Mobius on the Lure — and Risks — of Frontier Markets

Templeton Asset Management’s Mark Mobius says a number of frontier markets across the globe are offering intriguing opportunities for investors — but that patience is a must for those who venture into these areas.

“I view frontier markets as having tremendous potential for long-term investors, if — and this is a big ‘if’ — you are able to be patient and show some perseverance,” Mobius writes for South Africa’s MoneyWeb.co.za. “Just a few decades ago, China and India were considered frontier markets, and when I began my investment career Japan was considered an emerging market. So, you can see how economic progression and market development often go hand in hand.”

Mobius says frontier markets are often thought of as poor areas, but that they actually run the gamut, and currently include countries like Panama, Argentina, Bulgaria, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Cambodia and Vietnam. “In particular, we look for companies that appear to have solid long-term growth prospects (supported by a youthful population and rising middle class) and good corporate governance,” he says. “We also favour a culture of dividends.”

Right now, Mobius says he’s particularly interested in a number of African countries. “Africa is a very fast-growing region — from 2001 to 2010, six of 10 the fastest-growing countries in the world were in Africa,” he says. “So we are very excited by the growth prospects in those countries.”

Mobius also discusses some of the risks of investing in frontier markets, including political risk and liquidity. And he looks at some of the popular myths about investing in these types of areas.