Saudi Arabia opened its stock market for direct foreign investment Monday. The move is expected to make it easier for foreign investors to put their money into the kingdom.
The announcement came Sunday to confirm that qualified foreign investors (QFIs) would be allowed to start investing in listed shares. Insurance companies, fund managers, brokerage houses and banks based outside the kingdom will now be able to invest in one of the largest stock markets in the world.
According to analysts, the $532 billion stock exchange is going to attract much more investment to the country. The initial announcement from Saudi Arabia came April 16. Last July, it was announced that direct foreign investment would be allowed in the first half of 2015. The decision has come as a means of boosting employment and broadening the nation's economy beyond the oil industry.
Andrew Robb, Australia's minister of trade and investment, has spoken highly of the kingdom’s decision to allow foreign investment. “I wish to commend Saudi Arabia’s economic policymakers and investors for this significant economic reform,” Al Arabiya quoted Robb as saying. “By enhancing international linkages with foreign institutional investors, Saudi Arabia is able to increase the depth and liquidity of its stock market, and take advantage of a wide range of professional and technical skills available worldwide -- including in Australia.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, the opening of the Saudi stock exchange was closely watched. The Saudi market is already bigger than those of Malaysia, Mexico and Russia.
While the kingdom opened its doors to foreign investors, those investors faced some restrictions. Institutions must have $5 billion under management as well as a five-year track record to become QFIs and be eligible to invest in the Saudi market. This means that smaller investors will not be able to invest in the kingdom.
The market opened quietly as a number of international asset managers are circumspect about it. They want to observe the market for the first month before they can apply for licenses so that they can be eligible for buying equities. Each QFI is allowed to hold up to 5 percent of a stock.