Will MSCI Demote Peru From Emerging to Frontier Market?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 6/14/2016 06:39:00 PM
Stock market "trading"--something of a Peruvian novelty.
Later today, the market indexing firm MSCI will issue guidance on whether to include Chinese equities in their emerging market indices. While that decision obviously has huge implications--China is the world's second largest economy, so it rankles not to be included in a simple index of EMs--there is another pending decision you should watch for if development is an area of interest. As China vies for inclusion, Peru is trying to stave off the capital markets equivalent of "relegation." (See MSCI's classification scheme here.)

To be exact, Peru does not appear to have enough freely traded listings to qualify for inclusion in the MSCI Emerging Markets index according to free float and liquidity criteria. That is, interested foreign investors should have the means necessary to purchase such stocks without undue difficulty. How many listings should qualify? Well, it's, er, three. Even by that measure, though, Peru is coming up short. Despite Peru's thin volumes, there would still be consequences for the global universe of equity investments:
The Peruvian stock exchange fears that the move would drive foreign investment away from its $67bn bourse. Moreover, the move would further unbalance the MSCI Frontier index and potentially divert much-needed foreign investment from countries such as Nigeria, Argentina and Pakistan. “It may seem like linguistics, but the index designation is important in terms of retaining and attracting foreign investor assets,” says Mark Mobius, executive chairman of the Templeton Emerging Markets Group, who believes foreign investors are responsible for roughly a third of Peru’s trading volume.
Index inclusion often drives investment since indexed funds are obviously required to place a proportion of their investments in the countries included. Such are China's hopes and, conversely, Peru's fears. And the bush league of the frontier market is really quite tiny:
MSCI launched a consultation on Peru’s potential ejection from its flagship EM index — tracked by an estimated $1.5tn, against just $12bn for the Frontier equivalent — in August last year. MSCI’s concern was that only three stocks in its Peru equity universe meet its liquidity and free float requirements, the minimum number to be eligible for its EM index...

Compounding the problem, MSCI has proposed switching Southern Copper, one of these three stocks, to its US equity universe, where it is listed (it is currently included in the Peruvian section for “historical and index continuity reasons” and generates 43 per cent of its revenues from Peru, with the remainder from Mexico), pushing Peru below the minimum threshold.
While the arguments for and against de-indexing Peru are interesting, the larger fact remains: without wider Peruvian development, you can hardly expect its prospects for stock market indexing to be much better. And so it finds itself in this unpromising position.