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BLOG: Argentina’s World Cup win throws the spotlight on Latin America

Written by: Darius McDermott
Argentina is sitting on top of the footballing world. The Lionel Messi-inspired team emerged as the surprise victors at the recent FIFA World Cup in Qatar. But is it an area for investor interest?

It was the first time they’d won the prestigious trophy since 1986, when a certain Diego Maradona – along with his ‘hand of God’ – grabbed all the headlines.

The team’s success in the latest tournament also capped a memorable year for investors in Latin America, who were among a relative handful to have actually made money last year.

In fact, the average fund in the IA Latin America sector was up an impressive 17.22% over the course of 2022, according to Morningstar Direct data.

By way of comparison, the average fund in the hugely popular IA UK All Companies sector was down 9.19% over the same period – more disappointing than a Harry Kane penalty!

What are the pros and cons of this region?

Of course, Argentina is only one part of Latin America, which is generally accepted to consist of South America, along with central America and Mexico. This means it includes powerhouses of the emerging world such as Brazil, Peru, Chile, Colombia, and the aforementioned Mexico.

Why has Latin America been such a star performer?

Well, its natural resources-rich nature has certainly helped it to benefit from the global commodity price spike.

However, there are reasons to suggest it could be worth a look even if the geopolitical situation calms down in 2023 and commodity prices start to normalise.

Longer-term factors include favourable demographics, potential for sectors such as infrastructure, historically cheap stock market valuations, and the opportunity to diversify your overall portfolio.

Will Latin America outperform again this year?

Now, Latin America may have enjoyed a tremendous 2022 but, like any region, it doesn’t provide a guaranteed route to riches.

The first point to acknowledge is that many of its countries are still emerging. This means they are likely to be pretty volatile. If you can’t cope with turbulence, it may not be for you.

The fact it’s resource-heavy is also a blessing and a curse. When demand for commodities is high, investors can celebrate, but they’ll need to remember this area is prone to boom-bust cycles.

Other issues to consider is the generally heightened levels of political uncertainty and how various companies and countries are operating in an increasingly ESG-focused world.

How can investors tap into this market?

Latin America is clearly of growing importance, which is why the Investment Association has introduced a specific sector for funds investing in its equities.

Would-be investors can get pure access via dedicated portfolios such as the abrdn Latin American Equity fund, which is run by its emerging markets team. The named manager at the helm is Eduardo Figueiredo, a director and head of Brazilian equities, who has chalked up many years of experience covering the Latin American region.

This fund aims to generate long-term growth – classed as at least five years – and favours building up large positions in high quality companies that are trading at reasonable valuations.

Of course, if you’d prefer to have more diluted exposure to Latin America, then a global emerging portfolio may be a better option. The Aubrey Global Emerging Markets Opportunities fund, for example, has exposure to Mexico and Brazil, alongside India, China, Indonesia, and other such countries.

This fund invests in companies making the most of the fast-growing emerging market consumer opportunity by selling products and services to the aspirational and ambitious.

Its lead manager, Andrew Dalrymple, prefers to invest in dominant companies rather than the regional versions of existing multinational firms.

Brazil, Mexico, and Peru are also among the country exposures of the Federated Hermes Global Emerging Markets SMID Equity fund, whose lead manager is Kunjal Gala.

It invests in high-quality, efficient, and sustainable small and medium sized companies that are expected to benefit from long-term trends. The manager believes such businesses in emerging areas are an under-researched area that provide a tantalising opportunity to uncover hidden gems.

Darius McDermott is managing director of Chelsea Financial Services & FundCalibre

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