RIYADH - Saudi Arabia is studying regulations to license new stock market operators, a potential first step to privatising its state-run bourse as Riyadh moves to wean the economy off oil, Maaal financial website reported on Thursday.

The kingdom has introduced a raft of reforms in recent years to make its stock market attractive to foreign investors and issuers.

Local shares were incorporated into the FTSE emerging-market index in March and the MSCI emerging market benchmark in May this year.

Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) is currently the market's sole operator and is owned by the Saudi government.

The Shura Council, a top advisory body to the government, recently approved the new regulations and submitted them to the royal court for approval by the cabinet over the coming period, Maaal said, citing unnamed sources.

Having multiple stock market operators is common in the region. The United Arab Emirates has the Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Nasdaq bourses, while Egypt has two exchanges in Cairo and Alexandria and another for small and medium enterprises.

Tadawul, capitalised at 1.2 billion Saudi Riyals ($320 million) plans to float part of its shares, but the initial public offering process has progressed slowly as the company focuses on initiatives to improve profitability and efficiency.

(Reporting by Marwa Rashad; Editing by Jan Harvey) ((marwa.rashad@thomsonreuters.com; +966114632603 ; Reuters Messaging: marwa.rashad.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))