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Offshore equity markets – prudently spreading risk
and widening the opportunity set.

We invite you to take a look at the new Old Mutual Multi-Managers
global range of funds which offer multi asset class and equity funds.


Offshore equity markets have run really strongly recently, led by the US and its giant technology. As a result, there is no question that global investments are more expensive than South African shares, bonds and property at the moment.

At the end of April, MSCI put the forward price earnings (PE) ratio for the world market at 18x, the highest since 2002, while SA equities traded at 10x. Similarly, South African 10-year government bond yield is double the Reserve Banks 4.5% inflation target, while the US equivalent is still below the Federal Reserve’s 2% target. This implies positive expected real returns from SA bonds and negative real returns from US bonds.

So why would anyone take their money offshore? The answer is risk management through diversification.

If I told you that Russian equities traded on a 7x forward PE, bonds offer attractive real yields, fiscal and monetary policy is conservative and the rising oil price bodes well for economic recovery, you might say “Great, let’s put 2% or 3% of my portfolio in Russian assets.” You wouldn’t bet 70% of your wealth on a single country, no matter how good the story.   

Yet, that is what South Africans do.

Home bias is common, even in countries where there are few or no restrictions like our own Regulation 28. People tend to invest in what they know, whether it’s the savings account of a local bank or the shares of the brand names they consume every day. But it’s a big world, and home bias can mean missing out on opportunities.

For many South Africans, their biggest assets are probably a company pension fund and their home. Some own businesses. The more affluent might have a holiday property. That means they are overexposed to the domestic economy and its cycles.

Therefore, there is a strong case to be made that a significant portion of discretionary money should be offshore, but of course the size of the allocation depends on individual circumstances.

This is not about “fleeing” South Africa at all, or implying the country is falling apart. It isn’t. It is simply about prudently spreading risk and widening the opportunity set.

Yes, global equities are more expensive in aggregate, but among the thousands of listed companies there are those who are cheap relative to their fundamental value or growth prospects. In contrast, a big part of why South African equities trade on low valuations is because of high commodity prices boosting prospective earnings. These prices might stay high, but they might not. If they decline, it is a risk to local investments. Apart from mining, the JSE is simply very concentrated, with a single underlying exposure (Tencent) accounting for 15% to 25% of the overall market depending on the benchmark. If we look at the FTSE/JSE All Share Index, 60% of its market cap is contributed by the top ten shares. For the MSCI All Country World Index, the largest ten of the 2 974 constituents only make up 15% of the total market cap.

If you think about local fixed income, the bond market is dominated by the government and its state-owned enterprises (virtually all junk status) and the money market by the big four banks. The global fixed income universe is massive, spilt roughly half-half between sovereign and corporate (and other private) borrowers, and across all imaginable regions, maturities, credit ratings, and currencies.

Local property is mostly offices and shopping malls which are at risk from work-from-home and shop-from-home, along with a big exposure to Eastern Europe (oddly enough). Global property is an extremely diversified asset class, including sectors that barely feature on our market such as data centers, various residential options, hospitals, laboratories and communications facilities.

What about the rand? Shouldn’t we wait for a more attractive entry point?

The same conditions that cause the rand to strengthen – rising risk appetite, global economic growth, and firmer commodity prices – usually also result in global investments rallying. Therefore, waiting for a stronger rand to take money offshore often also means buying into more expensive investments on the other side. So it’s swings-and-roundabouts.

Finally, how do you go about investing abroad?

Just as diversification across local and global investments is advisable, we think that investors should diversify across fund managers, because no single manager has all the answers and performance tends to be cyclical.

The new Old Mutual Multi-Managers global range of funds offers multi asset class and equity funds. Our work in putting these funds together greatly simplifies the difficult job investors face when selecting managers from the thousands of global options across a range of countries and asset classes.

The Old Mutual Multi-Managers Global Moderate Fund of Funds has a strategic asset allocation split roughly 50-50 between growth assets (property and equity) and fixed income. The Old Mutual Multi-Managers Global Growth Fund of Funds focuses on long-term growth to beat inflation but with a small fixed income allocation to reduce volatility. The Old Mutual Multi-Managers Global Equity Fund of Funds is, as the name suggests, a pure equity fund.

While these particular funds are a little over a year old, we have invested with most of these managers for many years since we use them in our local strategies and know them well. We follow the same approach in constructing these funds as we successfully did locally for almost two decades.

The secret is always to have a long-term mind-set, focus on valuations, and diversify, diversify, diversify.


About Old Mutual Multi-Managers

Old Mutual Multi-Managers is a specialist investment boutique, within the Old Mutual group, South Africa’s largest and most established financial services company. We offer affordable investments that blend together the best of South African and offshore asset managers.

 The above content is for information purposes only and does not constitute financial advice in any way or form.  It is important to consult a financial planner to receive financial advice before acting on any of the above information.

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Article written by: Izak Odendaal, Investment Analyst at Old Mutual Multi-Managers

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