Top U.K. Manager High on Emerging Markets

Robin Geffen, one of the U.K.’s most successful fund managers, says that the balance of power is shifting in the global economy, and that emerging market nations offer opportunities for big investment returns in a post-financial-crisis world.

Geffen, fund manager and managing director of Neptune Investment Management, says that in the decade leading up to the recent crisis, the U.S. consumer was the strongest source of demand in the global economy. “[But] the global economic crisis that we are trying to climb out of can be seen as the demise of this pattern,” he writes in the Telegraph. “We are experiencing a rebalancing away from over-reliance on an unsustainable source of demand. It is not surprising the greatest beneficiaries have been emerging economies.”

“The BRIC economies appear to be rebounding from the global crisis stronger than anybody,” Geffen writes. “Certainly it has been difficult for [them] to deal with falling exports to the West and reduced capital flows as foreign investors lost their nerve, but they have managed to lean on domestic demand, which is drawing in foreign capital again. Growth is accelerating, leaving the West behind.”

Emerging market economies have a couple big advantages over their developed peers, Geffen says. For one, they are in earlier stages of demographic transitions, in which child survival rates increase and a larger, young, economically active generation is created. Second, they “tend to have a low level of capital and hordes of labour in unproductive agricultural jobs. When you add capital, the marginal return on each factory, piece of machinery or length of transport infrastructure is very high.”

The key is sustaining that growth, Geffen says. China, he says, needs to stimulate greater personal consumption, while Brazil needs to save more. India must “remove political uncertainties to business investment”, as “coalition governments with disparate interests have made it difficult for the private sector seeking government co-operation”. And Russia needs to broaden its economy to incorporate a larger industrial base, so it is not as reliant on energy revenues. Focusing on infrastructure investment would help, Geffen says.

“Global growth on the other side of the crisis will not be achieved by continuing the old habits of the past decade,” Geffen concludes. “The role of emerging economies will be larger than ever and, while the actions of their governments will be crucial, what we have seen from the BRICs has been decisive and encouraging.”

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