Form 485BPOS
iShares®, Inc.
Statement of Additional Information
Dated December 29, 2023
This combined Statement of Additional Information (SAI) is not a prospectus. It should be read in conjunction with the current prospectuses (each, a Prospectus and collectively,the Prospectuses) for the following series of iShares, Inc. (the Company):
Funds
Ticker
Listing Exchange
iShares MSCI Australia ETF
EWA
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Austria ETF
EWO
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Belgium ETF
EWK
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Canada ETF
EWC
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Eurozone ETF
EZU
Cboe BZX
iShares MSCI France ETF
EWQ
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Germany ETF
EWG
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Hong Kong ETF
EWH
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Israel ETF
EIS
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Italy ETF
EWI
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Japan ETF
EWJ
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Japan Small-Cap ETF
SCJ
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Mexico ETF
EWW
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Netherlands ETF
EWN
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Pacific ex Japan ETF
EPP
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Singapore ETF
EWS
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI South Africa ETF
EZA
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Spain ETF
EWP
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Sweden ETF
EWD
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Switzerland ETF
EWL
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Thailand ETF
THD
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI Turkey ETF
TUR
Nasdaq
iShares MSCI USA Equal Weighted ETF
EUSA
NYSE Arca
iShares MSCI World ETF
URTH
NYSE Arca
The Prospectuses for the above-listed funds (each, a Fund and collectively, the Funds) are dated December 29, 2023, as amended and supplemented from time to time. Capitalized terms used herein that are not defined have the same meaning as in the applicable Prospectus, unless otherwise noted. The Financial Statements and Notes contained in the applicable Annual Report and Semi-Annual Report of the Trust for the Funds are incorporated by reference into and are deemed to be part of this SAI. Each Fund's Annual Report is located here1 or here2. Each Fund's Semi-Annual Report is located here1 or here2. A copy of each Fund's Prospectus, Annual Report and Semi-Annual Report may be obtained without charge by writing to the Company's distributor, BlackRock Investments, LLC (the Distributor or BRIL), 1 University Square Drive, Princeton, NJ 08540, calling 1-800-iShares (1-800-474-2737) or visiting www.iShares.com. Each Fund's Prospectus is incorporated by reference into this SAI.
References to the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (the Investment Company Act or the 1940 Act), or other applicable law, will include any rules promulgated thereunder and any guidance, interpretations or modifications by the Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC), SEC staff or other authority with appropriate jurisdiction, including court interpretations, and exemptive, no action or other relief or permission from the SEC, SEC staff or other authority.


iShares® and BlackRock® are registered trademarks of BlackRock Fund Advisors and its affiliates.

1
Annual and Semi-Annual Report for the below fund, for which Citibank serves as administrator, custodian and transfer agent:
iShares MSCI USA Equal Weighted ETF
2
Annual and Semi-Annual Report for each of the below funds, for which State Street serves as administrator, custodian and transfer agent:
iShares MSCI Australia ETF, iShares MSCI Austria ETF, iShares MSCI Belgium ETF, iShares MSCI Canada ETF, iShares MSCI Eurozone ETF, iShares MSCI France ETF, iShares MSCI Germany ETF, iShares MSCI Hong Kong ETF, iShares MSCI Israel ETF, iShares MSCI Italy ETF, iShares MSCI Japan ETF, iShares MSCI Japan Small-Cap ETF, iShares MSCI Mexico ETF, iShares MSCI Netherlands ETF, iShares MSCI Pacific ex Japan ETF, iShares MSCI Singapore ETF, iShares MSCI South Africa ETF, iShares MSCI Spain ETF, iShares MSCI Sweden ETF, iShares MSCI Switzerland ETF, iShares MSCI Thailand ETF, iShares MSCI Turkey ETF and iShares MSCI World ETF


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General Description of the Company and the Funds
The Company currently consists of more than 50 investment series or portfolios. The Company was organized as a Maryland corporation on September 1, 1994 and is authorized to have multiple series or portfolios. The Company is an open-end management investment company registered with the SEC under the 1940 Act. The offering of the Company's shares is registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the 1933 Act). This SAI relates to the following Funds:
iShares MSCI Australia ETF
iShares MSCI Austria ETF
iShares MSCI Belgium ETF
iShares MSCI Canada ETF
iShares MSCI Eurozone ETF
iShares MSCI France ETF
iShares MSCI Germany ETF
iShares MSCI Hong Kong ETF
iShares MSCI Israel ETF
iShares MSCI Italy ETF
iShares MSCI Japan ETF
iShares MSCI Japan Small-Cap ETF
iShares MSCI Mexico ETF
iShares MSCI Netherlands ETF
iShares MSCI Pacific ex Japan ETF
iShares MSCI Singapore ETF
iShares MSCI South Africa ETF
iShares MSCI Spain ETF
iShares MSCI Sweden ETF
iShares MSCI Switzerland ETF
iShares MSCI Thailand ETF
iShares MSCI Turkey ETF
iShares MSCI USA Equal Weighted ETF
iShares MSCI World ETF
Each Fund is managed by BlackRock Fund Advisors (BFA), an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of BlackRock, Inc., and generally seeks to track the investment results of the specific benchmark index identified in the applicable Prospectus for that Fund (each, an Underlying Index).
Each Fund offers and issues shares at their net asset value per share (NAV) only in aggregations of a specified number of shares (each, a Creation Unit), generally in exchange for a designated portfolio of securities, assets or other positions (including any portion of such securities for which cash may be substituted) included in its Underlying Index (the Deposit Securities or Creation Basket), together with the deposit of a specified cash payment (the Cash Component). Shares of the Funds are listed for trading on national securities exchanges such as Cboe BZX Exchange, Inc. (Cboe BZX), The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC (Nasdaq) or NYSE Arca, Inc. (NYSE Arca) (each, a Listing Exchange). Shares of each Fund are traded in the secondary market and elsewhere at market prices that may be at, above or below the Fund's NAV. Shares are redeemable only in Creation Units by Authorized Participants (as defined in the Creation and Redemption of Creation Units-Role of the Authorized Participant section of this SAI) and, generally, in exchange for portfolio securities and a Cash Amount
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(as defined in the Redemption of Creation Units section of this SAI). Creation Units typically are a specified number of shares, generally ranging from 50,000 to 300,000 shares or multiples thereof.
The Company reserves the right to permit or require that creations and redemptions of shares are effected fully or partially in cash and reserves the right to permit or require the substitution of Deposit Securities in lieu of cash. Shares may be issued in advance of receipt of Deposit Securities, subject to various conditions, including a requirement that the Authorized Participant maintain with the Company collateral as set forth in the handbook for Authorized Participants. The Company may use such collateral at any time to purchase Deposit Securities. See the Creation and Redemption of Creation Units section of this SAI. Transaction fees and other costs associated with creations or redemptions that include a cash portion may be higher than the transaction fees and other costs associated with in-kind creations or redemptions. In all cases, conditions with respect to creations and redemptions of shares and fees will be limited in accordance with the requirements of SEC rules and regulations applicable to management investment companies offering redeemable securities.
Exchange Listing and Trading
A discussion of exchange listing and trading matters associated with an investment in each Fund is contained in the Shareholder Information section of each Fund's Prospectus. The discussion below supplements, and should be read in conjunction with, that section of the applicable Prospectus.
Shares of each Fund are listed for trading, and trade throughout the day, on the applicable Listing Exchange and in other secondary markets. Shares of the Funds may also be listed on certain non-U.S. exchanges. There can be no assurance that the requirements of the Listing Exchange necessary to maintain the listing of shares of any Fund will continue to be met. The Listing Exchange may, but is not required to, remove the shares of a Fund from listing if, among other things: (i) a Fund is no longer eligible to operate in reliance on Rule 6c-11 under the Investment Company Act; (ii) any of the other listing requirements are not continuously maintained; or (iii) any event shall occur or condition shall exist that, in the opinion of the Listing Exchange, makes further dealings on the Listing Exchange inadvisable. The Listing Exchange will also remove shares of a Fund from listing and trading upon termination of the Fund.
As in the case of other publicly-traded securities, when you buy or sell shares of a Fund through a broker, you may incur a brokerage commission determined by that broker, as well as other charges.
The Company reserves the right to adjust the share price of the Funds in the future to maintain convenient trading ranges for investors. Any adjustments would be accomplished through stock splits or reverse stock splits, which would have no effect on the net assets of the Funds or an investor's equity interest in the Funds.
Investment Strategies and Risks
Each Fund seeks to achieve its objective by investing primarily in securities issued by issuers that compose its relevant Underlying Index and in investments that provide substantially similar exposure to securities in the Underlying Index. Each Fund operates as an index fund and is not actively managed. Adverse performance of a security in a Fund’s portfolio will ordinarily not result in the elimination of the security from the Fund’s portfolio.
Each Fund engages in representative sampling, which is investing in a sample of securities selected by BFA to have a collective investment profile similar to that of the Fund's Underlying Index. Securities selected have aggregate investment characteristics (based on market capitalization and industry weightings), fundamental characteristics (such as return variability, earnings valuation and yield) and liquidity measures similar to those of the Fund’s Underlying Index. A fund that uses representative sampling generally does not hold all of the securities that are in its underlying index.
Although the Funds do not seek leveraged returns, certain instruments used by the Funds may have a leveraging effect as described below.
Borrowing. Each Fund may borrow for temporary or emergency purposes, including to meet payments due from redemptions or to facilitate the settlement of securities or other transactions. The iShares MSCI Australia ETF, iShares MSCI Austria ETF, iShares MSCI Belgium ETF, iShares MSCI Canada ETF, iShares MSCI France ETF, iShares MSCI Germany ETF, iShares MSCI Hong Kong ETF, iShares MSCI Israel ETF, iShares MSCI Italy ETF, iShares MSCI Japan ETF, iShares MSCI Japan
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Small-Cap ETF, iShares MSCI Mexico ETF, iShares MSCI Netherlands ETF, iShares MSCI Singapore ETF, iShares MSCI South Africa ETF, iShares MSCI Spain ETF, iShares MSCI Sweden ETF, iShares MSCI Switzerland ETF, iShares MSCI Thailand ETF and iShares MSCI Turkey ETF, along with certain other iShares funds, have entered into a syndicated line of credit with the Bank of New York Mellon (BNY), which serves as administrative agent for itself and the other banks. The syndicated line of credit may be used for temporary or emergency purposes, including redemption, settlement of trades and rebalancing of portfolio holdings.
Interest rates related to the syndicated line of credit are based on the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York plus a spread. Pursuant to the terms of the credit agreement, if SOFR were to cease being published or representative, it would be replaced by a rate based on an alternate benchmark selected by BNY.
The purchase of securities while borrowings are outstanding may have the effect of leveraging a Fund. The incurrence of leverage increases a Fund’s exposure to risk, and borrowed funds are subject to interest costs that will reduce net income. Purchasing securities while borrowings are outstanding creates special risks, such as the potential for greater volatility in the NAV of Fund shares and in the yield on a Fund’s portfolio. In addition, the interest expenses from borrowings may exceed the income generated by a Fund’s portfolio and, therefore, the amount available (if any) for distribution to shareholders as dividends may be reduced. BFA may determine to maintain outstanding borrowings if it expects that the benefits to a Fund’s shareholders will outweigh the current reduced return.
Certain types of borrowings by a Fund must be made from a bank or may result in a Fund being subject to covenants in credit agreements relating to asset coverage, portfolio composition requirements and other matters. It is not anticipated that observance of such covenants would impede BFA’s management of a Fund’s portfolio in accordance with a Fund’s investment objectives and policies. However, a breach of any such covenants not cured within the specified cure period may result in acceleration of outstanding indebtedness and require a Fund to dispose of portfolio investments at a time when it may be disadvantageous to do so.
Currency Transactions.A currency forward contract is an over-the-counter (OTC) obligation to purchase or sell a specific currency at a future date, which may be any fixed number of days greater than two days from the date on which the contract is agreed upon by the parties, at a price set at the time of the contract. A non-deliverable currency forward is an OTC currency forward settled in a specified currency, on a specified date, based on the difference between the agreed-upon exchange rate and the market exchange rate. A currency futures contract is a contract that trades on an organized futures exchange involving an obligation to deliver or acquire a specified amount of a specific currency, at a specified price and at a specified future time. Currency futures contracts may be settled on a net cash payment basis rather than by the sale and delivery of the underlying currency. The Funds do not expect to engage in currency transactions for the purpose of hedging against declines in the value of the Funds' assets that are denominated in a non-U.S. currency. A Fund may enter into non-U.S. currency forward and non-U.S. currency futures transactions to facilitate local securities settlements or to protect against currency exposure in connection with its distributions to shareholders, but may not enter into such contracts for speculative purposes.
Foreign exchange transactions involve a significant degree of risk and the markets in which foreign exchange transactions are effected may be highly volatile, highly specialized and highly technical. Significant changes, including changes in liquidity and prices, can occur in such markets within very short periods of time, often within minutes. Foreign exchange trading risks include, but are not limited to, exchange rate risk, counterparty risk, maturity gap, interest rate risk, and potential interference by foreign governments through regulation of local exchange markets, foreign investment or particular transactions in non-U.S. currency. If BFA utilizes foreign exchange transactions at an inappropriate time or judges market conditions, trends or correlations incorrectly, foreign exchange transactions may not serve their intended purpose of improving the correlation of a Fund's return with the performance of its Underlying Index and may lower the Fund’s return. A Fund could experience losses if the value of its currency forwards, options or futures positions were poorly correlated with its other investments or if it could not close out its positions because of an illiquid market or otherwise. In addition, a Fund could incur transaction costs, including trading commissions, in connection with certain non-U.S. currency transactions.
Diversification Status. The following table sets forth the diversification status of each Fund:
Diversified Funds
Non-Diversified Funds
iShares MSCI Canada ETF
iShares MSCI Australia ETF
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Diversified Funds
Non-Diversified Funds
iShares MSCI Eurozone ETF
iShares MSCI Austria ETF
iShares MSCI Japan ETF
iShares MSCI Belgium ETF
iShares MSCI Japan Small-Cap ETF
iShares MSCI France ETF
iShares MSCI Pacific ex Japan ETF*
iShares MSCI Germany ETF
iShares MSCI USA Equal Weighted ETF
iShares MSCI Hong Kong ETF
iShares MSCI World ETF
iShares MSCI Israel ETF
 
iShares MSCI Italy ETF
 
iShares MSCI Mexico ETF
 
iShares MSCI Netherlands ETF
 
iShares MSCI Singapore ETF
 
iShares MSCI South Africa ETF
 
iShares MSCI Spain ETF
 
iShares MSCI Sweden ETF
 
iShares MSCI Switzerland ETF
 
iShares MSCI Thailand ETF
 
iShares MSCI Turkey ETF

* The iShares MSCI Pacific ex Japan ETF intends to be diversified in approximately the same proportion as its Underlying Index is diversified. The iShares MSCI Pacific ex Japan ETF may become non-diversified, as defined in the 1940 Act, solely as a result of a change in relative market capitalization or index weighting of one or more constituents of its Underlying Index. Shareholder approval will not be sought if the iShares MSCI Pacific ex Japan ETF crosses from diversified to non-diversified status due solely to a change in its relative market capitalization or index weighting of one or more constituents of its Underlying Index. The Fund discloses its portfolio holdings and weightings at www.iShares.com.
A fund classified as diversified under the 1940 Act may not purchase securities of an issuer (other than (i) obligations issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government, its agencies or instrumentalities and (ii) securities of other investment companies) if, with respect to 75% of its total assets, (a) more than 5% of the fund’s total assets would be invested in securities of that issuer or (b) the fund would hold more than 10% of the outstanding voting securities of that issuer. With respect to the remaining 25% of its total assets, the fund may invest more than 5% of its assets in one issuer. Under the 1940 Act, a fund cannot change its classification from diversified to non-diversified without shareholder approval. However, while the iShares MSCI Pacific ex Japan ETF is classified as diversified, under applicable no-action relief from the SEC staff, the fund may become non-diversified, as defined in the 1940 Act, solely as a result of a change in relative market capitalization or index weighting of one or more constituents of its Underlying Index and such a change does not require shareholder approval.
A non-diversified fund is a fund that is not limited by the 1940 Act with regard to the percentage of its assets that may be invested in the securities of a single issuer. The securities of a particular issuer (or securities of issuers in particular industries) may constitute a significant percentage of the underlying index of such a fund and, consequently, the fund’s investment portfolio. This may adversely affect a fund’s performance or subject the fund’s shares to greater price volatility than that experienced by more diversified investment companies.
Each Fund (whether diversified or non-diversified) intends to maintain the required level of diversification and otherwise conduct its operations so as to qualify as a regulated investment company (RIC) for purposes of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the Internal Revenue Code), and to relieve the Fund of any liability for U.S. federal income tax to the extent that its earnings are distributed to shareholders, provided that the Fund satisfies a minimum distribution requirement. Compliance with the diversification requirements of the Internal Revenue Code may limit the investment flexibility of the Funds and may make it less likely that the Funds will meet their respective investment objectives.
Futures, Options on Futures and Securities Options.Futures contracts, options on futures and securities options may be used by a Fund to simulate investment in its Underlying Index, to facilitate trading or to reduce transaction costs. Each Fund may enter into futures contracts and options on futures that are traded on a U.S. or non-U.S. futures exchange. Each Fund
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will not use futures, options on futures or securities options for speculative purposes. Each Fund intends to use futures and options on futures in accordance with Rule 4.5 of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (the CFTC) promulgated under the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA). BFA, with respect to certain Funds, has claimed an exclusion from the definition of the term commodity pool operator in accordance with Rule 4.5 so that BFA, with respect to such Funds, is not subject to registration or regulation as a commodity pool operator under the CEA. See the Regulation Regarding Derivatives section of this SAI for more information.
Futures contracts provide for the future sale by one party and purchase by another party of a specified amount of a specific instrument or index at a specified future time and at a specified price. Stock index contracts are based on investments that reflect the market value of common stock of the firms included in the investments. Each Fund may enter into futures contracts to purchase securities indexes when BFA anticipates purchasing the underlying securities and believes prices will rise before the purchase will be made. Upon entering into a futures contract, a Fund will be required to deposit with the broker an amount of cash or cash equivalents known as initial margin, which is similar to a performance bond or good faith deposit on the contract and is returned to the Fund upon termination of the futures contract if all contractual obligations have been satisfied. Subsequent payments, known as variation margin, will be made to and from the broker daily as the price of the instrument or index underlying the futures contract fluctuates, making the long and short positions in the futures contract more or less valuable, a process known as marking-to-market. At any time prior to the expiration of a futures contract, each Fund may elect to close the position by taking an opposite position, which will operate to terminate the Fund’s existing position in the contract. An option on a futures contract, as contrasted with a direct investment in such a contract, gives the purchaser the right, but no obligation, in return for the premium paid, to assume a position in the underlying futures contract at a specified exercise price at any time prior to the expiration date of the option. Upon exercise of an option, the delivery of the futures position by the writer of the option to the holder of the option will be accompanied by delivery of the accumulated balance in the writer’s futures margin account that represents the amount by which the market price of the futures contract exceeds (in the case of a call) or is less than (in the case of a put) the exercise price of the option on the futures contract.
The potential for loss related to the purchase of an option on a futures contract is limited to the premium paid for the option plus transaction costs. Because the value of the option is fixed at the point of sale, there are no daily cash payments by the purchaser to reflect changes in the value of the underlying contract; however, the value of the option changes daily and that change would be reflected in the NAV of each Fund. The potential for loss related to writing call options is unlimited. The potential for loss related to writing put options is limited to the agreed-upon price per share, also known as the strike price, less the premium received from writing the put. Certain of the Funds may purchase and write put and call options on futures contracts that are traded on an exchange as a hedge against changes in value of their portfolio securities or in anticipation of the purchase of securities, and may enter into closing transactions with respect to such options to terminate existing positions. There is no guarantee that such closing transactions can be effected.
Securities options may be used by a Fund to obtain access to securities in its Underlying Index or to dispose of securities in its Underlying Index at favorable prices, to invest cash in a securities index that offers similar exposure to that provided by its Underlying Index or otherwise to achieve the Fund’s objective of tracking its Underlying Index.A call option gives a holder the right to purchase a specific security at a specified price (exercise price) within a specified period of time. A put option gives a holder the right to sell a specific security at an exercise price within a specified period of time. The initial purchaser of a call option pays the writer a premium, which is paid at the time of purchase and is retained by the writer whether or not such option is exercised. Each Fund may purchase put options to hedge its portfolio against the risk of a decline in the market value of securities held and may purchase call options to hedge against an increase in the price of securities it is committed to purchase. Each Fund may write put and call options along with a long position in options to increase its ability to hedge against a change in the market value of the securities it holds or is committed to purchase. Each Fund may purchase or sell securities options on a U.S. or non-U.S. securities exchange or in the OTC market through a transaction with a dealer. Options on a securities index are typically settled on a net basis based on the appreciation or depreciation of the index level over the strike price. Options on single name securities may be cash- or physically-settled, depending upon the market in which they are traded. Options may be structured so as to be exercisable only on certain dates or on a daily basis. Options may also be structured to have conditions to exercise (i.e., Knock-in Events) or conditions that trigger termination (i.e., Knock-out Events).
Lending Portfolio Securities.Each Fund may lend portfolio securities to certain borrowers that BFA determines to be creditworthy, including borrowers affiliated with BFA. The borrowers provide collateral that is maintained in an amount at least equal to the current market value of the securities loaned. No securities loan shall be made on behalf of a Fund if, as a
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result, the aggregate value of all securities loans of the particular Fund exceeds one-third of the value of such Fund's total assets (including the value of the collateral received). A Fund may terminate a loan at any time and obtain the return of the securities loaned. Each Fund receives, by way of substitute payment, the value of any interest or cash or non-cash distributions paid on the loaned securities that it would have otherwise received if the securities were not on loan.
With respect to loans that are collateralized by cash, the borrower may be entitled to receive a fee based on the amount of cash collateral. The Funds are compensated by any positive difference between the amount earned on the reinvestment of cash collateral and the fee paid to the borrower. In the case of collateral other than cash, a Fund is compensated by a fee paid by the borrower equal to a percentage of the market value of the loaned securities. Any cash collateral received by the Fund for such loans, and uninvested cash, may be reinvested in certain short-term instruments either directly on behalf of each Fund or through one or more joint accounts or money market funds, including those affiliated with BFA; such investments are subject to investment risk.
Each Fund conducts its securities lending pursuant to an exemptive order from the SEC permitting it to lend portfolio securities to borrowers affiliated with the Fund and to retain an affiliate of the Fund to act as securities lending agent. To the extent that a Fund engages in securities lending, BlackRock Institutional Trust Company, N.A. (BTC) acts as securities lending agent for the Fund, subject to the overall supervision of BFA. BTC administers the lending program in accordance with guidelines approved by the Company's Board of Directors (the Board, the directors of which are the Directors). JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (JPMorgan) serves as custodian for the Funds in connection with certain securities lending activities.
Securities lending involves exposure to certain risks, including operational risk (i.e., the risk of losses resulting from problems in the settlement and accounting process), gap risk (i.e., the risk of a mismatch between the return on cash collateral reinvestments and the fees a Fund has agreed to pay a borrower), foreign exchange risk (i.e., the risk of a shortfall at default when a cash collateral investment is denominated in a currency other than the currency of the assets being loaned due to movements in foreign exchange rates), and credit, legal, counterparty and market risks (including the risk that market events could lead the Fund to recall loaned securities or to lend less or not at all, which could lead to reduced securities lending revenue). If a securities lending counterparty were to default, a Fund would be subject to the risk of a possible delay in receiving collateral or in recovering the loaned securities, or to a possible loss of rights in the collateral. In the event a borrower does not return a Fund’s securities as agreed, the Fund’s ability to participate in a corporate action event may be impacted, or the Fund may experience losses if the proceeds received from liquidating the collateral do not at least equal the value of the loaned security at the time the collateral is liquidated, plus the transaction costs incurred in purchasing replacement securities. This latter event could trigger adverse tax consequences for a Fund. A Fund could lose money if its short-term investment of the collateral declines in value over the period of the loan. Substitute payments received by a Fund representing dividends paid on securities loaned out by the Fund will not be considered qualified dividend income. BTC will take into account the tax effects on shareholders caused by this difference in connection with a Fund’s securities lending program. Substitute payments received on tax-exempt securities loaned out will not be tax-exempt income. There could also be changes in the status of issuers under applicable laws and regulations, including tax regulations, that may impact the regulatory or tax treatment of loaned securities and could, for example, result in a delay in the payment of dividend equivalent payments owed to a Fund (as permitted by applicable law).
Regulations adopted by global prudential regulators require certain bank-regulated counterparties and certain of their affiliates to include in certain financial contracts, including many securities lending agreements, terms that delay or restrict the rights of counterparties, such as the Fund, to terminate such agreements, foreclose upon collateral, exercise other default rights or restrict transfers of credit support in the event that the counterparty and/or its affiliates are subject to certain types of resolution or insolvency proceedings. It is possible that these requirements, as well as potential additional government regulation and other developments in the market, could adversely affect the Fund’s ability to terminate existing securities lending agreements or to realize amounts to be received under such agreements.
Liquidity Risk Management.Rule 22e-4 under the Investment Company Act (the Liquidity Rule) requires open-end funds, including exchange-traded funds (ETFs) such as the Funds, to establish a liquidity risk management program (the Liquidity Program) and enhance disclosures regarding fund liquidity. As required by the Liquidity Rule, the Funds have implemented a Liquidity Program, and the Board, including a majority of the Independent Directors of the Company, has appointed BFA as the administrator of the Liquidity Program. Under the Liquidity Program, BFA assesses, manages, and periodically reviews each Fund’s liquidity risk and classifies each investment held by a Fund as a highly liquid investment, moderately liquid investment, less liquid investment or illiquid investment. The Liquidity Rule defines liquidity risk as
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the risk that a Fund could not meet requests to redeem shares issued by a Fund without significant dilution of the remaining investors’ interest in a Fund. The liquidity of a Fund's portfolio investments is determined based on relevant market, trading and investment-specific considerations under the Liquidity Program. There are exclusions from certain portions of the liquidity risk management program requirements for in-kind ETFs, as defined in the Liquidity Rule. To the extent that an investment is deemed to be an illiquid investment or a less liquid investment, a Fund can expect to be exposed to greater liquidity risk.
Non-U.S. Securities.Certain Funds intend to purchase publicly traded common stocks of non-U.S. issuers. To the extent a Fund invests in stocks of non-U.S. issuers, certain of the Fund's investments in such stocks may be in the form of American Depositary Receipts (ADRs), Global Depositary Receipts (GDRs), Non-Voting Depositary Receipts (NVDRs) and European Depositary Receipts (EDRs) (collectively, depositary receipts). Depositary receipts are receipts, typically issued by a bank or trust issuer, which evidence ownership of underlying securities issued by a non-U.S. issuer. Depositary receipts may not necessarily be denominated in the same currency as their underlying securities. ADRs typically are issued by a U.S. bank or trust company and evidence ownership of underlying securities issued by a non-U.S. issuer. EDRs, which are sometimes referred to as continental depositary receipts, are receipts issued in Europe, typically by foreign banks and trust companies, that evidence ownership of either foreign or domestic underlying securities. GDRs are depositary receipts structured like global debt issues to facilitate trading on an international basis. Generally, ADRs, issued in registered form, are designed for use in the U.S. securities markets, and EDRs, issued in bearer form, are designed for use in European securities markets. NVDRs are designed for use in the Thai securities market. GDRs are tradable both in the U.S. and in Europe and are designed for use throughout the world.
Depositary receipts are generally subject to the same risks as the foreign securities that they evidence or into which they may be converted. In addition to investment risks associated with the underlying issuer, depositary receipts expose a Fund to additional risks associated with the non-uniform terms that apply to depositary receipt programs, credit exposure to the depository bank and to the sponsors and other parties with whom the depository bank establishes the programs, currency risk and liquidity risk. Unsponsored programs, which are not sanctioned by the issuer of the underlying common stock, generally expose investors to greater risks than sponsored programs and do not provide holders with many of the shareholder benefits that come from investing in a sponsored depositary receipts.
Investing in the securities of non-U.S. issuers involves special risks and considerations not typically associated with investing in U.S. issuers. These include differences in accounting, auditing and financial reporting standards; the possibility of expropriation or confiscatory taxation; adverse changes in investment or exchange control regulations; political instability, which could affect U.S. investments in non-U.S. countries; and potential restrictions on the flow of international capital. Non-U.S. issuers may be subject to less governmental regulation than U.S. issuers. Moreover, individual non-U.S. economies may differ favorably or unfavorably from the U.S. economy in such respects as growth of gross domestic product (GDP), rate of inflation, capital reinvestment, resource self-sufficiency and balance of payment positions.
Regulation Regarding Derivatives.The CFTC subjects advisers to registered investment companies to regulation by the CFTC if a fund that is advised by the adviser either (i) invests, directly or indirectly, more than a prescribed level of its liquidation value in CFTC-regulated futures, options and swaps(CFTC Derivatives) or (ii) markets itself as providing investment exposure to such instruments. The CFTC also subjects advisers to registered investment companies to regulation by the CFTC if the registered investment company invests in one or more commodity pools. To the extent a Fund uses CFTC Derivatives, it intends to do so below such prescribed levels and intends not to market itself as a commodity pool or a vehicle for trading such instruments.
BFA has claimed an exclusion from the definition of the term commodity pool operator under the CEA pursuant to Rule 4.5 under the CEA with respect to each of the Funds. BFA is not, therefore, subject to registration or regulation as a commodity pool operator under the CEA with respect to the Funds.
The iShares MSCI Australia ETF, iShares MSCI Belgium ETF, iShares MSCI Canada ETF, iShares MSCI Eurozone ETF, iShares MSCI France ETF, iShares MSCI Hong Kong ETF, iShares MSCI Israel ETF, iShares MSCI Italy ETF, iShares MSCI Japan ETF, iShares MSCI Japan Small-Cap ETF, iShares MSCI Mexico ETF, iShares MSCI Netherlands ETF, iShares MSCI Pacific ex Japan ETF, iShares MSCI Singapore ETF, iShares MSCI South Africa ETF, iShares MSCI Spain ETF, iShares MSCI Turkey ETF, iShares MSCI USA Equal Weighted ETF and iShares MSCI World ETF (the No-Action Letter Funds) may also have investments in underlying funds (and such underlying funds themselves may invest in underlying funds) not advised by BFA (the term underlying fund for purposes of the no-action letter referenced below may include, but is not limited to, certain securitized
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vehicles, mortgage or international real estate investment trusts (REITs), business development companies and investment companies that may invest in CFTC Derivatives or in any of the foregoing), and therefore may be viewed by the CFTC as commodity pools. BFA may not have transparency into the holdings of these underlying funds because they are not advised by BFA. To address this issue of lack of transparency, the CFTC staff issued a no-action letter on November 29, 2012 permitting the adviser of a fund that invests in such underlying funds and that would otherwise have filed a claim of exclusion pursuant to CFTC Rule 4.5 to delay registration as a commodity pool operator until six months from the date on which the CFTC issues additional guidance on the treatment of CFTC Derivatives held by underlying funds. BFA, the adviser of the No-Action Letter Funds, has filed a claim with the CFTC for such funds to rely on this no-action relief. Accordingly, BFA is not currently subject to registration or regulation as a commodity pool operator under the CEA in respect of such funds.
Derivative contracts, including, without limitation, swaps, currency forwards, and non-deliverable forwards, are subject to regulation under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) in the U.S. and under comparable regimes in Europe, Asia and other non-U.S. jurisdictions. Swaps, non-deliverable forwards and certain other derivatives traded in the OTC market are subject to variation margin and initial margin requirements. Implementation of the margining and other provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act regarding clearing, mandatory trading, reporting and documentation of swaps and other derivatives have impacted and may continue to impact the costs to a Fund of trading these instruments and, as a result, may affect returns to investors in such Fund.
Rule 18f-4 under the Investment Company Act permits a Fund to enter into Derivatives Transactions (as defined below) and certain other transactions notwithstanding the restrictions on the issuance of senior securities under Section 18 of the Investment Company Act. Section 18 of the Investment Company Act, among other things, prohibits open-end funds, including the Funds, from issuing or selling any senior security, other than borrowing from a bank (subject to a requirement to maintain 300% asset coverage).
Under Rule 18f-4, Derivatives Transactions include the following: (1) any swap, security-based swap (including a contract for differences), futures contract, forward contract, option (excluding purchased options), any combination of the foregoing, or any similar instrument, under which a Fund is or may be required to make any payment or delivery of cash or other assets during the life of the instrument or at maturity or early termination, whether as margin or settlement payment or otherwise; (2) any short sale borrowing; (3) reverse repurchase agreements and similar financing transactions (e.g., recourse and non-recourse tender option bonds, and borrowed bonds), if a Fund elects to treat these transactions as Derivatives Transactions under Rule 18f-4; and (4) when-issued or forward-settling securities (e.g., firm and standby commitments, including to-be-announced (TBA) commitments, and dollar rolls) and non-standard settlement cycle securities, unless the Fund intends to physically settle the transaction and the transaction will settle within 35 days of its trade date (the Delayed-Settlement Securities Provision).
Unless a Fund is relying on the Limited Derivatives User Exception (as defined below), the Fund must comply with Rule 18f-4 with respect to its Derivatives Transactions. Rule 18f-4, among other things, requires a Fund to adopt and implement a comprehensive written derivatives risk management program (DRMP) and comply with a relative or absolute limit on Fund leverage risk calculated based on value-at-risk (VaR). The DRMP is administered by a derivatives risk manager, who is appointed by the Board, including a majority of Independent Directors/Trustees, and periodically reviews the DRMP and reports to the Board.
Rule 18f-4 provides an exception from the DRMP, VaR limit and certain other requirements if a Fund's derivatives exposure (as defined in Rule 18f-4) is limited to 10% of its net assets (as calculated in accordance with Rule 18f-4) and the Fund adopts and implements written policies and procedures reasonably designed to manage its derivatives risks (the Limited Derivatives User Exception).
Repurchase Agreements.A repurchase agreement is an instrument under which the purchaser (i.e., a Fund) acquires a security and the seller agrees, at the time of the sale, to repurchase the security at a mutually agreed-upon time and price, thereby determining the yield during the purchaser’s holding period. Repurchase agreements may be construed to be collateralized loans by the purchaser to the seller secured by the securities transferred to the purchaser. If a repurchase agreement is construed to be a collateralized loan, the underlying securities will not be considered to be owned by a Fund but only to constitute collateral for the seller’s obligation to pay the repurchase price, and, in the event of a default by the seller, the Fund may suffer time delays and incur costs or losses in connection with the disposition of the collateral.
In any repurchase transaction, the collateral for a repurchase agreement may include: (i) cash items; (ii) obligations issued by the U.S. government or its agencies or instrumentalities; or (iii) obligations that, at the time the repurchase agreement is
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entered into, are determined to (A) have exceptionally strong capacity to meet their financial obligations and (B) are sufficiently liquid such that they can be sold at approximately their carrying value in the ordinary course of business within seven days.
Repurchase agreements pose certain risks for a Fund that utilizes them. Such risks are not unique to the Funds, but are inherent in repurchase agreements. The Funds seek to minimize such risks, but because of the inherent legal uncertainties involved in repurchase agreements, such risks cannot be eliminated. Lower quality collateral and collateral with a longer maturity may be subject to greater price fluctuations than higher quality collateral and collateral with a shorter maturity. If the repurchase agreement counterparty were to default, lower quality collateral may be more difficult to liquidate than higher quality collateral. Should the counterparty default and the amount of collateral not be sufficient to cover the counterparty’s repurchase obligation, a Fund would likely retain the status of an unsecured creditor of the counterparty (i.e., the position a Fund would normally be in if it were to hold, pursuant to its investment policies, other unsecured debt securities of the defaulting counterparty) with respect to the amount of the shortfall. As an unsecured creditor, a Fund would be at risk of losing some or all of the principal and income involved in the transaction.
Reverse Repurchase Agreements.Reverse repurchase agreements involve the sale of securities with an agreement to repurchase the securities at an agreed-upon price, date and interest payment and have the characteristics of borrowing. Generally, the effect of such transactions is that a Fund can recover all or most of the cash invested in the portfolio securities involved during the term of the reverse repurchase agreement, while in many cases the Fund is able to keep some of the interest income associated with those securities. Such transactions are advantageous only if a Fund has an opportunity to earn a rate of interest on the cash derived from these transactions that is greater than the interest cost of obtaining the same amount of cash. Opportunities to realize earnings from the use of the proceeds equal to or greater than the interest required to be paid may not always be available, and a Fund intends to use the reverse repurchase technique only when BFA believes it will be advantageous to the Fund. The use of reverse repurchase agreements may exaggerate any increase or decrease in the value of a Fund’s assets. The use of reverse repurchase agreements is a form of leverage, and the proceeds obtained by a Fund through reverse repurchase agreements may be invested in additional securities.
Rule 18f-4 under the Investment Company Act permits a Fund to enter into reverse repurchase agreements and similar financing transactions (e.g., recourse and non-recourse tender option bonds, borrowed bonds) notwithstanding the limitation on the issuance of senior securities in Section 18 of the Investment Company Act, provided that a Fund either (i) complies with the 300% asset coverage ratio with respect to such transactions and any other borrowings in the aggregate, or (ii) treats such transactions as Derivatives Transactions under Rule 18f-4. (See Regulation Regarding Derivatives above.)
Securities of Investment Companies.Each Fund may invest in the securities of other investment companies (including money market funds) to the extent permitted by law. Pursuant to the 1940 Act, a Fund’s investment in registered investment companies is generally limited to, subject to certain exceptions: (i) 3% of the total outstanding voting stock of any one investment company; (ii) 5% of a Fund’s total assets with respect to any one investment company; and (iii) 10% of a Fund’s total assets with respect to investment companies in the aggregate. Other investment companies in which a Fund may invest can be expected to incur fees and expenses for operations, such as investment advisory and administration fees, which would be in addition to those incurred by the Fund. Pursuant to guidance issued by the SEC staff, fees and expenses of money market funds used for cash collateral received in connection with loans of securities are not treated as Acquired Fund Fees and Expenses, which reflect a Fund’s pro rata share of the fees and expenses incurred by investing in other investment companies (as disclosed in the Prospectus, as applicable).
Short-Term Instruments and Temporary Investments.Each Fund may invest in short-term instruments, including money market instruments, on an ongoing basis to provide liquidity or for other reasons. Money market instruments are generally short-term investments that may include, but are not limited to: (i) shares of money market funds (including those advised by BFA or otherwise affiliated with BFA); (ii) obligations issued or guaranteed by the U.S. government, its agencies or instrumentalities (including government-sponsored enterprises); (iii) negotiable certificates of deposit, bankers’ acceptances, fixed-time deposits and other obligations of U.S. and non-U.S. banks (including non-U.S. branches) and similar institutions; (iv) commercial paper rated, at the date of purchase, Prime-1 by Moody's® Investors Service, Inc., F-1 by Fitch Ratings, Inc., or A-1 by Standard & Poor's® Financial Services LLC, a subsidiary of S&P Global, Inc., or if unrated, of comparable quality as determined by BFA; (v) non-convertible corporate debt securities (e.g., bonds and debentures) with remaining maturities at the date of purchase of not more than 397 days and that have been determined to present minimal credit risks, in accordance with the requirements set forth in Rule 2a-7 under the 1940 Act; (vi) repurchase agreements; and (vii) short-term U.S. dollar-denominated obligations of non-U.S. banks (including U.S. branches) that, in the opinion of BFA, are of
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comparable quality to obligations of U.S. banks that may be purchased by a Fund. Any of these instruments may be purchased on a current or forward-settled basis. Time deposits are non-negotiable deposits maintained in banking institutions for specified periods of time at stated interest rates. Bankers’ acceptances are time drafts drawn on commercial banks by borrowers, usually in connection with international transactions.
Swap Agreements.Swap agreements are contracts between parties in which one party agrees to make periodic payments to the other party based on a pre-determined underlying investment or notional amount. In return, the other party agrees to make periodic payments to the first party based on the return (or a differential in rate of return) earned or realized on the underlying investment or notional amount. Swap agreements will usually be performed on a net basis, with a Fund receiving or paying only the net amount of the two payments. The net amount of the excess, if any, of a Fund’s obligations over its entitlements with respect to each swap is accrued on a daily basis.
The Funds may enter into swap agreements, including currency swaps, interest rate swaps and index swaps, or for the iShares MSCI Hong Kong ETF, iShares MSCI Singapore ETF and iShares MSCI Spain ETF, total return swaps (some of which may be referred to as contracts for difference or (CFDs)). The use of swaps is a highly specialized activity that involves investment techniques and risks different from those associated with ordinary portfolio security transactions. These transactions generally do not involve the delivery of securities or other underlying assets.
Tracking Stocks.A tracking stock is a separate class of common stock whose value is linked to a specific business unit or operating division within a larger company and is designed to track the performance of such business unit or division. The tracking stock may pay dividends to shareholders independent of the parent company. The parent company, rather than the business unit or division, generally is the issuer of tracking stock. However, holders of the tracking stock may not have the same rights as holders of the company’s common stock.
Future Developments.The Board may, in the future, authorize each Fund to invest in securities contracts and investments, other than those listed in this SAI and in the applicable Prospectuses, provided they are consistent with each Fund's investment objective and do not violate any of its investment restrictions or policies.
General Considerations and Risks
A discussion of some of the principal risks associated with an investment in a Fund is contained in the applicable Prospectus.
An investment in a Fund should be made with an understanding that the value of the Fund’s portfoliosecurities may fluctuate in accordance with changes in the financial condition of the issuers of the portfolio securities, the value of stocks in general, and other factors that affect the market. The order of the below risk factors does not indicate the significance of any particular risk factor.
Borrowing Risk. Borrowing may exaggerate changes in the NAV of Fund shares and in the return on a Fund’s portfolio. Borrowing will cause a Fund to incur interest expense and other fees. The costs of borrowing may reduce a Fund’s return. Borrowing may cause a Fund to liquidate positions when it may not be advantageous to do so to satisfy its obligations.
Commodities Investment Risk. Exposure to commodities markets may subject a Fund to greater volatility than investments in traditional securities. The commodities markets have experienced periods of extreme volatility. Similar future market conditions may result in rapid and substantial valuation increases or decreases in a Fund’s holdings.
The commodities markets may fluctuate widely based on a variety of factors. Movements in commodity investment prices are outside of a Fund's control and may not be anticipated by BFA. Price movements may be influenced by, among other things: governmental, agricultural, trade, fiscal, monetary and exchange control programs and policies; changing market and economic conditions; market liquidity; weather and climate conditions, including droughts and floods; livestock disease; changing supply and demand relationships and levels of domestic production and imported commodities; changes in storage costs; the availability of local, intrastate and interstate transportation systems; energy conservation; the success of exploration projects; changes in international balances of payments and trade; domestic and foreign rates of inflation; currency devaluations and revaluations; domestic and foreign political and economic events; domestic and foreign interest rates and/or investor expectations concerning interest rates; foreign currency/exchange rates; domestic and foreign governmental regulation and taxation; war, acts of terrorism and other political upheaval and conflicts; governmental
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expropriation; investment and trading activities of mutual funds, hedge funds and commodities funds; and changes in philosophies and emotions of market participants. The frequency and magnitude of such changes cannot be predicted.
The prices of commodities can also fluctuate widely due to supply and demand disruptions in major producing or consuming regions. Certain commodities or natural resources may be produced in a limited number of countries and may be controlled by a small number of producers or groups of producers. As a result, political, economic, regulatory and supply-related events in such countries could have a disproportionate impact on the prices of such commodities.
A decrease in the production of a physical commodity or a decrease in the volume of such commodity available for transportation, mining, processing, storage or distribution may adversely impact the financial performance of a commodity or commodity-related company that devotes a portion of its business to that commodity. Production declines and volume decreases could be caused by various factors, including catastrophic events affecting production, depletion of resources, labor difficulties, environmental proceedings, increased regulations, equipment failures and unexpected maintenance problems, import supply disruption, governmental expropriation, political upheaval or conflicts or increased competition from alternative energy sources or commodity prices. Agricultural commodities may be adversely affected by weather or other natural phenomena, such as drought, floods and pests.
A sustained decline in demand for such commodities could also adversely affect the financial performance of commodity-related companies. Factors that could lead to a decline in demand include economic recession or other adverse economic conditions, higher taxes on commodities or increased governmental regulations, increases in fuel economy, consumer shifts to the use of alternative commodities or fuel sources, changes in commodity prices, or weather.
The commodity markets are subject to temporary distortions and other disruptions due to, among other factors, lack of liquidity, the participation of speculators, and government regulation and other actions. U.S. futures exchanges and some foreign exchanges limit the amount of fluctuation in futures contract prices which may occur in a single business day (generally referred to as daily price fluctuation limits). The maximum or minimum price of a contract as a result of these limits is referred to as a limit price. If the limit price has been reached in a particular contract, no trades may be made beyond the limit price. Limit prices have the effect of precluding trading in a particular contract or forcing the liquidation of contracts at disadvantageous times or prices.
Custody Risk. Custody risk refers to the risks inherent in the process of clearing and settling trades and to the holding of securities, cash and other assets by local banks, agents and depositories. Low trading volumes and volatile prices in less developed markets make trades harder to complete and settle, and governments or trade groups may compel local agents to hold securities in designated depositories that may not be subject to independent evaluation. Local agents are held only to the standards of care of their local markets, and thus may be subject to limited or no government oversight. Communications between the U.S. and emerging market countries may be unreliable, increasing the risk of delayed settlements or losses of security certificates. In general, the less developed a country’s securities market is, the greater the likelihood of custody problems. Practices in relation to the settlement of securities transactions in emerging markets involve higher risks than those in developed markets, in part because of the use of brokers and counterparties that are often less well capitalized, and custody and registration of assets in some countries may be unreliable. The possibility of fraud, negligence or undue influence being exerted by the issuer or refusal to recognize ownership exists in some emerging markets, and, along with other factors, could result in ownership registration being lost. In addition, the laws of certain countries may put limits on a Fund’s ability to recover its assets if a foreign bank or depository or issuer of a security or an agent of any of the foregoing goes bankrupt. A Fund would absorb any loss resulting from such custody problems and may have no successful claim for compensation.
Dividend-Paying Stock Risk. Investing in dividend-paying stocks involves the risk that such stocks may fall out of favor with investors and underperform the broader market. Companies that issue dividend-paying stocks are not required to pay or continue paying dividends on such stocks. It is possible that issuers of the stocks held by a Fund will not declare dividends in the future or will reduce or eliminate the payment of dividends (including reducing or eliminating anticipated accelerations or increases in the payment of dividends) in the future.
Illiquid Investments Risk.Each Fund may not acquire any illiquid investment if, immediately after the acquisition, the Fund would have invested more than 15% of its net assets in illiquid investments. An illiquid investment is any investment that a Fund reasonably expects cannot be sold or disposed of in current market conditions in seven calendar days or less without significantly changing the market value of the investment. The liquidity of an investment will be determined based on relevant market, trading and investment specific considerations as set out in the Liquidity Program as required by the
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Liquidity Rule. Illiquid investments may trade at a discount to comparable, more liquid investments and a Fund may not be able to dispose of illiquid investments in a timely fashion or at their expected prices. If illiquid investments exceed 15% of a Fund’s net assets, the Liquidity Rule and the Liquidity Program will require that certain remedial actions be taken.
Money Market Instruments Risk. A Fund may hold money market instruments. The value of money market instruments may be affected by changes in interest rates or in the credit ratings of the investments, among other things. If a significant amount of a Fund's assets is invested in money market instruments, it may be more difficult for the Fund to achieve its investment objective. An investment in a money market fund is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. It is possible to lose money by investing in a money market fund. Money market funds other than U.S. government money market funds and retail money market funds float their NAV instead of using a stable $1.00 per share price.
Operational Risk.BFA and a Fund's other service providers may experience disruptions or operating errors such as processing errors or human errors, inadequate or failed internal or external processes, or systems or technology failures, that could negatively impact the Funds. While service providers are required to have appropriate operational risk management policies and procedures, their methods of operational risk management may differ from a Fund’s in the setting of priorities, the personnel and resources available or the effectiveness of relevant controls. BFA, through its monitoring and oversight of service providers, seeks to ensure that service providers take appropriate precautions to avoid and mitigate risks that could lead to disruptions and operating errors. However, it is not possible for BFA or the other Fund service providers to identify all of the operational risks that may affect a Fund or to develop processes and controls to completely eliminate or mitigate their occurrence or effects.
Reference Rate Replacement Risk. A Fund may be exposed to financial instruments that recently transitioned from, or continue to be tied to, the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) to determine payment obligations, financing terms, hedging strategies or investment value. The FCA, which regulates LIBOR, has ceased publishing all LIBOR settings. In April 2023, however, the FCA announced that some USD LIBOR settings will continue to be published under a synthetic methodology until September 30, 2024 for certain legacy contracts. The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), which is a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by U.S. Treasury securities in the repurchase agreement market, has been used increasingly on a voluntary basis in new instruments and transactions. Under U.S. regulations that implement a statutory fallback mechanism to replace LIBOR, benchmark rates based on SOFR have replaced LIBOR in different categories of financial contracts.
Neither the effect of the LIBOR transition process nor its ultimate success can yet be known. While some existing LIBOR-based instruments may contemplate a scenario where LIBOR is no longer available by providing for an alternative rate-setting methodology, there may be significant uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of any such alternative methodologies to replicate LIBOR. Not all existing LIBOR-based instruments may have alternative rate-setting provisions and there remains uncertainty regarding the willingness and ability of issuers to add alternative rate-setting provisions in certain existing instruments. Parties to contracts, securities, or other instruments using LIBOR may disagree on transition rates or the application of transition regulation, potentially resulting in uncertainty of performance and the possibility of litigation. A Fund may have instruments linked to other interbank offered rates that may also cease to be published in the future.
Risk of Derivatives.A derivative is a financial contract, the value of which depends on, or is derived from, the value of an underlying asset, such as a security, a commodity (such as gold or silver), a currency or an index (a measure of value or rates, such as the S&P 500® or the prime lending rate). A Fund may invest in futures contracts, securities options, CFDs (for the iShares MSCI Hong Kong ETF, iShares MSCI Singapore ETF and iShares MSCI Spain ETF) and other derivatives. Compared to securities, derivatives can be more sensitive to changes in interest rates or to sudden fluctuations in market prices and thus a Fund’s losses may be greater if it invests in derivatives than if it invests only in conventional securities. Derivatives are also subject to counterparty risk, which is the risk that the other party in the transaction will not fulfill its contractual obligations. Derivatives generally involve the incurrence of leverage.
When a derivative is used as a hedge against a position that a Fund holds or is committed to purchase, any loss generated by the derivative generally should be substantially offset by gains on the hedged investment, and vice versa. While hedging can reduce or eliminate losses, it can also reduce or eliminate gains and, in some cases, hedging can cause losses that are not offset by gains, and a Fund will recognize losses on both the investment and the hedge. Hedges are sometimes subject to imperfect matching between the derivative and the underlying security, and there can be no assurance that a Fund's hedging transactions, which entail additional transaction costs, will be effective.
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Risk of Equity Securities.An investment in a Fund should be made with an understanding of the risks inherent in an investment in equity securities, including the risk that the financial condition of issuers may become impaired or that the general condition of stock markets may deteriorate (either of which may cause a decrease in the value of the portfolio securities and thus in the value of shares of the Fund). Common stocks are susceptible to general stock market fluctuations and to increases and decreases in value as market confidence and perceptions of their issuers change. These investor perceptions are based on various and unpredictable factors, including expectations regarding government, economic, monetary and fiscal policies, inflation and interest rates, economic expansion or contraction, and global or regional political, economic or banking crises. Common stocks may experience extreme price volatility due to actions taken by particular investors or groups of investors (for example, retail investors influenced by social media activity or other media coverage or significant short positions taken by institutional investors).
Holders of common stocks incur more risks than holders of preferred stocks and debt obligations because common stockholders generally have rights to receive payments from stock issuers that are inferior to the rights of creditors, or holders of debt obligations or preferred stocks. Further, unlike debt securities, which typically have a stated principal amount payable at maturity (the value of which, however, is subject to market fluctuations prior to maturity), or preferred stocks, which typically have a liquidation preference and which may have stated optional or mandatory redemption provisions, common stocks have neither a fixed principal amount nor a maturity date. In addition, issuers may, in times of distress or at their own discretion, decide to reduce or eliminate dividends, which may also cause their stock price to decline.
Although most of the securities in each Underlying Index are listed on a securities exchange, the principal trading market for some of the securities may be in the OTC market. The existence of a liquid trading market for certain securities may depend on whether dealers will make a market in such securities. There can be no assurance that a market will be made or maintained or that any such market will be or remain liquid. The price at which securities may be sold and the value of a Fund’s shares will be adversely affected if trading markets for the Fund’s portfolio securities are limited or absent, or if bid/ask spreads are wide.
Risk of Futures and Options on Futures Transactions.There are several risks accompanying the utilization of futures contracts and options on futures contracts. A position in futures contracts and options on futures contracts may be closed only on the exchange on which the contract was made (or a linked exchange). While each Fund plans to utilize futures contracts only if an active market exists for such contracts, there is no guarantee that a liquid market will exist for the contract at a specified time. Futures contracts, by definition, project price levels in the future and not current levels of valuation; therefore, market circumstances may result in a discrepancy between the price of the future and the movement in a Fund's Underlying Index. In the event of adverse price movements, a Fund would continue to be required to make daily cash payments to maintain its required margin. In such situations, if a Fund has insufficient cash, it may have to sell portfolio securities to meet daily margin requirements at a time when it may be disadvantageous to do so. In addition, a Fund may be required to deliver the instruments underlying the futures contracts it has sold.
The risk of loss in trading futures contracts or uncovered call options in some strategies (e.g., selling uncovered stock index futures contracts) is potentially unlimited. The Funds do not plan to use futures and options contracts in this way. The risk of a futures position may still be large as traditionally measured due to the low margin deposits required. In many cases, a relatively small price movement in a futures contract may result in immediate and substantial loss or gain to the investor relative to the size of a required margin deposit. The Funds, however, intend to utilize futures and options contracts in a manner designed to limit their risk exposure to levels comparable to a direct investment in the types of stocks in which they invest.
Utilization of futures and options on futures by a Fund involves the risk of imperfect or even negative correlation to its Underlying Index if the index underlying the futures contract differs from the Underlying Index. There is also the risk of loss of margin deposits in the event of bankruptcy of a broker with whom a Fund has an open position in the futures contract or option. The purchase of put or call options will be based upon predictions by BFA as to anticipated trends, which predictions could prove to be incorrect.
Because the futures market generally imposes less burdensome margin requirements than the securities market, an increased amount of participation by speculators in the futures market could result in price fluctuations. Certain financial futures exchanges limit the amount of fluctuation permitted in futures contract prices during a single trading day. The daily limit establishes the maximum amount by which the price of a futures contract may vary either up or down from the previous day’s settlement price at the end of a trading session. Once the daily limit has been reached in a particular type of
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contract, no trades may be made on that day at a price beyond that limit. It is possible that futures contract prices could move to the daily limit for several consecutive trading days with little or no trading, thereby preventing prompt liquidation of futures positions and subjecting each Fund to substantial losses. In the event of adverse price movements, each Fund would be required to make daily cash payments of variation margin.
Risk of Investing in Non-U.S. Equity Securities. An investment in a Fund involves risks similar to those of investing in portfolios of equity securities traded on non-U.S. exchanges. These risks include market fluctuations caused by such factors as economic and political developments in those foreign countries, changes in interest rates and perceived trends in stock prices. Investing in securities issued by issuers domiciled in countries other than the domicile of the investor and denominated in currencies other than an investor’s local currency entails certain considerations and risks not typically encountered by the investor in making investments in its home country and in that country’s currency. These considerations include favorable or unfavorable changes in interest rates, currency exchange rates, exchange control regulations and the costs that may be incurred in connection with conversions between various currencies. Investing in any of the Funds also involves certain risks and considerations not typically associated with investing in a fund whose portfolio contains exclusively securities of U.S. issuers. These risks include generally less liquid and less efficient securities markets; generally greater price volatility; less publicly available information about issuers; the imposition of withholding or other taxes; the imposition of restrictions on the expatriation of funds or other assets of the Funds; higher transaction and custody costs; delays and risks attendant in settlement procedures; difficulties in enforcing contractual obligations; lower liquidity and significantly smaller market capitalization; different accounting and disclosure standards; lower levels of regulation of the securities markets; more substantial government interference with the economy and businesses; higher rates of inflation; greater social, economic, and political uncertainty; the risk of nationalization or expropriation of assets; and the risk of war.
Risk of Swap Agreements.The risk of loss with respect to swaps is generally limited to the net amount of payments that a Fund is contractually obligated to make. Swap agreements are subject to the risk that the swap counterparty will default on its obligations. If such a default occurs, a Fund will have contractual remedies pursuant to the agreements related to the transaction. However, such remedies may be subject to bankruptcy and insolvency laws, which could affect such Fund’s rights as a creditor (e.g., a Fund may not receive the net amount of payments that it is contractually entitled to receive).
A Fund is required to post and collect variation margin and initial margin (comprised of specified liquid securities subject to haircuts) in connection with trading of OTC swaps. These requirements may raise the costs for a Fund’s investment in swaps.
Securities Lending Risk. A Fund may engage in securities lending. Securities lending involves the risk that a Fund may lose money because the borrower of the loaned securities fails to return the securities in a timely manner or at all. A Fund could also lose money in the event of a decline in the value of collateral provided for loaned securities or a decline in the value of any investments made with cash collateral. These events could also trigger adverse tax consequences for a Fund.
Tracking Error Risk.A Fund may be subject to tracking error, which is the divergence of a Fund’s performance from that of the applicable underlying index. Tracking error may occur because of differences between the securities and other instruments held in a Fund’s portfolio and those included in its applicable underlying index, pricing differences, transaction costs incurred by a Fund, a Fund’s holding of uninvested cash, differences in timing of the accrual of or the valuation of dividends or interest received by a Fund or distributions paid to a Fund’s shareholders, the requirements to maintain pass-through tax treatment, portfolio transactions carried out to minimize the distribution of capital gains to shareholders, acceptance of custom baskets, changes to the applicable underlying index or the costs to a Fund of complying with various new or existing regulatory requirements. This risk may be heightened during times of increased market volatility or other unusual market conditions. Tracking error also may result because a Fund incurs fees and expenses, while its applicable underlying index does not. Tracking error may occur due to differences between the methodologies used in calculating the value of the applicable Underlying Index and determining a Fund’s NAV.
When an issuer is introduced by an index provider into an index tracked by a Fund, BFA may conduct an analysis on such issuer’s securities to identify and screen for outlier high risk behavior (such as rapid or unusual price growth that does not appear to be supported by publicly available information on the business and assets of the issuer, unusual or significant short interest or lending activity, negative sentiment, suspended trading or incorrect free-float calculations, which could be indicators of possible irregularities, miscalculations or even fraud). If it identifies such behavior, BFA may, where appropriate, alert the index provider as to the alleged issue. The index provider has sole discretion for the determination as to whether to continue to include the issuer’s securities in the rebalancing of its index. If the securities continue to be included in the index, BFA may underweight or exclude such securities from a Fund’s portfolio and, if it does so, such a fund will be subject to
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increased tracking error due to the divergence in the securities included in its portfolio from its underlying index. BFA’s underweighting or excluding such securities may result in a decline in a Fund’s net asset value. The application of the abovementioned analysis and screening to a Fund and its Underlying Index is in the sole discretion of BFA and its affiliates (without any guarantees). The analysis and screening may not exclude any or all high risk securities from an Underlying Index or a Fund’s portfolio, and the inclusion of such securities will result in an adverse impact to a Fund’s net asset value if one or more such securities declines in value.
Risk of Investing in Africa.Investments in securities of issuers in certain African countries involve heightened risks including, among others, expropriation and/or nationalization of assets, confiscatory taxation, political instability, including authoritarian and/or military involvement in governmental decision-making, armed conflict, civil war, and social instability as a result of religious, ethnic and/or socio-economic unrest or widespread outbreaks of disease and, in certain countries, genocidal warfare.
Certain countries in Africa generally have less developed capital markets than traditional emerging market countries, and, consequently, the risks of investing in foreign securities are magnified in such countries. Because securities markets of countries in Africa are generally underdeveloped and are generally less correlated to global economic cycles than those markets located in more developed countries, securities markets in African countries are subject to greater risks associated with market volatility, lower market capitalization, lower trading volume, illiquidity, inflation, greater price fluctuations and uncertainty regarding the existence of trading markets. Moreover, trading on African securities markets may be suspended altogether.
Market volatility may also be heightened by the actions of a small number of investors. Brokerage firms in certain countries in Africa may be fewer in number and less established than brokerage firms in more developed markets. Since a Fund may need to effect securities transactions through these brokerage firms, the Fund is subject to the risk that these brokerage firms will not be able to fulfill their obligations to the Fund (i.e., counterparty risk). This risk is magnified to the extent that a Fund effects securities transactions through a single brokerage firm or a small number of brokerage firms.
Certain governments in African countries restrict or control to varying degrees the ability of foreign investors to invest in securities of issuers located or operating in those countries. Moreover, certain countries in Africa require governmental approval or special licenses prior to investment by foreign investors and may limit the amount of investment by foreign investors in a particular industry and/or issuer, and may limit such foreign investment to a certain class of securities of an issuer that may have less advantageous rights than the classes available for purchase by domestic investors of the countries and/or impose additional taxes on foreign investors. A delay in obtaining a government approval or a license would delay investments in a particular country, and, as a result, a Fund may not be able to invest in certain securities while approval is pending. The government of a particular country may also withdraw or decline to renew a license that enables a Fund to invest in such country. These factors make investing in issuers located or operating in countries in Africa significantly riskier than investing in issuers located or operating in more developed countries, and any one of these factors could cause a decline in the value of a Fund's investments. Issuers located or operating in countries in Africa are generally not subject to the same rules and regulations as issuers located or operating in more developed countries. Therefore, there may be less financial and other information publicly available with regard to issuers located or operating in countries in Africa and such issuers are generally not subject to the uniform accounting, auditing and financial reporting standards applicable to issuers located or operating in more developed countries.
In addition, governments of certain countries in Africa in which a Fund may invest may levy withholding or other taxes on income such as dividends, interest and realized capital gains. Although in certain countries in Africa a portion of these taxes are recoverable, the non-recovered portion of foreign withholding taxes will reduce the income received from investments in such countries.
Investment in countries in Africa may be subject to a greater degree of risk associated with governmental approval in connection with the repatriation of investment income, capital or the proceeds of sales of securities by foreign investors. In addition, there is the risk that if an African country’s balance of payments declines, such African country may impose temporary restrictions on foreign capital remittances. Consequently, a Fund could be adversely affected by delays in, or a refusal to grant, required governmental approval for repatriation of capital, as well as by the application to the Fund of any restrictions on investments. Additionally, investments in countries in Africa may require a Fund to adopt special procedures, seek local government approvals or take other actions, each of which may involve additional costs to a Fund.
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Securities laws in many countries in Africa are relatively new and unsettled and, consequently, there is a risk of rapid and unpredictable change in laws regarding foreign investment, securities regulation, title to securities and shareholder rights. Accordingly, foreign investors may be adversely affected by new or amended laws and regulations. In addition, there may be no single centralized securities exchange on which securities are traded in certain countries in Africa and the systems of corporate governance to which issuers located in countries in Africa are subject may be less advanced than those systems to which issuers located in more developed countries are subject, and, therefore, shareholders of issuers located in such countries may not receive many of the protections available to shareholders of issuers located in more developed countries. Even in circumstances where adequate laws and shareholder rights exist, it may not be possible to obtain swift and equitable enforcement of the law. In addition, the enforcement of systems of taxation at federal, regional and local levels in countries in Africa may be inconsistent and subject to sudden change.
Certain countries in Africa may be heavily dependent upon international trade and, consequently, have been and may continue to be negatively affected by trade barriers, exchange controls, managed adjustments in relative currency values and other protectionist measures imposed or negotiated by the countries with which they trade. These countries also have been and may continue to be adversely affected by economic conditions in the countries with which they trade. Certain countries in Africa depend to a significant extent upon exports of primary commodities such as gold, silver, copper and diamonds. These countries therefore are vulnerable to changes in commodity prices, which may be affected by a variety of factors. In addition, certain issuers located in countries in Africa in which a Fund invests may operate in, or have dealings with, countries subject to sanctions and/or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government and the United Nations, and/or countries identified by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism. As a result, an issuer may sustain damage to its reputation if it is identified as an issuer which operates in, or has dealings with, such countries. A Fund, as an investor in such issuers, will be indirectly subject to those risks.
The governments of certain countries in Africa may exercise substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector and may own or control many companies. Future government actions could have a significant effect on the economic conditions in such countries, which could have a negative impact on private sector companies. There is also the possibility of diplomatic developments that could adversely affect investments in certain countries in Africa. Some countries in Africa may be affected by a greater degree of public corruption and crime, including organized crime.
Political instability and protests in North Africa and the Middle East have caused and may in the future cause significant disruptions to many industries. In addition, the outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa severely challenged health care industries in those countries and adversely impacted the region’s economy due to quarantines and disruptions of trade, which has further increased instability in the region. This instability has demonstrated that political and social unrest can spread quickly through the region, and that developments in one country can influence the political events in neighboring countries. Some protests have turned violent, and civil war and political reconstruction in certain countries such as Libya, Iraq and Syria pose a risk to investments in the region. Continued political and social unrest in these regions, including the ongoing warfare and terrorist activities in the Middle East and Africa, may negatively affect the value of an investment in a Fund.
Risk of Investing in Asia. Investments in securities of issuers in certain Asian countries involve risks not typically associated with investments in securities of issuers in other regions. Such heightened risksinclude, among others, expropriation and/or nationalization of assets, confiscatory taxation, piracy of intellectual property, data and other security breaches (especially of data stored electronically), political instability, including authoritarian and/or military involvement in governmental decision-making, armed conflict and social instability as a result of religious, ethnic and/or socio-economic unrest. Certain Asian economies have experienced rapid rates of economic growth and industrialization in recent years, and there is no assurance that these rates of economic growth and industrialization will be maintained.
Certain Asian countries have democracies with relatively short histories, which may increase the risk of political instability. These countries have faced political and military unrest, and further unrest could present a risk to their local economies and securities markets. Indonesia and the Philippines have each experienced violence and terrorism, which has negatively impacted their economies. North Korea and South Korea each have substantial military capabilities, and historical tensions between the two countries present the risk of war. Escalated tensions involving the two countries and any outbreak of hostilities between the two countries, or even the threat of an outbreak of hostilities, could have a severe adverse effect on the entire Asian region. Certain Asian countries have also developed increasingly strained relationships with the U.S., and if these relations were to worsen, they could adversely affect Asian issuers that rely on the U.S. for trade. Political, religious, and border disputes persist in India. India has recently experienced and may continue to experience civil unrest and hostilities
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with certain of its neighboring countries. Increased political and social unrest in these geographic areas could adversely affect the performance of investments in this region.
Certain governments in this region administer prices on several basic goods, including fuel and electricity, within their respective countries. Certain governments may exercise substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector in their respective countries and may own or control many companies. Future government actions could have a significant effect on the economic conditions in this region, which in turn could have a negative impact on private sector companies. There is also the possibility of diplomatic developments adversely affecting investments in the region.
Corruption and the perceived lack of a rule of law in dealings with international companies in certain Asian countries may discourage foreign investment and could negatively impact the long-term growth of certain economies in this region. In addition, certain countries in the region are experiencing high unemployment and corruption, and have fragile banking sectors.
Some economies in this region are dependent on a range of commodities, including oil, natural gas and coal. Accordingly, they are strongly affected by international commodity prices and particularly vulnerable to any weakening in global demand for these products. The market for securities in this region may also be directly influenced by the flow of international capital, and by the economic and market conditions of neighboring countries. China is a key trading partner of many Asian countries and any changes in trading relationships between China and other Asian countries may affect the region as a whole. Adverse economic conditions or developments in neighboring countries may increase investors' perception of the risk of investing in the region as a whole, which may adversely impact the market value of the securities issued by companies in the region.
Risk of Investing in Australasia. The economies of Australasia, which include Australia and New Zealand, are dependent on exports from the agricultural and mining sectors. This makes Australasian economies susceptible to fluctuations in the commodity markets. Australasian economies are also increasingly dependent on their growing service and tourism industries. Australia and New Zealand are located in a part of the world that has historically been prone to natural disasters, such as drought and flooding. Any such event in the future could have a significant adverse impact on the economies of Australia and New Zealand and affect the value of securities held by a relevant Fund. The economies of Australia and New Zealand are dependent on trading with certain key trading partners, including Asia and the U.S. The economies of Australia and New Zealand are heavily dependent on the mining sector. Passage of new regulations limiting foreign ownership of companies in the mining sector or imposition of new taxes on profits of mining companies may dissuade foreign investment, and as a result, have a negative impact on companies to which a Fund has exposure.
Risk of Investing in Australia. A Fund’s investment in Australian issuers will subject the Fund to loss in the event of adverse political, economic, regulatory and other developments that affect Australia, including fluctuations of Australian currency versus the U.S. dollar. Also, Australia is located in a part of the world that has historically been prone to natural disasters, such as drought and flooding. Any such event in the future could have a significant adverse impact on the Australian economy. The Australian economy is dependent on trading with certain key trading partners. The Australia–U.S. Free Trade Agreement has significantly expanded the trading relationship between the U.S. and Australia. Economic events in the U.S., Asia, or in other key trading countries can have a significant economic effect on the Australian economyand companies to which the Fund has exposure.
Risk of Investing in Belgium. Investment in Belgian issuers will subject a Fund to legal, regulatory, political, currency, security, and economic risk specific to Belgium. Although Belgium has few natural resources and imports substantial amounts of raw materials, it has an established industrial sector, which is responsible for exporting large volume of finished goods to other European countries. Belgium relies heavily on trade with key trading partners. Most of Belgium's trade is with fellow EU members.
Risk of Investing in China. Investments in securities of companies domiciled in China involve a high degree of risk and special considerations not typically associated with investing in the U.S. securities markets. Such heightened risks include, among others, an authoritarian government, popular unrest associated with demands for improved political, economic and social conditions, the impact of regional conflict on the economy and hostile relations with neighboring countries.
Military conflicts, either in response to internal social unrest or conflicts with other countries, could disrupt economic development. The Chinese economy is vulnerable to the long-running disagreements and religious and nationalist disputes with Tibet and the Xinjiang region. Since 1997, there have been tensions between the Chinese government and many people in Hong Kong who perceive China as tightening control over Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous liberal political, economic, legal,
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and social framework. Recent protests and unrest have increased tensions even further. Due to the interconnected nature of the Hong Kong and Chinese economies, this instability in Hong Kong may cause uncertainty in the Hong Kong and Chinese markets. China has a complex territorial dispute regarding the sovereignty of Taiwan and has made threats of invasion. Taiwan-based companies and individuals are significant investors in China. Military conflict between China and Taiwan may adversely affect securities of Chinese issuers. In addition, China has strained international relations with Japan, India, Russia and other neighbors due to territorial disputes, historical animosities and other defense concerns. Additionally, China is alleged to have participated in state-sponsored cyberattacks against foreign companies and foreign governments. Actual and threatened responses to such activity and strained international relations, including purchasing restrictions, sanctions, tariffs or cyberattacks on the Chinese government or Chinese companies, may impact China’s economy and Chinese issuers of securities in which a Fund invests. China could be affected by military events on the Korean peninsula or internal instability within North Korea. These situations may cause uncertainty in the Chinese market and may adversely affect the performance of the Chinese economy.
The Chinese government has implemented significant economic reforms in order to liberalize trade policy, promote foreign investment in the economy, reduce government control of the economy and develop market mechanisms. However, the Chinese government still exercises substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector and may own or control many companies. Chinese companies, such as those in the financial services or technology sectors, and potentially other sectors in the future, are subject to the risk that Chinese authorities can intervene in their operations and structure. The Chinese government continues to maintain a major role in economic policymaking, and investing in China involves risk of loss due to expropriation, nationalization, confiscation of assets and property or the imposition of restrictions on foreign investmentsand on repatriation of capital invested.
A Fund may invest in securities issued by variable interest entities (VIEs), which are subject to the investment risks associated with the underlying Chinese operating company. A VIE enters into service contracts and other contracts with the Chinese operating company, which provide the VIE with exposure to the company. Although the VIE has no equity ownership of the Chinese operating company, the contractual arrangements permit the VIE to consolidate the Chinese operating company into its financial statements. Intervention by the Chinese government with respect to VIEs could significantly affect the Chinese operating company’s performance and the enforceability of the VIE’s contractual arrangements with the Chinese company.
In addition, there is less regulation and monitoring of Chinese securities markets and the activities of investors, brokers and other participants than in the U.S. Accordingly, issuers of securities in China, including Chinese companies that are listed on U.S. exchanges, are not subject to the same degree of regulation as are U.S. issuers with respect to such matters as insider trading rules, tender offer regulation, accounting standards or auditor oversight, stockholder proxy requirements and the requirements mandating timely and accurate disclosure of information. Securities markets in China are in the process of change and further development. This may lead to trading volatility, difficulty in the settlement and recording of transactions and difficulty in interpreting and applying the relevant regulation.
There may be significant obstacles to obtaining information necessary for investigations into or litigation against Chinese companies, and shareholders may have limited legal remedies. The Funds are not actively managed and do not select investments based on investor protection considerations.
While the Chinese economy has experienced past periods of rapid growth, there is no assurance that such growth rates will recur. China may experience substantial rates of inflation, significant indebtedness or economic recessions, causing a negative effect on the economy and securities market. China’s economy is heavily dependent on export growth. Reduction in spending on Chinese products and services, supply chain diversification, institution of additional tariffs, sanctions or other trade barriers (including as a result of heightened trade tensions between China and the U.S. or in response to actual or alleged Chinese cyber activity) or a downturn in any of the economies of China’s key trading partners may have an adverse impact on the Chinese economy and the companies in which a Fund invests. Certain Chinese companies (which may change from time to time) are directly or indirectly subject to economic or trade restrictions imposed by the U.S. or other governments due to national security, human rights or other concerns of such government. For example, certain foreign technology companies are subject to U.S. export controls as those companies are believed to pose a risk to U.S. interests. The U.S. also bans imports of goods produced in certain regions of China or by certain Chinese companies due to concerns about forced labor. Such restrictions may have unanticipated and adverse effects on the Chinese economy and companies. Any action that targets Chinese financial markets or securities exchanges could interfere with orderly trading, delay settlement or cause market disruptions. The Underlying Index of a Fund may include companies that are subject to economic or trade
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restrictions (but not investment restrictions) imposed by the U.S. or other governments. So long as these restrictions do not include restrictions on investments, the Fund is generally expected to invest in such companies, consistent with its objective to track the performance of its Underlying Index.
The tax laws and regulations in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are subject to change, including the issuance of authoritative guidance or enforcement, possibly with retroactive effect. The interpretation, applicability and enforcement of such laws by PRC tax authorities are not as consistent and transparent as those of more developed nations, and may vary over time and from region to region. The application and enforcement of PRC tax rules could have a significant adverse effect on a Fund and its investors, particularly in relation to capital gains withholding tax imposed upon non-residents. In addition, the accounting, auditing and financial reporting standards and practices applicable to Chinese companies may be less rigorous, and may result in significant differences between financial statements prepared in accordance with PRC accounting standards and practice and those prepared in accordance with international accounting standards.
Risk of Investing in Developed Countries. Many countries with developed markets have recently experienced significant economic pressures. These countries generally tend to rely on the services sectors (e.g., the financial services sector) as the primary source of economic growth and may be susceptible to the risks of individual service sectors. For example, companies in the financial services sector are subject to governmental regulation and, recently, government intervention, which may adversely affect the scope of their activities, the prices they can charge and amount of capital they must maintain. Dislocations in the financial sector and perceived or actual governmental influence over certain financial companies may lead to credit rating downgrades and, as a result, impact, among other things, revenue growth for such companies. If financial companies experience a prolonged decline in revenue growth, certain developed countries that rely heavily on financial companies as an economic driver may experience a correlative slowdown. Concerns have emerged with respect to the economic health of certain developed countries. These concerns primarily stem from heavy indebtedness of many developed countries and their perceived inability to continue to service high debt loads without simultaneously implementing stringent austerity measures. Such concerns have led to tremendous downward pressure on the economies of these countries. As a result, it is possible that interest rates on debt of certain developed countries may rise to levels that make it difficult for such countries to service such debt. Spending on health care and retirement pensions in most developed countries has risen dramatically. Medical innovation, extended life expectancy and higher public expectations are likely to continue the increase in health care and pension costs. Any increase in health care and pension costs will likely have a negative impact on the economic growth of many developed countries. Certain developed countries rely on imports of certain key items, such as crude oil, natural gas, and other commodities. As a result, an increase in demand for, or price fluctuations of, certain commodities may negatively affect developed country economies. Developed market countries generally are dependent on the economies of certain key trading partners. Changes in any one economy may cause an adverse impact on several developed countries. In addition, heavy regulation of, among others, labor and product markets may have an adverse effect on certain issuers. Such regulations may negatively affect economic growth or cause prolonged periods of recession. Such risks, among others, may adversely affect the value of a Fund’s investments.
Risk of Investing in Emerging Markets. Investments in emerging market countries may be subject to greater risks than investments in developed countries. These risks include: (i) less social, political, and economic stability; (ii) greater illiquidity and price volatility due to smaller or limited local capital markets for such securities, or low or non-existent trading volumes; (iii) companies, custodians, clearinghouses, foreign exchanges and broker-dealers may be subject to less scrutiny and regulation by local authorities; (iv) local governments may decide to seize or confiscate securities held by foreign investors and/or local governments may decide to suspend or limit an issuer's ability to make dividend or interest payments; (v) local governments may limit or entirely restrict repatriation of invested capital, profits, and dividends; (vi) capital gains may be subject to local taxation, including on a retroactive basis; (vii) issuers facing restrictions on standard payments imposed by local governments may attempt to make dividend or interest payments to foreign investors in the local currency; (viii) there may be significant obstacles to obtaining information necessary for investigations into or litigation against companies and investors may experience difficulty in enforcing legal claims related to the securities and/or local judges may favor the interests of the issuer over those of foreign parties; (ix) bankruptcy judgments may only be permitted to be paid in the local currency; (x) limited public information regarding the issuer may result in greater difficulty in determining market valuations of the securities; and (xi) lack of financial reporting on a regular basis, substandard disclosure and differences in accounting standards may make it difficult to ascertain the financial health of an issuer. The Funds are not actively managed and do not select investments based on investor protection considerations.
Emerging market securities markets are typically marked by a high concentration of market capitalization and trading volume in a small number of issuers representing a limited number of industries, as well as a high concentration of ownership of
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such securities by a limited number of investors. In addition, brokerage and other costs associated with transactions in emerging market securities can be higher, sometimes significantly, than similar costs incurred in securities markets in developed countries. Although some emerging markets have become more established and tend to issue securities of higher credit quality, the markets for securities in other emerging market countries are in the earliest stages of their development, and these countries issue securities across the credit spectrum. Even the markets for relatively widely traded securities in emerging market countries may not be able to absorb, without price disruptions, a significant increase in trading volume or trades of a size customarily undertaken by institutional investors in the securities markets of developed countries. The limited size of many of these securities markets can cause prices to be erratic for reasons apart from factors that affect the soundness and competitiveness of the securities issuers. For example, prices may be unduly influenced by traders who control large positions in these markets. Additionally, market making and arbitrage activities are generally less extensive in such markets, which may contribute to increased volatility and reduced liquidity of such markets. The limited liquidity of emerging market country securities may also affect a Fund's ability to accurately value its portfolio securities or to acquire or dispose of securities at the price and time it wishes to do so or in order to meet redemption requests.
Many emerging market countries suffer from uncertainty and corruption in their legal frameworks. Legislation may be difficult to interpret and laws may be too new to provide any precedential value. Laws regarding foreign investment and private property may be weak or non-existent. Sudden changes in governments may result in policies which are less favorable to investors such as policies designed to expropriate or nationalize sovereign assets. Certain emerging market countries in the past have expropriated large amounts of private property, in many cases with little or no compensation, and there can be no assurance that such expropriation will not occur in the future.
Investment in the securities markets of certain emerging market countries is restricted or controlled to varying degrees. These restrictions may limit a Fund's investment in certain emerging market countries and may increase the expenses of the Fund. Certain emerging market countries require governmental approval prior to investments by foreign persons or limit investment by foreign persons to only a specified percentage of an issuer's outstanding securities or a specific class of securities which may have less advantageous terms (including price) than securities of the company available for purchase by nationals.
Many emerging market countries lack the social, political, and economic stability characteristic of the U.S. Political instability among emerging market countries can be common and may be caused by an uneven distribution of wealth, social unrest, labor strikes, civil wars, and religious oppression. Economic instability in emerging market countries may take the form of: (i) high interest rates; (ii) high levels of inflation, including hyperinflation; (iii) high levels of unemployment or underemployment; (iv) changes in government economic and tax policies, including confiscatory taxation; and (v) imposition of trade barriers.
A Fund's income and, in some cases, capital gains from foreign securities will be subject to applicable taxation in certain of the emerging market countries in which it invests, and treaties between the U.S. and such countries may not be available in some cases to reduce the otherwise applicable tax rates.
Emerging markets also have different clearance and settlement procedures, and in certain of these emerging markets there have been times when settlements have been unable to keep pace with the volume of securities transactions, making it difficult to conduct such transactions.
In the past, certain governments in emerging market countries have become overly reliant on the international capital markets and other forms of foreign credit to finance large public spending programs, which in the past have caused huge budget deficits. Often, interest payments have become too overwhelming for a government to meet, representing a large percentage of total GDP. These foreign obligations have become the subject of political debate and served as fuel for political parties of the opposition, which pressure the government not to make payments to foreign creditors, but instead to use these funds for, among other things, social programs. Either due to an inability to pay or submission to political pressure, foreign governments have been forced to seek a restructuring of their loan and/or bond obligations, have declared a temporary suspension of interest payments or have defaulted. These events have adversely affected the values of securities issued by foreign governments and corporations domiciled in those countries and have negatively affected not only their cost of borrowing, but their ability to borrow in the future as well.
Risk of Investing in Europe. Investing in European countries may expose a Fund to the economic and political risks associated with Europe in general and the specific European countries in which it invests. The economies and markets of European countries are often closely connected and interdependent, and events in one European country can have an
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adverse impact on other European countries. A Fund makes investments in securities of issuers that are domiciled in, have significant operations in, or that are listed on at least one securities exchange within member states of the EU. A number of countries within the EU are also members of the Economic and Monetary Union (the EMU) (the eurozone) and have adopted the euro as their currency. Eurozone membership requires member states to comply with restrictions on inflation rates, deficits, interest rates, debt levels and fiscal and monetary controls, each of which may significantly affect every country in Europe. Changes in import or export tariffs, changes in governmental or EU regulations on trade, changes in the exchange rate of the euro and other currencies of certain EU countries which are not in the eurozone, the default or threat of default by an EU member state on its sovereign debt, and/or an economic recession in an EU member state may have a significant adverse effect on the economies of other EU member states and their trading partners. Although certain European countries are not in the eurozone, many of these countries are obliged to meet the criteria for joining the eurozone.
Consequently, these countries must comply with many of the restrictions noted above. The European financial markets have experienced volatility and adverse trends due to concerns about economic downturns, government debt levels and the possible default of government debt in several European countries, including, but not limited to, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Ukraine. In order to prevent further economic deterioration, certain countries, without prior warning, can institute capital controls. Countries may use these controls to restrict volatile movements of capital entering and exiting their country. Such controls may negatively affect a Fund’s investments. A default or debt restructuring by any European country would adversely impact holders of that country’s debt and sellers of credit default swaps linked to that country’s creditworthiness, which may be located in countries other than those listed above. In addition, the credit ratings of certain European countries were downgraded in the past. These events have adversely affected the value and exchange rate of the euro and may continue to significantly affect the economies of every country in Europe, including countries that do not use the euro and non-EU member states. Responses to the financial problems by European governments, central banks and others, including austerity measures and reforms, may not produce the desired results, may result in social unrest and may limit future growth and economic recovery or have other unintended consequences. Further defaults or restructurings by governments and other entities of their debt could have additional adverse effects on economies, financial markets and asset valuations around the world. In addition, one or more countries may abandon the euro and/or withdraw from the EU. The impact of these actions, especially if they occur in a disorderly fashion, is not clear but could be significant and far-reaching and could adversely impact the value of a Fund’s investments in the region.
The United Kingdom (the U.K.) left the EU (Brexit) on January 31, 2020. Brexit could adversely affect European or worldwide political, regulatory, economic or market conditions and could contribute to instability in global political institutions, regulatory agencies and financial markets.
Certain European countries have also developed increasingly strained relationships with the U.S., and if these relations were to worsen, they could adversely affect European issuers that rely on the U.S. for trade. The national politics of countries in Europe have been unpredictable and subject to influence by disruptive political groups and ideologies, including for example, secessionist movements. The governments of European countries may be subject to change and such countries may experience social and political unrest. Unanticipated or sudden political or social developments may result in sudden and significant investment losses. The occurrence of terrorist incidents throughout Europe or war in the region also could impact financial markets. The impact of these events is not clear but could be significant and far-reachingand could adversely affect the value and liquidity of a Fund's investments.
Russian Invasion of Ukraine. Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The extent and duration of the military action, resulting sanctions and resulting future market disruptions, including declines in its stock markets and the value of the ruble against the U.S. dollar, are impossible to predict, but could be significant. Disruptions caused by Russian military action or other actions (including cyberattacks and espionage) or resulting actual and threatened responses to such activity, including purchasing and financing restrictions, boycotts or changes in consumer or purchaser preferences, sanctions, import and export restrictions, tariffs or cyberattacks on the Russian government, Russian companies or Russian individuals, including politicians, may impact Russia's economy, Russian issuers of securities in which a Fund invests, or the economies of Europe as a whole. Actual and threatened responses to Russian military action may also impact the markets for certain Russian commodities, such as oil and natural gas, as well as other sectors of the Russian economy, and are likely to have collateral impacts on such sectors across Europe and globally.
Risk of Investing in France. Investment in French issuers will subject a Fund to legal, regulatory, political, currency, security, and economic risks specific to France. Recently, new concerns emerged in relation to the economic health of the EU. These concerns have led to tremendous downward pressure on certain EU member states, including France. Interest rates on
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France’s debt may rise to levels that make it difficult for it to service high debt levels without significant financial help from, among others, the European Central Bank and could potentially result in default. In addition, the French economy is dependent to a significant extent on the economies of certain key trading partners, including Germany and other Western European countries. Reduction in spending on French products and services, or changes in any of the economies may cause an adverse impact on the French economy. In addition, France may be subject to acts of terrorism. The French economy is dependent on exports from the agricultural sector. Leading agricultural exports include dairy products, meat, wine, fruit and vegetables, and fish. As a result, the French economy is susceptible to fluctuations in demand for agricultural products.
Risk of Investing in Germany. Investment in German issuers will subject a Fund to legal, regulatory, political, currency, security, and economic risks specific to Germany. Ongoing concerns in relation to the economic health of the EU continue to constrain the economic resilience of certain EU member states, including Germany. Germany has a large export-reliant manufacturing and industrials sector and the German economy is dependent to a significant extent on the economies of certain key trading partners, including the U.S., France, Italy and other European countries. Reduction in spending on German products and services, or changes in any of the economies may have an adverse impact on the German economy. In addition, heavy regulation of labor and product markets in Germany may have an adverse effect on German issuers. Such regulations may negatively impact economic growth or cause prolonged periods of recession.
Risk of Investing in Italy. Investment in Italian issuers involves risks that are specific to Italy, including, regulatory, political, currency and economic risks. Italy’s economy is dependent upon external trade with other economies—specifically Germany, France and other Western European developed countries. As a result, Italy is dependent on the economies of these other countries and any change in the price or demand for Italy’s exports may have an adverse impact on its economy. Interest rates on Italy's sovereign debt may rise to levels that may make it difficult for it to service high debt levels without significant financial help from the EU and could potentially lead to default. These events have adversely impacted the Italian economy, causing credit agencies to lower Italy’s sovereign debt rating and could decrease outside investment in Italian companies.
Risk of Investing in Japan. Japan may be subject to political, economic, labor and other risks. Any of these risks, individually or in the aggregate, can impact an investment made in Japan.
Currency Risk. The Japanese yen has fluctuated widely at times and any increase in its value may cause a decline in exports that could weaken the Japanese economy. Japan has, in the past, intervened in the currency markets to attempt to maintain or reduce the value of the yen. Japanese intervention in the currency markets could cause the value of the yen to fluctuate sharply and unpredictably and could cause losses to investors.
Economic Risk. The growth of Japan’s economy has recently lagged that of its Asian neighbors and other major developed economies. Since 2000, Japan’s economic growth rate has generally remained low relative to other advanced economies, and it may remain low in the future. The Japanese economy is heavily dependent on international trade and has been adversely affected by trade tariffs, other protectionist measures, competition from emerging economies and the economic conditions of its trading partners. Japan is also heavily dependent on oil imports, and higher commodity prices could therefore have a negative impact on the Japanese economy.
Geographic Risk. Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons and tsunamis, could occur in Japan or surrounding areas and could negatively affect the Japanese economy, and, in turn, could negatively affect a Fund.
Labor Risk. Japan has an aging workforce and has experienced a significant population decline in recent years. Japan’s labor market appears to be undergoing fundamental structural changes, as a labor market traditionally accustomed to lifetime employment adjusts to meet the need for increased labor mobility, which may adversely affect Japan’s economic competitiveness.
Large Government and Corporate Debt Risk. The Japanese economy faces several concerns, including a financial system with large levels of nonperforming loans, over-leveraged corporate balance sheets, extensive cross-ownership by major corporations, a changing corporate governance structure, and large government deficits. These issues may cause a slowdown of the Japanese economy.
Political Risk. Historically, Japan has had unpredictable national politics and may experience frequent political turnover. Future political developments may lead to changes in policy that might adversely affect a Fund’s investments. In addition, China has become an important trading partner with Japan. Japan’s political relationship with China, however, has been strained. Should political tension increase, it could adversely affect the Japanese economy and destabilize the region as a whole.
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Risk of Investing in Mexico. Investment in Mexican issuers involves risks that are specific to Mexico, including regulatory, political, currency and economic risks. In the past, Mexico has experienced high interest rates, economic volatility, significant devaluation of its currency (the peso), and high unemployment rates. The Mexican economy, among other things, is dependent upon external trade with other economies, specifically with the U.S. and certain Latin American countries. Political developments in the U.S. could have implications for trade arrangements between the U.S. and Mexico, which could negatively affect the value of securities held by a Fund.
As a result, Mexico is dependent on, among other things, the U.S. economy and the economies of other Central and South American countries, and any change in the price or demand for Mexican exports may have an adverse impact on the Mexican economy. Because commodities such as oil and gas, minerals and metals represent a large portion of the region’s exports, the economies of these countries are particularly sensitive to fluctuations in commodity prices. For example, lower prices have negatively impacted Petróleos Mexicanos, the Mexican state-owned petroleum company, which accounts for approximately 30% of the Mexican government’s revenue.
Mexico’s economy has become increasingly oriented toward manufacturing, including electronic equipment and machinery, in the years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) entered into force. As Mexico’s top export is automotive vehicles, its economy is strongly tied to the U.S. automotive market, and changes to certain segments in the U.S. market could have an impact on the Mexican economy. In addition, political developments, including the implementation of tariffs by the U.S. and the renegotiation of NAFTA in the form of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaced NAFTA on July 1, 2020, could negatively affect North America’s economic outlook and, as a result, the value of securities held by the Fund. The automotive industry and other industrial products can be highly cyclical, and companies in these industries may suffer periodic operating losses. These industries can be significantly affected by labor relations and fluctuating component prices.
The agricultural and mining sectors of Mexico’s economy also account for a large portion of its exports; Mexico is therefore susceptible to fluctuations in the price and demand for agricultural products and natural resources. In addition, Mexico has privatized or has begun the process of privatization of certain entities and industries, and some investors have suffered losses due to the inability of the newly privatized entities to adjust to a competitive environment and changing regulatory standards.
Recently, Mexico has experienced an outbreak of violence related to criminal gang activity, drug trafficking and terrorist actions. Violence near border areas, border-related political disputes, and other social upheaval may lead to strained international relations. Incidents involving Mexico’s security may have an adverse effect on the Mexican economy and cause uncertainty in its financial markets. Mexico has also experienced contentious and very closely decided elections. Changes in political parties and other political events may affect the economy and contribute to additional instability. Mexico has been destabilized by local insurrections, social upheavals, drug related violence, and the public health crisis related to the H1N1 influenza outbreak. Recurrence of these or similar conditions may adversely impact the Mexican economy. Recently, Mexican elections have been contentious and have been very closely decided. Changes in political parties or other Mexican political events may affect the economy and cause instability.
Risk of Investing in the Middle East. Many Middle Eastern countries have little or no democratic tradition, and the political and legal systems in such countries may have an adverse impact on a Fund. Many economies in the Middle East are highly reliant on income from the sale of oil and natural gas or trade with countries involved in the sale of oil and natural gas, and their economies are therefore vulnerable to changes in the market for oil and natural gas and foreign currency values. As global demand for oil and natural gas fluctuates, many Middle Eastern economies may be significantly impacted.
In addition, many Middle Eastern governments have exercised and continue to exercise substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector. In certain cases, a Middle Eastern country’s government may own or control many companies, including some of the largest companies in the country. Accordingly, governmental actions in the future could have a significant effect on economic conditions in Middle Eastern countries. This could affect private sector companies and a Fund, as well as the value of securities in the Fund's portfolio.
Certain Middle Eastern markets are in the earliest stages of development. As a result, there may be a high concentration of market capitalization and trading volume in a small number of issuers representing a limited number of industries, as well as a high concentration of investors and financial intermediaries. Brokers in Middle Eastern countries typically are fewer in number and less capitalized than brokers in the U.S.
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The legal systems in certain Middle Eastern countries also may have an adverse impact on a Fund. For example, the potential liability of a shareholder in a U.S. corporation with respect to acts of the corporation generally is limited to the amount of the shareholder’s investment. However, the notion of limited liability is less clear in certain Middle Eastern countries. A Fund therefore may be liable in certain Middle Eastern countries for the acts of a corporation in which it invests for an amount greater than its actual investment in that corporation. Similarly, the rights of investors in Middle Eastern issuers may be more limited than those of shareholders of a U.S. corporation. It may be difficult or impossible to obtain or enforce a legal judgment in a Middle Eastern country. Some Middle Eastern countries prohibit or impose substantial restrictions on investments in their capital markets, particularly their equity markets, by foreign entities such as a Fund. For example, certain countries may require governmental approval prior to investment by foreign persons or limit the amount of investment by foreign persons in a particular issuer. Certain Middle Eastern countries may also limit investment by foreign persons to only a specific class of securities of an issuer that may have less advantageous terms (including price) than securities of the issuer available for purchase by nationals of the relevant Middle Eastern country.
The manner in which foreign investors may invest in companies in certain Middle Eastern countries, as well as limitations on those investments, may have an adverse impact on the operations of a Fund. For example, in certain of these countries, a Fund may be required to invest initially through a local broker or other entity and then have the shares that were purchased re-registered in the name of a Fund. Re-registration in some instances may not be possible on a timely basis. This may result in a delay during which a Fund may be denied certain of its rights as an investor, including rights as to dividends or to be made aware of certain corporate actions. There also may be instances where a Fund places a purchase order but is subsequently informed, at the time of re-registration, that the permissible allocation of the investment to foreign investors has already been filled and, consequently, a Fund may not be able to invest in the relevant company.
Substantial limitations may exist in certain Middle Eastern countries with respect to a Fund’s ability to repatriate investment income or capital gains. A Fund could be adversely affected by delays in, or a refusal to grant, any required governmental approval for repatriation of capital, as well as by the application to a Fund of any restrictions on investment.
Certain Middle Eastern countries may be heavily dependent upon international trade and, consequently, have been and may continue to be negatively affected by trade barriers, exchange controls, managed adjustments in relative currency values and other protectionist measures imposed or negotiated by the countries with which they trade. These countries also have been and may continue to be adversely impacted by economic conditions in the countries with which they trade. In addition, certain issuers located in Middle Eastern countries in which a Fund invests may operate in, or have dealings with, countries subject to sanctions and/or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government and the United Nations, and/or countries identified by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism. As a result, an issuer may sustain damage to its reputation if it is identified as an issuer which operates in, or has dealings with, such countries. A Fund, as an investor in such issuers, will be indirectly subject to those risks.
Certain Middle Eastern countries have strained relations with other Middle Eastern countries due to territorial disputes, historical animosities, international alliances, defense concerns or other reasons, which may adversely affect the economies of these Middle Eastern countries. Certain Middle Eastern countries experience significant unemployment, as well as widespread underemployment. There has also been a recent increase in recruitment efforts and an aggressive push for territorial control by terrorist groups in the region, which has led to an outbreak of warfare and hostilities. Warfare in Syria has spread to surrounding areas, including many portions of Iraq and Turkey. Such hostilities may continue into the future or may escalate at any time due to ethnic, racial, political, religious or ideological tensions between groups in the region or foreign intervention or lack of intervention, among other factors.
Risk of Investing in the Netherlands. Investment in Dutch issuers will subject a Fund to regulatory, political, currency, security, and economic risk specific to the Netherlands and the countries that use the euro. Among other things, the Netherlands’ economy is heavily dependent on trading relationships with certain key trading partners, including the U.S., U.K., France and Germany. Future changes in the price or the demand for Dutch products or services by the U.S., U.K., France and Germany or changes in these countries’ economies, trade regulations or currency exchange rates could adversely impact the Dutch economy and the issuers to which a Fund has exposure. The Dutch economy relies on export of financial services to other European countries. A prolonged slowdown in the financial services sector will have a negative impact on the Dutch economy. The Dutch economy, along with the U.S. and certain other European economies, experienced a significant economic slowdown during the recent financial crisis. European financial markets have since been adversely affected by the
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resulting fiscal crises in Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain. As a result, the Netherlands may have trouble accessing capital markets and may be forced to pay higher interest rates on its debt than if it did not use the euro as its currency. In addition, the Netherlands may be indirectly exposed to the debt of the aforementioned countries through its banking sector.
Any default by a country that uses the euro may therefore have a material adverse effect on the Dutch economy.
Risk of Investing in North America. A decrease in imports or exports, changes in trade regulations or an economic recession in any North American country can have a significant economic effect on the entire North American region and on some or all of the North American countries in which a Fund invests.
The U.S. is Canada's and Mexico's largest trading and investment partner. The Canadian and Mexican economies are significantly affected by developments in the U.S. economy. Since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994 among Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, total merchandise trade among the three countries has increased. However, political developments including the implementation of tariffs by the U.S., and the renegotiation of NAFTA in the form of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaced NAFTA on July 1, 2020, could negatively affect North America’s economic outlook and, as a result, the value of securities held by a Fund. Policy and legislative changes in one country may have a significant effect on North American markets generally, as well as on the value of certain securities held by a Fund.
Risk of Investing in Saudi Arabia. Certain of the Funds' Underlying Indexes include Saudi Arabian equity securities. The ability of foreign investors (such as the Funds) to invest in the securities of Saudi Arabian issuers is relatively new. Such ability could be restricted by the Saudi Arabian government at any time, and unforeseen risks could materialize with respect to foreign ownership in such securities. In addition, the Capital Market Authority (CMA) places investment limitations on the ownership of the securities of Saudi Arabian issuers by foreign investors, including a limitation on a Fund’s ownership of the securities of any single issuer listed on the Saudi Arabian Stock Exchange, which may prevent a Fund from investing in accordance with its strategy and contribute to tracking error against the Underlying Index. These restrictions may be changed or new restrictions, such as licensing requirements, special approvals or additional foreign taxes, may be instituted at any time. A Fund may not be able to obtain or maintain any such licenses or approvals and may not be able to buy and sell securities at full value. Major disruptions or regulatory changes could occur in the Saudi Arabian market, any of which could negatively impact a Fund. These risks may be exacerbated, compared to more developed markets, given the limited history of foreign investment in the Saudi Arabian market. Investments in Saudi Arabia may also be subject to loss due to expropriation or nationalization of assets and property or the imposition of restrictions on additional foreign investments and repatriation of capital. Such heightened risks may include, among others, restrictions on and government intervention in international trade, confiscatory taxation, political instability, including authoritarian and/or military involvement in governmental decision making, armed conflict, crime and instability as a result of religious, ethnic and/or socioeconomic unrest. Saudi Arabia has privatized, or has begun the process of privatizing, certain entities and industries. Newly privatized companies may face strong competition from government-sponsored competitors that have not been privatized. In some instances, investors in newly privatized entities have suffered losses due to the inability of the newly privatized entities to adjust quickly to a competitive environment or changing regulatory and legal standards or, in some cases, due to re-nationalization of such privatized entities. There is no assurance that similar losses will not recur. Further, under income tax laws imposed by the General Authority of Zakat and Tax, dividends paid by a Saudi Arabian company to foreign stockholders are generally subject to a 5% withholding tax (different tax rates may apply pursuant to an applicable treaty). Saudi Arabia is highly reliant on income from the sale of petroleum and trade with other countries involved in the sale of petroleum, and its economy is therefore vulnerable to changes in foreign currency values and the market for petroleum, as well as acts targeting petroleum production or processing facilities in Saudi Arabia. As global demand for petroleum fluctuates, Saudi Arabia may be significantly impacted. In the recent past, the Saudi Arabian government has explored privatization and diversification of the economy in the wake of a diminished petroleum market.
Like most Middle Eastern governments, the government of Saudi Arabia exercises substantial influence over many aspects of the private sector. Although liberalization in the wider economy is underway, in many areas it has lagged significantly: restrictions on foreign ownership persist, and the government has an ownership stake in many key industries. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Saudi Arabia is governed by an absolute monarchy. Saudi Arabia has historically experienced strained relations with economic partners worldwide, including other countries in the Middle East, due to geopolitical events. Incidents involving a Middle Eastern country’s or the region’s security, including terrorism, may cause uncertainty in their markets and may adversely affect its economy and a Fund’s investments.
Governmental actions in the future could have a significant effect on economic conditions in Saudi Arabia, which could affect private sector companies and a Fund, as well as the value of securities in a Fund’s portfolio. Any economic sanctions on
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Saudi Arabian individuals or Saudi Arabian corporate entities, or even the threat of sanctions, may result in the decline of the value and liquidity of Saudi Arabian securities, a weakening of the Saudi riyal or other adverse consequences to the Saudi Arabian economy. Any sanctions could also result in the immediate freeze of Saudi Arabian securities and/or funds investing in prohibited assets, impairing the ability of a Fund to buy, sell, receive or deliver those securities and/or assets. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s economy relies heavily on cheap, foreign labor, and changes in the availability of this labor supply could have an adverse effect on the economy.
The securities markets in Saudi Arabia may not be as developed as those in other countries. As a result, securities markets in Saudi Arabia are subject to greater risks associated with market volatility, lower market capitalization, lower trading volume, illiquidity, inflation, greater price fluctuations, uncertainty regarding the existence of trading markets, governmental control and heavy regulation of labor and industry. Shares of certain Saudi Arabian companies tend to trade less frequently than those of companies on exchanges in more developed markets. Such infrequent trading may adversely affect the pricing of these securities and a Fund’s ability to sell these securities in the future.
Although the political situation in Saudi Arabia is largely stable, Saudi Arabia has historically experienced political instability, and there remains the possibility that the stability will not hold in the future or that instability in the larger Middle East region could adversely impact the economy of Saudi Arabia. Instability may be caused by military developments, government interventions in the marketplace, terrorism, extremist attitudes, attempted social or political reforms, religious differences, or other factors. Additionally, anti-Western views held by certain groups in the Middle East may influence government policies regarding foreign investment. Further developments in U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and other Middle-Eastern countries may affect these attitudes and policies. The U.S. is a significant trading partner of, or foreign investor in, Saudi Arabia. As a result, economic conditions of Saudi Arabia may be particularly affected by changes in the U.S. economy. A decrease in U.S. imports or exports, new trade and financial regulations or tariffs, changes in the U.S. dollar exchange rate or an economic slowdown in the U.S. may have a material adverse effect on the economic conditions of Saudi Arabia and, as a result, securities to which a Fund has exposure. Political instability in North Africa and the larger Middle East region has caused significant disruptions to many industries. Continued political and social unrest in these areas may negatively affect the value of securities in a Fund’s portfolio.
Certain issuers located in Saudi Arabia may operate in, or have dealings with, countries subject to sanctions and/or embargoes imposed by the U.S. government and the United Nations and/or countries identified by the U.S. government as state sponsors of terrorism. As a result, an issuer may sustain damage to its reputation if it is identified as an issuer which operates in, or has dealings with, such countries. A Fund, as an investor in such issuers, will be indirectly subject to those risks.
Risk of Investing in Switzerland. Investment in Swiss issuers will subject a Fund to legal, regulatory, political, currency, security, and economic risks specific to Switzerland. Among other things, Switzerland’s economy is heavily dependent on trading relationships with certain key trading partners, including the U.S., U.K., China, France and Germany. Future changes in the price or the demand for Swiss products or services by the U.S., U.K., China, France and Germany or changes in these countries’ economies, trade regulations or currency exchange rates could adversely impact the Swiss economy and the issuers to which a Fund has exposure. Switzerland’s economy relies heavily on the banking sector, and in recent years, Switzerland has responded to increasing pressure from neighboring countries and trading partners to reform its banking secrecy laws. Recently, allegations have surfaced that certain Swiss banking institutions marketed and sold offshore tax evasion services to U.S. citizens. Future litigation or settlements arising from these accusations may have a negative impact on certain companies to which a Fund has exposure. Due to the lack of natural resources, Switzerland is dependent upon imports for raw materials. As a result, any drastic price fluctuations in the price of certain raw materials will likely have a significant impact on the Swiss economy.
U.S. Economic Trading Partners Risk. The U.S. is a significant, and in some cases the most significant, trading partner of, or foreign investor in, certain countries in which a Fund invests. As a result, economic conditions of such countries may be particularly affected by changes in the U.S. economy. A decrease in U.S. imports or exports, new trade and financial regulations or tariffs, changes in the U.S. dollar exchange rate or an economic slowdown in the U.S. may have a material adverse effect on a country’s economic conditions and, as a result, securities to which a Fund has exposure. Circumstances could arise that could prevent the timely payment of interest or principal on U.S. government debt, such as reaching the legislative debt ceiling. Such non-payment would result in substantial negative consequences for the U.S. economy and the global financial system.
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There are strained relations between the U.S. and a number of foreign countries. If these relations were to worsen, it could adversely affect U.S. issuers as well as non-U.S. issuers that rely on the U.S. for trade. The U.S. has also experienced increased internal unrest and discord. If this trend were to continue, it may have an adverse impact on the U.S. economy and many of the issuers in which a Fund invests.
Risk of Investing in the Communication Services Sector. The communication services sector consists of both companies in the telecommunication services industry as well as those in the media and entertainment industry. Examples of companies in the telecommunication services industry group include providers of fiber-optic, fixed-line, cellular and wireless telecommunications networks. Companies in the media and entertainment industry group encompass a variety of services and products including television broadcasting, gaming products, social media, networking platforms, online classifieds, online review websites, and Internet search engines. Companies in the communication services sector may be affected by industry competition, substantial capital requirements, government regulation, and obsolescence of communications products and services due to technological advancement. Fluctuating domestic and international demand, shifting demographics and often unpredictable changes in consumer tastes can drastically affect a communication services company's profitability. In addition, while all companies may be susceptible to network security breaches, certain companies in the communication services sector may be particular targets of hacking and potential theft of proprietary or consumer information or disruptions in service, which could have a material adverse effect on their businesses.
The communication services sector of a country’s economy is often subject to extensive government regulation. The costs of complying with governmental regulations, delays or failure to receive required regulatory approvals, or the enactment of new regulatory requirements may negatively affect the business of communications companies. Government actions around the world, specifically in the area of pre-marketing clearance of products and prices, can be arbitrary and unpredictable. The communications services industry can also be significantly affected by intense competition for market share, including competition with alternative technologies such as wireless communications, product compatibility and standardization, consumer preferences, rapid product obsolescence, research and development of new products, lack of standardization or compatibility with existing technologies, and a dependency on patent and copyright protections. Companies in the communication services sector may encounter distressed cash flows due to the need to commit substantial capital to meet increasing competition, particularly in developing new products and services using new technology. Technological innovations may make the products and services of certain communications companies obsolete.
Telecommunications providers with exposure to the U.S. are generally required to obtain franchises or licenses in order to provide services in a given location. Licensing and franchise rights in the telecommunications sector are limited, which may provide an advantage to certain participants. Limited availability of such rights, high barriers to market entry and regulatory oversight, among other factors, have led to consolidation of companies within the sector, which could lead to further regulation or other negative effects in the future. Telecommunication providers investing in non-U.S. countries may be subject to similar risks. Additional risks include those related to competitive challenges in the U.S. from non-U.S. competitors engaged in strategic joint ventures with U.S. companies and in non-U.S. markets from both U.S. and non-U.S. competitors.
Companies in the media and entertainment industries can be significantly affected by several factors, including competition, particularly in formulation of products and services using new technologies, cyclicality of revenues and earnings, a potential decrease in the discretionary income of targeted individuals, changing consumer tastes and interests, and the potential increase in government regulation. Companies in the media and entertainment industries may become obsolete quickly. Advertising spending can be an important revenue source for media and entertainment companies. During economic downturns advertising spending typically decreases and, as a result, media and entertainment companies tend to generate less revenue.
Risk of Investing in the Consumer Discretionary Sector. Companies engaged in the design, production or distribution of products or services for the consumer discretionary sector (including, without limitation, television and radio broadcasting, manufacturing, publishing, recording and musical instruments, motion pictures, photography, amusement and theme parks, gaming casinos, sporting goods and sports arenas, camping and recreational equipment, toys and games, apparel, travel-related services, automobiles, hotels and motels, and fast food and other restaurants) are subject to the risk that their products or services may become obsolete quickly. The success of these companies can depend heavily on disposable household income and consumer spending. During periods of an expanding economy, the consumer discretionary sector may outperform the consumer staples sector, but may underperform when economic conditions worsen. Moreover, the consumer discretionary sector can be significantly affected by several factors, including, without limitation, the performance
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of domestic and international economies, exchange rates, changing consumer preferences, demographics, marketing campaigns, cyclical revenue generation, consumer confidence, commodity price volatility, labor relations, interest rates, import and export controls, intense competition, technological developments and government regulation.
Risk of Investing in the Consumer Staples Sector. Companies in the consumer staples sector may be adversely affected by changes in the global economy, consumer spending, competition, demographics and consumer preferences, and production spending. Companies in the consumer staples sector may also be affected by changes in global economic, environmental and political events, economic conditions, the depletion of resources, and government regulation. For instance, government regulations may affect the permissibility of using various food additives and production methods of companies that make food products, which could affect company profitability. In addition, tobacco companies may be adversely affected by the adoption of proposed legislation and/or by litigation. Companies in the consumer staples sector also may be subject to risks pertaining to the supply of, demand for and prices of raw materials. The prices of raw materials fluctuate in response to a number of factors, including, without limitation, changes in government agricultural support programs, exchange rates, import and export controls, changes in international agricultural and trading policies, and seasonal and weather conditions. Companies in the consumer staples sector may be subject to severe competition, which may also have an adverse impact on their profitability.
Risk of Investing in the Energy Sector. Companies in the energy sector are strongly affected by the changes in and volatility of global energy prices, energy supply and demand, government regulations and policies, energy production and conservation efforts, technological change, development of alternative energy sources, and other factors that they cannot control. Energy companies may have relatively high levels of debt and may be more likely to restructure their businesses if there are downturns in energy markets or in the global economy. If an energy company in a Fund's portfolio becomes distressed, a Fund could lose all or a substantial portion of its investment. The energy sector is cyclical and is highly dependent on commodity prices. Prices and supplies of energy may fluctuate significantly over short and long periods of time due to, among other things, national and international political changes, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) policies, changes in relationships among OPEC members and between OPEC and oil-importing nations, the regulatory environment, taxation policies, the enactment or cessation of trade sanctions, war or other geopolitical conflicts, and the economies of key energy-consuming countries. Companies in the energy sector may be adversely affected by terrorism, cyber incidents, natural disasters or other catastrophes. Companies in the energy sector are at risk of liability from accidents resulting in injury, loss of life or property, pollution or other environmental damage claims. Significant oil and gas deposits are located in emerging markets countries where corruption and security may raise significant risks, in addition to the other risks of investing in emerging markets. Additionally, the Middle East, where many companies in the energy sector may operate, has experienced conflict and unrest. Companies in the energy sector may also be adversely affected by changes in exchange rates, interest rates, economic conditions, tax treatment, government regulation and intervention, negative perception, efforts at energy conservation and world events in the regions in which the companies operate (e.g., expropriation, nationalization, confiscation of assets and property or the imposition of restrictions on foreign investments and repatriation of capital, military coups, social unrest, violence or labor unrest). Because a significant portion of revenues of companies in this sector is derived from a relatively small number of customers that are largely composed of governmental entities and utilities, governmental budget constraints may have a significant impact on companies in this sector. The energy sector is highly regulated. Entities operating in the energy sector are subject to significant regulation of nearly every aspect of their operations by governmental agencies. Such regulation can change rapidly or over time in both scope and intensity. Stricter laws, regulations or enforcement policies could be enacted, which would likely increase compliance costs and may materially adversely affect the financial performance of companies in the energy sector.
The energy sector may experience significant market volatility. For example, Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 led to further disruptions and increased volatility in the energy and commodity futures markets due to actual and potential disruptions in the supply and demand for certain commodities, including oil and natural gas. The U.S. and other actors have enacted various sanctions and restrictions on business dealings with Russia, which include restrictions on imports of oil, natural gas and coal. The effect of the current sanctions and restrictions, as well as the extent and duration of the Russian military action, additional sanctions and associated market disruptions on the energy sector, are impossible to predict and depend on a number of factors. The effect of these events or any related developments could be significant and may have a severe adverse effect on the performance of a Fund.
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Risk of Investing in the Financials Sector. Companies in the financials sector include small, regional and money center banks, securities brokerage firms, asset management companies, savings banks and thrift institutions, specialty finance companies (e.g., credit card, mortgage providers), insurance and insurance brokerage firms, consumer finance firms, financial conglomerates and foreign banking and financial companies.
Most financial companies are subject to extensive governmental regulation, which limits their activities and may affect their ability to earn a profit from a given line of business. Government regulation may change frequently and may have significant adverse consequences for companies in the financials sector, including effects not intended by the regulation. Direct governmental intervention in the operations of financial companies and financial markets may materially and adversely affect the companies in which a Fund invests, including legislation in many countries that may increase government regulation, repatriation and other intervention. The impact of governmental intervention and legislative changes on any individual financial company or on the financials sector as a whole cannot be predicted. The valuation of financial companies has been and continues to be subject to unprecedented volatility and may be influenced by unpredictable factors, including interest rate risk and sovereign debt default. Certain financial businesses are subject to intense competitive pressures, including market share and price competition. Financial companies in foreign countries are subject to market-specific and general regulatory and interest rate concerns. In particular, government regulation in certain foreign countries may include taxes and controls on interest rates, credit availability, minimum capital requirements, bans on short sales, limits on prices and restrictions on currency transfers. In addition, companies in the financials sector may be the targets of hacking and potential theft of proprietary or customer information or disruptions in service, which could have a material adverse effect on their businesses.
The profitability of banks, savings and loan associations and other financial companies is largely dependent on the availability and cost of capital funds and can fluctuate significantly when interest rates change; for instance, when interest rates go up, the value of securities issued by many types of companies in the financials sector generally goes down. In other words, financial companies may be adversely affected in certain market cycles, including, without limitation, during periods of rising interest rates, which may restrict the availability and increase the cost of capital, and during periods of declining economic conditions, which may cause, among other things, credit losses due to financial difficulties of borrowers.
In addition, general economic conditions are important to the operations of these companies, and financial difficulties of borrowers may have an adverse effect on the profitability of financial companies. Companies in the financials sector are exposed directly to the credit risk of their borrowers and counterparties, who may be leveraged to an unknown degree, including through swaps and other derivatives products, and who at times may be unable to meet their obligations to the financial services companies. Financial services companies may have significant exposure to the same borrowers and counterparties, with the result that a borrower’s or counterparty’s inability to meet its obligations to one company may affect other companies with exposure to the same borrower or counterparty. This interconnectedness of risk, including cross-default risk, may result in significant negative impacts to the financial condition and reputation of companies with direct exposure to the defaulting counterparty as well as adverse cascading effects in the markets and the financials sector generally. Financial companies can be highly dependent upon access to capital markets, and any impediments to such access, such as adverse overall economic conditions or a negative perception in the capital markets of a financial company’s financial condition or prospects, could adversely affect its business. Deterioration of credit markets can have an adverse impact on a broad range of financial markets, causing certain financial companies to incur large losses. In these conditions, companies in the financials sector may experience significant declines in the valuation of their assets, take actions to raise capital and even cease operations. Some financial companies may also be required to accept or borrow significant amounts of capital from government sources and may face future government-imposed restrictions on their businesses or increased government intervention. In addition, there is no guarantee that governments will provide any such relief in the future. These actions may cause the securities of many companies in the financials sector to decline in value.
Risk of Investing in the Healthcare Sector. Companies in the healthcare sector are often issuers whose profitability may be affected by extensive government regulation, restrictions on government reimbursement for medical expenses, rising or falling costs of medical products and services, pricing pressure, an increased emphasis on outpatient services, a limited number of products, industry innovation, changes in technologies and other market developments. Many healthcare companies are heavily dependent on patent protection and the actual or perceived safety and efficiency of their products.
Patents have a limited duration, and, upon expiration, other companies may market substantially similar generic products that are typically sold at a lower price than the patented product, which can cause the original developer of the product to
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lose market share and/or reduce the price charged for the product, resulting in lower profits for the original developer. As a result, the expiration of patents may adversely affect the profitability of these companies.
In addition, because the products and services of many companies in the healthcare sector affect the health and well-being of many individuals, these companies are especially susceptible to extensive litigation based on product liability and similar claims. Healthcare companies are subject to competitive forces that may make it difficult to raise prices and, in fact, may result in price discounting. Many new products in the healthcare sector may be subject to regulatory approvals. The process of obtaining such approvals may be long and costly, which can result in increased development costs, delayed cost recovery and loss of competitive advantage to the extent that rival companies have developed competing products or procedures, adversely affecting the company’s revenues and profitability. In other words, delays in the regulatory approval process may diminish the opportunity for a company to profit from a new product or to bring a new product to market, which could have a material adverse effect on a company’s business. Healthcare companies may also be strongly affected by scientific biotechnology or technological developments, and their products may quickly become obsolete. Also, many healthcare companies offer products and services that are subject to governmental regulation and may be adversely affected by changes in governmental policies or laws. Changes in governmental policies or laws may span a wide range of topics, including cost control, national health insurance, incentives for compensation in the provision of healthcare services, tax incentives and penalties related to healthcare insurance premiums, and promotion of prepaid healthcare plans. In addition, a number of legislative proposals concerning healthcare have been considered by the U.S. Congress in recent years. It is unclear what proposals will ultimately be enacted, if any, and what effect they may have on companies in the healthcare sector.
Additionally, the expansion of facilities by healthcare-related providers may be subject to determinations of need by certain government authorities. This process not only generally increases the time and costs involved in these expansions, but also makes expansion plans uncertain, limiting the revenue and profitability growth potential of healthcare-related facilities operators and negatively affecting the prices of their securities. Moreover, in recent years, both local and national governmental budgets have come under pressure to reduce spending and control healthcare costs, which could both adversely affect regulatory processes and public funding available for healthcare products, services and facilities.
Risk of Investing in the Industrials Sector. The value of securities issued by companies in the industrials sector may be adversely affected by supply of and demand for both their specific products or services and for industrials sector products in general. The products of manufacturing companies may face obsolescence due to rapid technological developments and frequent new product introduction. Government regulations, trade disputes, world events and economic conditions may affect the performance of companies in the industrials sector. The industrials sector may also be adversely affected by changes or trends in commodity prices, which may be influenced by unpredictable factors. For example, commodity price declines and unit volume reductions resulting from an over-supply of materials used in the industrials sector can adversely affect the sector. Furthermore, companies in the industrials sector may be subject to liability for environmental damage, product liability claims, depletion of resources, and mandated expenditures for safety and pollution control.
Risk of Investing in the Information Technology Sector. Information technology companies face intense competition, both domestically and internationally, which may have an adverse effect on profit margins. Like other technology companies, information technology companies may have limited product lines, markets, financial resources or personnel. The products of information technology companies may face product obsolescence due to rapid technological developments and frequent new product introduction, unpredictable changes in growth rates and competition for the services of qualified personnel. Technology companies and companies that rely heavily on technology, especially those of smaller, less-seasoned companies, tend to be more volatile than the overall market. Companies in the information technology sector are heavily dependent on patent and intellectual property rights. The loss or impairment of these rights may adversely affect the profitability of these companies. Information technology companies are facing increased government and regulatory scrutiny and may be subject to adverse government or regulatory action. Finally, while all companies may be susceptible to network security breaches, certain companies in the information technology sector may be particular targets of hacking and potential theft of proprietary or consumer information or disruptions in service, which could have a material adverse effect on their businesses. These risks are heightened for information technology companies in foreign markets.
Risk of Investing in the Materials Sector. Companies in the materials sector may be adversely affected by commodity price volatility, exchange rate fluctuations, social and political unrest, war, import or export controls, increased competition, depletion of resources, technical progress, labor relations and government regulations, and mandated expenditures for safety and pollution control, among other factors. Such risks may adversely affect the issuers to which a Fund has exposure.
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Companies in the materials sector are also at risk of liability for environmental damage and product liability claims. Production of materials may exceed demand as a result of market imbalances or economic downturns, leading to poor investment returns. These risks are heightened for companies in the materials sector located in foreign markets.
Risk of Investing in the Real Estate Industry. Companies in the real estate industry include companies that invest in real estate, such as REITs, real estate holding and operating companies or real estate development companies (collectively, Real Estate Companies). Investing in Real Estate Companies exposes investors to the risks of owning real estate directly, as well as to risks that relate specifically to the way in which Real Estate Companies are organized and operated. The real estate industry is highly sensitive to general and local economic conditions and developments, and characterized by intense competition and periodic overbuilding. Investing in Real Estate Companies involves various risks. Some risks that are specific to Real Estate Companies are discussed in greater detail below.
Concentration Risk. Real Estate Companies may own a limited number of properties and concentrate their investments in a particular geographic region or property type. Economic downturns affecting a particular region, industry or property type may lead to a high volume of defaults within a short period.
Distressed Investment Risk. Real Estate Companies may invest in distressed, defaulted or out-of-favor bank loans. Identification and implementation by a Real Estate Company of loan modification and restructure programs involves a high degree of uncertainty. Even successful implementation may still require adverse compromises and may not prevent bankruptcy. Real Estate Companies may also invest in other debt instruments that may become non-performing, including the securities of companies with higher credit and market risk due to financial or operational difficulties. Higher risk securities may be less liquid and more volatile than the securities of companies not in distress.
Illiquidity Risk. Investing in Real Estate Companies may involve risks similar to those associated with investing in small-capitalization companies. Real Estate Company securities, like the securities of small-capitalization companies, may be more volatile than, and perform differently from, shares of large-capitalization companies. There may be less trading in Real Estate Company shares, which means that buy and sell transactions in those shares could have a magnified impact on share price, resulting in abrupt or erratic price fluctuations. In addition, real estate is relatively illiquid, and, therefore, a Real Estate Company may have a limited ability to vary or liquidate properties in response to changes in economic or other conditions.
Interest Rate Risk. Rising interest rates could result in higher costs of capital for Real Estate Companies, which could negatively impact a Real Estate Company’s ability to meet its payment obligations. Declining interest rates could result in increased prepayment on loans and require redeployment of capital in less desirable investments.
Leverage Risk. Real Estate Companies may use leverage (and some may be highly leveraged), which increases investment risk and could adversely affect a Real Estate Company’s operations and market value in periods of rising interest rates. Real Estate Companies are also exposed to the risks normally associated with debt financing. Financial covenants related to a Real Estate Company’s leverage may affect the ability of the Real Estate Company to operate effectively. In addition, real property may be subject to the quality of credit extended and defaults by borrowers and tenants. If the properties do not generate sufficient income to meet operating expenses, including, where applicable, debt service, ground lease payments, tenant improvements, third-party leasing commissions and other capital expenditures, the income and ability of a Real Estate Company to make payments of any interest and principal on its debt securities will be adversely affected.
Loan Foreclosure Risk. Real Estate Companies may foreclose on loans that the Real Estate Company originated and/or acquired. Foreclosure may generate negative publicity for the underlying property that affects its market value. In addition to the length and expense of such proceedings, the validity of the terms of the applicable loan may not be recognized in foreclosure proceedings. Claims and defenses asserted by borrowers or other lenders may interfere with the enforcement of rights by a Real Estate Company. Parallel proceedings, such as bankruptcy, may also delay resolution and limit the amount of recovery on a foreclosed loan by a Real Estate Company even where the property underlying the loan is liquidated.
Management Risk. Real Estate Companies are dependent upon management skills and may have limited financial resources. Real Estate Companies are generally not diversified and may be subject to heavy cash flow dependency, default by borrowers and voluntary liquidation. In addition, transactions between Real Estate Companies and their affiliates may be subject to conflicts of interest, which may adversely affect a Real Estate Company’s shareholders. A Real Estate Company may also have joint venture investments in certain of its properties, and, consequently, its ability to control decisions relating to such properties may be limited.
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Property Risk. Real Estate Companies may be subject to risks relating to functional obsolescence or reduced desirability of properties; extended vacancies due to economic conditions and tenant bankruptcies; catastrophic events such as earthquakes, hurricanes and terrorist acts; and casualty or condemnation losses. Real estate income and values also may be greatly affected by demographic trends, such as population shifts or changes in consumer preferences and values, or increasing vacancies or declining rents resulting from legal, cultural, technological, global or local economic developments.
Regulatory Risk. Real estate income and values may be adversely affected by such factors as applicable domestic and foreign laws (including tax laws). Government actions, such as tax increases, zoning law changes, mandated closures or other commercial restrictions or environmental regulations, also may have a major impact on real estate income and values. In addition, quarterly compliance with regulations limiting the proportion of asset types held by a U.S. REIT may force certain Real Estate Companies to liquidate or restructure otherwise attractive investments. Some countries may not recognize REITs or comparable structures as a viable form of real estate funds.
Underlying Investment Risk. Real Estate Companies make investments in a variety of debt and equity instruments with varying risk profiles. For instance, Real Estate Companies may invest in debt instruments secured by commercial property that have higher risks of delinquency and foreclosure than loans on single family homes due to a variety of factors associated with commercial property, including the tie between income available to service debt and productive use of the property. Real Estate Companies may also invest in debt instruments and preferred equity that are junior in an issuer’s capital structure and that involve privately negotiated structures. Subordinated debt investments, such as B-Notes and mezzanine loans, involve a greater credit risk of default due to the need to service more senior debt of the issuer. Similarly, preferred equity investments involve a greater risk of loss than conventional debt financing due to their non-collateralized nature and subordinated ranking. Investments in commercial mortgage-backed securities may also be junior in priority in the event of bankruptcy or similar proceedings. Investments in senior loans may be effectively subordinated if the senior loan is pledged as collateral. The ability of a holder of junior claims to proceed against a defaulting issuer is circumscribed by the terms of the particular contractual arrangement, which vary considerably from transaction to transaction.
U.S. Tax Risk. Certain U.S. Real Estate Companies are subject to special U.S. federal tax requirements. A REIT that fails to comply with such tax requirements may be subject to U.S. federal income taxation, which may affect the value of the REIT and the characterization of the REIT’s distributions. The U.S. federal tax requirement that a REIT distribute substantially all of its net income to its shareholders may result in a REIT having insufficient capital for future expenditures. A REIT that successfully maintains its qualification may still become subject to U.S. federal, state and local taxes, including excise, penalty, franchise, payroll, mortgage recording, and transfer taxes, both directly and indirectly through its subsidiaries. Because REITs often do not provide complete tax information until after the calendar year-end, a Fund may at times need to request permission to extend the deadline for issuing your tax reporting statement or supplement the information otherwise provided to you.
Risk of Investing in the Technology Sector. Technology companies are characterized by periodic new product introductions, innovations and evolving industry standards, and, as a result, face intense competition, both domestically and internationally, which may have an adverse effect on profit margins. Companies in the technology sector are often smaller and less experienced companies and may be subject to greater risks than larger companies; these risks may be heightened for technology companies in foreign markets. Technology companies may have limited product lines, markets, financial resources or personnel. The products of technology companies may face product obsolescence due to rapid technological developments and frequent new product introduction, changes in consumer and business purchasing patterns, unpredictable changes in growth rates and competition for the services of qualified personnel. In addition, a rising interest rate environment tends to negatively affect companies in the technology sector because, in such an environment, those companies with high market valuations may appear less attractive to investors, which may cause sharp decreases in the companies’ market prices. Companies in the technology sector are heavily dependent on patent and intellectual property rights. The loss or impairment of these rights may adversely affect the profitability of these companies. Companies in the technology sector are facing increased government and regulatory scrutiny and may be subject to adverse government or regulatory action. The technology sector may also be adversely affected by changes or trends in commodity prices, which may be influenced or characterized by unpredictable factors. Finally, while all companies may be susceptible to network security breaches, certain companies in the technology sector may be particular targets of hacking and potential theft of proprietary or consumer information or disruptions in service, which could have a material adverse effect on their businesses.
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Risk of Investing in the Utilities Sector. The utilities sector may be adversely affected by changing commodity prices, government regulation stipulating rates charged by utilities, increased tariffs, changes in tax laws, interest rate fluctuations and changes in the cost of providing specific utility services. The utilities industry is also subject to potential terrorist attacks, natural disasters and severe weather conditions, as well as regulatory and operational burdens associated with the operation and maintenance of nuclear facilities. Government regulators monitor and control utility revenues and costs, and therefore may limit utility profits. In certain countries, regulatory authorities may also restrict a company’s access to new markets, thereby diminishing the company’s long-term prospects.
There are substantial differences among the regulatory practices and policies of various jurisdictions, and any regulatory agency may make major shifts in policy from time to time. There is no assurance that regulatory authorities will, in the future, grant rate increases. Additionally, existing and possible future regulatory legislation may make it even more difficult for utilities to obtain adequate relief. Certain of the issuers of securities held in a Fund's portfolio may own or operate nuclear generating facilities. Governmental authorities may from time to time review existing policies and impose additional requirements governing the licensing, construction and operation of nuclear power plants. Prolonged changes in climate conditions can also have a significant impact on both the revenues of an electric and gas utility as well as the expenses of a utility, particularly a hydro-based electric utility.
The rates that traditional regulated utility companies may charge their customers generally are subject to review and limitation by governmental regulatory commissions. Rate changes may occur only after a prolonged approval period or may not occur at all, which could adversely affect utility companies when costs are rising. The value of regulated utility debt securities (and, to a lesser extent, equity securities) tends to have an inverse relationship to the movement of interest rates. Certain utility companies have experienced full or partial deregulation in recent years. These utility companies are frequently more similar to industrial companies in that they are subject to greater competition and have been permitted by regulators to diversify outside of their original geographic regions and their traditional lines of business. As a result, some companies may be forced to defend their core business and may be less profitable. Deregulation may also permit a utility company to expand outside of its traditional lines of business and engage in riskier ventures.
Proxy Voting Policy
For the Funds, the Board has delegated the voting of proxies for each Fund’s securities to BFA pursuant to the Funds' Proxy Voting Policy, and BFA has adopted policies and procedures (collectively, the iShares ETFs Proxy Voting Policies) governing proxy voting by accounts managed by BFA, including the Funds.
Under the iShares ETFs Proxy Voting Policies, BFA will vote proxies related to Fund securities in the best interests of a Fund and its shareholders. From time to time, a vote may present a conflict between the interests of a Fund’s shareholders, on the one hand, and those of BFA, or any affiliated person of a Fund or BFA, on the other. BFA maintains policies and procedures that are designed to prevent undue influence on BFA’s proxy voting activity that might stem from any relationship between the issuer of a proxy (or any dissident shareholder) and BFA, BFA’s affiliates, a Fund or a Fund’s affiliates. Most conflicts are managed through a structural separation of BFA’s Corporate Governance Group from BFA’s employees with sales and client responsibilities. In addition, BFA maintains procedures to ensure that all engagements with corporate issuers or dissident shareholders are managed consistently and without regard to BFA’s relationship with the issuer of the proxy or the dissident shareholder. In certain instances, BFA may determine to engage an independent fiduciary to vote proxies as a further safeguard to avoid potential conflicts of interest or as otherwise required by applicable law.
Copies of the iShares ETFs Proxy Voting Policies are attached as Appendix A.
Information with respect to how proxies relating to the Funds' portfolio securities were voted during the 12-month period ended June 30 is available: (i) without charge, upon request, by calling 1-800-iShares (1-800-474-2737) or through the Funds' website at www.iShares.com; and (ii) on the SEC’s website at www.sec.gov.
Portfolio Holdings Information
On each Business Day (as defined in the Creation and Redemption of Creation Units section of this SAI), prior to the opening of regular trading on the Fund’s primary listing exchange, a Fund discloses on its website (www.iShares.com) certain information relating to the portfolio holdings that will form the basis of a Fund’s next net asset value per share calculation.
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In addition, certain information may also be made available to certain parties:
Communications of Data Files: A Fund may make available through the facilities of the National Securities Clearing Corporation (NSCC) or through posting on the www.iShares.com, prior to the opening of trading on each business day, a list of a Fund’s holdings (generally pro-rata) that Authorized Participants could deliver to a Fund to settle purchases of a Fund (i.e. Deposit Securities) or that Authorized Participants would receive from a Fund to settle redemptions of a Fund (i.e. Fund Securities). These files are known as the Portfolio Composition File and the Fund Data File (collectively, Files). The Files are applicable for the next trading day and are provided to the NSCC and/or posted on www.iShares.com after the close of markets in the U.S.
Communications with Authorized Participants and Liquidity Providers: Certain employees of BFA are responsible for interacting with Authorized Participants and liquidity providers with respect to discussing custom basket proposals as described in the Custom Baskets section of this SAI. As part of these discussions, these employees may discuss with an Authorized Participant or liquidity provider the securities a Fund is willing to accept for a creation, and securities that a Fund will provide on a redemption.
BFA employees may also discuss portfolio holdings-related information with broker/dealers, in connection with settling a Fund’s transactions, as may be necessary to conduct business in the ordinary course in a manner consistent with the disclosure in the Fund's current registration statement.
Communications with Listing Exchanges: From time to time, employees of BFA may discuss portfolio holdings information with the applicable primary listing exchange for a Fund as needed to meet the exchange listing standards.
Communications with Other Portfolio Managers: Certain information may be provided to employees of BFA who manage funds that invest a significant percentage of their assets in shares of an underlying fund as necessary to manage the fund’s investment objective and strategy.
Communication of Other Information: Certain explanatory information regarding the Files is released to Authorized Participants and liquidity providers on a daily basis, but is only done so after the Files are posted to www.iShares.com.
Third-Party Service Providers: Certain portfolio holdings information may be disclosed to Fund Directors and their counsel, outside counsel for the Funds, auditors and to certain third-party service providers (i.e., fund administrator, custodian, proxy voting service) for which a non-disclosure, confidentiality agreement or other obligation is in place with such service providers, as may be necessary to conduct business in the ordinary course in a manner consistent with applicable policies, agreements with the Funds, the terms of the current registration statements and federal securities laws and regulations thereunder.
Liquidity Metrics: Liquidity Metrics, which seek to ascertain a Fund’s liquidity profile under BlackRock’s global liquidity risk methodology, include but are not limited to: (a) disclosure regarding the number of days needed to liquidate a portfolio or the portfolio’s underlying investments; and (b) the percentage of a Fund’s NAV invested in a particular liquidity tier under BlackRock’s global liquidity risk methodology. The dissemination of position-level liquidity metrics data and any non-public regulatory data pursuant to the Liquidity Rule (including SEC liquidity tiering) is not permitted unless pre-approved. Disclosure of portfolio-level liquidity metrics prior to 60 calendar days after calendar quarter-end requires a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement and approval of the Company’s Chief Compliance Officer. Portfolio-level liquidity metrics disclosure subsequent to 60 calendar days after calendar quarter-end requires the approval of portfolio management and must be disclosed to all parties requesting the information if disclosed to any party.
The Company’s Chief Compliance Officer or his delegate may authorize disclosure of portfolio holdings information pursuant to the above policy and procedures, subject to restrictions on selective disclosure imposed by applicable law. The Board reviews the policy and procedures for disclosure of portfolio holdings information at least annually.
Construction and Maintenance of the Underlying Indexes
Descriptions of the Underlying Indexes are provided below.
With respect to certain underlying indexes of the iShares funds, BFA or its affiliates have held discussions with the applicable index provider regarding their business interest in licensing an index to track a particular market segment and conveyed
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investment concepts and strategies that could be considered for the index. The index provider designed and constituted such indices using concepts conveyed by BFA or its affiliates. For certain of these indices, the relevant fund may be the first or sole user of the underlying index. In its sole discretion, the index provider determines the composition of the securities and other instruments in such underlying index, the rebalance protocols of the underlying index, the weightings of the securities and other instruments in the underlying index, and any updates to the methodology. From time to time, BFA or its affiliates may also provide input relating to possible methodology changes of such underlying index pursuant to the index provider’s consultation process or pursuant to other communications with the index provider.
The MSCI Indexes
The MSCI indexes were founded in 1969 by Capital International S.A. as international performance benchmarks constructed to facilitate comparison of world markets. The MSCI single country standard equity indexes have covered the world's developed markets since 1969 and in 1987 MSCI commenced coverage of emerging markets.
Local stock exchanges traditionally calculated their own indexes, which were generally not comparable with one another due to differences in the representation of the local market, mathematical formulas, base dates and methods of adjusting for capital changes. MSCI, however, applies the same calculation methodology to all markets for all single country standard equity indexes, both developed and emerging.
MSCI Global Investable Market Indexes
MSCI's Global Investable Market Indexes (the MSCI GIMI) provide coverage and non-overlapping market segmentation by market capitalization size and by style. The MSCI GIMI intend to target approximately 99% coverage of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each market of large-, mid- and small-cap securities. In each market, MSCI creates an Investable Market Index, Standard Index, Large Cap Index, Mid Cap Index and Small Cap Index. The Standard Index, Large Cap Index, Mid Cap Index and Small Cap Index are each subsets of the Investable Market Index for a market. The MSCI Global Standard Index is the aggregation of the Large Cap Index and Mid Cap Index and the MSCI GIMI is the aggregation of the MSCI Global Standard Index and MSCI Global Small Cap Index.
Selection Criteria. MSCI's index construction process involves: (i) defining the equity universe; (ii) determining the market investable equity universe for each market; (iii) determining market capitalization size segments for each market; (iv) applying final size segment investability requirements; and (v) applying index continuity rules for the MSCI Global Standard Index.
Defining the Equity Universe. MSCI begins with securities listed in countries in the MSCI GIMI. As of June 8, 2023, 23 are classified as developed markets, 24 as emerging markets, and 21 as frontier markets (frontier markets exclude the West African Economic and Monetary Union, which consists of securities classified in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo). All listed equity securities and listed securities that exhibit characteristics of equity securities, except mutual funds, ETFs, equity derivatives, limited partnerships and most investment trusts, are eligible for inclusion in the equity universe. REITs in some countries and certain income trusts in Canada are also eligible for inclusion. Each company and its securities (i.e., share classes) are classified in only one country.
Determining the Market Investable Equity Universe for Each Market. The equity universe in any market is derived by applying investability screens to individual companies and securities in that market. Some investability requirements are applied at the individual security level and some at the overall company level, represented by the aggregation of individual securities of the company. As a result, the inclusion or exclusion of one security does not imply the automatic inclusion or exclusion of other securities of the same company.
Determining Market Capitalization Size Segments for Each Market. In order to create size components that can be meaningfully aggregated into composites, individual market size segments balance the following two objectives:
Achieving global size integrity by ensuring that companies of comparable and relevant sizes are included in a given size segment across all markets in a composite index; and
Achieving consistent market coverage by ensuring that each market's size segment is represented in its proportional weight in the composite universe.
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The Standard Indexes, Large Cap Indexes, Mid Cap Indexes, and Small Cap Indexes capture the following market capitalization size segments:
MSCI Global Standard Indexes cover all investable large- and mid-cap securities by including the largest issuers comprising approximately 85% of each market’s free float-adjusted market capitalization.
MSCI Global Large Cap Indexes provide coverage of all investable large-cap securities by including the largest issuers comprising approximately 70% of each market’s free float-adjusted market capitalization.
MSCI Global Mid Cap Indexes provide coverage in each market by deriving the difference between the market coverage of the MSCI Global Standard Index and the MSCI Global Large Cap Index in that market.
MSCI Global Small Cap Indexes provide coverage of companies with a market capitalization below that of the companies in the MSCI Global Standard Indexes.
Applying Final Size Segment Investability Requirements. In order to enhance replicability of the indexes, additional size segment investability requirements are set for the MSCI GIMI and MSCI Global Standard Index. These investability requirements include minimum free float-adjusted market capitalization, minimum liquidity, minimum foreign limits and minimum length of trading.
Applying Index Continuity Rules for the Standard Index. In order to achieve index continuity as well as provide some basic level of diversification within a market index, notwithstanding the effect of other index construction rules contained herein, a minimum number of five constituents will be maintained for a developed market Standard Index and a minimum number of three constituents will be maintained for an emerging market Standard Index.
Weighting. All indexes of the MSCI GIMI are free float weighted, i.e., companies are included in the indexes at the value of their free public float (free float multiplied by security price).
Regional Weights. Market capitalization-weighting, combined with a consistent target of approximately 99% of free float-adjusted market capitalization, helps ensure that each country's weight in regional and international indexes approximates its weight in the total universe of developing and emerging markets. A market is equivalent to a single country except for developed Europe, where all markets are aggregated into a single market for index construction purposes. Individual country indexes of the European developed markets are derived from the constituents of the MSCI GIMI Europe Index.
Free Float. MSCI defines the free float of a security as the proportion of shares outstanding that are deemed to be available for purchase in the public equity markets by international investors. In practice, limitations on free float available to international investors include: (i) strategic and other shareholdings not considered part of available free float; and (ii) limits on share ownership for foreigners.
MSCI calculates the free float-adjusted market capitalization of each security in the equity index universe by (i) defining and estimating the free float available to foreign investors; (ii) assigning a free float-adjustment factor to each security; and (iii) calculating the free float-adjusted market capitalization of each security.
Under MSCI's free float-adjustment methodology, a constituent's inclusion factor is equal to its estimated free float, rounded up to the closest 5% for constituents with free float equal to or exceeding 15%. For example, a constituent security with a free float of 23.2% will be included in the index at 25% of its market capitalization. For securities with a free float of less than 15%, the estimated free float is adjusted to the nearest 1%.
Price and Exchange Rates
Prices. The prices used to calculate all MSCI indexes are the official exchange closing prices or those figures accepted as such. MSCI reserves the right to use an alternative pricing source on any given day.
Exchange Rates. MSCI uses the World Markets/Reuters Closing Spot Rates taken at 4:00 p.m. London time. In case World Markets/Reuters does not provide rates for specific markets on given days (for example, Christmas Day and New Year's Day), the previous business day's rates are normally used. MSCI independently monitors the exchange rates on all its indexes. MSCI may under exceptional circumstances elect to use alternative sources of exchange rates if the World Markets/Reuters rates are not available, or if MSCI determines that the World Markets/Reuters rates are not reflective of market circumstances for a given currency on a particular day. In such circumstances, an announcement would be sent to clients with the related
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information. If appropriate, MSCI may conduct a consultation with the investment community to gather feedback on the most relevant exchange rate.
Changes to the Indexes. The MSCI GIMI are maintained with the objective of reflecting, on a timely basis, the evolution of the underlying equity markets. In maintaining the MSCI indexes, emphasis is also placed on continuity, replicability and minimizing turnover in the indexes. Maintaining the MSCI indexes involves many aspects, including: (i) additions to, and deletions from, the indexes; (ii) changes in number of shares; and (iii) changes in inclusion factors as a result of updated free float estimates.
Index maintenance can be described by three broad categories of changes:
Semi-Annual Index Reviews (SAIRs), conducted on a fixed semi-annual timetable that systematically reassess the various dimensions of the equity universe for all markets;
Quarterly Index Reviews (QIRs), aimed at promptly reflecting other significant market events; and
Ongoing event-related changes, such as mergers, acquisitions, spin-offs, bankruptcies, reorganizations and other similar corporate events, which generally are implemented in the indexes as they occur.
Potential changes in the status of countries (stand-alone, frontier, emerging and developed) follow their own implementation time tables. In addition, reviews of company involvement in ESG controversies, when applicable, may differ by index and severity of the ESG controversy as determined by MSCI.
MSCI conducts SAIRs generally as of the close of the last business day of May and November. During the SAIRs, MSCI updates the investable equity universe and reassesses size segmentation investability requirements. MSCI also conducts QIRs generally as of the close of the last business day of February and August. During the QIRs, MSCI reflects changes in the index that were not captured at the time of their actual occurrence, but are significant enough to be included before the next SAIR. The results of the SAIR and QIR are generally announced at least ten business days in advance of implementation.
Creation of Sector and Industry Indexes using the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS®)
All securities in the Global Investable Equity Universe are assigned to the industry that best describes their business activities using the GICS. The GICS consists of sectors, industry groups, industries and sub-industries. Under the GICS, each company is assigned to one unique sub-industry according to its principal business activity (generally defined as the business activity that generates 60% or more of the company’s revenues). Narrower indexes may be derived based on industry classification, and may contain securities belonging to specific sectors, industry groups, industries, sub-industries or a combination thereof.
MSCI 25/50 Indexes
Each of the MSCI 25/50 Indexes (the 25/50 Indexes) is a sub-index of either an MSCI Global Standard Index or an MSCI GIMI. Their construction reflects the diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code. MSCI uses the concept of group entities for the concentration limits of the capping methodologies in the 25/50 Indexes. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. The 25/50 Indexes are free float-adjusted market capitalization-weighted indexes with a capping methodology applied to group entity weights so that no single group entity exceeds 25% of index weight, and all group entities with a weight above 5% do not cumulatively exceed 50% of the index weight. A buffer of 10% of the value of each of these caps is used in order to reduce the risk of noncompliance due to short term market movements between rebalances. As a result, at the point of constructing or rebalancing the 25/50 Indexes, the weight of any single group entity cannot exceed 22.5% of the index weight and all group entities with weight above 4.5% cannot exceed 45% of the index weight. A software application called the Barra Optimizer is utilized to calculate the capped index weights through an optimization function which is aimed at minimizing index turnover, tracking error and extreme deviation from the uncapped index.
MSCI Australia Index
Number of Components: approximately 59
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Index Description. The MSCI Australia Index is designed to measure the performance of large- and mid-capitalization segments of the equity market in Australia.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Austria IMI 25/50 Index
Number of Components: approximately 22
Index Description. The MSCI Austria IMI 25/50 Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the performance of the large-, mid- and small-capitalization segments of the equity market in Austria. The Underlying Index is rebalanced quarterly using an optimization process that aims to minimize the constituent weight differences between the Underlying Index and the MSCI Austria Index. The Underlying Index uses a capping methodology that limits the weight of any single group entity (constituents that MSCI determines have a control relationship) to a maximum of 25% of the Underlying Index weight, and the sum of all group entities with a weight above 5% to an aggregate of 50% of the Underlying Index weight. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. All group entities are reviewed on an annual basis. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI Austria IMI Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Belgium IMI 25/50 Index
Number of Components: approximately 40
Index Description. The MSCI Belgium IMI 25/50 Index is designed to measure the performance of the large-, mid- and small-capitalization segments of the equity market in Belgium. The Underlying Index is rebalanced quarterly using an optimization process that aims to minimize the constituent weight differences between the Underlying Index and the MSCI Belgium Index. The Underlying Index uses a capping methodology that limits the weight of any single group entity (constituents that MSCI determines have a control relationship) to a maximum of 25% of the Underlying Index weight, and the sum of all group entities with a weight above 5% to an aggregate of 50% of the Underlying Index weight. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. All group entities are reviewed on an annual basis. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI Belgium IMI Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
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MSCI Canada Custom Capped Index
Number of Components: approximately 87
Index Description. The MSCI Canada Custom Capped Index is designed to measure broad-based equity performance in Canada. The Underlying Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization-weighted index. The Underlying Index constrains at quarterly rebalance the weight of any single issuer to a maximum of 22.5% of the Underlying Index. Additionally, the sum of the issuers that individually constitute more than 4.75% of the weight of the Underlying Index will not exceed a maximum of 22.5% of the weight of the Underlying Index in the aggregate. Between quarterly rebalances, the Underlying Index constrains weight of any single issuer to a maximum of 22.5% of the Underlying Index and constrains the sum of the issuers that individually constitute more than 5% of the weight of the Underlying Index to maximum of 24% of the weight of the Underlying Index in the aggregate. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI Canada Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI EMU Index
Number of Components: approximately 228
Index Description. The MSCI EMU Index consists of stocks from the following 10 markets: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI France Index
Number of Components: approximately 63
Index Description. The MSCI France Index is designed to measure the performance of the large- and mid-capitalization segments of the equity market in France.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Germany Index
Number of Components: approximately 59
Index Description. The MSCI Germany Index is designed to measure the performance of the large- and mid-capitalization segments of the equity market in Germany.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes
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withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Hong Kong 25/50 Index
Number of Components: approximately 32
Index Description. The MSCI Hong Kong 25/50 Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the performance of the large- and mid-capitalization segments of the equity market in Hong Kong. The Underlying Index is rebalanced quarterly using an optimization process that aims to minimize the constituent weight differences between the Underlying Index and the MSCI Hong Kong Index. The Underlying Index uses a capping methodology that limits the weight of any single group entity (constituents that MSCI determines have a control relationship) to a maximum of 25% of the Underlying Index weight, and the sum of all group entities with a weight above 5% to an aggregate of 50% of the Underlying Index weight. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. All group entities are reviewed on an annual basis. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI Hong Kong Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Israel Capped Investable Market Index (IMI)
Number of Components: approximately 112
Index Description. The MSCI Israel Capped IMI is a free float-adjusted market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the performance of the large-, mid- and small capitalization segments of the equity market in Israel. The Underlying Index is rebalanced quarterly using an optimization process that aims to minimize the constituent weight differences between the Underlying Index and the MSCI Israel Index. The Underlying Index uses a capping methodology that limits the weight of any single group entity (constituents that MSCI determines have a control relationship) to a maximum of 25% of the Underlying Index weight, and the sum of all group entities with a weight above 5% to an aggregate of 50% of the Underlying Index weight. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. All group entities are reviewed on an annual basis. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI Israel IMI Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Italy 25/50 Index
Number of Components: approximately 23
Index Description. The MSCI Italy 25/50 Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the performance of the large- and mid-capitalization segments of the equity market in Italy. The Underlying Index
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is rebalanced quarterly using an optimization process that aims to minimize the constituent weight differences between the Underlying Index and the MSCI Italy Index. The Underlying Index uses a capping methodology that limits the weight of any single group entity (constituents that MSCI determines have a control relationship) to a maximum of 25% of the Underlying Index weight, and the sum of all group entities with a weight above 5% to an aggregate of 50% of the Underlying Index weight. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. All group entities are reviewed on an annual basis. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI Italy Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Japan Index
Number of Components: approximately 237
Index Description. The MSCI Japan Index is designed to measure the performance of the large- and mid-capitalization segments of the equity market in Japan. The index covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in Japan.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Japan Small Cap Index
Number of Components: approximately 851
Index Description. The MSCI Japan Small Cap Index is designed to measure the performance of equity securities of small-capitalization companies in Japan and represents approximately 14% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization of the Japan equity universe.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Mexico IMI 25/50 Index
Number of Components: approximately 44
Index Description. The MSCI Mexico IMI 25/50 Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the performance of the large-, mid- and small- capitalization segments of the equity market Mexico. The Underlying Index is rebalanced quarterly using an optimization process that aims to minimize the constituent weight differences between the Underlying Index and the MSCI Mexico Index. The Underlying Index uses a capping methodology that limits the weight of any single group entity (constituents that MSCI determines have a control relationship) to a maximum of 25% of the Underlying Index weight, and the sum of all group entities with a weight above 5% to an aggregate of 50% of the Underlying Index weight. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group
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but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. All group entities are reviewed on an annual basis. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI Mexico IMI Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Netherlands IMI 25/50 Index
Number of Components: approximately 56
Index Description. The MSCI Netherlands IMI 25/50 Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the performance of the large-, mid- and small-capitalization segments of the equity market in the Netherlands. The Underlying Index is rebalanced quarterly using an optimization process that aims to minimize the constituent weight differences between the Underlying Index and the MSCI Netherlands Index. The Underlying Index uses a capping methodology that limits the weight of any single group entity (constituents that MSCI determines have a control relationship) to a maximum of 25% of the Underlying Index weight, and the sum of all group entities with a weight above 5% to an aggregate of 50% of the Underlying Index weight. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. All group entities are reviewed on an annual basis. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI Netherlands IMI Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Pacific ex Japan Index
Number of Components: approximately 119
Index Description. The MSCI Pacific ex Japan Index consists of stocks from the following four countries or regions: Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Singapore and covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each country.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Singapore 25/50 Index
Number of Components: approximately 22
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Index Description. The MSCI Singapore 25/50 Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the performance of the large- and mid-capitalization segments of the equity market in Singapore. The Underlying Index is rebalanced quarterly using an optimization process that aims to minimize the constituent weight differences between the Underlying Index and the MSCI Singapore Index. The Underlying Index uses a capping methodology that limits the weight of any single group entity (constituents that MSCI determines have a control relationship) to a maximum of 25% of the Underlying Index weight, and the sum of all group entities with a weight above 5% to an aggregate of 50% of the Underlying Index weight. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. All group entities are reviewed on an annual basis. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI Singapore Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI South Africa 25/50 Index
Number of Components: approximately 37
Index Description. The MSCI South Africa 25/50 Index is designed to measure the performance of the large- and mid-capitalization segments of the equity market in South Africa. The Underlying Index is rebalanced quarterly using an optimization process that aims to minimize the constituent weight differences between the Underlying Index and the MSCI South Africa Index. The Underlying Index uses a capping methodology that limits the weight of any single group entity (constituents that MSCI determines have a control relationship) to a maximum of 25% of the Underlying Index weight, and the sum of all group entities with a weight above 5% to an aggregate of 50% of the Underlying Index weight. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. All group entities are reviewed on an annual basis. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI South Africa Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Spain 25/50 Index
Number of Components: approximately 19
Index Description. The MSCI Spain 25/50 Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the performance of the large- and mid-capitalization segments of the equity market in Spain. The Underlying Index is rebalanced quarterly using an optimization process that aims to minimize the constituent weight differences between the Underlying Index and the MSCI Spain Index. The Underlying Index uses a capping methodology that limits the weight of any single group entity (constituents that MSCI determines have a control relationship) to a maximum of 25% of the Underlying Index weight, and the sum of all group entities with a weight above 5% to an aggregate of 50% of the Underlying Index weight. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding
43


stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. All group entities are reviewed on an annual basis. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI Spain Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Sweden 25/50 Index
Number of Components: approximately 46
Index Description. The MSCI Sweden 25/50 Index is designed to measure the performance of the large- and mid-capitalization segments of the equity market in Sweden. The Underlying Index is rebalanced quarterly using an optimization process that aims to minimize the constituent weight differences between the Underlying Index and the MSCI Sweden Index. The Underlying Index uses a capping methodology that limits the weight of any single group entity (constituents that MSCI determines have a control relationship) to a maximum of 25% of the Underlying Index weight, and the sum of all group entities with a weight above 5% to an aggregate of 50% of the Underlying Index weight. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. All group entities are reviewed on an annual basis. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI Sweden Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Switzerland 25/50 Index
Number of Components: approximately 44
Index Description. The MSCI Switzerland 25/50 Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the performance of the large- and mid- capitalization segments of the equity market in Switzerland. The Underlying Index is rebalanced quarterly using an optimization process that aims to minimize the constituent weight differences between the Underlying Index and the MSCI Switzerland Index. The Underlying Index uses a capping methodology that limits the weight of any single group entity (constituents that MSCI determines have a control relationship) to a maximum of 25% of the Underlying Index weight, and the sum of all group entities with a weight above 5% to an aggregate of 50% of the Underlying Index weight. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. All group entities are reviewed on an annual basis. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI Switzerland Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating
44


the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Thailand IMI 25/50 Index
Number of Components: approximately 140
Index Description. The MSCI Thailand IMI 25/50 Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the performance of the large-, mid- and small-capitalization segments of the equity market in Thailand. The Underlying Index is rebalanced quarterly using an optimization process that aims to minimize the constituent weight differences between the Underlying Index and the MSCI Thailand Index. The Underlying Index uses a capping methodology that limits the weight of any single group entity (constituents that MSCI determines have a control relationship) to a maximum of 25% of the Underlying Index weight, and the sum of all group entities with a weight above 5% to an aggregate of 50% of the Underlying Index weight. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. All group entities are reviewed on an annual basis. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI Thailand IMI Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI Turkey IMI 25/50 Index
Number of Components: approximately 68
Index Description. The MSCI Turkey IMI 25/50 Index is designed to measure the performance of the large-, mid- and small-capitalization segments of the equity market in Turkey. MSCI, Inc. classifies Turkey as an emerging market. The Underlying Index is rebalanced quarterly using an optimization process that aims to minimize the constituent weight differences between the Underlying Index and the MSCI Turkey Index. The Underlying Index uses a capping methodology that limits the weight of any single group entity (constituents that MSCI determines have a control relationship) to a maximum of 25% of the Underlying Index weight, and the sum of all group entities with a weight above 5% to an aggregate of 50% of the Underlying Index weight. A group entity is a group of companies that operate as an affiliated corporate group but may separately issue listed securities. To determine group entities, MSCI analyzes financial accounts of listed companies holding stakes of 20% or more in other listed companies to determine whether these stakes are controlling in nature. In certain cases, even in the absence of consolidated accounts, MSCI may also consider two companies as belonging to the same group entity where there is reasonable evidence of control based on other information. All group entities are reviewed on an annual basis. The Underlying Index is a variation of the MSCI Turkey IMI Index, designed to take into account the investment diversification requirements applicable to RICs pursuant to Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
MSCI USA Equal Weighted Index
Number of Components: approximately 627
45


Index Description. The MSCI USA Equal Weighted Index is an equally-weighted securities index that measures the performance of the large and mid-capitalization segments of U.S equity securities and represents an alternative weighting scheme to its market capitalization-weighted parent index, the MSCI USA Index. The Underlying Index is rebalanced quarterly, at which time all securities in the Underlying Index are weighted equally. Between rebalances, the weightings of the securities in the Underlying Index will fluctuate due to price performance.
Calculation Methodology. The Underlying Index is rebalanced in February, May, August and November. On each rebalance date, the Underlying Index applies equal weights to the securities in the Index. Between each rebalance date, the weight of the securities in the Underlying Index may deviate from the equal weighting applied on the prior rebalance date depending on the performance of each security. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the relevant U.S. dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum U.S. rate applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to U.S. resident institutional investors.
MSCI World Index
Number of Components: approximately 1,513
Index Description. The MSCI World Index is designed to measure the performance of equity securities in the large and mid-capitalization segments of developed market countries.
Calculation Methodology. The Fund utilizes the Underlying Index calculated with net dividends reinvested. MSCI uses the index constituent companies’ country of incorporation to determine the relevant dividend withholding tax rates in calculating the net dividends. The regular cash dividend is reinvested after deduction of withholding tax by applying the maximum rate of the company’s country of incorporation applicable to institutional investors. Net dividends means dividends after taxes withheld at the rate applicable to non-resident institutional investors who do not benefit from double taxation treaties. Such withholding rates may differ from those applicable to U.S. residents.
Additional Information. MSCI, MSCI Australia Index, MSCI Austria IMI 25/50 Index, MSCI Belgium IMI 25/50 Index, MSCI Canada Custom Capped Index, MSCI EMU Index, MSCI France Index, MSCI Germany Index, MSCI Hong Kong 25/50 Index, MSCI Israel Capped IMI, MSCI Italy 25/50 Index, MSCI Japan Index, MSCI Japan Small Cap Index, MSCI Mexico IMI 25/50 Index, MSCI Netherlands IMI 25/50 Index, MSCI Pacific ex Japan Index, MSCI Singapore 25/50 Index, MSCI South Africa 25/50 Index, MSCI Spain 25/50 Index, MSCI Sweden 25/50 Index, MSCI Switzerland 25/50 Index, MSCI Thailand IMI 25/50 Index, MSCI Turkey IMI 25/50 Index, MSCI USA Equal Weighted Index and MSCI World Index are servicemarks of MSCI Inc. and have been licensed for use by BFA or its affiliates. The Funds are neither sponsored, endorsed, sold nor promoted by MSCI Inc., and MSCI Inc. makes no representation regarding the advisability of investing in any of the Funds.
Investment Policies
The Board has adopted as fundamental policies the following numbered investment policies, which cannot be changed without the approval of the holders of a majority of the applicable Fund’s outstanding voting securities. A vote of a majority of the outstanding voting securities of a Fund is defined in the 1940 Act as the lesser of (i) 67% or more of the voting securities present at a shareholder meeting, if the holders of more than 50% of the outstanding voting securities of the Fund are present or represented by proxy, or (ii) more than 50% of outstanding voting securities of the Fund. Each Fund has also adopted certain non-fundamental investment policies, including its investment objective. Non-fundamental investment policies may be changed by the Board without shareholder approval. Therefore, each Fund may change its investment objective and its Underlying Index without shareholder approval.
Fundamental Investment Policies
Each of the iShares MSCI Australia ETF, iShares MSCI Canada ETF, iShares MSCI Germany ETF, iShares MSCI Hong Kong ETF, iShares MSCI Netherlands ETF, iShares MSCI Pacific ex Japan ETF, iShares MSCI Singapore ETF, iShares MSCI South Africa ETF and iShares Switzerland ETF will not:
1.
Lend any funds or other assets except through the purchase of all or a portion of an issue of securities or obligations of the type in which it is permitted to invest (including participation interests in such securities or obligations) and except that a Fund may lend its portfolio securities in an amount not to exceed 33 1/3% of the value of its total assets;
46


2.
Issue senior securities or borrow money, except borrowings from banks for temporary or emergency purposes in an amount up to 33 1/3% of the value of the Fund’s total assets (including the amount borrowed), valued at the lesser of cost or market, less liabilities (not including the amount borrowed) valued at the time the borrowing is made, and the Fund will not purchase securities while borrowings in excess of 5% of the Fund’s total assets are outstanding, provided, that for purposes of this restriction, short-term credits necessary for the clearance of transactions are not considered borrowings;
3.
Pledge, hypothecate, mortgage or otherwise encumber its assets, except to secure permitted borrowings. (The deposit of underlying securities and other assets in escrow and collateral arrangements with respect to initial or variation margin for currency transactions and futures contracts will not be deemed to be pledges of the Fund’s assets);
4.
Purchase a security (other than obligations of the U.S. government, its agencies or instrumentalities) if as a result 25% or more of its total assets would be invested in a single issuer. (This restriction applies to the iShares MSCI Singapore ETF only);
5.
Purchase, hold or deal in real estate, or oil, gas or mineral interests or leases, but a Fund may purchase and sell securities that are issued by companies that invest or deal in such assets;
6.
Act as an underwriter of securities of other issuers, except to the extent the Fund may be deemed an underwriter in connection with the sale of securities in its portfolio;
7.
Purchase securities on margin, except for such short-term credits as are necessary for the clearance of transactions, except that a Fund may make margin deposits in connection with transactions in currencies, options, futures and options on futures;
8.
Sell securities short; or
9.
Invest in commodities or commodity contracts, except that a Fund may buy and sell currencies and forward contracts with respect thereto, and may transact in futures contracts on securities, stock indices and currencies and options on such futures contracts and make margin deposits in connection with such contracts.
With respect to the fundamental policy relating to issuing senior securities and borrowing money set forth in (2) above, the Investment Company Act, including the rules and regulations thereunder, generally prohibits the Fund from issuing senior securities or borrowing money (other than certain temporary borrowings) unless immediately after the issuance or borrowing the Fund has satisfied an asset coverage requirement with respect to senior securities representing indebtedness prescribed by the Investment Company Act. Certain trading practices and investments, such as derivatives transactions, may be treated as senior securities. Prior to the adoption and implementation of Rule 18f-4 under the Investment Company Act, when the Fund engaged in a derivatives transaction that creates future payment obligations, consistent with SEC staff guidance and interpretations, the Fund was permitted to segregate or earmark liquid assets, or enter into an offsetting position, in an amount at least equal to the Fund’s exposure, on a mark-to-market basis, to the transaction, instead of meeting the asset coverage requirement with respect to senior securities prescribed by the Investment Company Act. The SEC staff guidance and interpretations were rescinded in connection with the adoption of Rule 18f-4, and the Fund now complies with Rule 18f-4 with respect to its derivatives transactions. Thus, the fundamental policy relating to issuing senior securities and borrowing money set forth in (2) above will not restrict the Fund from entering into derivatives transactions that are treated as senior securities so long as the Fund complies with Rule 18f-4 with respect to such derivatives transactions.
Each of the iShares MSCI Austria ETF, iShares MSCI Belgium ETF, iShares MSCI Eurozone ETF, iShares MSCI France ETF, iShares MSCI Italy ETF, iShares MSCI Japan ETF, iShares MSCI Mexico ETF, iShares MSCI Spain ETF and iShares MSCI Sweden ETF will not:
1.
Make loans, except as permitted under the 1940 Act, as interpreted, modified or otherwise permitted by regulatory authority having jurisdiction, from time to time;
2.
Issue any senior security, except as permitted under the 1940 Act, as interpreted, modified or otherwise permitted by regulatory authority having jurisdiction, from time to time;
3.
Pledge, hypothecate, mortgage or otherwise encumber its assets, except to secure permitted borrowings. (The deposit
47


of underlying securities and other assets in escrow and collateral arrangements with respect to initial or variation margin for currency transactions and futures contracts will not be deemed to be pledges of the Fund’s assets);
4.
Purchase, hold or deal in real estate, or oil, gas or mineral interests or leases, but a Fund may purchase and sell securities that are issued by companies that invest or deal in such assets;
5.
Act as an underwriter of securities of other issuers, except to the extent the Fund may be deemed an underwriter in connection with the sale of securities in its portfolio;
6.
Purchase securities on margin, except for such short-term credits as are necessary for the clearance of transactions, except that a Fund may make margin deposits in connection with transactions in currencies, options, futures and options on futures;
7.
Sell securities short; or
8.
Invest in commodities or commodity contracts, except that a Fund may buy and sell currencies and forward contracts with respect thereto, and may transact in futures contracts on securities, stock indices and currencies and options on such futures contracts and make margin deposits in connection with such contracts.
Each of the iShares MSCI Israel ETF, iShares MSCI Japan Small-Cap ETF, iShares MSCI Thailand ETF, iShares MSCI Turkey ETF, iShares MSCI USA Equal Weighted ETF and iShares MSCI World ETF will not:
1.
Concentrate its investments (i.e., invest 25% or more of its total assets in the securities of a particular industry or group of industries), except that a Fund will concentrate to approximately the same extent that its Underlying Index concentrates in the securities of such particular industry or group of industries. For purposes of this limitation, securities of the U.S. government (including its agencies and instrumentalities), repurchase agreements collateralized by U.S. government securities, and securities of state or municipal governments and their political subdivisions are not considered to be issued by members of any industry;
2.
Borrow money, except that (i) each Fund may borrow from banks for temporary or emergency (not leveraging) purposes, including the meeting of redemption requests which might otherwise require the untimely disposition of securities, and (ii) each Fund may, to the extent consistent with its investment policies, enter into repurchase agreements, reverse repurchase agreements, forward roll transactions and similar investment strategies and techniques. To the extent that it engages in transactions described in (i) and (ii), each Fund will be limited so that no more than 33 1/3% of the value of its total assets (including the amount borrowed) is derived from such transactions. Any borrowings which come to exceed this amount will be reduced in accordance with applicable law;
3.
Issue any senior security, except as permitted under the 1940 Act, as interpreted, modified or otherwise permitted by regulatory authority having jurisdiction, from time to time;
4.
Make loans, except as permitted under the 1940 Act, as interpreted, modified or otherwise permitted by regulatory authority having jurisdiction, from time to time;
5.
Purchase or sell real estate unless acquired as a result of ownership of securities or other investments (but this restriction shall not prevent each Fund from investing in securities of companies engaged in the real estate business or securities or other instruments backed by real estate or mortgages), or commodities or commodity contracts (but this restriction shall not prevent each Fund from trading in futures contracts and options on futures contracts, including options on currencies to the extent consistent with each Fund's investment objectives and policies); or
6.
Engage in the business of underwriting securities issued by other persons, except to the extent that each Fund may technically be deemed to be an underwriter under the 1933 Act, the disposing of portfolio securities.
Industry concentration. Each Fund (except the iShares MSCI Singapore ETF) will not concentrate its investments (i.e., hold 25% or more of its total assets in the stocks of a particular industry or group of industries), except that, to the extent practicable, the Fund will concentrate to approximately the same extent that its benchmark MSCI Index concentrates in the stocks of such particular industry or group of industries, provided that the Fund will comply with the diversification requirements of the Internal Revenue Code applicable to RICs, any underlying Treasury regulations or any successor provisions.
48


The iShares MSCI Singapore ETF has the following concentration policy: With respect to the two most heavily weighted industries or groups of industries in its benchmark MSCI Index, the Fund will invest in securities (consistent with its investment objective and other investment policies) so that the weighting of each such industry or group of industries in the Fund does not diverge by more than 10% from the respective weighting of such industry or group of industries in its benchmark MSCI Index. An exception to this policy is that if investment in the stock of a single issuer would account for more than 25% of the Fund, the Fund will invest less than 25% of its net assets in such stock and will reallocate the excess to stock(s) in the same industry or group of industries, and/or to stock(s) in another industry or group of industries, in its benchmark MSCI Index. The Fund will evaluate these industry weightings at least weekly, and at the time of evaluation will adjust its portfolio composition to the extent necessary to maintain compliance with the above policy. The Fund may not concentrate its investments except as discussed above. The Board has adopted this policy as fundamental, which means that it may not be changed with respect to a Fund without the approval of the holders of a majority of the Fund's outstanding voting securities.
Non-Fundamental Investment Policies
All Funds
In addition to the investment limitations adopted as fundamental as set forth above, each Fund observes the following restrictions, which may be changed by the Board without a shareholder vote. A Fund will not invest in the securities of a company for the purpose of exercising management or control, or in any event purchase and hold more than 10% of the securities of a single issuer, provided that the Company may vote the investment securities owned by each Fund in accordance with its views.
If any percentage restriction described above is complied with to at the time of investment, a later increase or decrease in percentage resulting from any change in value or total or net assets will not constitute in a violation of such restriction, except that certain percentage limitations will be observed continuously in accordance with applicable law.
Each Fund has adopted a non-fundamental investment policy in accordance with Rule 35d-1 under the 1940 Act to invest, under normal circumstances, at least 80% of the value of its net assets, plus the amount of any borrowings for investment purposes, in component securities, and in ADRs based on securities, in its Underlying Index. Each Fund also has adopted a policy to provide its shareholders with at least 60 days' prior written notice of any change in such policy. If, subsequent to an investment, the 80% requirement is no longer met, a Fund's future investments will be made in a manner that will bring the Fund into compliance with this policy.
Each Fund has adopted a non-fundamental policy not to purchase securities of other investment companies, except to the extent permitted by the 1940 Act. As a matter of policy, however, a Fund will not purchase shares of any registered open-end investment company or registered unit investment trust, in reliance on Section 12(d)(1)(F) or (G) (the fund of funds provisions) of the 1940 Act, at any time the Fund has knowledge that its shares are purchased by another investment company investor in reliance on the provisions of subparagraph (G) of Section 12(d)(1).
Continuous Offering
The method by which Creation Units are created and traded may raise certain issues under applicable securities laws. Because new Creation Units are issued and sold by the Funds on an ongoing basis, at any point a distribution, as such term is used in the 1933 Act, may occur. Broker-dealers and other persons are cautioned that some activities on their part may, depending on the circumstances, result in their being deemed participants in a distribution in a manner that could render them statutory underwriters and subject them to the prospectus delivery requirement and liability provisions of the 1933 Act.
For example, a broker-dealer firm or its client may be deemed a statutory underwriter if it takes Creation Units after placing an order with the Distributor, breaks them down into constituent shares and sells such shares directly to customers or if it chooses to couple the creation of new shares with an active selling effort involving solicitation of secondary market demand for shares. A determination of whether one is an underwriter for purposes of the 1933 Act must take into account all of the facts and circumstances pertaining to the activities of the broker-dealer or its client in the particular case and the examples mentioned above should not be considered a complete description of all the activities that could lead to a categorization as an underwriter.
49


Broker-dealer firms should also note that dealers who are not underwriters but are effecting transactions in shares, whether or not participating in the distribution of shares, generally are required to deliver a prospectus. This is because the prospectus delivery exemption in Section 4(a)(3) of the 1933 Act is not available in respect of such transactions as a result of Section 24(d) of the 1940 Act. Firms that incur a prospectus delivery obligation with respect to shares of the Funds are reminded that, pursuant to Rule 153 under the 1933 Act, a prospectus delivery obligation under Section 5(b)(2) of the 1933 Act owed to an exchange member in connection with a sale on the Listing Exchange generally is satisfied by the fact that the prospectus is available at the Listing Exchange upon request. The prospectus delivery mechanism provided in Rule 153 is available only with respect to transactions on an exchange.
Management
Directors and Officers. The Board has responsibility for the overall management and operations of the Funds, including general supervision of the duties performed by BFA and other service providers. Each Director serves until he or she resigns, is removed, dies, retires or becomes incapacitated. Each officer shall hold office until his or her successor is elected and qualifies or until his or her death, resignation or removal. Directors who are not interested persons (as defined in the 1940 Act) of the Company are referred to as independent directors (Independent Directors).
The registered investment companies advised by BFA or its affiliates (the BlackRock-advised Funds) are organized into one complex of open-end equity, multi-asset, index and money market funds and ETFs (the BlackRock Multi-Asset Complex), one complex of closed-end funds and open-end non-index fixed-income funds (including ETFs) (the BlackRock Fixed-Income Complex) and one complex of ETFs (Exchange-Traded Fund Complex) (each, a BlackRock Fund Complex). Each Fund is included in the Exchange-Traded Fund Complex. Each Director also serves as a Trustee of iShares Trust and a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust and, as a result, oversees all of the funds within the Exchange-Traded Fund Complex, which consists of 403 funds as of December 29, 2023. With the exception of Robert S. Kapito, Salim Ramji, Dominik Rohé and Aaron Wasserman, the address of each Director and officer is c/o BlackRock, Inc., 400 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94105. The address of Mr. Kapito, Mr. Ramji, Mr. Rohé and Mr. Wasserman is c/o BlackRock, Inc., 50 Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001. The Board has designated John E. Kerrigan as its Independent Board Chair. Additional information about the Funds' Directors and officers may be found in this SAI, which is available without charge, upon request, by calling toll-free 1-800-iShares (1-800-474-2737).
Interested Directors
Name (Year of Birth)
Position
Principal Occupation(s)
During the Past 5 Years
Other Directorships
Held by Director
Robert S. Kapito1
(1957)
Director
(since 2009).
President, BlackRock, Inc. (since
2006); Vice Chairman of BlackRock,
Inc. and Head of BlackRock’s
Portfolio Management Group (since
its formation in 1998) and BlackRock,
Inc.’s predecessor entities (since
1988); Trustee, University of
Pennsylvania (since 2009); President
of Board of Directors, Hope & Heroes
Children’s Cancer Fund (since 2002).
Director of BlackRock, Inc. (since
2006); Trustee of iShares Trust (since
2009); Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF
Trust (since 2011).
50


Name (Year of Birth)
Position
Principal Occupation(s)
During the Past 5 Years
Other Directorships
Held by Director
Salim Ramji2
(1970)
Director (since
2019).
Senior Managing Director, BlackRock,
Inc. (since 2014); Global Head of
BlackRock’s ETF and Index
Investments Business (since 2019);
Head of BlackRock’s U.S. Wealth
Advisory Business (2015-2019);
Global Head of Corporate Strategy,
BlackRock, Inc. (2014-2015); Senior
Partner, McKinsey & Company (2010-
2014).
Trustee of iShares Trust (since 2019);
Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust
(since 2019).

1
Robert S. Kapito is deemed to be an interested person (as defined in the 1940 Act) of the Company due to his affiliations with BlackRock, Inc. and its affiliates.
2
Salim Ramji is deemed to be an interested person (as defined in the 1940 Act) of the Company due to his affiliations with BlackRock, Inc. and its affiliates.
Independent Directors
Name (Year of Birth)
Position
Principal Occupation(s)
During the Past 5 Years
Other Directorships
Held by Director
John E. Kerrigan
(1955)
Director
(since 2005);
Independent Board
Chair
(since 2022).
Chief Investment Officer, Santa Clara
University (since 2002).
Trustee of iShares Trust (since 2005);
Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust
(since 2011); Independent Board
Chair of iShares Trust and iShares
U.S. ETF Trust (since 2022).
Jane D. Carlin
(1956)
Director
(since 2015); Risk
Committee Chair
(since 2016).
Consultant (since 2012); Member of
the Audit Committee (2012-2018),
Chair of the Nominating and
Governance Committee (2017-2018)
and Director of PHH Corporation
(mortgage solutions) (2012-2018);
Managing Director and Global Head
of Financial Holding Company
Governance & Assurance and the
Global Head of Operational Risk
Management of Morgan Stanley
(2006-2012).
Trustee of iShares Trust (since 2015);
Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust
(since 2015); Member of the Audit
Committee (since 2016), Chair of the
Audit Committee (since 2020) and
Director of The Hanover Insurance
Group, Inc. (since 2016).
Richard L. Fagnani
(1954)
Director
(since 2017); Audit
Committee Chair
(since 2019).
Partner, KPMG LLP (2002-2016);
Director of One Generation Away
(since 2021).
Trustee of iShares Trust (since 2017);
Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust
(since 2017).
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Name (Year of Birth)
Position
Principal Occupation(s)
During the Past 5 Years
Other Directorships
Held by Director
Cecilia H. Herbert
(1949)
Director
(since 2005);
Nominating and
Governance and
Equity Plus
Committee Chairs
(since 2022).
Chair of the Finance Committee
(since 2019) and Trustee and
Member of the Finance, Audit and
Quality Committees of Stanford
Health Care (since 2016); Trustee of
WNET, New York's public media
company (since 2011) and Member
of the Audit Committee (since 2018),
Investment Committee (since 2011)
and Personnel Committee (since
2022); Member of the Wyoming
State Investment Funds Committee
(since 2022); Trustee of Forward
Funds (14 portfolios) (2009-2018);
Trustee of Salient MF Trust (4
portfolios) (2015-2018); Director of
the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts
(since 2021).
Trustee of iShares Trust (since 2005);
Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust
(since 2011).
Drew E. Lawton
(1959)
Director
(since 2017); 15(c)
Committee Chair
(since 2017).
Senior Managing Director of New
York Life Insurance Company (2010-
2015).
Trustee of iShares Trust (since 2017);
Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust
(since 2017); Director of Jackson
Financial Inc. (since 2021).
John E. Martinez
(1961)
Director
(since 2003);
Securities Lending
Committee Chair
(since 2019).
Director of Real Estate Equity
Exchange, Inc. (since 2005); Director
of Cloudera Foundation (2017-2020);
and Director of Reading Partners
(2012-2016).
Trustee of iShares Trust (since 2003);
Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust
(since 2011).
Madhav V. Rajan
(1964)
Director
(since 2011); Fixed
Income Plus
Committee Chair
(since 2019).
Dean, and George Pratt Shultz
Professor of Accounting, University
of Chicago Booth School of Business
(since 2017); Advisory Board
Member (since 2016) and Director
(since 2020) of C.M. Capital
Corporation; Chair of the Board for
the Center for Research in Security
Prices, LLC (since 2020); Robert K.
Jaedicke Professor of Accounting,
Stanford University Graduate School
of Business (2001-2017); Professor of
Law (by courtesy), Stanford Law
School (2005-2017); Senior Associate
Dean for Academic Affairs and Head
of MBA Program, Stanford University
Graduate School of Business (2010-
2016).
Trustee of iShares Trust (since 2011);
Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust
(since 2011).
52


Officers
Name (Year of Birth)
Position
Principal Occupation(s)
During the Past 5 Years
Dominik Rohé
(1973)
President (since
2023).
Managing Director, BlackRock, Inc.
(since 2005); Head of Americas ETF
and Index Investments (since 2023);
Head of Latin America (2019-2023).
Trent Walker
(1974)
Treasurer and Chief
Financial Officer
(since 2020).
Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc.
(since September 2019); Chief
Financial Officer of iShares Delaware
Trust Sponsor LLC, BlackRock Funds,
BlackRock Funds II, BlackRock Funds
IV, BlackRock Funds V and BlackRock
Funds VI (since 2021); Executive Vice
President of PIMCO (2016-2019);
Senior Vice President of PIMCO
(2008-2015); Treasurer (2013-2019)
and Assistant Treasurer (2007-2017)
of PIMCO Funds, PIMCO Variable
Insurance Trust, PIMCO ETF Trust,
PIMCO Equity Series, PIMCO Equity
Series VIT, PIMCO Managed
Accounts Trust, 2 PIMCO-sponsored
interval funds and 21 PIMCO-
sponsored closed-end funds.
Aaron Wasserman
(1974)
Chief Compliance
Officer (since 2023).
Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc.
(since 2018); Chief Compliance
Officer of the BlackRock Multi-Asset
Complex, the BlackRock Fixed-
Income Complex and the Exchange-
Traded Fund Complex (since 2023);
Deputy Chief Compliance Officer for
the BlackRock Multi-Asset Complex,
the BlackRock Fixed-Income
Complex and the Exchange-Traded
Fund Complex (2014-2023).
Marisa Rolland
(1980)
Secretary (since
2022).
Managing Director, BlackRock, Inc.
(since 2023); Director, BlackRock, Inc.
(2018-2022); Vice President,
BlackRock, Inc. (2010-2017).
Rachel Aguirre
(1982)
Executive Vice
President (since
2022).
Managing Director, BlackRock, Inc.
(since 2018); Director, BlackRock, Inc.
(2009-2018); Head of U.S. iShares
Product (since 2022); Head of EII U.S.
Product Engineering (since 2021);
Co-Head of EII’s Americas Portfolio
Engineering (2020-2021); Head of
Developed Markets Portfolio
Engineering (2016-2019).
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Name (Year of Birth)
Position
Principal Occupation(s)
During the Past 5 Years
Jennifer Hsui
(1976)
Executive Vice
President (since
2022).
Managing Director, BlackRock, Inc.
(since 2009); Co-Head of Index
Equity (since 2022).
James Mauro
(1970)
Executive Vice
President (since
2021).
Managing Director, BlackRock, Inc.
(since 2010); Head of Fixed Income
Index Investments in the Americas
and Head of San Francisco Core
Portfolio Management (since 2020).
The Board has concluded that, based on each Director’s experience, qualifications, attributes or skills on an individual basis and in combination with those of the other Directors, each Director should serve as a Director of the Board. Among the attributes common to all Directors are their ability to review critically, evaluate, question and discuss information provided to them, to interact effectively with the Funds' investment adviser, other service providers, counsel and the independent registered public accounting firm, and to exercise effective business judgment in the performance of their duties as Directors. A Director’s ability to perform his or her duties effectively may have been attained through the Director’s educational background or professional training; business, consulting, public service or academic positions; experience from service as a Board member of the Funds and the other funds in the Company (and any predecessor funds), other investment funds, public companies, or non-profit entities or other organizations; and/or other life experiences. Also, set forth below is a brief discussion of the specific experience, qualifications, attributes or skills of each Director that led the Board to conclude that he or she should serve (or continue to serve) as a Director.
Robert S. Kapito has been a Director of the Company since 2009. Mr. Kapito has also served as a Trustee of iShares Trust since 2009, a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2011 and a Director of BlackRock, Inc. since 2006. Mr. Kapito served as a Director of iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF, Inc. from 2010 to 2015. In addition, he has over 20 years of experience as part of BlackRock, Inc. and BlackRock’s predecessor entities. Mr. Kapito serves as President of BlackRock, Inc., and is a member of the Global Executive Committee and Chairman of the Global Operating Committee. He is responsible for day-to-day oversight of BlackRock's key operating units, including Investment Strategies, Client Businesses, Technology & Operations, and Risk & Quantitative Analysis. Prior to assuming his current responsibilities in 2007, Mr. Kapito served as Vice Chairman of BlackRock, Inc. and Head of BlackRock's Portfolio Management Group. In that role, he was responsible for overseeing all portfolio management within BlackRock, including the Fixed Income, Equity, Liquidity, and Alternative Investment Groups. Mr. Kapito serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and the Harvard Business School Board of Dean’s Advisors. He has also been President of the Board of Directors for the Hope & Heroes Children's Cancer Fund since 2002. Mr. Kapito earned a BS degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1979, and an MBA degree from Harvard Business School in 1983.
Salim Ramji has been a Director of the Company since 2019. Mr. Ramji has also served as a Trustee of iShares Trust and a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2019. Mr. Ramji is the Global Head of BlackRock’s ETF and Index Investments business. In addition, he is a member of BlackRock’s Global Executive Committee. Prior to assuming his current responsibilities in 2019, Mr. Ramji was Head of BlackRock's U.S. Wealth Advisory business, where he was responsible for leading BlackRock's relationships with wealth management firms and platforms, for distributing BlackRock's alpha-seeking and iShares investment capabilities and for the adoption of BlackRock's portfolio construction and digital wealth technologies to financial advisors. Mr. Ramji joined BlackRock in 2014, serving initially as the Global Head of Corporate Strategy. Prior to BlackRock, Mr. Ramji was a Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, where he led the Asset and Wealth Management practice areas. He started his career as a corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions lawyer at Clifford Chance LLP in London and Hong Kong. He has served as a Trustee of Graham Windham, a New York-based child care agency, since 2007. Mr. Ramji earned a bachelor's degree in economics and politics from University of Toronto, a law degree from Cambridge University and is a CFA charter holder.
John E. Kerrigan has been a Director of the Company since 2005 and Chair of the Company's Board since 2022. Mr. Kerrigan has also served as a Trustee of iShares Trust since 2005, a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2011, Chair of the Equity Plus and Nominating and Governance Committees of each Board from 2019 to 2021, and as Chair of each Board since 2022. Mr. Kerrigan served as a Director of iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF, Inc. from 2010 to 2015. Mr. Kerrigan has served as Chief Investment Officer of Santa Clara University since 2002. Mr. Kerrigan was formerly a Managing Director at Merrill Lynch & Co.,
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including the following responsibilities: Managing Director, Institutional Client Division, Western United States. Mr. Kerrigan has been a Director, since 1999, of The BASIC Fund (Bay Area Scholarships for Inner City Children). Mr. Kerrigan has a BA degree from Boston College and is a Chartered Financial Analyst Charterholder.
Jane D. Carlin has been a Director of the Company since 2015 and Chair of the Risk Committee since 2016. Ms. Carlin has also served as a Trustee of iShares Trust and a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2015, and Chair of the Risk Committee of each Board since 2016. Ms. Carlin has served as a consultant since 2012 and formerly served as Managing Director and Global Head of Financial Holding Company Governance & Assurance and the Global Head of Operational Risk Management of Morgan Stanley from 2006 to 2012. In addition, Ms. Carlin served as Managing Director and Global Head of the Bank Operational Risk Oversight Department of Credit Suisse Group from 2003 to 2006. Prior to that, Ms. Carlin served as Managing Director and Deputy General Counsel of Morgan Stanley. Ms. Carlin has over 30 years of experience in the financial sector and has served in a number of legal, regulatory, and risk management positions. Ms. Carlin has served as a member of the Audit Committee and as a Director of The Hanover Insurance Group, Inc., each since 2016, and as Chair of the Audit Committee since 2020. Ms. Carlin served as a member of the Audit Committee from 2012 to 2018, Chair of the Nominating and Governance Committee from 2017 to 2018 and as an Independent Director on the Board of PHH Corporation from 2012 to 2018. She previously served as a Director on the Boards of Astoria Financial Corporation and Astoria Bank. Ms. Carlin was appointed by the United States Treasury to the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council for Critical Infrastructure Protection and Homeland Security, where she served as Chairperson from 2010 to 2012 and Vice Chair and Chair of the Cyber Security Committee from 2009 to 2010. Ms. Carlin has a BA degree in political science from State University of New York at Stony Brook and a JD degree from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
Richard L. Fagnani has been a Director of the Company since 2017 and Chair of the Audit Committee of the Company since 2019. Mr. Fagnani has also served as a Trustee of iShares Trust and a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2017, and Chair of the Audit Committee of each Board since 2019. Mr. Fagnani served as an Advisory Board Member of the Company, iShares Trust and iShares U.S. ETF Trust from April 2017 to June 2017. Mr. Fagnani served as a Senior Audit Partner at KPMG LLP from 2002 to 2016, most recently as the U.S. asset management audit practice leader responsible for setting strategic direction and execution of the operating plan for the asset management audit practice. In addition, from 1977 to 2002, Mr. Fagnani served as an Audit Partner at Andersen LLP, where he developed and managed the asset management audit practice in the Philadelphia office. Mr. Fagnani served as a Trustee on the Board of the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia from 2009 to 2014 and as a member of the School of Business Advisory Board at LaSalle University from 2006 to 2014. Mr. Fagnani has also served as a Director of One Generation Away, a non-profit which works to bring healthy food directly to people in need, since 2021. Mr. Fagnani has a BS degree in Accounting from LaSalle University.
Cecilia H. Herbert has been a Director of the Company since 2005 and Chair of the Equity Plus and Nominating and Governance Committees of the Company since 2022. Ms. Herbert has also served as a Trustee of iShares Trust since 2005, a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2011, Chair of the Company's Board from 2016 to 2021, and Chair of the Equity Plus and Nominating and Governance Committees of each Board since 2022. Ms. Herbert served as a Director of iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF, Inc. from 2010 to 2015. Previously, Ms. Herbert served as Trustee of the Montgomery Funds from 1992 to 2003, the Pacific Select Funds from 2004 to 2005, the Forward Funds from 2009 to 2018, the Salient Funds from 2015 to 2018 and the Thrivent Church Loan and Income Fund from 2019 to 2022. She has served as a member of the Finance, Audit and Quality Committees and Trustee of Stanford Health Care since 2016 and became Chair of the Finance Committee of Stanford Health Care in 2019. She has served as a Trustee of WNET, New York’s public media station, since 2011 and a Member of its Audit Committee since 2018. She was appointed to the Wyoming State Investment Funds Committee in 2022. She became a member of the Governing Council of the Independent Directors Council in 2018. She has served as a Director of the Senior Center of Jackson Hole since 2020 and of the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts since 2021. She was President of the Board of Catholic Charities CYO, the largest social services agency in the San Francisco Bay Area, from 2007 to 2011 and a member of that board from 1992 to 2013. She worked from 1973 to 1990 at J.P. Morgan/Morgan Guaranty Trust doing international corporate finance and corporate lending, retiring as Managing Director and Head of the West Coast Office. Ms. Herbert has been on numerous non-profit boards, chairing investment and finance committees. She holds a double major in economics and communications from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Drew E. Lawton has been a Director of the Company since 2017 and Chair of the 15(c) Committee of the Company since 2017. Mr. Lawton has also served as a Trustee of iShares Trust, a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust, and Chair of the 15(c) Committee of each Board since 2017. Mr. Lawton also served as an Advisory Board Member of the Company, iShares Trust and iShares U.S. ETF Trust from 2016 to 2017. Mr. Lawton served as Director of Principal Funds, Inc., Principal Variable Contracts Funds, Inc. and Principal Exchange-Traded Funds from March 2016 to October 2016. Mr. Lawton has also served as
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a member of the Compensation and Finance and Risk Committees and Director of Jackson Financial Inc. since 2021. Mr. Lawton served in various capacities at New York Life Insurance Company from 2010 to 2015, most recently as a Senior Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of New York Life Investment Management. From 2008 to 2010, Mr. Lawton was the President of Fridson Investment Advisors, LLC. Mr. Lawton previously held multiple roles at Fidelity Investments from 1997 to 2008. Mr. Lawton has been an Adjunct Professor at the University of North Texas since 2021. Mr. Lawton has a BA degree in Administrative Science from Yale University and an MBA from University of North Texas.
John E. Martinez has been a Director of the Company since 2003 and Chair of the Securities Lending Committee of the Company since 2019. Mr. Martinez has also served as a Trustee of iShares Trust since 2003, a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2011, and Chair of the Securities Lending Committee of each Board since 2019. Mr. Martinez served as a Director of iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF, Inc. from 2010 to 2015. Mr. Martinez is a Director of Real Estate Equity Exchange, Inc., providing governance oversight and consulting services to this privately held firm that develops products and strategies for homeowners in managing the equity in their homes. From 2017 to 2020, Mr. Martinez served as a Board member for the Cloudera Foundation. Mr. Martinez previously served as Director of Barclays Global Investors (BGI) UK Holdings, where he provided governance oversight representing BGI’s shareholders (Barclays PLC, BGI management shareholders) through oversight of BGI’s worldwide activities. Mr. Martinez also previously served as Co-Chief Executive Officer of the Global Index and Markets Group of BGI, Chairman of Barclays Global Investor Services and Chief Executive Officer of the Capital Markets Group of BGI. From 2003 to 2012, he was a Director and Executive Committee Member for Larkin Street Youth Services. He now serves on the Larkin Street Honorary Board. From 2012 to 2016, Mr. Martinez served as a Director for Reading Partners. Mr. Martinez has an AB degree in economics from The University of California, Berkeley and holds an MBA degree in finance and statistics from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Madhav V. Rajan has been a Director of the Company since 2011 and Chair of the Fixed Income Plus Committee of the Company since 2019. Mr. Rajan has also served as a Trustee of iShares Trust and a Trustee of iShares U.S. ETF Trust since 2011, and Chair of the Fixed Income Plus Committee of each Board since 2019. Mr. Rajan served as a Director of iShares MSCI Russia Capped ETF, Inc. from 2011 to 2015. Mr. Rajan is the Dean and George Pratt Shultz Professor of Accounting at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and also serves as Chair of the Board for the Center for Research in Security Prices, LLC, an affiliate of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, since 2020. He has served on the Advisory Board of C.M. Capital Corporation since 2016 and as a Director of C.M. Capital Corporation since 2020. From 2001 to 2017, Mr. Rajan was the Robert K. Jaedicke Professor of Accounting at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. In April 2017, he received the school’s Robert T. Davis Award for Lifetime Achievement and Service. He has taught accounting for over 25 years to undergraduate, MBA and law students, as well as to senior executives. From 2010 to 2016, Mr. Rajan served as the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and head of the MBA Program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Mr. Rajan served as editor of The Accounting Review from 2002 to 2008 and is co-author of Cost Accounting: A Managerial Emphasis,