DUBAI: Foreigners made their highest net purchases of Saudi shares on record last month as the inclusion of local stocks in major benchmarks outweighed concerns sparked by the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
Investors from outside the country and the Gulf were net buyers of around 4.4 billion riyals (US$1.17 billion) of Saudi-listed stocks in January, the most for a single month since data became available in 2015. International funds are seeking to build exposure as some of the stocks will be added to emerging-market indexes compiled by MSCI Inc. and FTSE Russell. Local funds, on the other hand, are buying less.
The purchases mark a change in trend after a selloff triggered by the killing of Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. Back then, foreigners sold the most for a single month since they were allowed to directly trade in the country. As volatility surged, funds tied to the government were constantly mentioned by traders and investors as giving support to the market, by purchasing mostly large caps. The main Saudi index is up 8.9% this year.
Investors jumping at Saudi stocks now are finding high prices and an economic scenario that doesn’t corroborate expensive valuations, according to Tina Byles Williams and Adam Choppin, respectively the chief executive officer and investment officer at FIS Group Inc.
“Speculation around huge foreign inflows are based on naive assumptions about how index providers and ETF issuers trade through such events, and we believe those waiting for ‘dumb passive money’ in Saudi will be kept waiting come fall 2019,” they wrote in a report. “Following index inclusion, we expect to see a fair degree of selling pressure as state-affiliated Saudi investors use the inclusion as a liquidity event for chunks of their Saudi equity portfolio.”