Why Things Aren’t What They Used to Be in Emerging Markets

The prospect of stabilizing commodity prices and improving corporate earnings has helped rebuild investor interest in emerging markets over the past year. But returning investors may find the constituents of today’s emerging markets are very different from those of the past. I’ve invited my colleague Carlos Hardenberg to share some of his experiences of how emerging markets are not just emerging but evolving, too.

When we look at the emerging-market companies in which we invest today, they are worlds away from the companies we were analyzing a decade or two ago.

The landscape of emerging-market corporations in general has undergone a significant transformation from the often plain-vanilla business models of the past that tended to focus on infrastructure, telecommunications, classic banking models or commodity-related businesses, to a new generation of very innovative companies that are moving into technology and much higher value-added production processes.

Furthermore, we’re starting to see the establishment of some very strong globally represented brands which originate from emerging-market countries.

Back in the late 1990s, when I was starting out in the emerging-market investing world, technology-oriented companies made up only around 3% of the universe, as represented by the MCSI Emerging Markets (EM) Index.1 Even six years ago, information technology (IT) represented less than 10% of investable companies in the index.2 Much has changed since then.

Today, around a quarter of the MSCI EM Index is in the IT sector, which includes hardware, software, components and suppliers.


And while much of this activity is originating in Asia, including Taiwan, South Korea and increasingly China, we are also seeing similar developments in Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe and even Africa.

The IT sector can be a difficult space to understand and value. Business models are rapidly changing as they adapt to the shifting demands of consumers, and respond to new environmental requirements. Thus, one needs to spend more time understanding and evaluating individual companies before investing in the right stocks, also based on desired risk tolerance.

Currently, we have identified opportunities among some larger-sized companies, but tend to generally favour mid-sized companies we think have the potential to outgrow the market as a whole. We look for companies we believe have the ability to adapt more efficiently and are more flexible in adjusting to a fast-changing environment, run by flexible and well-incentivised management teams.