MSCI adds Alibaba, other U.S.-listed China shares to indexes

Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma gestures in front of a screen showing real-time data of transactions at Alibaba Group's 11.11 Global shopping festival in Beijing
Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma gestures in front of a screen showing real-time data of transactions at Alibaba Group's 11.11 Global shopping festival in Beijing, China, November 11, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon -

November 12, 2015

By Tariro Mzezewa

NEW YORK (Reuters) – MSCI will add Alibaba Group, Baidu.com and a dozen other overseas-listed Chinese shares to its emerging market index beginning on Dec. 1, in a move that is expected to draw billions of dollars into the stocks and make MSCI the first indexer to include these shares.

Alibaba, with a market value of nearly $200 billion, is the largest of the U.S.-listed names to be added to the index. It, along with Baidu Inc, will increase the presence of tech companies in the index.

Information technology services companies, according to investors, are more reflective of China’s domestic consumption, and is still rising even as other parts of the economy, such as manufacturing, struggle.

Until now, MSCI did not include companies listed outside of their home base – like Alibaba – in its specific country indexes.

Analysts estimate the index rebalancing will trigger up to $70 billion in total flows into these stocks over the next six months and increase China’s weight in the MSCI Emerging Market (MSCI EM) index, which until now had only included Chinese stocks listed in Hong Kong, to more than 26 percent from just over 23 percent.

“This inclusion will be more reflective of the Chinese opportunity set with big IT and consumer names being added. That shows the shift in the center of gravity from old China to new China,” said Charlie Wilson, portfolio manager at Thornburg Investment Management in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Some strategists said the inclusion could be a step towards the eventual addition of mainland-listed China “A” stocks, which MSCI opted to exclude from its global indexes in June. That decision contributed to a summer selloff in China that prompted Chinese authorities to intervene in that market, directing domestic investors to refrain from selling, a move that foreign institutions viewed negatively.

The move was made as part of MSCI’s regular quarterly adjustments to its indexes, which are tracked by $9.5 trillion in assets, according to the company. Along with adding foreign listed shares in the emerging markets index, MSCI added a total of 18 securities – many of them listed overseas – to its MSCI China Index.

Chinese shares have been on a wild ride throughout 2015. After heavy selling of Chinese stocks through the summer, major Chinese indexes have rebounded, with the Shanghai Shenzhen CSI300 index and the Shanghai Composite Index reaching near two-month highs in early November.

The addition by MSCI could add new holdings to $2.7 billion in exchange-traded funds globally that track the MSCI China Index later this month and another $52 billion that track MSCI’s suite of emerging-market indexes, according to Morningstar Inc.

More than $5 billion in money from passive funds will move as a result of the changes affecting China and other countries, according to a Nov. 6 estimate by Credit Suisse.

Activity in post-market trading was light, with Alibaba shares up just 0.5 percent, and Baidu shares little changed.

In addition to the addition of Chinese stocks to emerging market indexes, MSCI added foreign-listed shares from Hong Kong, Israel and the Netherlands to other indexes.

(Reporting by Tariro Mzezewa; additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Bernard Orr)