Institutional investors believe the current reforms across Asia (excluding Japan) – from India, Indonesia, China and Korea – will have a positive impact on dividend returns in the region. This is the view of 65% of institutional investors interviewed by ING Investment Management (ING IM).
Nicolas Simar, Head of the Equity Value Boutique at ING IM, comments: “Asia provides an attractive and diverse universe of high dividend-paying stocks. Despite its reputation for growth, dividend investing in Asia has tended to outperform. Over the past five years investors tracking the MSCI AC Asia ex Japan Index would have seen a modest decline, with dividends being the only positive contributor to returns.
“We expect dividends to become an increasingly important element of total returns for investors in Asian equities because companies there are increasingly focusing on alignment with shareholders, and more are initiating or increasing dividends.”
In terms of why institutional investors expect reforms in Asia to have a positive impact on dividends, ING IM’s research reveals 43% believe the main reason is it will result in better corporate governance that will lead to companies increasingly looking to reward shareholders with higher dividends. Some 29% believe the key factor will be that reforms will encourage companies there to be more efficient, thereby improving returns.
ING IM says that as a higher proportion of Asian companies pay a dividend than in developed markets, it is possible to build a portfolio that is well diversified across countries and sectors. With Asian company balance sheets in good shape – the least leveraged globally – there are few constraints to increasing payouts, and Asia has delivered significantly stronger dividend growth than developed markets.
ING IM’s Asia Ex-Japan Equity Fund has returned 2.6% annualized since the inception of the strategy (31 March 2013). It invests in stocks of companies operating in the Asian region excluding Japan that offer attractive and sustainable dividend yields and potential for capital appreciation. The strategy combines quantitative screening with fundamental analysis to identify stocks that trade below their intrinsic value and offer an ability to grow their dividend in the future. The fund focuses on finding the strongest dividend payers from a valuation perspective and not the highest yielders.