

He said the bank has also started a number of reforms in the wholesale market for government securities including primary dealers code of conduct.

Dr Ashong said these reforms should bring to the domestic financial market increased efficiency and transparency, reduce transaction costs and ensure broad-based participation of individuals on competitive basis with greater security of title.

Mr Ishmael Yamson, Chairman of BOPP, said the company is the first agro-based public company to be listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange. He said in 2003, BOPP provided 20 per cent of Unilever Ghana's total palm oil requirements.

Mr Yamson said the company support the Presidential Initiative on Oil Palm since the total output from four palm oil plantations in Ghana cannot support the total palm oil industrial requirements.

He said this initiative would help diversify the agricultural sector of the economy as well as offer sustainable means of livelihood, poverty alleviation and check rural-urban drift. 17 June 04 Attention recipients, item 04 ends second cast.