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Saudi Arabia's market regulator is implementing reforms at breakneck speed to attract foreign investors, but investors wouldn't know it by looking at the stocks. Two years after international investors were first allowed to trade Saudi stocks directly, total foreign ownership has lingered below 5 percent of the value of shares on the exchange. The 50-day moving average for the Tadawul All Share Index's volume fell this month to the lowest level since 2011 and the stock gauge is among the world's top 10 worst performers this year, missing out on a rally that sent emerging-market equities soaring 29 percent.Shares of petrochemical companies fell as investors scrambled for more details.Saudi Arabia will be assessed again in March.HSBC Holdings Plc, which has the biggest investment bank in Saudi Arabia, says foreign investors are getting ready and registering for their first significant stock purchases in the kingdom as an upgrade by MSCI is seen as "inevitable".Face-to-FaceFor some investors, the problem is simple. They want to meet companies face-to-face, but everyone who enters Saudi Arabia needs to apply for a business visa, and small companies in the kingdom are typically difficult to get hold of.
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