Future Returns: Finding Value in Asian Emerging Markets
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Future Returns: Finding Value in Asian Emerging Markets

Where to look in Asia’s emerging markets.

By Abby Schultz
Wed, Aug 25, 2021 3:34pmGrey Clock 4 min

Chinese regulators have been cracking down on the nation’s tech companies—sending stock prices reeling—but Frank Brochin, senior portfolio manager in the institutional advisory practice at the Colony Group in Boston, is confident the long-term growth story for China will continue to pay off for investors.

To Brochin, who manages money on behalf of endowments, foundations, and family offices, Chinese stocks will continue to strengthen from long-term growth factors fueling the economy, including the rise of the urban middle class, increasing domestic consumption, and the growth of the services economy.

The story is similar, if not even more attractive, in India and Southeast Asia, making “developing Asia” among the best places to invest in the world today for long-term investors, according to Brochin.

“Unlike other emerging markets, in Asia you have a secular economic and social transformation taking place,” he says. These factors “will give economic growth for the next couple of decades, while at the same time the markets are attractive.”

Penta recently spoke with Brochin about his views on investing in Asian markets, even as declining Asian tech shares contribute to driving emerging market indexes south. For the year through Aug. 23, the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets exchange-traded fund (ticker: EEM) is down 2.33% compared with a 17.4% gain in the iShares MSCI World ETF (URTH).

For institutional investors, Colony invests almost exclusively in active managers in emerging markets who have an on-the-ground presence and can select public and private companies poised to benefit from the dual trends of urbanization and rising domestic consumption.

Why China Remains a Good Bet

The performance of Chinese tech stocks such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA), Tencent Holdings Ltd. (700.Hong Kong), and ride-hailing company Didi Global (DIDI) began grabbing headlines in the fall of 2020 as they attracted increasing attention from the country’s regulators. In November, Ant Group’s anticipated US$3.4 billion initial public offering was suspended after executives of the Alibaba payments firm and Jack Ma, founder and controlling shareholder, met with Chinese regulators.

But Brochin says China’s heightened scrutiny is about catching up to regulations that Western countries, including the U.S., have had in place for years, and they are looking beyond tech to also include pharmaceutical companies, real estate, and other domestic industries.

China is a country emerging from a period of strong economic growth that “suddenly finds itself with Alibaba representing 20% of [the] gross market value of all retail sales in China,” he says. “In effect, they are truly just catching up and trying to align business practices with the long-term interests of the nation.”

In Brochin’s view the crackdowns are “not an assault on private entrepreneurs.” The Chinese Communist Party knows they need continued economic prosperity and economic growth to stay in power, and “they know the private sector provides that prosperity to the people of China,” he says.

India as a “Favourite Place” to Invest

The urbanization and increasing domestic consumption happening in China is also occurring in India, although the social and economic transformation of the country has a longer way to go, Brochin says.

Nearly half the population of India, for instance, is still employed in agriculture or agricultural-related jobs, he says, which points to the potential for growth as that percentage declines.

With only about US$2,000 of gross domestic product per capita in India, compared with closer to US$10,000 of GDP/capita in China, the country has a long runway for growth, Colony said in an earlier report.

India also has “a very young and growing population” versus China, which “has plateaued,” and it is “a more domestically focused economy and a Democracy,” Brochin says.

Also, household expansion in India’s urban areas is growing at about 4.4% a year—faster than its population growth of about 1.1%—because the trend is for multi-generations of families to no longer live under the same roof, according to Colony.

Another benefit: India applies “the rule of law” and its stock market is similar to the west, Brochin says.

“The growth drivers are the same as in China, but will take place over a much longer period of time,” he says, adding that India is the firm’s “favourite place in the world outside of the U.S. where we invest.”

The Benefit of Inefficiencies in Southeast Asia

Colony also favours selective investments in Southeast Asia, noting that the region—from Bangladesh to Indonesia—is home to about 850 million people, more than in the U.S. and Europe combined.

“You have a seriously critical mass of population and a critical mass of economic activity,” Brochin says.

And countries in the region, which include Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, and Cambodia, are affected by many of the same growth drivers as China and India as people move from rural areas to the cities. Many Southeast Asian countries, too, are at the very beginning of this growth trajectory, meaning their economies should continue expanding for a couple of decades.

One difference is that the markets are inefficient, volatile, and there is very little stock research—factors that can provide an opportunity for those who know where to look.

In a report, Colony points out that there are more than 4,400 companies trading publicly in Southeast Asia, while the percentage covered by analysts ranges only from 8% in Bangladesh to 42% in Thailand.

“If you use active managers, people who are on the ground who can find companies that few investors have paid attention to, you can do well in Southeast Asia,” Brochin says.

Reprinted by permission of Penta. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: August 24, 2021.



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The Great Wealth Transfer: How rich millennials will invest the billions coming their way

The younger generation will bring a different mindset to how and where their newfound wealth is invested

By Bronwyn Allen
Fri, Mar 1, 2024 2 min

There is an enormous global wealth transfer in its beginning stages, whereby one of the largest generations in history – the baby boomers – will pass on their wealth to their millennial children. Knight Frank’s global research report, The Wealth Report 2024, estimates the wealth transfer set to take place over the next two decades in the United States alone will amount to US$90 trillion.

But it’s not just the size of the wealth transfer that is significant. It will also deliver billions of dollars in private capital into the hands of investors with a very different mindset.

Seismic change

Wealth managers say the young and rich have a higher social and environmental consciousness than older generations. After growing up in a world where economic inequality is rife and climate change has caused massive environmental damage, they are seeing their inherited wealth as a means of doing good.

Ben Whattam, co-founder of the Modern Affluence Exchange, describes it as a “seismic change”.

“Since World War II, Western economies have been driven by an overt focus on economic prosperity,” he says. “This has come at the expense of environmental prosperity and has arguably imposed social costs. The next generation is poised to inherit huge sums, and all the research we have commissioned confirms that they value societal and environmental wellbeing alongside economic gain and are unlikely to continue the relentless pursuit of growth at all costs.”

Investing with purpose

Mr Whattam said 66% of millennials wanted to invest with a purpose compared to 49% of Gen Xers. “Climate change is the number one concern for Gen Z and whether they’re rich or just affluent, they see it as their generational responsibility to fix what has been broken by their elders.”

Mike Pickett, director of Cazenove Capital, said millennial investors were less inclined to let a wealth manager make all the decisions.

“Overall, … there is a sense of the next generation wanting to be involved and engaged in the process of how their wealth is managed – for a firm to invest their money with them instead of for them,” he said.

Mr Pickett said another significant difference between millennials and older clients was their view on residential property investment. While property has generated immense wealth for baby boomers, particularly in Australia, younger investors did not necessarily see it as the best path.

“In particular, the low interest rate environment and impressive growth in house prices of the past 15 years is unlikely to be repeated in the next 15,” he said. “I also think there is some evidence that Gen Z may be happier to rent property or lease assets such as cars, and to adopt subscription-led lifestyles.”

Impact investing is a rising trend around the world, with more young entrepreneurs and activist investors proactively campaigning for change in the older companies they are invested in. Millennials are taking note of Gen X examples of entrepreneurs trying to force change. In 2022,  Australian billionaire tech mogul and major AGL shareholder, Mike Cannon-Brookes tried to buy the company so he could shut down its coal operations and turn it into a renewable energy giant. He described his takeover bid as “the world’s biggest decarbonisation project”.

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