- Emerging markets will experience a slower rate of growth in the future
- There is no link between economic growth and stock market performance
- They only invest in easy-to- understand business models
For many years, a constant within the capital markets was that emerging markets equalled growth. This also served as the universal argument for investing in emerging markets. For Marc Erpelding, fund manager of the BL-Emerging Markets fund, emerging markets will experience a slower rate of growth in the future.
"The days of “simple” growth, backed by state investment programmes and exports based on low wage levels are pretty much gone. Going forward, the service sector and the domestic consumption will play an ever greater role. However, studies have shown that there is no link between economic growth and stock market performance. So “growth” is not a valid reason for investment, not even for emerging markets." Therefore, according to Erpelding, the slowdown in growth should not necessarily be considered a negative development.
His investment process includes focusing on firms "which are in a position to create added value in the long term for their customers and shareholders; ideally, they can do this independently of macroeconomic trends. Firms that have high barriers to entry, present robust balance sheets and generate strong positive cash flows generally have the advantage of seeing less correction in bear markets and often emerge on top after crises. In addition, we only invest in easy-to- understand business models. It does not matter to us whether or not these companies are included in the index or what their weighting is." This consistent investment approach can result in them being very underweight in financials or commodities. "We often find that banks lack transparency and, in the case of commodities firms, the investment decision tends to depend more on the commodity cycle than on the company itself."
In the years 2010 to 2014, the MSCI Emerging Markets index mainly moved sideways. "However, we are less interested in the direction of the index than in the price performance of the high-quality companies we are tracking. Since May 2015, we have seen sharp corrections in this segment too, which we have used to raise the equity ratio from around 68% to approximately 84% at present. This is the highest equity ratio in the fund since the financial crisis. The corrections have led to more attractive valuations for many high-quality firms and allowed us to add to existing positions or initiate on new companies. These are purely bottom-up decisions. We will increase the equity ratio further, should high- quality companies increasingly undergo correction.. In an asset class that is (unfortunately) still regarded as satellite and therefore heavily depends on investors' appetite for risk, we think this countercyclical approach makes great sense" he concludes.