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Warsaw bourse targets ESG after tech triumphs

Polish companies have been behind the curve when it comes to sustainability. A reinvigorated Warsaw Stock Exchange plans to bring them up to speed.

Main WSE index WIG20 is seen through the WSE (GPW) logo at the Stock Exchange in Warsaw

Hard on the heels of two blockbuster tech IPOs, Warsaw’s stock exchange is planning a new drive to bring Polish companies up to speed on sustainability.

The bourse has already undergone a remarkable transformation. Five years ago, when the Polish government announced plans to hollow out the pension funds that provided the majority of demand for local equities, many wrote the market off as moribund.

The interest of foreign investors, sparked by a series of bumper privatizations in the early 2010s, was already waning, thanks to the lacklustre performance of the banks and energy stocks that made up the majority of the WIG Index.

Repeated attempts to create a regional hub in Warsaw had produced little beyond a clutch of Ukrainian listings, which were badly hit by the country’s economic crisis in 2014. The episode discouraged early experiments in equity investing by Polish retail investors, as did the bankruptcy in 2018 of local debt collector GetBack, less than a year after a much-hyped $100 million IPO.

Even the upgrade of Poland to developed market status by FTSE Russell in September 2018 failed to revive the market’s fortunes. The following year, new listings amounted to just $15 million, according to Dealogic, the lowest annual total since 2001.


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