* Asset manager lists $1.5 mln debut Nigeria ETF in New York
* Nigeria growing as an investment destination
* ETF Investors exposed to local stock and naira risk
By Chijioke Ohuocha
LAGOS, April 5 (Reuters) - Global X Funds has listed the first exchange traded fund (ETF) on the New York Stock Exchange tracking Nigerian stocks, the head of the fund said on Friday, a move which will enable U.S. investors to buy high growth Nigerian shares at home.
Nigeria, Africa's second largest economy and top oil producer, is growing in popularity as an investment destination, offering the promise of 7 percent economic growth and a consumer market of around 170 million people, economists say.
Its stock market rose 35 percent in 2012, making it the second best performer in Africa and one of the best in the world. The index is up 22 percent so far this year and analysts expect gains to continue as strong corporate earnings trickle in.
The Nigeria ETF starts at $1.5 million, the minimum allowed for a New York listed ETF, but could quickly multiply if demand is strong, Global X Funds' chief executive Bruno del Ama told Reuters by telephone.
A fund for Colombian stocks launched three years ago started with the same amount and is now worth $200 million, he said.
"We look for markets that we think will do better than others ... and provide a source of long term growth," he said, adding that Global X Funds invested only in the largest and most liquid firms to create the Nigeria ETF.
"There are a massive amount of U.S. investors looking to get exposure to Nigeria."
The Nigerian fund has 100,000 shares. Global X holds $1.8 billion in assets across 35 ETFs. The Nigeria ETF was trading at $15.7 per share on Friday, Ama said.
Nigerian Stock Exchange data in January showed that offshore investors accounted for 60 percent of the total 1.22 trillion naira ($7.8 bln) trades executed in the first eleven months of last year on the local bourse.
Ama said the ETF had started with 28 Nigerian firms or foreign firms with a significant portion of profits coming from Nigeria, even if not locally listed. The fund has an average price to earnings ratio of 16.36 percent, he said.
Banks and energy firms make up 65 percent of the fund, Ama said, including firms such as Dangote Cement, Oando and Nestle. The Nigerian subsidiary of Standard Bank is the local custodian for the fund.