Frontier markets have faced a troubled time over the past year or so, with the likes of Nigeria being hit hard by falling oil prices and Argentina remaining under pressure amid debt repayment talks.
This hardship was shared by the managers operating in the dedicated Equity – Frontier Markets sector over the 12 months to the end of January 2016.
Of the 43 tracked by Citywire Selector, the average investor lost 16.5% in US dollar terms. This is while the most commonly held benchmark, the MSCI Frontier Markets TR USD, was in line with this performance and dropped 16.5%.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. While the bulk of his peers have struggled, there is one manager who has posted positive returns over this analysis period. Let’s take a closer look at who has risen to the fore and how he did it.
Thomas Hugger, Asia Frontier Capital
Total returns (January 2015-January 2016): 1.29%
Sneaking into money-making territory over this timeframe is Citywire AA-rated Thomas Hugger, who is founder and CEO of Hong Kong-based investment boutique Asia Frontier Capital. Hugger is recognised for his performance across two funds in the dedicated sector.
While 1.29% isn’t as formidable as the 42.5% that saw him top our analysis into three-year returns in November of last it year, it compares with a loss of 7% by his nearest competitors. Since that analysis took place, Hugger rose in the Citywire ratings from + rated to AA-rated for his risk-adjusted returns.
Both funds invest across solely Asian frontier markets, which includes the likes of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Vietnam and a host of others. Hugger adopts a blended top-down and bottom-up investment style, while also staying conscious of macro trends.
His main areas of investment is in consumer staple, consumer discretionary, financials and infrastructure stocks, while also targeting country-specific trends. For example, he targets textiles in Pakistan and Bangladesh, while also focusing on tourism in Sri Lanka.
It is largely focused on large-cap stocks, while also holding a variety of small- and mid-cap positions as ‘satellite’ bets. Hugger adopts a systematic research process, which is coupled with a series of on-the-ground visits to investment locations.