If someone visits the website of the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) from home and abroad, they will find that the number of listed securities is 657 including eight debentures.
The debt instruments were listed on the prime bourse in between 1994 and 1998 and the last trading of the securities was in April 2003.
Having matured at least one and a half decades ago, the bonds still occupy a small pie of the market capitalization since these have not been delisted yet.
Investors of the bonds were entitled to get interest at 14-15 per cent annually until the maturity date. The interest payments should have been cleared with the principal amount redeemed long ago.
As the securities still appear on the DSE website, it is not clear if the debentures exist in illiquid form or how much stake of the securities has been paid back.
Some digging leads to more questions when regulatory bodies blame the issuers for non-cooperation while issuers claimed that many bondholders had not come up with claims for their dues.
Debentures are unsecured bonds issued by corporations and governments. They are backed only by creditworthiness of the issuer.
Details of the eight of such bonds are not available, except for the names of the trustees, when the last trading occurred and the maturity dates.
Officials of the DSE said the matter of delisting of the debt securities had stayed hanging because of non-cooperation of the issuers.
"We took an initiative to delist the securities but the issuers did not cooperate with us," said M. Shaifur Rahman Mazumdar, acting managing director of the DSE.
Some disputes tied to the unsecured bonds are yet to be settled, he said, adding that the delisting can happen after the dispute settlements.
Mr Mazumdar, however, did not elaborate on the disputes.
Four companies of the Beximco Group are issuers of four debentures. The issuers are Beximco Knitting, Beximco Fisheries, Beximco Textile, and Beximco Denims.
The issuers of four other debentures are Aramit Cement, BD. Zipper, BD. Luggage, and BD. Welding.
Pointing the finger at others
Trustees of some debentures said the settlement of the agreements with bondholders was pending as many of them had not made claims for their dues and that many were untraceable.
That raises the question if the interest payments to those investors were made earlier.
The state-run Investment Corporation of Bangladesh is the trustee of a few listed debentures.
"The Beximco made the settlements of the four debentures and the ICB offered the issuers with NOC (no objection certificate) in this regard four months ago," said Md. Abul Hossain, managing director at the ICB.
Asked why it took so long to settle investors' claims, another ICB official said the trustee could do nothing if the issuer delayed paying the dues.
"But we have completed the settlements of Beximco's bonds on proper scrutiny."
Speaking on the debenture issued by Aramit Cement, the ICB's Managing Director Mr. Hossain said, "Aramit Cement has given a bank guarantee to settle investor claims. The claims will be settled as soon as claimants are found."
Why are the bonds listed after maturity?
Company secretary of Aramit Cement, Syed Kamruzzaman said the liquidation of the security was not yet possible as some investors remained missing.
"The ICB is the trustee of our debenture. The ICB can guide us as to how the debenture can be delisted on completion of liquidation," Kamruzzaman said.
The ICB is also the trustee of another debenture namely BD Welding 15% Debenture.
BD. Welding Electrodes, which issued BD Welding, is a non-performing company and the securities regulator reformed the company's board in January 2021.
The ICB's managing director said investors' claims were expected to be addressed by the new board.
NCC Bank and Pragati Insurance jointly are the trustees of two debentures namely BD. Zipper Debenture and Bd. Luggage Debenture.
The company secretary of Pragati Insurance could not be reached and two officials of the NCC Bank refused to speak about the matter over the phone.
Most of the debenture holders are institutional investors.
A DSE official said a debenture could be delisted when the exchange made sure there were no units in the hands of any investors.
"The stock exchange will be liable if a debenture is delisted keeping even one claim unsettled."
The DSE official said the prime bourse had to continue paying yearly tax against listing fees though it no longer received any fee.
On how long a debenture should wait before delisting, Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, said dues could be kept in fixed accounts.
"The dues will be paid if claimants or their successors appear," he said, adding that debentures were issued with the regulatory approval and that was why the regulator should take steps for the delisting securing the interest of the investors.
Mohammad Rezaul Karim, spokesperson of the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC), said debenture holders' interest lied with proper settlement of the debt securities.
"The regulator will accelerate the process of completing the settlements through coordinated efforts involving the exchange, trustees and sponsors," he added.