How to Invest in Latvia

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This guide is for intrepid investors who are wondering how to invest in stocks in Latvia and Nasdaq/OMX Riga. Curious about investing in other frontier markets? Check out a list of our guides here.

Latvia, a small country of just under 2 million people, is perpetually overlooked, even when compared to its small neighbours, Estonia and Lithuania. Hockey fans in the 90s may remember Latvia as the birthplace for NHL All-Star Sandis Ozolinsh, but usually the country will elicit a confused look when referenced.

Its economy went through a massive boom after joining the EU in 2000, but experienced an equally large busts as a result of the financial crisis in 2008. Economic growth was among the worst in the world during that period, with GDP falling by 18% in Q4 of 2009 and unemployment up to almost 23%. However, the country has since turned it around and is back on track.

Latvia’s stock exchange is part of the Nasdaq Baltic Indices, where its main index, OMX Riga, has more than doubled in value over the past 2 years. It is currently the best performing frontier market in 2017!

Monitor Latvia and other Frontier Markets on our Dashboard!

Economy

Latvia’s economy has picked up speed lately and grew by 4% yoy as of Q1 2017, up from an average of roughly 2.5% over the past few years. With a GDP per capita of under $14,000 USD, it is poorer than its neighbours Lithuania and Estonia, but much wealthier than most of the frontier markets we look at.

The economy is well diversified and has an Economic Complexity Score of 0.75, good for 33rd in the world. As expected of a small, relatively developed country, services dominate the economy.

Here is a visualization of Latvia’s main exports:

Latvia’s credit rating is currently investment grade: A- with S&P, A3 with Moody’s, and A- with Fitch.

Notable Companies in Latvia:

  • Latvenergo (SOE): largest company in Latvia, a hydroelectric SOE that generates the majority of Latvia’s electricity
  • Latvian Railways (SOE): second largest company in Latvia, another SOE that owns the railway lines in Latvia
  • Latvijas Gaze (Listed, Secondary List): Latvian natural gas company with a monopoly in the Latvian market, largest Latvian company by market cap
  • Olainfarm (Listed, Main List): largest chemical/pharmaceutical manufacturer in the Baltic region, second largest Latvian company by market cap
  • Latvijas kuģniecība (Listed, Main List): oil tanker company that owns a range of transport ships
  • Grindeks (Listed, Main List): another pharmaceutical company that focuses on heart and cardiovascular medicine

Is It Safe To Invest In Latvia?

According to our Investment Safety Rankings, Latvia is ranked #30 on our list, making it a very safe country to invest in.

Can Foreigners Invest In Latvia?

Yes, foreigners are allowed to invest in Latvia. As a small country it welcomes foreign investment, and as a member of Nasdaq/OMX, it is easy for foreigners to invest in local equities and bonds.

Nasdaq / OMX Riga Snapshot:

In operation since: 1993, as the Riga Stock Exchange

Location: Riga, Latvia

Market hours: 10:00 to 16:00

Currency: Euro (EUR)

Market Capitalization (as of July 2017): 957 billion EUR total (407 billion on Main List, 550 billion on Secondary List)

Local Listed companies (as of July 2017): 25 listed stocks (5 on Main List, 19 on Secondary List, 1 on Alternative Market)

Taxes: 15% on capital gains, 10% on dividends

Foreign currency controls: none, part of the EU

Main Index: OMX Riga Index:

How the Riga Stock Exchange / Nasdaq Riga is Structured:

Latvia’s stock market is integrated with Estonia and Lithuania as part of the Baltic Regulated Market owned by Nasdaq. This means that stocks from all 3 countries are listed as part of the same market to reduce barriers to entry between them.

There are three different sections of the Baltic Regulated Market: the Baltic Main List, which contains the most actively traded shares, the Baltic Secondary List, which is a step below, and First North (Baltic MTF) which is an Alternative Market.

Local Companies Listed on the Baltic Regulated Market:

There are 25 companies total listed on the exchange, market cap as of 17 July 2017:

Company Board Sector Market Cap (mil, EUR)
Grindeks Main Health Care  77,255
HansaMatrix Main Technology  14,818
Latvijas kuģniecība Main Industrial Goods  142,000
Olainfarm Main Health Care  157,753
SAF Tehnika Main Technology  15,683
Latvijas balzams Secondary Food & Beverage  65,598
Brīvais Vilnis Secondary Food & Beverage  2,759
Ditton pievadķēžu rūpnīca Secondary Industrial Goods  888
Grobiņa Secondary Food & Beverage  750
Latvijas Gāze Secondary Utilities  363,090
Kurzemes atslēga 1 Secondary Household Goods  413
Kurzemes CMAS Secondary Food & Beverage  1,174
Latvijas Jūras medicīnas centrs Secondary Health Care  3,984
Daugavpils Lokomotīvju Remonta Rūpnīca Secondary Industrial Goods  1,617
Rīgas autoelektroaparātu rūpnīca Secondary Automobiles  663
Rīgas elektromašīnbūves rūpnīca Secondary Industrial Goods  9,800
Rīgas juvelierizstrādājumu rūpnīca Secondary Household Goods  313
Rīgas kuģu būvētava Secondary Industrial Goods  3,525
VEF Radiotehnika RRR Secondary Real Estate  283
Siguldas CMAS Secondary Food & Beverage  1,394
PATA Saldus Secondary Basic Resources  6,968
Tosmares kuģubūvētava Secondary Industrial Goods  932
VEF Secondary Real Estate  1,536
Valmieras stikla šķiedra Secondary Chemicals  83,661
Baltic Telekom Alternative Telecom  54

 

How to Invest in Latvian Stocks and Nasdaq Riga:

As a member exchange of Nasdaq OMX, Latvia’s stocks are hosted on a modern trading infrastructure. You need to open a brokerage account with any member of the exchange, which you can find here.

There are 21 different firms that operate on the Riga exchange, many of which will also allow you to trade in Estonia and Lithuania. We recommend contacting one of the more specialized brokerage firms who are used to dealing with foreign investors.

Make sure to check out our other investing guides here!

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