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BRICS and MINTS: Why investors should be wary of acronyms

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10/02/2014
Acronyms such as BRICS and MINTS can be misleading and often widely misinterpreted by investors.

The groupings are formed by identifying several key economic characteristics among the member countries.

For instance, the BRIC grouping – Brazil, Russia, India and China – originally arose because these countries were significantly increasing their weight in the global economy, which would mean that their respective monetary policies would have a greater influence globally.

Importantly, this was envisaged over a long timeframe. Caveat investor with a shorter-term view: this grouping and its promise of growth does not guarantee outperformance in the short-term. For instance, even though Russia’s MICEX index has risen by 942% between 2001 and 2013 (in rouble terms), it fell by 20% between 2008 and 2013.

Furthermore, shared characteristics within a grouping do not necessarily entail shared performance. For example, Russia’s economy grew by an estimated 112% between 2001 and 2013 (IMF forecast for 2013) while China’s economy grew by an estimated 300%, yet the Chinese stock market rose less than Russia’s (the Hang Seng China Index rose by 566% and the Shanghai Stock Exchange by a mere 2%).

Shared characteristics such as large populations, or in the case of the MINTs – Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey – youthful demographics and excellent geographic positions, do not render member countries particularly aligned when examined more closely.

Disparate characteristics and obstacles to growth are just as important. For instance, Turkey has a young population of 80 million, of which around 43% are under the age of 25. Nigeria’s demographics are even more promising with 63% of its 175 million population under the age of 25.

However, Turkey offers a deeper stock market with more well-managed companies than many of its eastern European peers and MINT peer Nigeria, where poor liquidity in the stock market remains an issue for international investors and resulted in a hefty premium being placed on a few stocks that trade more than $1m per day. The point is that Turkey’s and Nigeria’s economies and capital markets are at different stages of development; this is also evident from Turkey’s slower growth rate.

The different economic composition of countries within a grouping and the obstacles they face are just as important as any shared characteristics. Turkey’s barriers to growth currently exemplify this: namely the large current account deficit and more recently the threat to political stability. Both of these factors and correlated ones such as money flows have placed severe pressure on the Turkish lira and resulted in outflows from Turkey since June 2013. Similarly, concerns about corruption and the level of state interference in Russia are enormous deterrents to investors.

Consequently, its market has one of the cheapest valuations in emerging markets with the MICEX Index trading at 5.7x earnings. As in Nigeria, a scarcity premium has been placed on a small pocket of the market in which stands a handful of privately owned companies with better governance.

The danger of the acronym is that it can become self-fulfilling and focus more attention on these countries. For instance, the BRICS acronym has led to political and economic ties being created between member countries.

Multi-national corporates have sometimes focused investment strategies on these countries but simultaneously, they are not oblivious to obstacles such as the high cost of skilled labour in Brazil.

Acronyms should not influence investors’ perceptions of member countries; the success or failures of these countries should be determined on their own merits or weaknesses.

Henrietta Seligman is an analyst at Somerset Capital Management

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