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Three Trends in China That Could Bode Well for Asia Equity Investors

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This is a sponsored article from PineBridge Investments.

Elizabeth Soon, CFA
Head of Asia ex Japan equities
PineBridge Investments

Beyond the pandemic and trade tensions, underlying developments in China may have transformative implications on companies in Asia and frame how investors look at Asian equities, including up and coming small caps.

Trade is expected to remain a lightning rod for US-China relations, and while the Covid-19 situation has been brought under control in China, pandemic-related uncertainties persist globally. Unknowns about how these developments will play out can be a potent source of investor anxiety and market volatility in Asian equities.

As bottom-up investors, we choose to look past the news cycle and focus on what’s driving company performance to guide our investment decisions. As China’s recovery continues and benefits the rest of Asia, we see three important trends that may have significant implications for Asian companies and may influence our Asia small cap positioning.

1. Resiliency amid adversity
Even with the twin threats of the trade war and the coronavirus, Chinese companies with strong business models continue to gain market share due to their operational efficiencies and ability to align closely with customers. For example, one small cap company we’ve been following, a Chinese textile manufacturer for a leading global brand known for simple yet stylish and affordable clothes posted solid earnings in the first half of this year despite the sudden drop in demand during the lockdowns. Exporters like this tend to have diversified their manufacturing centres outside of China in prior years – a move that helps reduce their exposure to US tariffs and any production disruption in China.

Chinese suppliers have yet to be knocked from their perch in global supply chains, primarily because of their economies of scale and ability to diversify locations and control costs through automation.

This trend benefits a number of Southeast Asian countries by helping them to grow into the next manufacturing centres, as Chinese exporters that have relocated or plan to relocate some of their manufacturing capacities to these countries bring over their capital, experience, and knowledge.

China’s Share of Global Exports Still at All-Time-High Levels

Source: Standard Chartered, Bloomberg, PineBridge Investments calculations as of 30 September 2020. For illustrative purposes only. We are not soliciting or recommending any action based on this material.

2. Continued R&D spending
China’s faster recovery from the coronavirus could allow the country to further accelerate research and development (R&D) spending versus the US. Total R&D expenditures last year rose more than 12%, the fourth straight year of double-digit growth1. At the micro level, we find that Chinese companies that continue to invest in R&D and technology — thereby increasing barriers to competition with better products and more efficient production— also continue to gain global market share despite a difficult market. And just as during the global financial crisis in 2008, we see cash-rich companies, including small caps, seeking M&A opportunities at distressed prices during the Covid-19 crisis.

China’s R&D Expenditures Have Been Accelerating

Source: Ministry of Education, UBS Estimates, as of 30 September 2020. For illustrative purposes only. We are not soliciting or recommending any action based on this material.

3. Accelerating localisation
Perhaps one of the more lasting trends arising from protectionism is the push toward greater Chinese self-sufficiency – in particular, producing high-tech components domestically rather than importing them from the US amid sales restrictions. We believe that over the next three years China will climb up the technological ladder. The government has already set a goal of becoming a global artificial intelligence powerhouse by 2030, and Chinese telecom companies have led globally in terms of 5G implementation2. China aims to boost semiconductor self-sufficiency to 70% from 30% in 2019 with the government offering tax cuts and incentives to chipmakers to increase local production3. We are keenly watching developments in China’s tech sector and its broader ecosystem to identify and capture overlooked opportunities in this dynamic environment.

Expected Contribution to Growth from China’s Investment in 5G

Source: China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, as of 30 September 2020. For illustrative purposes only. We are not soliciting or recommending any action based on this material. Any opinions, projections, forecasts, or forward-looking statements presented are valid only as of the date indicated and are subject to change.

Strong domestic demand in China is likely to keep the country’s post-lockdown recovery going, and we see its cascading effect on companies across Asia that are catering to this demand and already showing improving sales.
But as we have emphasised previously, the sustainability of this recovery depends on Covid-19 being kept under control. Thus, conditions may remain tenuous until effective vaccine or therapeutics are widely available. Over the long run, however, the diversification of manufacturing bases and localisation may bring about fundamental shifts in the Chinese economy, with a corresponding set of new opportunities arising in China and across Asia for discerning investors.

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1 Source: National Bureau of Statistics, the Ministry of Science and Technology, and the Ministry of Finance, as of 27 August 2020.
2 Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/21/china-ai-world-leader-by-2030.html, as of 21 July 2017; Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) data as of 17 March 2020.
3 Source: https://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202008/20/WS5f3de353a3108348172618ec.html, as of 20 August 2020.

All investments involve risk, including the loss of principal amount invested. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The information presented herein is for illustrative purposes only and should not be considered reflective of any particular security, strategy, or investment product. It represents a general assessment of the markets at a specific time and is not a guarantee of future performance results or market movement. This material does not constitute investment, financial, legal, tax, or other advice; investment research or a product of any research department; an offer to sell, or the solicitation of an offer to purchase any security or interest in a fund; or a recommendation for any investment product or strategy. Any views express represent the opinion of the manager and are subject to change. Views may be based on third-party data that has not been independently verified. PineBridge Investments does not approve of or endorse any re-publication or sharing of this material. You are solely responsible for deciding whether any investment product or strategy is appropriate for you based upon your investment goals, financial situation and tolerance for risk. We are not soliciting or recommending any action based on this material. In Hong Kong, this document is issued by PineBridge Investments Asia Limited, a company incorporated in Bermuda with limited liability. This document has not been reviewed by the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC). Investors should note that the website www.pinebridge.com and any other website referred to in this document have not been reviewed by the SFC and may contain information of funds not authorised by the SFC. In Singapore, this document is issued by PineBridge Investments Singapore Limited (Company Reg. No. 199602054E), licensed and regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). This advertisement or publication has not been reviewed by the MAS. Investors should note that the website pinebridge.com and any other website (including any contents therein) referred to in this document have not been reviewed or endorsed by the MAS.

This is a sponsored article from PineBridge Investments.

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