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Saudi Arabia chases Asian investors for stock market

Saudi Arabia officials and executives of around 14 companies plan to embark on a marketing tour of Singapore and Hong Kong next month to attract Asian investors in the $430 billion stock exchange, banking sources told Reuters on Thursday.

The HSBC Saudi Arabia Investment Forum will include stops in Singapore on March 1-2 and Hong Kong on March 3, the sources said.

The trip reflects the rising importance of Asia for Riyadh, which sends the bulk of its oil exports to Asian markets. Two similar trips organised by JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley were held this autumn in New York and London, respectively. Saudi Arabia has brought in new rules to make it easier for foreigners to invest in the stock exchange, the Tadawul, most recently permitting foreign institutional investors to buy shares directly in initial public offers.

Saudi Stock Exchange Chief Executive Khalid al-Hussan, a senior Capital Market Authority official and officials from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency and Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority will be on the trip, one of the sources said.

A Tadawul spokesman confirmed the attendance of Tadawul and CMA executives at the forum without elaborating.

The companies include Saudi Basic Industries Corp, the kingdom’s largest company by market value, Al Rajhi Bank , its largest Islamic bank, and other banks including Saudi British Bank (SABB), Banque Saudi Fransi and Samba Financial Group, according to one of the sources.

The officials and companies, which will also include Savola Group, its largest food products company, and Saudi Arabian Mining Company, will meet around 100 investors during the trip.

A HSBC spokesman said the bank hosted many such international events to provide clients and investors with “opportunities and ideas to support the growth of their business”.

Under sweeping economic reforms announced last year and designed to reduce Saudi Arabia’s reliance on oil exports, the government plans in the coming years to offer shares in a wide range of firms, including a stake of up to 5 percent in state oil giant Saudi Aramco <IPO-ARMO.SE> in 2018.

Aramco executives will not be part of next month’s trip, although bankers have told Reuters a listing in Asia is likely.

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