Emerging Markets Still Offering Opportunities, Mobius Says

Have emerging markets rallied too far too fast? Mark Mobius says no.

Mobius, the longtime Templeton Asset Management manager, tells BusinessWeek that emerging market stocks are still selling at reasonable values, and that he’s finding good buys in China, Brazil, and a number of smaller emerging and frontier markets. While investors shouldn’t expect the same kind of percentage gains in 2010 as they’ve seen in 2009, he says money is there to be made.

“If you look at the average price-to-book ratio based on the stocks in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, we are only halfway to the 1997 high,” says Mobius, whose Templeton Emerging Markets Fund is up about 116% this year, far outpacing the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. “The absolute high was three times book, the low was one times book, and now we are at two times book, roughly.”

The emerging-markets rally is being driven by fundamentals, Mobius adds.

“Their economies are growing faster, four times faster [than the U.S. and global markets],” he says. “And during the 1997-1998 Asian crisis [policymakers in] emerging markets realized they needed strong balance sheets at the national and company level and had to build up foreign reserves, which they’ve done. They were building up reserves, keeping their currencies low, and reducing debt.” That means debt-to-gross-domestic-product levels far lower than those seen in many developed markets, he says, and huge cash reserves for countries like Russia and China.

In addition to the big emerging market nations like Brazil, China, Russia, and India, Mobius says he’s also finding opportunities in places like Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and even Pakistan. Some of the main themes he’s investing around right now: commodities and consumers, with the latter due in large part to the fact that the per capita income of consumers in emerging markets is going up, he says.

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