Investment In Middle East

The Middle East is a developing and dynamic hub for investment. A growing population and middle class, together with substantial efforts to encourage activity outside of oil and gas industries provides business opportunities across the region. The Middle East has the least demanding tax framework globally and is the easiest place in which to pay taxes. Given all these factors foreign businesses are attracted too the region.

The Middle East has become a popular investment destination, given its extensive energy resources and rapid growth of population. While many countries in the region rely on crude oil to support their growth, some forward-looking governments have spent their historically large budget surpluses on public works and other projects designed to stimulate their domestic economies. Others have enacted changes that could encourage investment and growth over the coming years.


  • Broadly Investing in the Middle East

The best way to gain broad exposure to the Middle East is by purchasing exchange-traded funds ("ETFs") targeting the region as a whole. For example, Wisdom Tree Middle East Dividend Fund (GULF) offers broad exposure to countries like the UAE (24%), Qatar (24%) and Kuwait (21%) in sectors like financials (60%), telecom (24%) and industrials (9%). With a 0.88% expense ratio and a strong Morningstar rating, the ETF offers a great way for investors to gain exposure to the region, although its limited liquidity and $20 million in assets may be a concern to some investors.

Market Vectors Gulf States Index ETF (MES) is another option for investors, with exposure to many of the same countries and sectors, although it has a 1% expense ratio. Meanwhile, other ETFs like the SPDR S&P Emerging Middle East & Africa ETF (GAF) offer more limited exposure to the region, with more than 75% exposure in South Africa. But in the end, these ETFs provide investors with an easy way to diversify into Middle East stocks without purchasing individual country ETFs or American Depository Receipts ("ADRs") in the region.

  • Investing in Individual Country ETFs

Investors looking for more direct exposure to Middle Eastern markets can invest directly in certain countries. While investing in individual countries may involve more risk from less diversification, it enables investors to selectively choose specific opportunities rather than investing in a number of countries throughout the region. Others looking for even more specific exposure to individual companies within individual countries may also consider purchasing ADRs, which enable foreign companies to list on U.S. stock exchanges.

Some popular countries include:

  • Egypt - Egypt is one of the largest and most developed economies in the Middle East region, with a gross domestic product ("GDP") of $272 billion in 2013. With an expense ratio of 0.98%, the Market Vectors Egypt Index ETF (EGPT) represents the easiest way to gain exposure to the country's economy in the United States.
  • Iran – Iran has unique geographical location at the heart of a cross-road linking the Middle East, Asia and Europe, empowered by inter and trans-regional trade, customs, tax and investment arrangements.

Despite the abundance of aviation, land and sea routes Iran plays super-strategic and crucial part in energy transformation and international commodities, the privileged strategic territory, road and maritime routes for oil and gas resources transit from exporting to consuming countries, in the Persian Gulf.

  • Israel - Israel is considered to be one of the most advanced countries in the Middle East in both economic and industrial development. With 63 stocks in its portfolio, the iShares MSCI Israel Capped ETF (EIS) represents the easiest way for investors to gain exposure to the country, although its over 20% weighted in Teva Pharmaceuticals Inc. (TEVA).
  • Turkey - Turkey is one of the most promising economies in the world, with 4.1% GDP growth in 2013, serving as a key intermediary between Europe and Asia. With a 0.63% expense ratio and $350 million under management, the iShares MSCI Turkey Index Fund (TUR) remains the most popular option for investors seeking exposure to the country.