MSCI Tries to Make ‘Frontier’ Markets Safer

by Kyle Woodley | April 12, 2012 7:50 am

A new ETF offering announced Wednesday hopes to bring a little more civility to the frontier.

Investment product provider MSCI Inc. (NYSE:MSCI[1]) is launching a new index, the MSCI Frontier Markets 100 Index — a spin-off of its broader MSCI Frontier Markets Index and comprising 100 of its largest and most liquid companies. In turn, this new index, will be used for a future BlackRock (NYSE:BLK[2]) iShares ETF.

The term “frontier” is apt, and countries labeled as such shouldn’t be confused with “emerging.” Although there’s no technical definition, “frontier markets” and their companies are generally considered riskier than emerging markets for a number of reasons, such as looser corporate regulations and a dearth of company information.

Still, with risk comes reward, and according to MSCI, there’s a growing appetite.

“We have seen significant demand from clients around the world for a more tradable version of our MSCI Frontier Markets Index — especially from those who face various obstacles in replicating broader frontier markets indices,” Baer Pettit, managing director and head of the MSCI Index Business, said in a release.

The 100 companies included in the index will have to qualify under a number of criteria, according to MSCI. But in general, their geographical distribution is about the same as the broader Frontier index — heavy concentration in the Middle East, as well as representation from Southern Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. South America’s Argentina also is part of the mix.

Here’s a complete country-by-country breakdown (as of April 9):

Country # of
Country # of
Kuwait 13 Romania 3
Bangladesh 12 Croatia 2
Qatar 11 Kazakhstan 2
Pakistan 10 Sri Lanka 2
United Arab Emirates 9 Estonia 1
Argentina 6 Lebanon 1
Oman 6 Lithuania 1
Vietnam 6 Mauritius 1
Nigeria 5 Serbia 1
Kenya 4 Ukraine 1
Jordan 3 TOTAL 100

Four countries from the MSCI Frontier Markets Index — Bahrain, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Tunisia — are not included in the Frontier Markets 100.

The emphasis on better reliability is commendable, and the list even includes a few ADRs, such as Argentinian oil and gas outfit YPF (NYSE:YPF[3]) and BBVA Banco Frances (NYSE:BFR[4]). But when BlackRock does come out with a Frontier Markets 100-tethered ETF — or when any other similar products launch — investors without a strong appetite for risk would be wise to stay away.

While frontier-market companies have even more potential for explosive growth than those in emerging markets, the frontier ain’t called the frontier for nothin’, so to speak. Just like cholera and starvation dotted the Oregon Trail, political unrest, relatively thin trading and numerous other pitfalls lurk on this new frontier.

Kyle Woodley[5] is the assistant editor of[6]. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Follow him on Twitter at @KyleWoodley[7].

  1. MSCI:
  2. BLK:
  3. YPF:
  4. BFR:
  5. Kyle Woodley:
  7. @KyleWoodley:

Source URL:
Short URL: