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Sizing up Chinese equities – a market too big to ignore

Sizing up Chinese equities – a market too big to ignore

31-08-2020 | 投資觀點

China’s rise to become the world’s second-largest economy has been matched by the growth of its mainland stock market. And yet despite its size, it remains an undiscovered country for many investors.

  • Jie Lu
    Jie
    Lu
    Head of Investments China

Speed read

  • China’s mainland stock market is the second-largest in the world 
  • Lots of opportunities in companies as coronavirus scare abates 
  • Country is on a clear recover path as one of the few offering growth 

It may come as a surprise to some, but the Chinese A-shares market of domestic companies outside of Hong Kong is the second-largest stock market in the world, with a capitalization approaching USD 10 trillion. The independent Hong Kong H-shares market is the fourth largest. 

Yet, Chinese A-shares are largely shunned by investors – often for reasons of perception. As China now emerges more quickly from the Covid-19 slowdowns than other nations, and remains one of the few countries showing economic growth, the tide may be turning for investor interest in mainland stocks. 

透過電郵月報緊貼荷寶的最新投資觀點
透過電郵月報緊貼荷寶的最新投資觀點
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Victoria Mio, Portfolio Manager for Robeco’s Chinese A-shares and H-shares strategies, says the vast market is still largely undiscovered and under-utilized by Western investors, when it offers a wealth of opportunities for the growth investor.  

“The main problem is A-shares were not included in the MSCI Emerging Markets index until 2018, and then only at a small weighting, so in the past it just wasn’t on the map for the global investor,” she says. “Now it has become too big to ignore.” 

“The weighting in the MSCI EM has now risen from 5% to 20%; full inclusion would really put Chinese equities on the global map. But there are some hurdles that the Chinese regulator needs to address before any increase in inclusion is possible, particularly in making the market more opaque.” 

“There are still issues regarding disclosure and transparency, and the international investor is not so familiar with the market because of that. We expect these issues to be addressed over the next five years.” 

Emerging from lockdown

Mio says that while the coronavirus crisis has hit the country hard, many companies have actually benefitted from the lockdowns. “Three sets of companies have done well from this,” she says. “First there are the e-commerce companies, online retailers and those providing internet-based entertainment that have benefitted from the move to online during the shutdowns. They are still doing well.” 

“Then there are companies in sectors such health care that have done exceptionally well because of Covid-19. And then there's the third group of companies that will benefit from the stimulus to combat the slowdown, such as the infrastructure plays in industrials, construction materials and logistics.” 

“So, there are a lot of stocks that you can choose from. For the companies that haven’t done so well, there is a consolidator in each sector engaged in industry consolidation during the hard times. Maybe the smaller ones may get bought, or they may need to find someone to do merge with it to survive.” 

Four pillars for reform

Mio says there is much to be gained from the four pillars of Chinese plans to transform itself into a 21st century society with living standards on a par with the west. These are the consumption upgrade as Chinese citizens become richer; the technology and innovation that is driving progress; the structural reform including a bigger focus on the environment; and an industrial upgrade including clean vehicles. 

“We’re growth investors at reasonable values focused on these four arenas for thematic growth stocks,” she says. “Because of Covid-19, China initiated a new round of infrastructure investment, with a focus on the technology side.” 

“There are plans to invest heavily in AI, big data centers, ultra-high-voltage facilities, and many other things. Covid-19 has accelerated development in technology and industrial transformation.” 

It’s all about active investing

Meanwhile, there is no point in being a passive investor in Chinese equities, she says. Rather than acting as a drawback, the market’s notorious inefficiency makes it a paradise for active investors like Robeco.  

“We have a very, very big deviation from the index,  so we are very much an active investor,” she says. “The Chinese equity market is very inefficient, which means there are a lot of investment opportunities for an active manager such as us to exploit.” 

“An inefficient market is the best market for a stock selector to show their ability to pick the winners. If you invest passively, you would miss out a lot of opportunities; it would make no sense.” 

Growth engine is revving again

Finally, investors should look to China resuming its status as the engine of world growth, she says. GDP rose by 5.9% in the fourth quarter of 2019 before the outbreak began, but fell by 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020 when China’s vast industrial powerhouse was shut down. Growth of 3.2% was recorded in the second quarter as things began to get back to normal. 

“There was a second coronavirus wave in Beijing in June, but it was brought under control within two weeks, thanks to a very efficient tracking system and a lot of testing that was done,” Mio says.  

“We think there may be a third or fourth wave in selected cities, but they will be brought under control pretty quickly. So we expect more isolated local situations, rather than another nationwide lockdown. Investors do not need to worry too much about that.” 

No new bubble

Meanwhile, the stimulus planned by China should not create a new bubble, Mio says. “This time, the central bank printing more money on the monetary policy side has been more restrained – the stimulus is more on the fiscal side. This means it won’t add to the credit bubble, and we don’t think there will be a major setback.”

“China is still the only one country that can register positive growth this year. And now it’s on a clear recovery path for a V-shaped recovery. Investors can now get much more certainty, visibility and stability for their money.”

Important information

The contents of this document have not been reviewed by any regulatory authority in Hong Kong. If you are in any doubt about any of the contents of this document, you should obtain independent professional advice. This document has been distributed by Robeco Hong Kong Limited (‘Robeco’). Robeco is regulated by the Securities and Futures Commission in Hong Kong.
This document has been prepared on a confidential basis solely for the recipient and is for information purposes only. Any reproduction or distribution of this documentation, in whole or in part, or the disclosure of its contents, without the prior written consent of Robeco, is prohibited. By accepting this documentation, the recipient agrees to the foregoing
This document is intended to provide the reader with information on Robeco’s specific capabilities, but does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell certain securities or investment products. Investment decisions should only be based on the relevant prospectus and on thorough financial, fiscal and legal advice.
The contents of this document are based upon sources of information believed to be reliable. This document is not intended for distribution to or use by any person or entity in any jurisdiction or country where such distribution or use would be contrary to local law or regulation.
Investment Involves risks. Historical returns are provided for illustrative purposes only and do not necessarily reflect Robeco’s expectations for the future. The value of your investments may fluctuate. Past performance is no indication of current or future performance.

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