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Kuwait welcomes MSCI Emerging Markets upgrade

Country’s reclassification will bring significant benefits to domestic capital markets, including substantial foreign investment inflows, improved liquidity, and greater investor confidence.

The reclassification, which is expected to lead to significant foreign capital flows to the country’s equities, will take effect in one step coinciding with MSCI’s May 2020 Semi‐Annual Index Review The MSCI status upgrade follows Kuwait’s inclusion in S&P Dow Jones Indices’ (S&P DJI), Global Equity Indices, and in the FTSE Russell Emerging Markets Index. “The MSCI upgrade paves the way for further coordinated and collective work with market participants, in an effort to further develop the capital markets in line with global standards” - Muthanna Al-Saleh, Head of Markets Sector at CMA

In a landmark development that comes as a global recognition for Boursa Kuwait, the Capital Market Authority (CMA) and the Kuwait Clearing Company’s (KCC) sweeping market development efforts, MSCI Inc., a leading provider of critical decision support tools and services for the global investment community, yesterday announced the reclassification of Kuwait to ‘Emerging Market’ from its previous ‘Frontier Market’ status in its 2019 Annual Market Classification Review. The reclassification is subject to omnibus account structures and same National Investor Number (NIN) cross trades being made available for international institutional investors before the end of November 2019.

The reclassification, which is expected to lead to significant foreign capital flows to the country’s equities, will take effect in one step coinciding with MSCI’s May 2020 Semi‐Annual Index Review. This would lead to an inclusion of nine stocks in the MSCI Emerging Market Index having a pro forma index weight of approximately 0.5%.

The MSCI status upgrade follows Kuwait’s inclusion in S&P Dow Jones Indices’ (S&P DJI), Global Equity Indices, with Emerging Markets classification in December 2018 and in the FTSE Russell Emerging Markets Index in September 2017. 

The global index compiler’s decision to include Kuwait in its Emerging Markets benchmarks comes in response to the country results in the 2019 Annual Market Classification Review. Announcing the reclassification, MSCI noted that Kuwait’s Market Development Project has set the path for the seamless implementation of numerous regulatory and operational enhancements in the Kuwaiti equity market. These enhancements have significantly increased the accessibility level of the Kuwaiti equity market for international institutional investors and resulted in broad positive feedback from these investors on the MSCI reclassification proposal.

In its early days, the CMA put forward the master plan for the market development program by aligning with international best practices, specifically after it successfully joined the IOSCO. Othman Al-Issa, CMA Vice Chairman and Acting Managing Director confirmed that all arrangements necessary to be addressed for the completion of this decision are being addressed since the CMA, KCC and Boursa Kuwait became aware of it.  “We are very confident that it will go into effect in the upcoming period, and no later than November 2019.”

Commenting on the status upgrade, Hamad Al-Humaidhi, Chairman, Boursa Kuwait, said: “MSCI’s reclassification of Kuwait in its Emerging Markets Index represents an important milestone in the history of our capital markets and will bolster the country’s standing on the global investment map. This development will not only provide a boost to our economy but also propel the transformation of the country into a regional and global centre of commerce and finance as envisaged by the Kuwait Vision 2035.  The MSCI Emerging Markets upgrade will be a gamechanger for the domestic capital markets as it will lead to substantial inflows of foreign investment, improved liquidity, and a significant enhancement in the investing environment in the country.” 

From his end, Muthanna Al-Saleh, Head of Markets Sector at CMA said, “The MSCI upgrade paves the way for further coordinated and collective work with market participants, in an effort to further develop the capital markets in line with global standards.” 

Al-Saleh confirmed that all three relevant parties, the CMA, Boursa Kuwait and Kuwait Clearing Company are putting the application of this issue as a high priority, especially that it is already currently being applied to licensed local entities based on CMA regulations. 

Mohammad Al-Osaimi, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Boursa Kuwait, said: “MSCI’s reclassification of Kuwait to Emerging Markets represents a recognition of the instrumental role Boursa Kuwait played in improving market access and efficiency, enhancing transparency and governance, increasing liquidity and strengthening investor confidence over the last two years."

As part of its market development plans, Boursa Kuwait has launched several far-reaching market reforms, including a new rulebook, which helped the company to specify new three-tiered market segmentation, consisting of the premier market, the main market, and the auction market. In addition, the company has introduced the Over-the-Counter (OTC) trading platform to enable investors to trade unlisted securities with greater transparency. Furthermore, it has recently launched part 1 of its Phase Three market development plans, which included the launch of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), Tender Offers, Trade at Last and Stock Swaps, with plans to introduce further services and tools over the coming months. 

Over the past few years, KCC in collaboration with Boursa Kuwait and the CMA, took on a leading role in applying numerous changes in relation to post-trading systems, such as adjusting the settlement period to T+3, adopting the DvP principle and introducing Custodian Rejection. KCC also took the initiative to apply a new mechanism that allows for the execution of decisions taken at general assemblies, according to international standards of the same. Moreover; KCC has also facilitated the account opening process for foreign custodians, and has also reduced the accompanied documentary collection requirement, to support the Kuwait Capital Market position as an attractive investment platform.