- Many investors are simply ignoring the emerging world now. But Manu Vandenbulck sees attractive valuations, and therefore opportunities
- Higher growth in the emerging world ultimately translates into higher dividend growth
In late October, ING IM’s High Dividend Equity strategy that focusses on the emerging world will be celebrating its three-year anniversary. Many investors are simply ignoring the emerging world now. But Manu Vandenbulck sees attractive valuations, and therefore opportunities.
Manu, you have been managing this strategy for 3 years now – together with your colleague Robert Davis. What are your experiences?
Very positive. I am still pleasantly surprised by the potential of dividend investing in the emerging world. Compared to developed markets, this way of investing in the emerging world is still largely unexplored territory. Asset managers are avoiding this part of the market. New funds in this area are often managed by asset managers that focus on the core markets (and have no specific knowledge of emerging equities) or exclusively focused on the emerging world (and thus lack the broad global focus of ING IM). ING IM has been specialized in dividend investing for 15 years and is a pioneer in this field.
However, a lot of investors pay no attention to dividend investing in the emerging world yet. Why is that?
I think this is largely due to outdated knowledge. A lot of investors primarily associate emerging equities with growth and think that dividend stocks underperform. But dividend stocks often outperform stocks that do not distribute any dividends, even in the emerging world. Additionally, higher growth in the emerging world ultimately translates into higher dividend growth. So dividend investors profit as well, and with a lower average risk! It is important to select the right stocks though: stocks that have the potential to offer robust dividend growth. Also, lots of investors do not know that as many as ninety percent of the shares in the emerging world pay dividends and the average dividend yield is close to 3%. The dividend yield of our strategy exceeds 4%. This is a nice income, given the environment of historically low interest rates.
There are fears of lower growth in China and higher interest rates in the US. What is your view?
There is indeed much talk about the risk of higher rates in the US and the fear that this will have a negative impact on our universe. There are of course parts of the emerging world that we believe will struggle, for example the expensive real estate stocks in Singapore and Hong Kong. In these regions, the debt ratio also has increased significantly in recent years. And so we do not invest in these companies. We believe that growth in China will be lower than in previous years as well, yet we still assume an average growth of 5% for the coming years. Also, the quality of the growth is improving. Some Chinese large banks, for example, are currently so attractively valued that we think it is justified to invest in the Chinese banking sector.
Is now a good time for investors to start dividend investing in the emerging world?
I am convinced it is. The valuation is attractive versus developed markets. The economic growth in the emerging world may not be as high as a few years ago, but it is still higher than in mature markets. That is supportive of earnings growth. Because we have seen a tremendous growth of the number of companies that share profits with their shareholders, this earnings growth will also lead to a gradual increase in dividends. Our focus on dividends and dividend growth also makes our strategy more stable. Dividends simply fluctuate less than profits that are more dependent on the business cycle. As for the macro perspective, we assume a gradual growth of the world economy. In such a situation, increases in interest rates in the US need not be a problem.
What does ING IM offer investors who opt for dividend investing in the emerging world?
First, we offer a lot of experience and proven track records. ING IM has been dividend investing since 1999. We are a pioneer in this field and offer a wide range of equity strategies focused on companies that offer above-average dividends and are able to show dividend growth. Our dividend strategies are managed in a stable team that, day after day, focuses on finding attractively priced companies that fit our approach. Within ING IM, our team can also benefit from the expertise of 25 analysts who are dedicated to their sectors, worldwide. Looking at our performances, this seems to be working well.