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Cambodia's stock market begins trading

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- Trading on Cambodia's stock exchange has begun for the first time after a state-run company completed its initial public offering.

The stock exchange was officially launched in July 2011, but trading only began Wednesday, a delay blamed in part on time needed to finalize investment laws.

Some 13 million shares of the state-run Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority were offered at 6,300 riel ($1.57) per share.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has expressed hope the stock market will be a new way for Cambodia to attract foreign capital besides the international aid that is on reliant on and bank loans.

"Today's launching of securities trading in the Cambodia stock exchange, will finally end the wait, from the public, national and international investors, for the birth and operation of this new market," Hun Sen told an opening ceremony via a video link from his home.

Cambodia's economy was left in ruins by the Khmer Rouge's rule in the 1970s, during which money and private property were abolished. An estimated 1.7 million people died from torture, starvation, exhaustion or lack of medical care.

In more recent times, the country's reputation for endemic corruption has held back foreign investment.

Two other state-owned companies, Telecom Cambodia and the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, plan to list shares on the exchange.

Cambodia is one of the last Southeast Asian nations to open a stock market. Neighboring Laos opened its bourse in January last year and Vietnam's exchange has operated since 2000.

Plans for the stock market were first announced in 2007 and its opening was twice delayed.