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March 24, 2020

PSX to continue operation with minimum staff


March 24, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Government conducted mock exercise to run stocks market remotely, granted one month extension to corporate sector for holding annual general meetings and allowed half of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan’s (SECP) workforce to work from home, officials said on Monday.

Officials said the government has no plan to close the stock market amid the COVID-19-led crisis. The self-regulatory organisations (SROs) of the stock market conducted mock exercise to run PSX remotely, they said.

SROs of stock market – PSX, Central Depository Company (CDC), National Clearing Company Pakistan (NCCPL) and SECP – conducted the exercise aimed at proactively identifying practical issues faced by market participants and their timely resolution considering the lockdown in Sindh.

The officials said the SECP adopted a plan to keep PSX, CDC, and NCCPL with minimum presence of staff in office. “The mock exercise tested successfully as more 100 percent officials of SRO performed and run trading settlements and other functions successfully from home while more than 50 percent brokers logged in remotely,” an official said.

Over the weekend, the SECP high-ups were in continuous coordination with PSX and NCCPL and several meetings were held through video links to ensure that capital market continues to operate uninterruptedly.

Scenario analysis and stress testing are performed to assess effectiveness of risk management system and no significant risks were identified, the officials said. NCCPL has effective arrangements in place to ensure connectivity with banks and smooth operations of clearing and settlement system.

“To facilitate companies and businesses in dealing with current crises due to COVID-9 pandemic, the SECP has relaxed the regulatory deadlines under Companies Act,” the SECP said in a statement. “The commission using its powers conferred under section 510 of the Companies Act, 2017 approved the relaxations in relation to compliance with requirements of the Act.”

The SECP said all companies which are facing difficulties in timely holding the annual general meeting (AGM) for the year ended on December 31, 2019, are allowed a general extension for a period of 30 days as provided in section 132 of the Act for holding their AGMs. The companies can now hold their AGM for the year ended on December 31, 2019 on or before May 29, 2020.

The commission said the companies, whose election of directors is due before or in the aforesaid AGM, might file impediment reports with the concerned registrar under section 158(2) of the Act citing the reasons for delay in holding the election of directors.

“Accordingly, any statutory return, which is required to be filed on or after 24th March, 2020 may be filed with the concerned registrar with the delay of 30 days of occurrence of any event without any additional filing fee as no penal action shallbe taken for the late filing,” it said.

The coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak compelled administrations to announce lockdown aimed at preventing the infection through social distancing. The SECP said its response to COVID-19 is focused on the health and safety of business workforce all over Pakistan and maintaining the continuity of economic activity.

“To ensure health and safety of all SECP team members, the SECP has adopted a plan to operate with 50 percent workforce from office and 50 percent workforce from home on weekly rotational basis, effective from March 24,” it said. “Especially the mothers who use in-house day care facility and employees with medical conditions have been asked to work from home. The information technology department of the SECP has completed arrangements to facilitate employees for WFH (work from home).”

The SECP said all such assignments, which are not urgent in nature – trainings and employee engagement activities – have been suspended for time being. All hearings by the adjudication division would be done through skype / virtual conference only.

The commission said it has already adopted required precautionary measures to ensure safety of people and resist the spread of COVID-19. “These measures include closure of in-house gym, daycare and cafeteria, use of elevator for up to a maximum three persons at a time and ensuring social distancing in general.”