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Saudi Arabia ETF in Focus on Major Economic Makeover

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans to free the kingdom from its dependence on oil revenues by 2020 and establish it as a global investment power. The plan involves the restructuring of the Public Investment Fund and increasing the fund’s capital to 7 trillion riyals ($2 trillion) from 600 billion riyals ($160 billion). This increase would be partly funded by selling up to a 5% stake in the state oil company Saudi Aramco (read: Oil Hits 12-Year Low: Short Energy Stocks with ETFs).
 
The measures are not surprising considering a prolonged period of cheap oil over the past one and a half years. It has put pressure on state finances resulting in massive budget deficits. In fact, the International Monetary Fund has estimated that due to their oil-dependent nature and the prevalent low oil prices, the Middle East countries have lost out on $390 billion in oil revenues in 2015 and could lose up to $150 billion in income in 2016 (read: IMF Cuts GDP Outlook for Japan; ETFs in Trouble?).
 
In order to overcome the cheap oil price impact Saudi Arabia has already taken some measures like reducing spending and issuing domestic bonds. Its foreign-exchange reserves dropped 16% last year. Toward the end of last year, the government raised the domestic price of fuel, water and electricity. Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia raised a $10 billion loan from international banks, for the first time in decades. 
 
The latest bout of reforms announced earlier this week aims to diversify the country’s revenues by opening up to a higher level of privatization in sectors like health care and education, expanding the country’s manufacturing base and investing in alternative energy sources. Taxes on luxury items, tobacco and sugary drinks will also be levied.
 
Recently unveiled reforms also include plans to shed the kingdom’s ultraconservative image by empowering women to have a bigger economic role, offering improved status to resident expatriates and allowing tourism for all nationalities in line with its tradition and values.
 
All these talks have put the spotlight on the sole ETF targeting the country – iShares MSCI Saudi Arabia Capped ETF (KSA). The ETF jumped 5.33% on Monday’s trading session (see all Africa-Middle East Equity ETFs here).
 
KSA in Detail
 
This fund provides exposure to 52 Saudi Arabian stocks by tracking the MSCI Saudi Arabia IMI 25/50 Index. It has accumulated $4.6 million in its asset base while it sees volume of almost 2,000 shares a day on average. KSA charges 74 bps in fees per year.
 
From a sectoral perspective, the fund has a major tilt toward Financials (31.8%) and Materials (30.8%), following by Telecommunication Services that also has double-digit allocation. Despite the country's large energy industry, the Saudi Arabia ETF includes a small 1.3% exposure to the energy sector (read: Gulf ETFs Rising on Oil Rebound).

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ISHARS-MSCI SA (KSA): ETF Research Reports
 
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