US emerging market fund managers are paying less attention to where a company is located or listed than to whether it's making money, either as an advanced world company doing business in the developing world, or the other way around.
A top holding in the $710 million Ivy Emerging Markets Equity Fund, the best performing diversified emerging market fund over the last five years, is Las Vegas Sands Corp , the U.S.-based casino operator that generates most of its revenue in Macao.
The No. 2 holding in the $2.8 billion GMO Emerging Domestic Opportunities Fund is Colgate-Palmolive Co, based in New York but the maker of the best-selling toothpaste in India. And the $25 billion American Funds New World Fund is betting on a U.S. housing recovery by investing in Hong Kong-based Techtronic Industries Co Ltd, which sells power tools through Home Depot Inc, its largest customer.
"It's a new geography," said Rob Lovelace, a portfolio manager for the American Funds New World Fund, part of the No. 3 U.S. mutual fund family with $1.15 trillion in assets. "Investing based on where a company is domiciled doesn't really work. We have a better proxy because companies are disclosing more in their revenue breakdowns."
Betting on multinational companies that generate a meaningful amount of revenue from emerging markets allows fund managers to sidestep the political and currency risk that comes with investing directly in an emerging market, while also expanding their universe of potential investments.
A revenue-focused strategy allows portfolio managers to take advantage of an emerging market's strengths, such as cheaper labor costs, lower taxes and rising standards of living. Emerging market operations at multinational companies have delivered almost double the revenue and more than twice the profit growth of their parent companies, according to a Bain & Co analysis of results between 2005 and 2010.
To underscore the importance of this developing investment strategy, American Funds will provide investors with regional revenue breakdowns later this year at four funds.
Some portfolio managers using this approach are trouncing their peers, according to Morningstar Inc.
The New World Fund's three-year annual total return of 5.10 percent is beating 94 percent of rival diversified emerging market funds, according to Morningstar.
Ivy Emerging Markets Equity Fund has posted a 5-year annualized total return of 5.83 percent, the best performance among diversified emerging market funds with at least $200 million in assets during that period, according to Lipper Inc, a unit of