Fund that made money in brutal year looks to frontier markets

MANILA: A Philippines fund manager that made money amid the 2018 equity meltdown is now looking for new horizons.

Michael Garcia, the chief executive officer and chief investment officer of MBG Capital Inc in Manila, wants to apply his expertise of Philippine shares to Vietnam and Myanmar.

While considered frontier markets, he says they offer investment themes similar to the ones he’s familiar with and bets they’ll take his Seahedge Philippines Fund a step further after a 14% rally last year.

“These are like the Philippines before the reforms that attracted global investors,” said Garcia, who quit his job as CIO of Union Bank of the Philippines in 2011 to be on his own. He manages US$60mil now.

“These will be Asia’s hottest markets in the future with consumption, tourism and infrastructure stories similar to what we see now in the Philippines.”

He started dipping his toes into Vietnam in early 2017, and 10% of his Seahedge fund is invested in the country’s stocks. His holdings include Vietnam Technological & Commercial Joint Stock Bank and FPT Digital Retail JSC. The remaining 90% is in Philippine shares.

While Garcia said the Philippines will remain his primary market, he wants to bring the portion of overseas shares to 20%. He’s now looking into Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd, a Burmese property developer listed in Singapore.

The countries he’s targeting are among Asia’s fastest-growing economies, with the World Bank estimating this year’s expansion will reach 6.5% for Myanmar and the Philippines, and 6.6% for Vietnam.

“I buy stocks nobody loves,” he said. “I find my stocks in the market subset that’s overlooked, under-researched, misunderstood and under-owned by institutions. It’s when everybody wants to hold and my targets are achieved that I say it is time to go and look for the next gem.” — Bloomberg

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