Emerging Market Sell-Off Sets Scene For Long-Haul Returns

Taylor Scott International News

By Fiona Hamilton (Money Observer) | Fri, 23rd August 2013 Emerging market sell-off sets scene for long-haul returns Steep setbacks in a number of emerging and Asian stockmarkets have attracted the attention of global and regional investment company managers. Stockmarkets in the BRIC countries have been relatively disappointing for some time, but other emerging markets – in Mexico, Thailand and the Philippines, for example – had a fantastic run prior to the June sell-off. As a result, the shares of many consumer-oriented and higher-yielding companies reached levels that persuaded leading emerging market managers to take profits. They were well advised, as some of the most highly rated companies, such as Mexican restaurant group Alsea, have fallen by more than 30%, even though their businesses seem unlikely to be materially affected by macroeconomic events. Tense times If confidence continues to be undermined by fear that central banks will reduce quantitative easing in the West and credit conditions will tighten in China, emerging stockmarkets are likely to remain out of favour, as Western money tends to fly home when nerves are jangling. Riots in Brazil and Turkey have not helped, and nor have the Syrian bloodbath, the increasingly authoritarian tone of the Russian government, or a series of interventionist or confiscatory moves by Latin American leaders. Despite all this, the long-term outlook for many emerging market and Asian companies remains far more exciting than it is for their counterparts in the West, and investors who buy when the worst of the setback is over should be well rewarded. Mark Mobius has managed the £1.6 billion Templeton Emerging Markets Investment Trust (TEMIT) since its 1989 debut, and has achieved net asset value total returns averaging close to 20% a year over the past decade. He believes emerging markets continue to offer potential for superior long-term returns, primarily because their economies are, on average, growing much faster than developed economies. “We believe this growth has become increasingly self-sustaining, as levels of trade with emerging markets start to dominate overall trading patterns, and rising consumer wealth in emerging market economies stimulates domestic demand. The finances of emerging market countries as a group, as measured by factors such as foreign reserves and debt-to-GDP levels, appear stronger than those of many developed markets, while demographic factors in emerging nations today are also much more favourable,” he says. Matthew Dobbs, who has achieved highly competitive returns for Schroder Oriental Income and Schroder Asia Pacific, makes a similarly positive case for Asia, which dominates the emerging market indices, and particularly for the 10 countries that make up the ASEAN region. Dobbs says political conditions seem encouragingly stable in the key countries of Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, which have a combined population of around 400 million. Urbanisation is continuing to increase, which boosts productivity and growth, while intraregional trade is growing, helped by improved infrastructure. He believes the Asian economies have become much less vulnerable to problems in the West because most are now well financed, with sturdier current account balances, robust foreign exchange reserves and less US dollar-denominated debt. Although such positive fundamental measures were priced in before the June correction, he says valuations have started to look interesting again, especially in areas such as property development, banking and healthcare. Investor options Investors wanting to venture into emerging markets have a variety of options among closed-end investment companies. The most indirect choice would be a developed market trust holding a lot of companies exploiting emerging market opportunities, such as Jupiter European Opportunities or Henderson Smaller Companies. They invest in companies with higher levels of corporate governance, their liquidity tends to be better and it is easier to keep close tabs on what a company’s management is up to. They can get plenty of exposure to some sectors of emerging market demand – consumer goods, industrial equipment, tobacco, luxury goods, aerospace and pharmaceuticals, for example. However, investors will be unable to tap into many other sectors through Western companies, so their emerging market exposure will be partial. Also, Western companies are more comprehensively followed, so it becomes harder to spot valuation anomalies. Some trusts in global sectors offer a more direct but still flexible exposure. Murray International is the stand-out option. It has roughly half its portfolio invested in Asian and emerging market companies and boasts a fantastic long-term record. Its net asset value fell sharply in June. If this brings the premium down to earth, it could offer a buying opportunity. British Empire Securities & General has about a quarter of its portfolio in Asia, largely through well-managed conglomerates selling at deep discounts to their asset values. Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust has just under a quarter of its assets in emerging markets and Asia, but its high-conviction portfolio and high gearing means it is not for the fainthearted. Scottish Investment Trust reduced its emerging market and Asian exposure to around 22% before the setback, but lead manager John Kennedy is keen to rebuild it. Global emerging market trusts, such as TEMIT, JPMorgan Global Emerging Markets Income and JPMorgan Emerging Markets, require a more wholehearted commitment, as they cannot swing the balance elsewhere when times are tough. Regional specialists in Latin America, eastern Europe and Asia Pacific are even more circumscribed. Single-country trusts have a narrower selection of equities and nowhere to hide if their market falls out of favour, but they may offer deeper exposure. The portfolio of VinaCapital Vietnam Opportunity, for example, includes private equity and real estate as well as equities. Antony Bolton’s difficulties managing Fidelity China Special Situations Investment Trust have underscored the importance of picking specialist managers with a lot of relevant local knowledge and contacts. Schroders, Aberdeen and First State Stewart are all strong in Asia and emerging markets, and offer a variety of trusts and offshore funds. Green tinge First State’s Pacific Assets Trust is a carefully-run trust that does not use gearing and steers clear of overvalued consumer companies. It looks to buy quality companies on modest valuations, but manager David Gait is also committed to finding companies that directly or indirectly address the enormous sustainable development challenges confronting Asia, such as sourcing clean water. Fund Data Name 1 Year (%) 3 Years (%) 5 Years (%) Rating Brit Emp Sec&Gen Tst plc 15.43 22.41 22.41 2 star(s) Fidelity China Spec Sits Plc 29.28 -8.10 – 1 star(s) Henderson Sm Cos 63.29 120.63 140.59 3 star(s) JP Morgan Emg Mkts IT plc 2.30 7.20 37.16 4 star(s) JPM GblEM Inc Tst plc 5.53 22.69 – N/A star(s) Jupiter European Opps 41.59 105.52 147.07 5 star(s) Murray Intl Tst PLC 15.05 50.78 96.78 3 star(s) Pacific Assets Trust plc 25.94 50.16 74.00 3 star(s) Schroder Asia Pacific 6.22 29.59 83.20 4 star(s) Schroder Oriental Inc 14.57 51.20 133.58 4 star(s) Scottish Investment Trust PLC 24.38 51.30 42.71 3 star(s) Scottish Mortgage IT 32.45 67.64 72.15 3 star(s) Templeton Emerging Markets 1.31 4.56 47.98 3 star(s) VinaCapital Vietnam Opp 31.55 43.41 -11.99 Taylor Scott International

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