RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia will open up its stock market to foreign investors in the first half of 2015, providing greater access to the Arab world's biggest exchange.
The Capital Market Authority (CMA) will publish rules next month for participation by qualified foreign financial institutions in the market, the regulator said in a statement on its website.
Saudi Arabia is removing barriers on one of the world's most-restricted major stock exchanges as the government pursues a $130 billion spending plan to boost non-oil industries. King Abdullah, the nation's 90-year-old monarch, has kept the economy expanding at an average rate of 6.4 percent in the past four years even as Middle Eastern neighbors from Egypt to Iraq and Dubai grappled with political and financial-market turmoil.
"The big sleeping giant in the region is Saudi Arabia, a well-capitalized and large market that foreigners couldn't get access to," said Gary Dugan, chief investment officer at National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC. "It's exciting. It gives greater credibility to the region."
The Cabinet Monday authorized overseas financial institutions to trade equities in the Tadawul all-share index and gave the CMA scope to determine timing, according to the official news agency, SPA.
The CMA said it will seek feedback from investors and the public on the rules for 90 days and will review responses by the end of the year. Saudi's exchange is currently limited to domestic investors and foreigners from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council.
The move is a "giant step" toward inclusion in MSCI Inc.'s emerging-markets index, NBAD's Dugan said. Saudi Arabia is the biggest stock market outside China, where domestic shares are excluded from MSCI's global gauges because of limits on foreign investors, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The United Arab Emirates' exchanges, along with Qatar's, began trading as emerging markets last month after MSCI reclassified them in June 2013.
The CMA drafted a proposed set of rules for international investors more than a year ago, requiring a minimum $5 billion of assets under management and a five-year operating history.