Why we are positive about China – EM Investment expert shares his views

While there has been a lot of noise in the system about recent policy announcements and implementation thereof by the Chinese Government, there are some good reasons to be positive on China as an investor.

This is the view of Ian Beattie, Fund Manager of the Nedgroup Investments Global Emerging Markets Equity Fund, who was a presenter at the annual Global Investments Summit hosted by Nedgroup Investments.

According to Beattie, there is huge potential for selected Chinese companies to become world leaders in the same way that some US companies did in the 20th Century – and by identifying companies that are truly adding value to society and staying in line with the Chinese Government’s requirements, there is real value to be found.

“China actually has a lot of similarities to the way the US was in the early 20th century, where companies with a competitive advantage used that to take market share, eventually becoming global leaders one day. “We believe that the Chinese government tends to be rational in their decision making, with a great track record and seldom make mistakes, similar to the Fed – so, in our view, it makes sense not to position your portfolio against their views,” he says.

Beattie says it’s important when investing to think carefully about the business models of investee companies. “Before investing it’s important to ask: Are these companies actually adding value to society and the environment? Or are they in it to turn out profits at the expense of society while casting an illusion over their activities to create the perception of having societal value? These business models are likely not going to be sustainable for very long.”

So, what should one look for?

Beattie advises investors to focus on businesses with a win-win business model, that are working towards the same objectives and goals as the government and the regulators. “The business should also be meeting a genuine need in the market for consumers and applying investment know-how. Invest in businesses that are attractively priced and are generating real economic value for stakeholders, with real operating cash flows and that are able to reinvest in the business,” he says.

In China, there are significant second round benefits to reinvesting in the business as this also pleases the regulators.

A good example being TAL Education Group and New Oriental Education which have been hit quite hard recently. Beattie’s portfolio has instead been invested in China Education Group, which he says has delivered tangible societal value and also followed the letter and spirit of the law.

Find the winners in each sector

In emerging markets, it pays to back the winners in each sector. “There are typically only a few real winners in each industry. Don’t buy the cheap, second-best company or a marginal player as they are unlikely to make consistent returns on capital through the cycle as this is quite difficult - but always keep a lookout for the companies that will likely be the future TSMC’s or Samsung,” says Beattie.

Longi Green is dominating the solar business for example. They are spending significant amounts in capex each year, but this is actually falling as a percentage of sales each year. This makes for a great outlook as operating cash flow and free cash flow as a percentage of sales are actually increasing, resulting in growing margins.

Beattie also references CATL and Flat Glass as ‘future winners’ following this pattern.

“Look for real growth in real businesses, with strong competitive advantages, that are generating good cash flow, and ultimately share prices will follow,” he says. This strategy has enabled Beattie and his team to generate an impressive long-term track record of outperforming their peers in the category as well as the MSCI EM Index since inception.