Back in the game
Fitch became the first of the three credit agencies to return Indonesia to investment grade since the country lost the rating 14 years ago. But retail investors looking for a way back to the country have several options to consider.
Fitch noted that the upgrade was a result of the, “the country’s strong and resilient growth, declining public debt ratios, strengthened external liquidity and a prudent overall macro policy framework.”
While the easy money may have been had in the country’s bonds, there is still an opportunity in equities. Lowered yields on the country’s debt could flow down to the corporate market and reduce the cost of capital for issuers. An inflow of foreign direct investment would also push up asset prices and spur lending.
There are two exchange-traded funds that offer exposure to the Indonesian market. The Market Vectors Indonesia ( IDX, quote ) invests in companies domiciled in Indonesia or that accrue at least 50 percent of their revenue from the country. The fund’s two largest sector holdings are in financial services (26.3 percent) and basic materials (22.8 percent).
The MSCI Indonesia Investable Market Index ( EIDO, quote ) is comprised of 74 holdings and made to reflect the performance of the country’s overall market. The top two sectors are also financial services (22.0 percent) and basic materials (16.6 percent) but consumer goods also comprise 25.7 percent of the fund holdings.
Both funds charge an expense ratio of around 0.6 percent.
Indonesian shares traded on the US exchanges are limited to two telecommunications firms, PT Indosat ( IIT, quote ) and PT Telekomunikasi ( TLK, quote ). Both companies provide the array of telecom services with Telekomunikasi by far the larger at a market cap just over $12 billion compared to Indosat’s $3.2 billion in capitalisation.
Notable in Indonesia’s economy is the strength of its domestic consumers, which drive almost two-thirds of GDP. Strength in the domestic market is a rare and welcome find across emerging markets these days as exports to the EU and the United States come under pressure.
Investors should note the trend in foreign direct investment through their investment window. An investment-grade rating will bring an influx of money that must be used constructively.
If funds are not used responsibly, i.e. to develop the country’s infrastructure, an asset bubble could form and could lead to a collapse as seen in the Asian financial crisis.