Industry Updates

Invesco proclaims itself King in Arabia

Scott Longley

Invesco has announced it now runs the largest ETF investing in Saudi Arabia having raised over $315m since the fund was launched in June.

The product became the first ETF to provide passive exposure to the Saudi Arabian market since MSCI added the country to its emerging market index last summer.

The US dollar denominated fund is available via the London Stock Exchange.

Gary Buxton, head of EMEA ETFs at Invesco, said Invesco has seen strong client demand for this ETF mainly because of the major reforms the Saudi authorities have undertaken intended to improve growth, diversify away from hydrocarbons and to make the country into an epicentre for global trade.

"Part of this process includes an opening up of the Saudi equity market as a result of which MSCI announced that Saudi Arabia will be added into its Emerging Markets Index from May this year," he added. "This inclusion means Saudi Arabia is more attractive to investors."

The reforms fall under the umbrella term Saudi Vision 2030 and are intended to reduce the economy's dependency on government funding and oil exports. Objectives include increasing the contribution of private sector consumption to GDP, the number of Saudis working in the private sector and the use of solar and other renewable energy sources.

"They also want to encourage major domestic companies to expand across borders and into global markets," Buxton added.

A further government objective is the potential for the state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco to IPO this year, a move which could raise up to $100bn, making it the largest IPO in history.

The road to MSCI inclusion began in 2015 with the easing of foreign investor requirements. The market will be introduced to the emerging market index in two stages this year, in May and then in August which will lead to an estimated weighting of 2.8%.

With over $1.8trn now tracking the MSCI Emerging Markets index, this would equates to a flow of $50bn into the Saudi market. Ahead of this, the Saudi market was one of the best performing equity markets last year, gaining almost 10% since the index inclusion announcement compared with a fall of 3.3% for the emerging market index.

The Invesco MSCI Saudi Arabia UCITS ETF tracks the performance of the MSCI Saudi Arabia 20/35 index, which has constraints to ensure it meets UCITS requirements for diversification and avoids overconcentration.

The index comprises 30 large- and mid-cap stocks, accounting for approximately 85% of the free float market capitalisation in Saudi Arabia.

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