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Capital Markets

Latin America: Stock exchange merger slowed by taxation issues

Peruvian transaction tax hike a problem

Plans to create Latin America’s second-biggest stock exchange by merging the Peruvian, Colombian and Chilean bourses are being bogged down by different national regimes on taxation of share transactions.

The first phase of the integration is supposed to be completed in November, when brokerages in each of the three countries should have in place the technological capabilities to access the other stock markets through an intermediary. The trading platforms will be connected, facilitating cross-border transactions in stocks such as Chilean retailer Cencosud, Mexican-Peruvian copper company Southern Copper Corp, and Colombian oil group Ecopetrol.

However, in January, the Peruvian government applied a new tax regime to share transactions because taxation revenues had fallen sharply during the financial crisis. Analysts blame this for a steep drop in trading on the exchange this year and say it complicates the bourses’ merger.

Since January, Peru has applied a tax of up to 30% on profits from trades by Peruvian brokers and 5% by foreign brokers on the Lima stock exchange. In Chile, share transactions are exempt from tax and in Colombia they are not liable if they do not exceed 10% of a company’s total issued equity.

"It is a fantastic idea to integrate the three exchanges," says Claudio Larrain, managing director at Chilean investment bank Larrain Vial.

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