Franklin Templeton gets QFI status in Saudi Arabia

Around $3 billion in foreign flows has come into Saudi stocks already in 2018, taking total foreign investment in local equities to around $9 billion. (Reuters)
Updated 18 June 2018
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Franklin Templeton gets QFI status in Saudi Arabia

  • Fund manager attracted by fiscal and social reforms
  • KSA market attracts $3 billion in foreign flows this year

LONDON: US fund manager Franklin Templeton is to allow foreign investors to invest directly in Saudi Arabian stocks for the first time, after announcing that its funds have been granted Qualified Foreign Investor status by market regulators.

The firm’s increased commitment to Saudi Arabian stocks follows the steady easing of restrictions on foreign investors by regulators in the Kingdom, as part of capital markets and economic reforms within the country.

The Saudi Capital Market Authority (CMA) announced measures to ease restrictions on foreign investment in the local stock market from this January and allowed eligible foreign enterprises to acquire a larger stake of up to 10 percent of any issuer’s shares, up from 5 percent.

“Bold fiscal reforms, including steps to reduce its reliance on oil, will put the Kingdom’s economy on more sustainable footing over the long-term,” said Bassel Khatoun, managing director, frontier and MENA, Franklin Templeton Emerging Markets Equity.

“At the same time, impressive capital-market reform is culminating in classification upgrades by key index providers. Finally, social reform continues unabated, leading to new investment opportunities across the economy. As a firm, we are excited to be part of these positive developments.”

Saud stocks are expected to be upgraded to emerging market status by index provider MSCI on Wednesday, following a similar upgrade by fellow index provider FTSE Russell at the end of March.

Around $3 billion in foreign flows has come into the market already in 2018, taking total foreign investment in local equities to around $9 billion.

Franklin Templeton forecasts such upgrades will attract additional foreign investment flows of around $35 billion. The upcoming IPO of Saudi Aramco, expected in the next year or so, will bring in $50 billion in foreign investment depending on valuation, the firm predicted.


Japan, EU to sign widespread trade deal eliminating tariffs

Updated 17 July 2018
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Japan, EU to sign widespread trade deal eliminating tariffs

  • Both sides are heralding the deal, which covers a third of the global economy and more than 600 million people
  • Besides the latest deal with the EU, Japan is working on other trade agreements, including a far-reaching trans-Pacific deal

TOKYO: The European Union and Japan are signing a widespread trade deal Tuesday that will eliminate nearly all tariffs, seemingly defying the worries about trade tensions set off by President Donald Trump’s policies.
The signing in Tokyo for the deal, largely reached late last year, is ceremonial. It was delayed from earlier this month because Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe canceled going to Brussels over a disaster in southwestern Japan, caused by extremely heavy rainfall. More than 200 people died from flooding and landslides.
European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who arrived Monday, will also attend a gala dinner at the prime minister’s official residence.
Both sides are heralding the deal, which covers a third of the global economy and more than 600 million people.
The deal eliminates about 99 percent of the tariffs on Japanese goods to the EU, but remaining at around 94 percent for European imports into Japan for now and rising to 99 percent over the years. The difference is due to exceptions such as rice, a product that’s culturally and politically sensitive and has been protected for decades in Japan.
The major step toward liberalizing trade was discussed in talks since 2013 but is striking in the timing of the signing, as China and the US are embroiled in trade conflicts.
The US is proposing 10 percent tariffs on a $200 billion list of Chinese goods. That follows an earlier move by Washington to impose 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods. Beijing has responded by imposing identical penalties on a similar amount of American imports.
Besides the latest deal with the EU, Japan is working on other trade agreements, including a far-reaching trans-Pacific deal. The partnership includes Australia, Mexico, Vietnam and other nations, although the US has withdrawn.
Japan praised the deal with the EU as coming from Abe’s “Abenomics” policies, designed to wrest the economy out of stagnation despite a shrinking population and cautious spending. Japan’s growth continues to be heavily dependent on exports.
By strengthening ties with the EU, Japan hopes to vitalize mutual direct investment, fight other global trends toward protectionism and enhance the stature of Japanese brands, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The EU said the trade liberalization will lead to the region’s export growth in chemicals, clothing, cosmetics and beer to Japan, leading to job security for Europe. Japanese will get cheaper cheese, such as Parmesan, gouda and cheddar, as well as chocolate and biscuits.
Japanese consumers have historically coveted European products, and a drop in prices is likely to boost spending.