Index provider MSCI is seeking feedback from investors on the ease of access to the Nigerian equity market, a move that could lead to it being excluded from MSCI’s Frontier Markets index.
The consultation follows the introduction of restrictions on foreign currency trading, MSCI said in a statement issued late on Thursday, adding that it would announce its decision on or before April 29.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, is facing its worst crisis in decades as the falling price of oil has slashed revenues, prompting the central bank to peg the currency and introduce curbs to protect foreign exchange reserves, which have fallen to 11-year lows.
The International Monetary Fund has called on Nigeria to lift the curbs and let the naira currency reflect market forces more closely, as the restrictions have significantly affected the private sector.
MSCI said that ease of capital inflows and outflows was one of the key criteria in its market classification framework.
“Introduction of restrictive measures, such as capital or foreign exchange controls, which can lead to material deterioration of equity market accessibility, may result in the exclusion of such market from the MSCI Frontier Markets Indexes and a reclassification to Standalone Market status,” it warned.
Charles Robertson, global chief economist at Renaissance Capital, said the possibility that Nigeria might lose its place in the index had been a risk since it was excluded from key bond indices by JPMorgan and Barclays last year. “Now the risk has become acute,” he said.
Being excluded would create a higher hurdle to attracting future investments, as there would be no need for passive frontier market funds, which track the MSCI index, to hold Nigerian stocks. “With this news, Nigeria’s hopes of attracting private sector investors have been dealt another blow,” Robertson added.
Daniel Salter, head of equity strategy at Renaissance Capital, said that about $480 million of MSCI benchmarked money was in Nigeria, in both mutual funds and exchange traded funds. (Reporting by Claire Milhench Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)