Saudi stock exchange cheers MSCI emerging markets upgrade

Khalid Al-Hussan, Chief Executive Officer of the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul), speaks during a news conference after the inclusion of MSCI EM to the Saudi Stock Market in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia June 21, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 21 June 2018
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Saudi stock exchange cheers MSCI emerging markets upgrade

  • Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan: This is a significant milestone for the Saudi capital market
  • Chief executive officer of Tadawul Khalid Al-Hussan: We more excited by what’s about to come as we continue to enhance the market’s future.

RIYADH: The Saudi stock exchange celebrated an “historic milestone” with inclusion into MSCI’s Emerging Market index, as it pledged to make further improvements to become the “leading” market in the Middle East.
The move, announced early Thursday morning Riyadh time, is forecast to attract as much as $40 billion in foreign investment into Saudi stocks, following a series of reforms passed by authorities to bring the Kingdom’s capital markets more in line with international standards.
“This is a significant milestone for the Saudi capital market,” said Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan.
“The reforms of the Saudi capital market, guided by Vision 2030, and the government’s strong commitment to modernize the Saudi economy through comprehensive reforms, have aligned the market with international best standards making it more attractive to both domestic and foreign investors. We will continue to build a law-based capital market to further strengthen investor confidence and steadily enhance market functions to serve the Saudi economy while stimulating savings, financing and investments.”
Khalid Al-Hussan, chief executive officer of Tadawul, told a press conference in Riyadh that he was “more excited by what’s about to come as we continue to enhance the market’s future.” Plans are under way to introduce clearing systems in preparation for equity derivatives trading.
Mohamed El-Kuwaiz, Chairman of the kingdom’s Capital Markets Authority, said that the event was the culmination of a three year process to get the Saudi market into the global emerging market index. “It is a nationally great achievement, and a historic milestone on the journey of Saudi capital markets,” he added.
He added that the move would pave the way for initial public offerings (IPO) on the Saudi exchange, including the historic listing of Saudi Aramco, slated for next year, and other privatizations. “This is not the end of the journey,” he said.
The meeting coincided with the opening of the Saudi market in Riyadh. Saudi shares rose by nearly 1 percent in early trading, before shedding gains to trade slightly higher in the afternoon.
“Saudi Arabia’s market performance over the next few sessions is of little relevance in our view. Some selling of the fact [of inclison] is expected,” Mohamad Al Hajj, an equities strategist at the research arm of EFG-Hermes in Dubai, told Bloomberg.
The index compiler MSCI decided to give Saudi a weighting of 2.6 percent of the EM index, higher than the 2.3 percent it had previously indicated, meaning that more International funds could flow into Saudi Arabia.
At that level, some 150 billion riyals ($40 billion) worth of foreign investment could end up on Tadawul, via a mix of passive and active fund managers. Tadawul officials estimated passive funds — which track the index — account for 25 percent of that.
Sarah Al-Suhaimi, chairman of Tadawul, said that inclusion in the index was a “very important step for Tadawul and for the Kingdom.” She was proud that MSCI had upgraded Saudi Arabia after only one year on its watchlist, which she said was the shortest period on record.
Full official inclusion into the index will take place in two stages over the next 12 months. El-Kuweiz said that the timing of the Aramco IPO was still being finalized and was not dependent on final inclusion on MSCI.
“The IPO and the condition of the market are related, but not directly linked. Obviously the weight of the market will increase when Aramco is included, but that timing will depend on multiple factors, like the market context, the valuation the company puts on itself, and the preparedness of the company,” he said.
“It is our job to ensure the market is ready for such events, and this is what we have done,” he added.
Some analysts argue that the health of the Saudi market depends more on the oil price, domestic economics and regional geopolitics than inclusion in MSCI.
Jason Tuvey, Middle East economist with London based consultancy Capital Economics, said: “We still expect oil prices will drop back over the next couple of years. That is likely to put fiscal austerity back on to the agenda, and we expect that growth in the non-oil sector will slow again in 2019. Meanwhile, geopolitical tensions will linger. And we expect that global appetite for risky assets will deteriorate over the next couple of years.”
He forecast the Tadawul index would fall around 6 percent this year, after a sharp rise in the first half.
Al-Hussan said the MSCI inclusion was a very significant factor for Tadawul. “I disagree that MSCI inclusion is less important than these other factors. It is a sign of the confidence of International investors in the Saudi market, and a reflection of how confident they feel here.”
Saudi Arabia is already the biggest stock market in the Arabian Gulf, with a market capitalization of $520 billion, but policymakers have said they want to make it the “dominant” one too, possibly by encouraging cross-listings of other GCC companies in Riyadh and by co-ordinating regulatory regimes across the region.
Ziyad Al-Ashaikh, Deutsche Bank’s chief country officer for Saudi Arabia, said: “This represents a major milestone. Not just for the kingdom, but for the entire Middle East and one that demands a great deal of attention from institutional investors globally.”


Chinese president Xi urges financial risk prevention while seeking stable growth

Updated 23 February 2019
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Chinese president Xi urges financial risk prevention while seeking stable growth

  • China’s economy is growing at its slowest pace in almost 30 years
  • Preventing and resolving financial risks, especially systemic financial risks, is a fundamental task

BEIJING: China should seek stable development of its economy while not forgetting to fend off risks to its financial system, Chinese President Xi Jinping said, state news agency Xinhua reported on Saturday.
China’s economy is growing at its slowest pace in almost 30 years, spurring policymakers to bolster growth by easing credit conditions and cutting taxes.
“It is necessary to focus on preventing risks on the basis of steady growth, while strengthening the countercyclical adjustment of fiscal policy and monetary policy and ensuring that the economy operates in a reasonable range,” Xi said.
Preventing and resolving financial risks, especially systemic financial risks, is a fundamental task, the agency cited Xi as telling a study session for senior Communist Party officials on Friday.
On Wednesday, Premier Li Keqiang reiterated that China would not resort to “flood-like” stimulus such as it unleashed in past downturns.
But after a spate of weak data, investors are asking if Beijing needs to speed or boost support to reduce the risk of a sharper slowdown.
Until now, China has refrained from cutting benchmark interest rates to spur the slowing economy, which would ease financing costs but risk adding to a mountain of debt.
To free up more funds for lending to small and private businesses, the central bank has cut the reserves that banks need to set aside five times in the past year.
Last month, Chinese banks made the most new loans on record, a total of 3.23 trillion yuan ($481 billion). A central bank official said previously that no credit floodgate had been opened, and the lending jump showed recent easing steps were working.
China’s financial sector must serve the real economy, Xi said, but stable growth and risk prevention must be balanced.