March 2017Investment insights
by Teera Chanpongsang , Fidelity International
As a long-term investor in Asian equities, I have seen first-hand how policies can influence both capital markets and economies. Therefore I consistently emphasise maintaining a long-term view and seeking long-term growth. Asia has favourable demographics, pro-reform governments and an expanding middle class that supports evolving consumption patterns. It is crucial to have a disciplined approach to harness this growth amid an evolving policy environment.
Asia, like other emerging markets, has historically attracted a significant political and corporate governance discount to developed markets, but is this still justified in 2017? Clearly, the external environment across the developed world has become more uncertain, but what shouldn’t be lost among the headlines on Donald Trump and Brexit is the fact that Asia itself has made important steps to promote a more stable economic and political backdrop.
It’s encouraging that reform progress is most evident in China and India - the region’s largest and most important economies. In China, the authorities continue to aim for a balance between growth and reform as part of a long-standing objective to transition the economy towards a more sustainable model that is driven by private consumption and services and is less reliant on investment and exports.
China is now addressing overcapacity
However, I’ve also been encouraged by the recent progress that is being made on tackling long-standing issues in China’s old heavy industry sectors. Many of these areas are dominated by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and the government’s renewed emphasis on this area is starting to create some interesting investment opportunities.
The steel sector is a case in point. For years it has been beset by issues of over-supply, but China has shut down over 50m tonnes of steel capacity in the last year alone. This is mirrored by progress at the individual company level, where SOE reforms are helping to better align the interests of management teams with those of minority shareholders.
If we look at Baosteel, for example, it now has to be among the most efficient steel producers globally in order for its management to exercise their stock options. In practical terms, a greater focus on tackling inefficiencies, controlling costs and boosting profitability is good news for investors and should translate into improved share price performance over time.
Indian reforms set a strong footing for a multi-year growth story
Elsewhere in the region, India is also in the midst of implementing an ambitious multi-year reform programme under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government’s commitment to implementing much-needed change was reinforced by last month’s budget which contained measures to increase investment in rail and roads along with initiatives to boost rural growth, develop affordable housing and develop the digital economy. This came hot on the heels of the demonetisation of high value bank notes in November 2016 as the government aimed to formalise India’s large unregulated economy and increase the tax base.
The fruit of these measures won’t be felt immediately but it is helping set a strong foundation for the Indian economy to thrive for years to come. In particular, the prospects for consumption growth are immense thanks to India’s very favourable demographic profile and rich entrepreneurial spirit.
I experienced this first hand on a recent trip to the country where I saw street coconut traders accepting digital payments via customers mobile phones - this would have been unthinkable even a couple of years ago and it really highlights the significant strides the Indian economy has made under the Modi government.
While the outlook for the Indian economy is positive, selectivity and prudence remains key at the individual stock level as there are wide dispersions in valuations, earnings prospects and balance sheet quality.
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This document is issued by FIL Responsible Entity (Australia) Limited ABN 33 148 059 009, AFSL No. 409340 ("Fidelity Australia"). Fidelity Australia is a member of the FIL Limited group of companies commonly known as Fidelity International. Prior to making an investment decision retail investors should seek advice from their financial adviser. Please remember past performance is not a guide to the future. Investors should also obtain and consider the Product Disclosure Statements ("PDS") for the fund mentioned in this document. The PDS is available on www.fidelity.com.au or can be obtained by contacting Fidelity Australia on 1800 119 270. This document has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider such matters before acting on the information contained in this document. This document may include general commentary on market activity, industry or sector trends or other broad based economic or political conditions which should not be construed as investment advice. Information stated herein about specific securities is subject to change. Any reference to specific securities should not be construed as a recommendation to buy, sell or hold these securities. While the information contained in this document has been prepared with reasonable care no responsibility or liability is accepted for any errors or omissions or misstatements however caused. The document may not be reproduced or transmitted without prior written permission of Fidelity Australia. The issuer of Fidelity funds is FIL Responsible Entity (Australia) Limited ABN 33 148 059 009. References to ($) are in Australian dollars unless stated otherwise. © 2017 FIL Responsible Entity (Australia) Limited. Fidelity, Fidelity International, and the Fidelity International logo and F symbol are trademarks of FIL Limited.