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EFG Asset Management

Growth and income: A winning combination in the Asia Pacific region

Asia Pacific’s developing debt universe presents significant alpha opportunities

Riding the next wave in China’s growth trajectory

Issue 1

Knocking on Asia’s door

invest plus / Issue 1, 2012




KNOCKING ON ASIA’S DOOR: A STRATEGY FOR ACCESSINGTHE REGION’S NEW GROWTH MARKETS MOZ AFZAL, Chief Investment Officer of EFGAM, explains the strategic positioning of the firm’s latest New Capital Funds in accessing the emerging Asian markets

At EFGAM we look at the widest possible range of investment opportunities, with the decisions on the most interesting market opportunities being driven by a top-down approach focussing on thorough, detailed macroeconomic research. That research leads us to be excited by the opportunities in Asia. China, of course, typically attracts the most attention; and the reasons for that are well-grounded. As long ago as 2009, China overtook the US to become the world’s biggest market for new cars. From a limited subscriber base only ten years ago, China now has the largest number of mobile phone subscribers in the world. But while China might attract much of the attention, the Asian economic transformation is far broader and in many ways other Asian economies are set to follow China’s lead.

Asian growth drivers People are the key building block of any economy’s prosperity. But that means far more than just raw headcount. Energy, ingenuity and

ambition are the underlying drivers of modern economies. In the Asia Pacific region there is both the scale and the talent to propel economic growth and investment opportunities. The Asia Pacific region has almost half of the world’s population and it is a population which continues to grow, especially in the key working age group. Those workers are increasingly being employed in urban, industrial and service sector jobs which are higherskilled and higher-paid than those in rural, agricultural areas. The migration from the country to the city – which is not dissimilar to that which was seen in western economies’ industrial revolutions in the nineteenth an twentieth centuries – is truly one of the greatest economic phenomena of our time.


1.74bn 44% The size of the middle class in the Asia Pacific region in 2020. Source: OECD forecast.

of world sales in luxury goods will come from China by 2020. Source: CLSA.

strategic positioning for the Asian markets. The stocks in that fund have to be able to pay dividends. That gives an element of safety and reassurance to investors in that fund. But they are also ones that can be expected to grow earnings and dividends over time. Paying dividends is a sign of strength, and demonstrates that shareholders’ interests are taken seriously, not a sign of limited opportunities to reinvest cash which is generated.

young Asian middle classes will become a much more important driver of Asia’s domestically generated growth. They will demand all the consumer goods and services that we take for granted in the West as well as better housing, healthcare, transport and infrastructure. Asian economies are still major exporters to the west and much of their growth still derives from developed markets.

It is very seldom the case that ‘one size fits all’ and that is precisely why we have an attractive stable of funds.

The size of the middle class in the Asia Pacific region in 2009. Source: OECD.

Asia’s new urban workforce is a young and dynamic one, with high hopes and aspirations.

Market opportunities Yet in times of economic uncertainty, many investors have favoured markets that are seen to be ‘safer’, such as US government bonds and equities. Indeed, over the last three years or so, the US market has generally given better returns than emerging markets. Therein lies the opportunity. With emerging Asian markets underperforming the US, the relative valuation of Asian markets has become much more attractive. In this context, our focus at EFGAM is to look for opportunities in cheaplyvalued Asian markets. Fortunately, there are many such opportunities. In the fixed-income markets, yields on bonds issued by governments and companies in Asia are typically much higher than they are for their US, German and UK counterparts. In equities, we can find companies with good growth opportunities but this does not have to be at the expense of generating income.

The importance of dividends Indeed, Moz sees EFGAM’s New Capital Asia Pacific Equity Income Fund as a clear example of the firm’s

Buying dividend-paying equities is, after all, a well-know and established strategy that has been used successfully in western markets for many years. The time is now ripe to use a similar strategy in Asia.

‘Home grown’ growth But how much of a concern is it that the world economy seems to be going through a ‘soft patch’, with weaker growth? Moz has two key perspectives on this. In the short-term, he notes that the best performance of Asian markets relative to the developed markets has tended to come during recoveries from recession – notably in 2003 and 2009. So, if conditions were to improve as we move through next year, that is a source of optimism for Asia. But in the longer-term the growth of the urban, skilled, energetic and

Different needs, different styles, different funds The style of a fund is all about its positioning. Each of EFGAM’s New Capital Fund has its own style. And that style needs to pay careful attention to investors’ needs and profiles. Investors in the funds will come from a wide range of backgrounds – within and beyond the Asian markets themselves. Asian investors are often characterised as ‘aggressive growth’ investors, looking for the next ‘hot’ idea. But the Asian investor base is, in reality, often conservative and cautious, wanting to preserve capital and take limited risks. In general, Moz sees the tolerance for risk across all investors – within and outside Asia – as having come down in all markets in recent years. Of course there is a wide variety of different types in investor, with different needs.

For mainstream exposure to China, the New Capital China Equity Fund has broad appeal. It is managed by EFGAM’s new head of China investing, Mansfield Mok. We feature an interview with him on pages 10&11. For more conservative investors who are happier with fixed income investments, New Capital’s Asia Pacific Bond Fund may well be appropriate. This invests in bonds denominated in local currencies (for example, Singapore dollars) as well as so-called ‘hard currencies’ such as US dollars. Those two components can be blended together to make an appealing ‘smoothie’, as we describe it on pages 8&9.

A calmer world? Taking a step back and looking at global developments, Moz sees a future where investors can once again become more comfortable with market conditions. In those conditions, the time will be ripe for a switch to higher-growth areas of the world with better economic fundamentals. Asia is still, and we think will remain, the region where those strengths are most clear, and most investable.


Macro research confirms positive economic outlook for China Today we are witnessing a historic shift in global economic leadership from West to East and it is this fundamental shift that is driving growth in the emerging and developed Asian markets. Daniel Murray looks at the most significant factors contributing to this seismic process.

invest plus / Issue 1, 2012

The rise of Asia as an economic powerhouse can be explained by a combination of two factors: labour force expansion and productivity growth. Take the demographic profile of Asia which on average – excluding China and Japan – comprises a much higher proportion of younger people and a much lower proportion of older people compared to Europe and the US. This is also true of China, although only marginally compared to the rest of Asia because of the legacy of the now abandoned one-child-only policy.


These younger people will be tomorrow’s workers and tomorrow’s consumers – two drivers which are enormously supportive of future growth. They are exactly the opposite of what is going on in the West. There, we have a rapidly ageing population and productivity gains that are harder to come by, not least because the starting point is so much higher. Contrast this with the emerging and developed markets of Asia, where there is a big catch-up

going on in terms of technology and innovation – with all the inherent implications for productivity growth. In the long-term, by which we mean the next 10 to 15 years, this makes the outlook for the region much more favourable than the West. For China the demographics are not so favourable compared to the rest of the region, but the key factor here is the opportunity to exploit favourable intra-demographic shifts. For example in the UK, over 80% of the workforce is employed in the service sector, roughly 15% (approximately) is employed in manufacturing and construction with only around 1.5% in agriculture. In China the contrast could not be greater: it was only last year that the urban population exceeded the rural population as people moved from relatively low productivity agricultural endeavours to more productive manufacturing and service sector jobs in the cities. This mass migration has therefore been helpful for growth and is expected to continue, with the urban population increasing by around 10-15 million people a year. This steady shift from a low productivity, agriculture-based economy to a higher productivity, urban-based economy is essentially supportive of the whole of the Chinese manufacturing base.

Daniel comments that: While the headline demographics for China are not good, the continued shift from rural to urban employment will support growth.

Hard or soft landing? Daniel considers there is much greater room to manoeuvre on the fiscal side in China, given the relatively low debt-to-GDP ratio. There is also greater monetary policy flexibility than in the West. Both these factors should ensure that China avoids a ‘hard landing’ – a sudden drop in economic growth.

The benefit of regime stability The fifth generation of Chinese leadership comes to power in the autumn of this year – an important factor to bear in mind because with the new leadership in place, the transition towards a more balanced economy will accelerate.

Comparing like-for-like? India and China Of the other Asian economies, how investable a market is India? Daniel believes a key factor to consider is that in contrast with China, India is not an export-led economy but is


much more reliant on domestic demand as an engine of growth. It has historically been more reluctant than China to engage with the outside world. Whereas China fully embraced economic reforms after removal of the Gang of Four in the late 1970s, India only began to go down the same path of economic liberalisation from 1991. Crudely then its economy lags 12 or so years behind China with regard to economic development. In addition, India’s manufacturing base is much smaller than China’s, limiting the ability to extract productivity gains from this sector. Nonetheless, although India is at an earlier stage of growth than China it has plenty of investable potential, especially if much needed infrastructure development is addressed. From the perspective of EFGAM’s New Capital Funds, Daniel is clear that India remains less investable than China and many other Asian economies.

Looktothe future: focusing onthe opportunities in times of change The great challenge for us at EFGAM – for our financial intermediaries, wealth managers and institutional investors – is to make sure that in times of transition and in a global marketplace that is hyper-connected, we have the depth of product, resources and global perspective that enables us to offer the most international and diversified portfolio ranges to reassure and attract investors whose confidence is fragile. To enable this, our proprietary, macro research-driven ethos informs EFGAM’s product development and shapes our product range. We are unrestricted in our choice of asset classes and regional geographies. EFGAM’s latest New Capital funds, focused on Asian market growth, reflect the need for international diversification in the allocation of investors’ money in a region that is driving – and will continue to drive – the world economy for the next 10 to 15 years. Against a backdrop of continued global economic uncertainty, we believe there are interesting investment opportunities across Asia. For example, inflationary pressures continue to recede – most importantly in China where the headline inflation rate has decreased by more than two thirds from the 6.5% peak in July

2011. This is permitting the reversal of monetary policy tightening. Accordingly China has reduced banks’ reserve requirement ratios and interest rates have been cut in other regional economic powerhouses such as Indonesia. EFGAM’s latest New Capital funds offer investors an assured access to the growth opportunities in the developed and emerging Asian markets. Later in this publication, we take a closer look at what lies behind the positive economic outlook for China as indicative of the overall picture that is emerging of Asia.

FDI Trends FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) plays a vital role in longer-term economic growth for emerging economies, providing resources needed for building production capacity, and reflects the confidence that foreign investors have in the longer-term growth path. In recent years China has taken 60% of all FDI inflows into emerging Asia but that balance may now be changing. Indonesia, which attracted just $4bn of FDI in 2008, is set to attract almost four times that amount in 2012.

FDI in emerging Asia 250


US$ billions








China India

Indonesia Other




Source: Institute of International Finance, September 2011



invest plus / Issue 1, 2012

Tony Jordan: Portfolio Manager of New Capital Asia Pacific Equity Income Fund


TONY HAS BEEN IN THE FUND MANAGEMENT INDUSTRY A WHILE. MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS, TO BE PRECISE. THAT’S LONG ENOUGH FOR HIM TO BE A FIRM BELIEVER IN THE MERITS OF AN INCOMEBASED STRATEGY TO INVESTING. YET HE IS EXCITED BY THE GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES IN ASIA. GROWTH AND INCOME ARE A GREAT COMBINATION, ESPECIALLY WHEN THERE ARE SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES ACROSS THE ASIA PACIFIC REGION. The core characteristic of EFGAM’s New Capital Asia Pacific Equity Income Fund is growth. That might sound contradictory. Growth – but from an income fund? There is no contradiction at all in Tony Jordan’s view that a fund can be growth and income orientated. The Asia Pacific region has great opportunities for growth; but companies are increasingly able to pay and grow earnings and dividends.

manager manages money – for example, whether he is ‘aggressive’ – looking for the best growth opportunities or ‘defensive’ – seeking to preserve capital. The great opportunity in the Asia Pacific markets is that for a fund manager like Tony, these styles are not mutually exclusive: growth and income can, and do go together well.

Style matters

This fund is an equity income fund. Within that, I focus on stocks with above average dividend yields. That, however, is not to the exclusion of

Tony knows that ‘style’ is important in fund management. ‘Style’ refers to the general way in which a fund

Tony comments that:

growth opportunities. Rather, I can find high yield stocks with great growth opportunities. That is a contrast to much of the Western world, where high-yielding stocks are often those with limited growth opportunities, operating in mature or regulated sectors, for example. Such companies in the West may pay out high dividends and income because there are limited opportunities to reinvest for future growth. That is not the case in Asia Pacific. There are plenty of growth opportunities. And plenty of opportunities for cash generation and high dividend payments from those companies. A fund manager really can find high income with growth.

Ensuring the benefit of ‘high yield’ Tony has been around longer than most in his field. He has seen many ups and downs in financial markets. This convinces him that it is right to take a long-term view, by


Number of years since the turn of the millennium that the Asia Pacific (ex Japan) region has beaten the world. Source: MSCI.

which he means several years, and to concentrate on good-quality income-paying equities. He is not someone to be carried away by short-term market fashions and fads, which all too often end badly. Tony’s income-focussed strategy is supported by historic evidence, which shows that such an approach to investing has provided consistent outperformance throughout different and widely varying economic times. Apart from in very unusual circumstances, when markets get temporarily out of kilter with fundamentals, the incomeinvesting style is, in Tony’s view, “a style for all seasons.”

The search for yield goes on The search for yield has been a big theme in global financial markets in recent years. With short-term deposit interest rates at close to zero in many Western economies, and with yields on supposedly ‘safe’ government bonds (such as those issued by the US and the UK) so low, many investors are searching for higher yielding opportunities. In Asia, there are such opportunities in bond markets (see the interview with Michael Leithead on pages 10&11). But bonds are

fixed income investments. They are what they say: fixed income. The income from them does not grow. The equities in which Tony invests, in contrast, hold out the realistic prospect of high income and income growth. Such equities can be found across a broad range of different economies and markets in the Asia pacific region (see chart). Of course, equities are more volatile than bonds and it is right to recognise the short-term risks of equity price volatility. That is why a longer-term investing approach is appropriate not just for Tony when he is selecting his stocks, but also for investors in his fund.

Who is he trying to attract to the fund? Tony believes that his fund appeals to a wide range of investors including individuals, family offices, insurance companies and pension funds. He sees the fund as being attractive to people making the first step into the Asia Pacific equity markets because of its relatively defensive nature. Those investors may be switching from cash and fixed income investors, for example. Like Moz, Tony thinks the appetite to take on greater risk will increase when people are more comfortable

with market conditions. Already, there are signs that confidence is starting to build. Interestingly, Tony cites improving investor sentiment in Singapore as one indicator of that trend. That market is a really key one in Asia – a dynamic, growing economy, but one with very close ties to both the West and the rest of Asia, which already has a very high standard of living. In many ways it is, in microcosm, what other Asian economies aspire to be. If the storm clouds over the global economy are lifting, as Tony and Moz think they are, it is one of the places where you would expect conditions to improve first.

121% Total return from the Asia Pacific (ex Japan) region since the start of the millennium; 106% ahead of the world. Source: MSCI, end December 2011.

New Capital Asia Pacific Equity Income Fund country allocation

In summary, Tony describes the EFGAM New Capital Asia Pacific Equity Income Fund as: A core fund for long-term growth and for income. I expect it to perform well in a range of different market conditions. It is suitable as a core portfolio holding for a range of different types of investor.

Hong Kong Australia Taiwan Singapore

China Cash Korea Malaysia

Thailand Phillipines Indonesia

Data as at 30 September 2012


A BLENDED APPROACH FOR AN ASIA PACIFIC BOND SMOOTHIE Michael Leithead: Portfolio Manager of New Capital Asia Pacific Bond Fund


invest plus / Issue 1, 2012

Many investors are familiar with the Western bond markets. They are large, liquid and actively traded markets. Big sovereign bond markets, such as the US Treasury market, are seen – rightly or (we think) wrongly – as very safe.


Bond markets, however, become large and liquid when large amounts of bonds are issued. And therein lies the problem. If a government issues debt in the form of a bond to finance itself, there will be more of that debt in existence. As such bonds tend not to be repaid for many years, they remain in existence for a long time. New debt builds on old debt, with a rising stock outstanding. The most profligate governments issue the most debt and have the largest debt markets. That also gives a free-spending government a greater importance in

fixed income indices. In the world of fixed income fund management, most managers are assessed by their performance relative to such and an index. The upshot is that many such managers are pushed into buying more debt of profligate governments. To us, that makes no sense at all.

Opportunities in Asia Pacific bonds The Asia Pacific region is almost a mirror image of that situation. Governments have generally not run big deficits. They do not have large debts outstanding. Companies do not generally borrow heavily either. The bond markets are therefore smaller. But they are typically those which make more sense as an investment proposition, given their sounder economic foundations.

Why our approach makes sense in this (mixed up) world We think our approach to fixed income fund management makes sense in this (mixed up) world for three main reasons. First, and most important, we are not constrained by any fixed income index. We simply will not own a country’s bonds or a company’s debt just because it has a certain weight in a particular index. Second, our approach selects bonds based on their fundamentals characteristics – whether they are macroeconomic indicators for sovereign debt or an assessment of a companies’ strength for corporate debt. Our macroeconomic-focused approach really comes into its own in the Asia Pacific markets. Third, although the overall markets may not be as large as those in the West, that smaller scale is well compensated for by the diversity of opportunity.


Moody’s sovereign rating for Indonesia, the same as Spain. Spain is under review for a downgrade. Source: Moody’s.

Local and ‘hard currency’ bonds and foreign exchange opportunities. The key elements of that opportunity are that bonds in the Asia Pacific region are issued in either ‘hard currency’ (typically US dollar denominated debt) or local currency debt (e.g. Hong Kong dollar denominated debt issued by Hong Kong companies). That means we can assess the relative merits of each type of debt, as well as take a view on prospects for the currency itself. That broad assessment will depend on macroeconomic factors. Some typical economic situations and the implications for local and hard currency bonds and the currency are shown in the table. For example, higher inflation in an Asian economy will tend to push up local currency bond yields and lead to a drop in their prices. But for holders of hard currency debt, there probably would be a very limited impact. The currency itself may well appreciate if higher inflation is seen as bringing higher interest rates, which attract capital inflows.

Rationale for a blended approach That is why a blended approach makes sense. In constructing our portfolio, we can mix and match local and hard currency debt and vary our currency exposure. The latter can be done by choosing to hedge currency exposure or not. Whilst that flexibility across the cycle is important to us, the structural transformation story is also a draw to the region. One aspect of that is the development of financial markets. Deeper and more diverse markets offer us new and exciting opportunities. The Asia Pacific bond markets, as they mature and develop, offer a rich complement to fixed income portfolios that often have too large an exposure to the western economies. That is an attraction for Asian-based as well as a broad range of investors around the globe.

$682bn 3AAA Market capitalisation of Asian Emerging market $-denominated bonds. Source: J P Morgan, end Sep 2012.

Three AAA-rated sovereigns in Asia Pacific: Australia, Singapore and New Zealand. Source S&P.


Hard Currency Credit

Local Currency Rates



Limited impact

Higher yields result in lower bond prices

Positive if it attracts capital inflows

Foreign Investment

Limited impact

Capital inflows could push yield lower and bond prices higher

Positive as investors buy domestic investments

Export Led Growth

Positive impact as it is likely to improve credit quality

Negative if interest rate expectations rise


Domestic Led Growth

Positive for corporate credits

Negative if interest rate expectations rise

Negative if imports are rising



invest plus / Issue 1, 2012

Mansfield Mok: Portfolio Manager of New Capital China Equity Fund


Can you summarise the macroeconomic background to the launch of EFGAM’s New Capital China Equity Fund? The background, as I see it, is now very different from, for instance, the 2008 crisis. The global economy is very weak and Western banks are under-capitalised, which means centralised banks with global reach are going to maintain monetary easing policies. Global interest rates will remain low, therefore liquidity in the system is in abundance. On the other hand, developing countries such as China, have very strong economic growth, healthy balance of payments and favourable demographics. So over the next five to 10 years, it will be the emerging markets that present the greatest opportunities. How do you see China’s investment in infrastructure progressing? Infrastructure development in China is still very important and is a very strong contributor to the growth of the economy. But the government knows that this needs to be managed carefully and that it can at times grow too fast, putting a strain on the demand for resources. So, China is progressing from its historically export-driven economy, through the phase of one where growth is driven

by infrastructure spending and other fixed-asset investment, to one where growth is more self-sustainable. That will rely more on domestic consumption and less on the rest of the world. Currently, domestic consumer spending only accounts for around one third of overall GDP, a much smaller share than is typical in the West. Is this an optimum time to invest in the Chinese/Asian markets? Yes, the valuation of Chinese equities is at an all time low in terms of standard measures such as price-toearnings and price-to-book ratios. Historically, emerging markets have been seen as a risky asset class, but that perception is now changing. After the crisis of the Asian financial markets in the late 1990s, these economies restructured. Corporate and household balance sheets strengthened and are still strong. Most Asian countries are very healthy compared with their US and European counterparts in terms of debt levels, government finances and balance of payments. So after the US elections in November 2012 and the change in leadership in China at about the same time, the prospective investor

may well find a more encouraging environment. So how key is risk appetite in this context? Equity market valuations are very cheap. Indeed, equity dividend yields are higher than bond yields in many markets. So, the basic requirements for an attractive equity investment environment are in place. However, we still need a catalyst for that cheap valuation to be turned into improved returns. The policies of the Chinese government are being helpful. For example, they are encouraging investment in new energy sectors and interest rate policy is now in ‘easing mode’.


The average daily wage in rural areas was Rmb 7 (US$ 1.1). This low income population did not have enough buying power to purchase basic foods such as instant noodles. Source: National Bureau of Statistics PRC

Tell us about the style of this particular fund I am not constrained by a benchmark. I look at the intrinsic value of companies and identify those with a re-rating potential. This could come from a change in their business model, from being a low-end ‘white label’ type of manufacturer to one which owns a valuable brand. That type of transformation has already been seen across Asia and there is more to come. In other cases, there could be a ‘turn-around’ type of situation where a company manages, say through better management, to improve its position. Generally, I like companies with a simple business model and a good deal of transparency, especially in terms of earnings. Having identified such companies, my approach is to buy and wait for the anticipated re-rating.

Will the fund be attractive enough as a ‘hot prospect’? China is changing to a more domestically-driven economy in which more people are able to start buying consumer goods. Although the consumer sector is still quite small, in five to 10 years this sector will grow rapidly. Take the phenomenal growth of the telecom industry: from 2002 to 2007 China Mobile saw a huge surge in subscribers and a tenfold gain in its market value – with China now being the biggest mobile phone subscriber market in the world. In terms of luxury products, Chinese shoppers are the largest big-spending segment in the world as well. So there are lots of these consumer sector attributes in China which have big potential for growth. That is the beauty of the ‘bottom-up’ approach. Mansfield sees tremendous potential for the New Capital China Equity Fund to accumulate consumer stocks which have the potential for good growth cycle for the next five years or more. What are the key characteristics of the fund? The fund is an open-ended fund. It will typically own 25 to 50 stocks, so will be quite a concentrated fund in terms of its ownership.

What is your key to adding value? I have more than 20 years’ investing experience in Hong Kong and China and have witnessed many ups and downs in the market and economy in this period. I have developed very disciplined risk and investment control processes both in picking individual stocks with the greatest investment potential and in managing the whole portfolio. So you reap what you sow – is that a good analogy for this fund? I think that analogy is spot on. And in Asia, as well, we have very fertile soil. What I mean is that this region is the only growth area in the world over the next five to ten years. That favourable background, and the stock specific opportunities, create a very favourable environment for EFGAM’s New Capital China Equity Fund.


After eight years, the daily average wage increased to Rmb 19 (US$ 3). This wage growth has generated a prolific demand in the consumer staples sector. Source: National Bureau of Statistics PRC



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