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samedi 11 juin 2011

Eastern Europe's frontier propels AAA manager's performance

Petit focus sur la stratégie de gestion du gérant allemand Markus Brück du fonds Metzler Eastern Europe (IE0000111876).

Eastern Europe may not be the most popular destination for investors but Euro Stars AAA-rated manager Markus Brück has proven strong returns can be found in this overlooked region if you look towards its frontier markets.

Brück has been at the helm of his Metzler Eastern Europe fund since it was launched in 2002 and has consistently outperformed his benchmark. Such performance had also led him to top the emerging markets equity sector of Citywire's recently released Euro Stars guiide.

What sets Brück apart from his peers, says the manager, is his choice of benchmark, which is an important contributor to his outperformance.

‘Almost 90 of Eastern European funds are managed against the MSCI Eastern Europe index. ‘But when I launched the fund I set it against the Nomura index because it offers a broader universe and exposure to smaller countries.

‘The MSCI indices in Eastern Europe have about 50 to 60 blue chip companies. But our conviction is there is more hidden value in the frontier markets.’

The Nomura benchmark gives Brück more flexibility and choice on where he can invest, but he admits it ‘can also be our enemy’ as it requires him to have clear views on many smaller frontier markets and maintain a vigilant eye on their recovery.

While an analysis of each country within his choice of index is essential, the macro environment is also an important market indicator for Brück.

‘When you are managing such a broad universe, you can’t be too close to any market at any one time,’ says Brück. ‘The imbalances in these frontier markets were triggered by the financial crisis and it is better to look at the macro signals to see if the economy is turning as managers can be too close at times.’

Conversely, when it comes to individual stocks, the German manager advocates having a solid relationship with each company.

‘When the economy is bottoming out it is extremely important to be close to these companies to know what is happening,’ he says.

The two main themes he expects to bring him strong returns over the next year are the ‘catch up story’, as many countries embark on the next phase of recovery, and Russia’s continuing growth.

‘The story in 2010 was exports to Nordic countries and also to Russia. Now we believe we are seeing the next stage of recovery through consumption.’

Countries Brück favours include Romania and Hungary, as well as Baltic states like Estonia, as he believes they are well placed to take advantage of the consumption growth theme.

‘What makes us optimistic about Romania is that there is lots of talk around the government relaunching their infrastructure projects which were completely frozen. Now they are starting these projects up we can expect a lot of hiring which can lead to more consumption. And we are getting this now with no overheating.’

Brück says he has doubts over Europe’s recovery for the year ahead and this has led him to adopt a more defensive approach. ‘The economic recovery is running out of steam and that is why we have to question the resilience of the European recovery. In my view then we have to reduce risk.’

He has worked for Germany’s Metzler Asset Management for almost 20 years and has extensive experience investing in Eastern Europe. Prior to joining Metzler he held various positions at Credit Suisse Asset Management, Deka Investment Management and WestLB Capital Management.

Over the past five years the Metzler Eastern Europe fund has posted returns of 30.3% while its benchmark, Nomura Central & East European, has risen 9.8% in euro terms.

(Atholl Simpson - Citywire - 09/06/11)

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