ETF Edge: Want to invest in Saudi Aramco? There’s an ETF for that.

ETF Edge: Want to invest in Saudi Aramco? There’s an ETF for that.

14 Dec    Finance News
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A Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) sign is seen at their headquarters in Riyadh on November 3, 2019.

Are you an American intrigued by the idea of investing in Aramco, the massive Saudi national oil concern?

The company debuted on the Saudi stock exchange Monday and has already become the world’s most highly-valued company. In fact, at roughly $2 trillion as of Thursday, it’s nearly double the size of its closest competitor, Apple Inc. AAPL, +1.36%  

One of the easiest ways to get some exposure is to invest in the iShares MSCI Saudi Arabia ETF KSA, -0.20%  , which is the only single-country exchange-traded fund for Saudi stocks.

The ETF tracks a grouping of companies called the MSCI Saudi Arabia IMI 25/50 Index. The fund rebalances when the index does, according to its manager, BlackRock.

See: Go on, cut your fees, BlackRock tells brokers: more ETF business for us

MSCI confirmed to MarketWatch that Aramco “is expected to meet the minimum market capitalization requirement for early inclusion,” which would make it part of its indexes as of the close of December 17, thus effective for December 18 trading. If for some reason the company didn’t meet that criteria, MSCI would postpone inclusion until after January 5, 2020.

Market capitalization minimums matter because the Saudi stock exchange, the Tadawul, decided to cap price moves to prevent Aramco’s massive scale from dwarfing the rest of the market.

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Of course, while size does matter, it’s hardly the only metric an investor should look at. There are plenty of reasons to be wary of Aramco’s approach to governance and management, and MarketWatch summarized those in this preview of its IPO. There are also plenty of reasons to find it objectionable to invest alongside the Saudi royal family.

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You may also find it distasteful to put your money in fossil fuels, or think it’s simply a bad investment thesis. But if you’re okay with that, Aramco might be a good play. Its 2018 income topped that of its five largest rivals combined.

Read: Peak oil? A famed Texas oilman’s ETF is going green

Also working in Aramco’s favor is its ability to set pricing for the market it dominates. On the flip side, the control that the Saudi government will have over the company is also near absolute.

The IPO prospectus puts it like this:“The interests of the Government, the Company’s controlling shareholder, may differ from the interests of the Company or the Company’s minority shareholders. The Government will continue to own a controlling interest in the Company after the Offering and will be able to control matters requiring shareholder approval. The Government will have veto power with respect to any shareholder action or approval requiring a majority vote, except where it is required by relevant rules for the government.”

The ETF, KSA, has gained 4.6% in the year to date, lagging the S&P 500 SPX, +0.01%  , which has gained more than 26%. The broader MSCI Emerging Markets Index has gained 9.5% in that period.

See: What is asset allocation?

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