Stocks are usually the first asset class that comes to mind when talking about “investment”.
They’re also the most common way for people to invest abroad. Global real estate and private equity are just too complicated for some.
But frontier markets often don’t have stocks. These unexplored nations boast high returns, yet might not have developed to the point where they have public equity markets or the infrastructure needed for them.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s part of the appeal of investing in frontier markets. More opportunities exist in places that haven’t been swarmed by capital from Goldman Sachs and other institutional investors.
With that said, below are some frontier markets in Asia which do have stock exchanges. They might require you to hop on a plane and visit the country to open a brokerage account. Determined investors benefit from barriers to entry though.
Stocks in Mongolia
Positioned directly to China’s north, Mongolia is getting tons of investment from its much bigger neighbor.
Mongolia isn’t a small country itself in terms of size – it’s the world’s 18th largest. But having just over 3 million inhabitants gives it one of the lowest population densities on the planet.
Chinese investors have poured into the local markets because of this, along with Mongolia’s vast reserves of coal, iron, oil, and other natural resources. Beijing needs more of these things as they deplete their own deposits.
Easy access to hot money across the border is probably why Mongolia has a sizable stock exchange… at least for a frontier market. There are 219 companies listed on the Mongolian Stock Exchange (MSE) ranging across almost every sector.
You’ll need to open a local brokerage account to buy stocks in Mongolia. There’s no other way. Some businesses, including InvestAsian, offer remote account opening services.
Stocks in Vietnam
Vietnam arguably isn’t a frontier market anymore. All major ratings agencies still consider it one though, so we’re including the country.
The Southeast Asian nation is unique because it has two different stock exchanges. Both its capital of Hanoi and largest city of Saigon each have an exchange with several hundred listed firms.
You’ll need to open a Vietnam brokerage account to trade stocks directly. There are also some ETFs based in other countries that focus on Vietnam stocks if opening a local account is too inconvenient for you.
The majority of these ETFs are listed on U.S. exchanges and include VanEck Vectors Vietnam. However, they’re not the best way to buy stocks in Vietnam.
Instead, look toward the small and mid-cap stocks. There are dozens of them in Vietnam which barely see analyst coverage. This means lots of undiscovered gems for anyone willing to put forth the effort.
The bad news? You’ll need to visit Vietnam to open a local brokerage account and cannot do it from home.
Other Frontier Market Stocks
Several frontier markets in Asia have stock exchanges which haven’t quite found their footing or gotten off the ground yet.
Cambodia’s stock market has only five listed companies at the moment. Four of those are quasi-public corporations such as the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority and Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.
Neighboring Laos is in a similar position. The Lao Securities Exchange has five firms listed on it which include the nation’s largest bank and two property developers.
The Yangon Stock Exchange in Myanmar is the world’s smallest with just four listed companies. It’s also the newest stock exchange in Asia. But similar to the two other exchanges above, lack of liquidity and few available options have hindered its growth.
Can these undiscovered frontier markets lure more listings and foreign investors? Time will tell.
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