May 20, 2014, 5:40 P.M. ET
Three senior Franklin Templeton portfolio managers were in New York Tuesday for a press briefing, and emerging market investing took center stage.
Mark Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group, reiterated what he told Barrons.com in December: frontier markets represent an important opportunity. Ironically, Franklin Templeton shuttered some frontier portfolios to new investment because “money was coming in too fast” to be put to work. But Mobius said he expects liquidity to expand steadily in frontier markets as investment increases and companies conduct more offerings.
He said he is finding individual investing opportunities in Indonesia, Russia, Brazil and Vietnam broadly on the theme of political upheaval. He remains a fan of A-shares in China, especially smaller companies. When we interviewed Mobius in December, he predicted funds invested in small caps and frontier markets – especially Africa — could do especially well this year. He said Tuesday he likes South African companies that are expanding into the rest of Africa.
As for individual market detail, from the team:
- Brazil: One of the most liquid markets in Latin America and all emerging markets, according to Claus Born, one of Franklin Templeton’s Latin America experts. Brazilian metal and mining giant Vale (VALE) was a big drag in some Mobius portfolios last year; shares dropped 30% in 2013 and have tumbled another 8% so far this year. But the possibility of political change in Brazil has Franklin Templeton money managers intrigued. Franklin Templeton owns shares of Petroleo Brasileiro, AKA Petrobras (PBR), Brazil’s oil exploration and refining giant, which are incredibly cheap for a reason: an intrusive government that insists on discounting fuel to win favor with the masses. But with election polls showing President Dilma Rouseff is out of favor, Peter Langerman, chairman and CEO of Franklin Mutual Advisors, told Barrons.com, ”there is election risk but the current way the company is being run is not sustainable for itself and the economy. The value gap balances out the risk.” Langerman is a co-manager of Franklin Templeton’s Mutual Global Discovery Fund (MDISX), with roughly $24 billion in assets.
- Turkey is “not cheap yet,” Mobius said, though there are “opportunities” and Mobius has some investments in Turkey.
- India stocks reflect the victory of reform-minded Narendra Modi, said Cindy Sweeting, director of portfolio management at Tempeton Global Equity Group.
Among the stocks Mobius liked in December: Avon Products (AVP), whose shares have tumbled 18% so far this year. Avon derives roughly half of its earnings from emerging markets including Brazil. Mobius told Barrons.com Tuesday that he purchased more of the stock as it tumbled this year.
When asked when the music will stop in the U.S. market, Mobius likened the stock market’s appreciation and money still sitting on the sidelines to a party with alcohol. We’ve only had soft drinks and wine, we’re halfway through the night and the wealthy guys are showing up with the hard liquor. As the market party wears on, drunken excess could play out, he fears, because ”subprime didn’t teach us anything.”