Saudi Arabia opens its $590 billion stock market to foreign investors for the first time, giving them access to the Middle East's biggest economy. Hayley Platt hears from its CEO on what equity markets can expect.
It's the largest stock market in the Middle East. But Saudi Arabia's near $600 billion exchange has been closed to direct foreign investors - until now. Ayham Al-Yousef is CEO of Albilad Capital. (SOUNDBITE)(English) AYHAM AL-YOUSEF, CEO OF ALBILAD CAPITAL, SAYING: "On the short term, the foreign investors may not see a lot of difference in the capital market, especially a lot of investors who have shown interest in this market have already invested through the swap agreement, once the market matures a bit more, there will be maybe different opportunities." The moves suggests Saudi Arabia recognises the need to liberalise and diversify. But there are still strict rules for investors. Adel Al Ghamdi is CEO of the stock exchange. SOUNDBITE: Tadawul CEO Adel Al Ghamdi, saying (English): "We have a number of applicants currently under process and as a result I believe there will be an initial spike in terms of qualification and investment. And I think that will stabIlise over time. I think ultimately foreign investors are looking for us to arrive at emerging markets status before they commit significant funds to our market." For the time being Saudi Arabia will only be accepting institutional investors with at least $5 billion of assets. But it is the 19th largest economy in the world and the third fastest growing in the G20. James Bevan, is Chief Investment Officer at CCLA. SOUNDBITE: James Bevan, Chief Investment Officer, CCLA, saying (English): "The Saudi Stock market is already bigger than the Stock Market survivor Russia or Malaysia or Mexico. Daily turnover is a little larger than that of Qatar. And this is going to provide investors of opportunities to gain exposure to a fast developing middle class to have some genuine choice of exposure within the region and excellent exposure to first class banks and retail operations." The bourse is one of the world's last major exchanges to welcome foreign money. And although investors will have access to more than 150 companies across many sectors. Oil companies won't be among them.