Mauritius is revolutionarily inching its way towards Currency Derivatives, Commodity Derivatives and Futures contracts.

Mauritius, land bridge between Asia and Africa, is posting itself among the Leading International Financial Centers of the world. If the Stock Exchange of Mauritius (SEM) came into operation in 1989, year 2010 happens to be at the dawn of a new era: the trading of currency derivatives, commodity derivatives and futures contract by the Global Board of Trade Limited (GBOT), a newly setup Securities Exchange.

Mauritius became independent on 12th March 1968 and has over the last 40 years gradually globalised its financial services. The coming into operation of GBOT as a second Securities Exchange in Mauritius aims at opening infinite opportunities for the global financial community to tap the growth potential of some of the world’s fastest growing economies.
The combined efforts of the various sectors of its local economy have contributed towards Mauritius becoming an International Financial Center in the Indian Ocean. Mauritius aims at being what Manhattan represents for America and Hong Kong for China. Over the years the successive governments have enhanced all possible efforts to provide the Island State with the appropriate tools to meet the international stringent and complex challenges. Having no natural resources, Mauritius had to go by the sugar and tea sectors and the textiles industry during its post independence period to feed its population. As time goes by, the country has had to look for alternative income as those sectors are phasing out. New technologies and services have surfaced and the securities have gradually gained ground along with other sectors of the economy. The Foreign Direct Investments as at June 2010 attained Rs 8.1 billion and the GDP per capita as at September 2010 was US$7300. Mauritius with a labour force of 587 900 had an inflation rate of 2.5% in 2009.
The SEM, a member of the World Federation of Exchanges, is expanding its activities and has recently approved the listing of new players such as Meteor Property Fund, the 10th global fund. It is as well envisaging to gradually step away from an equity-based domestic Exchange to a multi-product internationally oriented Exchange. Its main dealings consist in Shares, deposit instruments and receipts and debentures and it is envisaging dealing in products such as futures contracts on Shares and Index.
However, the red-letter day is owed to GBOT, a second Securities Exchange which has recently been licensed by the FSC. It is an autonomous Securities Exchange without the same underlying activities as the SEM. Its purpose is to create and operate the commodities and currency derivatives market among others. This new player aims at contributing in further enhancing the attractiveness of Mauritius as a business, trade and financial hub.

What follows show the bursting of the securities environment in Mauritius which for the last decades stood as a Shares and Equity environment under the control of the FSC and SEM.

A. 1987 --The Stock Exchange of Mauritius ( SEM)
The SEM was set up under Act 11 of 1987 along with the Stock Exchange Commission and the Chamber of Stockbrokers. The limitative list of Securities then comprised of share, debenture or bond. They were quoted on the SEM. The stockbrokers were appointed by the Minister of Finance to carry out the business of dealing in securities quoted on the SEM. Brokers who were appointed under the Brokers Act could elect to be exempted by the Act. In 1988, a new Stock Exchange Act came into operation thus repealing Act 11 of 1987.
In 1992, the Mauritius Offshore Business Activities Act (Act 18 of 1992) came into force to provide for the establishment of the Mauritius Offshore Business Activities Authority. The latter was designed to regulate offshore business activities from within Mauritius and for the issue of offshore certificates and to provide for other ancillary or incidental matters
In 1996, The Securities (Central Depository, Clearing and Settlement) Act 1996 came into force. It had made provision for the establishment and the regulation of a central depository, clearing and settlement service in order to facilitate dealings in securities. The notion of ‘’Certified Securities’’ and ‘’Derivative Instruments’’ first became known in our legislations. As at date the following meanings are given to the expression ‘’Securities’’ which is no more restrictive as to what it used to be during the previous years:
’’ shares or stocks in the share capital of a local or a foreign company, other than a collective investment scheme; debentures, debenture stock, loan stock, bonds, convertible bonds or other similar instruments; rights ,warrants, options or interests in respect of securities mentioned above; treasury bills, loan stock and other instruments creating or acknowledging indebtedness and issued by or on behalf of or guaranteed by the Government of the Republic of Mauritius or the government of another country, a local authority or public authority, as may be prescribed; shares in, securities of, or rights to participate in, a collective investment scheme; depository receipts in similar instruments; options, futures, forwards and other derivatives whether on securities or commodities; any other transferable securities, interests or assets as may be approved by the FSC.; or any such instruments as may be prescribed’’.
The FSC controls the activities of the SEM. The FSC was an emanation of the Financial Services Development Act (FSDA) 2001 which was repealed and replaced by the Financial Services Act (FSA) 2007.The former legislation came into operation after the Mauritius Offshore Business Activities Act (MOBAA) 1992 was repealed. The FSA has amended and consolidated the law regulating financial services, other than banking, and global business and to provide for related matters.
The FSC ensures the orderly administration of the financial services and global business activities and ensures the fairness, efficiency and transparency of financial and capital markets in Mauritius. All licenses for Securities Exchanges; for deposit, clearing or settlement of securities transactions; trading Securities Systems, are issued by the FSC after ascertaining that the required criteria imposed are fully complied with.
It is noteworthy that in Mauritius dividends yielded from shares are non taxable.
Despite the large definition given to the expression ‘’Securities’’, as to date, the SEM has been dealing mostly with Shares and Equity and the market almost stayed the same until the revolution brought in by an Indian subsidiary called The Global Board of Trade Limited. Mauritius is waking up at the dawn of the 21st Century with a new economic partner where new investments instruments are called upon to boost up its economy.
After more than 2 years of steady ground working, the GBOT has now come at the forefront and intends making use of the range of existing instruments in Mauritius. It will, among others, mostly deal in the market of currency, commodities and futures. It is fully owned by the Financial Technologies (India) Limited. Far from being a competitor of the SEM, the GBOT is exploring new avenues which have been made possible owed to the coming into force of a new legislation headed ‘’The Securities Act 2005’’ .This enactment was proclaimed on 12th September 2007 and it came into operation on the 28th September 2007. Some amendments were brought thereto under Act no 15 of 2007 before it was proclaimed. The purpose of such amendment was to harmonise the provisions thereof with those relating to other non-bank financial services. The Securities Act has established a framework for the regulation of securities markets, depository, clearing and settlement facilities, securities exchanges and intermediaries and provides for self-regulatory organisations and regulates the offering and trading of securities and other related matters. It’s coming into operation as a one stop shop has swept away several legislations scattered in several enactments which are namely a) the Stock Exchange Act, the Unit Trust Act, the Transfer of Shares and Debentures Act, some provisions in the Companies Act 2001, the Stock Exchange (Dealer’s Representatives’ Examinations) Regulations 1992, the Stock Exchange (Stockbrokers’ Examinations) Regulations 1993, the Stock Exchange (Licensing) Regulations 1989, the Stock Exchange (listing Committee) Regulations 1993, the Companies (Purchase of own Shares Regulations 2001. GBOT is an international electronic exchange which will deal in the currency derivatives and commodity derivatives. These are financial instruments which are resorted to mitigate the currency risk out of currency fluctuations. Currency derivatives include GBP, USD, EUR, Yen and Mauritius Rupees. Commodities derivatives will consist of precious metals, base metals, agri-commodity and energy.
GBOT is an international multi asset class exchange which is using Mauritius as a springboard to attract the African market. It intends becoming the first pan-African derivatives exchange and a gateway to the African continent. It intends exploring to the maximum the foreign exchange market which is the most liquid market in the world. The global foreign exchange market average daily turnover was around US$4.0 trillion in April 2010.’’GBOT intends starting with Futures product because they are the simplest form of derivatives and are basically plain vanilla offerings’’ said it’s CEO, to Business Magazine, a weekly local business newspaper. The new concepts in Mauritius are used to hedge against price, currency and interest rate risk **.Since Derivative instruments do not involve risks; they help redistribute the risk between market participants.
In an increasingly growing market, there is a demand for different instruments to help investors hedge, to diversify and control the various associated risks. The use of ‘’futures’’ and ‘’options’’ as provided for in the Securities Act, is an option available to the investor to hedge the market risks in the best cost efficient manner. The derivatives contract is by nature to create liquidity, to allow risks to be shared ,to permit a party to take a position on the future value of an asset without actually acquiring it, and to obtain the benefit of its increased value and avoid loss if the value of the asset goes down in that period of time.

It is apposite to define some of the instruments.
What is meant by derivatives?
Derivatives are primarily risk management tools and may also be termed as volatility management tools. It includes forward, future and option contracts that are of a predetermined fixed duration, linked for the purpose of contract fulfillment, to the specified value of real or financial asset or to index of securities. The ability to assume risk is a function of capital. The basis of making efficient use of the capital is the netting of risks against each other***. Futures, options and OTC derivatives markets are integral parts of almost all economies of the world which have attained an advanced stage of development. It may also be defined as an instrument whose value depends on its underlying cash or physical asset. It derives its value from the value of the underlying assets such as foreign exchange, currency, securities and commodities. The end result of a derivative transaction is a transfer or exchange of specified cash flows at defined future point in time.
What is meant by Forward Contract?
It is the simplest form of derivative contract. It is used by traders and investors who wish to hedge against their future risks. The characteristic of this market is that there is actual delivery of the underlying asset in most cases at the pre-determined date. It is used to hedge against future fluctuations.
What is meant by Futures?
A future contract is a contract whereby one party agrees to sell to the other party on a specified future date, a specified asset at a price agreed at the time of the contract and payable at maturity date. The agreed price is known as ‘’strike price’’. The asset may be a commodity or currency or debt or equity security or a basket of securities or a deposit of money by way of loan or any other category of property. Here the hedging party protects himself against a loss, but also loses the chance to make a profit. Unlike forward contracts, futures are usually settled by the payment of difference between the strike price and the market price on the fixed future date and not by physical delivery and payment in full on that date.
What is meant by Options?
An option contract is a further variation of a forward or future contract. They are of 2 types and are termed ‘’call options’’ and ‘’put options’’. A call option is a right, but not an obligation, to buy an asset in the future at pre-determined price. A put option is a right but not an obligation, to sell an asset in the future at a pre-determined price. Similar to a future contract, this option does not result into an actual obligation to sell or to buy the asset against the full price, but results in a contract to pay the difference between the strike price and the market price on the date the option is exercised. The buyer of the option will have to pay a premium for purchasing the option. The maximum loss that a buyer will suffer is the amount for the premium paid. The seller on the other hand has unlimited risks as the buyer may insist on performance.
Who are the players?
Any investor from any part of the world will have access to GBOT through his broker. Orders are placed through highly secured internet or VPN connections to the Exchange. Any producer, any investor, and speculator, retail market participant who is interested or has exposure in one of more products that are being traded on the exchange can mitigate his risk by taking a position on the exchange.
As at date most of the big banks and the financial institutions from Mauritius are already members of the GBOT. Potential members from the Middle East will be shortly admitted. All members and brokers should be registered with the FSC before being admitted by GBOT.
The new Securities Exchange in Mauritius is targeting Mauritius itself, part of East Africa including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. India is in the pipeline and represents a huge market. East Asia, Europe and North America as well are targeted with these new activities in this part of Indian Ocean. It is to be noted that GBOT has on its first day the 18th October 2010 registered transactions over a figure of USD 10, 72 million and those funds come from Dubai and London among other countries. They are 7 times higher than what the SEM has registered during the last 7 sessions.

*Some time back in Mauritius there was a general outcry in respect of hedging of funds by our local Airline Company, Air Mauritius where the latter incurred massive losses.
**The Taxation of Derivatives’’, British Tax review, 1998

Potayya, S. 2011, Mauritius is revolutionarily inching its way towards Currency Derivatives, Commodity Derivatives and Futures contracts. .