Emerging market companies are global and domestic leaders
Positive change has altered the investment landscape
Emerging markets have experienced significant positive change over the past decade. Economic growth, urbanisation, the rise of middle-class consumers and the mass adoption of technology have all combined to alter the investment landscape.
The mass adoption of technology has enabled companies to penetrate further into rural areas and different sectors of society within emerging markets. This, coupled with the younger generation of consumers and their inclination toward digital, has helped to support the growth of internet/platform industry. In particular, in Asia these platform-based companies have been very successful because the social and structural contexts in which they began are very different.
Take microfinancing for example, Bank Rakyat Indonesia is helping a sector of society obtain financing where previously it may have been inaccessible to them. This may be for a variety of reasons including not having credit scores or lack of physical access. The ability to access financing from an app on their phone suddenly opens up a world of opportunity for that individual.
Fig. 1 STEM graduates create an increasingly sophisticated workforce1
The huge underpenetrated market, the speed of innovation and the quick adoption by consumers in turn creates an opportunity for investors not only to support an interesting business idea but also to make a positive impact.
Emerging markets have given rise to global leaders
The positive trends identified above have helped the growth of a variety of businesses in emerging markets. Alongside broader economic growth, the last decade has seen companies move up the curve in terms of complexity, human capital and intellectual property (IP). Many of these companies are leading the way in a global marketplace and are considered best-in-class, without true developed market peers.
The swathes of graduates in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) have helped to create a highly skilled workforce, which is already innovating as seen by the high concentration of patent applications coming from these countries (figures 1 and 2).
“The last decade has seen companies move up the curve in terms of complexity, human capital and intellectual property.”
Fig. 2 Top 20 national patent office with most applications in 2019 (try to find updated data)2
A key example of global leadership is in the smartphone (and component) markets. South Korean company Samsung Electronics is not only a smartphone manufacturer but also a key supplier of smartphone and electronic components to other leading global brands. The Taiwanese giant TSMC is the world’s largest semiconductor foundry.
Emerging market companies are also actively contributing to a worldwide effort to reduce fossil fuel use. Companies such as LG Chem or CATL are global leaders in electric vehicle battery production, key suppliers to developed and emerging market automobile companies.
Ultimately excluding emerging market companies arbitrarily restricts your investable universe and limits your exposure to world-leading companies who are integral parts of the global supply chain.
Strong consumption trends and structural reforms have supported domestic players
Whilst an exciting new breed of world-class companies has grown to represent the new face of emerging markets, there are many long-established companies operating in domestic markets, which are also benefitting from strong consumption trends and structural reforms. This breed of companies exists in many areas, for example, Indian jewellery.
In India the tightening of regulations in the retail sector is helping to push the market from an informal to organised part of the economy. Titan Industries is using technology to allow browsing of its luxury jewellery collections online before completing purchases, helping to build trust in the brand. This design-led experience and the move toward an organised market mean that companies like Titan are positioned well to benefit in the domestic market.
The time to act is now
Fig. 3 Real GDP growth in selected world regions 2018-2022 (%)3
As long-term investors, we focus on the investment opportunity over at least a five-year time horizon. This often means that the answer to the ‘why emerging markets now?’ question can be somewhat blurred with the ‘why emerging markets?’ question.
Our investment decisions are not led by market timing but by the long-term opportunity for sustainable growth. This being the case, we are yet mindful that there are both macro and micro factors at play which make emerging markets an attractive opportunity now.
Emerging markets exhibit superior growth
Despite the commonly used argument that emerging market growth is slowing down, in real GDP terms, emerging markets continue to exhibit superior growth when compared to developed markets and global markets (see fig. 3). This is expected to continue, according to the UN DESA, with emerging markets driving global GDP growth higher at least for the next few years.
The opportunity is attractively valued
A common measure for gauging a broad sense of how the market is valued is the ratio of price-to-book (P/B). It is a common misconception that emerging markets are expensive compared to developed or global markets. In fact, emerging markets are actually trading close to their 20-year relative lows, as measured by the MSCI Emerging Markets vs. MSCI World (see fig. 4), suggesting the opposite is true. We think this demonstrates that emerging markets are an attractive investment opportunity.
Earnings rebound expected
The final point we wish to share is that there is broad market consensus that there will be a strong corporate earnings rebound in 2021 and 2022 for emerging market companies. The post-pandemic bounce-back will help support cash flows and growth. 2021 may see as much as 56% growth in earnings in 2021 for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index and a further 7% increase in 2022, both higher expectations than developed markets as measured by the MSCI World Index (fig. 5).
Combined with the attractive valuations and broader economic growth outlook, the expected corporate earnings rebound signals that the current market environment presents an exciting investment opportunity for emerging market investors.
Fig. 5 Estimated Earnings Growth (%) Emerging Markets vs. World5
Fig. 4 Relative P/B (NTM) – Emerging Markets vs. World4
The information provided should not be considered a recommendation to purchase or sell any particular security. It should not be assumed that any of the security transactions discussed here were, or will prove to be, profitable.
1Source: Statista, World Economic Forum. 2016 graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
2Source: Statista and WIPO, World Intellectual Property Indicators 2020, p.27
3Source: Statista and UN DESA. World Economic Situation and Prospects as of mid-2021, p.3. Growth is compared to the previous year. *Part estimate. †Forecast.
5Source: FactSet, November 2021