Saudi Arabia's stock market regulator says foreign investors will be allowed to trade shares on the oil-rich kingdom's exchange beginning on June 15.

The Capital Market Authority's announcement Thursday has been eagerly awaited by investors seeking to tap into the Arab world's largest economy.

The Saudi government last year approved a measure to eventually open the Tadawul exchange to direct foreign investment. Foreign investors outside the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council can currently only buy Saudi stocks indirectly, such as through exchange-traded funds.

The exchange is the largest among the Gulf states, and hosts shares of a number of major Saudi companies, including one of the world's largest petrochemical groups, Saudi Basic Industries Corp.