Capital Flows Glacial for India?

Terry Flanagan

Emerging Asian investors have shifted eyes from China to India, but the latter is now due for headwinds.

Global macroeconomic concerns have not seemed to let up, lately. With U.S. growth hovering at 2% and the Eurozone seemingly never-ending sleuth of problems, buy-side firms have turned their eyes towards the emerging world, as much of history shows.

Yet, even the emerging markets, prized for their favorable demographic and market growth are predicted to take a few hits in developed-world like fashion. India, the second largest economy in Asia, at nearly 2 trillion, has slowed and is expected to continue downward. Economists expect a growth rate hovering around 7%, versus last year’s 8.5% GDP growth rate.

What concerns will such grim economic news spell for various Indian funds and their investors? Apart from investors coddling their “defensive, well-run” companies… not many, noted Hugh Young, managing director of Aberdeen Asset Management Asia. The Scottish-based global firm has nearly 180 billion pounds under management.

“Foreign institutional investors withdrew $357 million from India last year; they had invested $29 billion in 2010. We are hopeful that our New India Investment Trust, which holds some of India’s most prudently run and financially robust companies will outperform again given their defensive qualities,” Young told Markets Media.

Aberdeen’s New India Investment Trust is available to both institutional and retail investors on the London Stock Exchange and has 141 million under management. Its investment objective is focused on long-term capital appreciation through investing in Indian companies or those that greatly profit from India.

India’s economic woes, such as the pending slow growth and much-discussed fiscal tightening talk from the country’s Central Bank to policymakers, will most detract from India’s ability to raise new capital—not so much touch existing investments, many of which are sound.

Bottom-up, long managers have heard this story before—notably though another Asian powerhouse, Japan, where managers argue that valuations are promising despite an economic slump. Over-arching negative economic news doesn’t always funnel down for investors in for the long haul. Young believes the issue lies within raising new capital, for India, but said “continued rupee weakness could inflate the country’s rising import bill and hamper companies’ profit growth”…bad news for Indian managers.

“Attracting new capital flows will be the main challenge for (Indian) policymakers in 2012. Still, we would not be surprised if the domestic market corrected further,” he said. “Despite the sharp decline in 2011, India’s economy had appreciated by more than 100% over the previous two years.”

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