Despite the ongoing geopolitical tensions between Russia and the West, Scott Colyer, CEO and CIO of Advisors Asset Management, isn’t ready to strike the former off his investment list.
Granted, he’s watching things carefully, because dealing with political risk is extremely difficult for even the most experienced investors. Complicating matters is the fact that Russia is also challenged by a host of other factors such as corruption and tight control from the center, both of which make it a tough place to invest in. But Colyer says large Russian corporations like the majority state-owned oil company Gazprom are still a good bet.
In fact, perhaps even more so now, he said, because “the Russian Federation itself owns a significant portion of Gazprom and Gazprom brings a lot of revenue into Russia that the government relies on. So we think an investment in Gazprom, whether you’re talking about debt or equity, is a good bet and we don’t think the government is going to want to do anything to screw that up, which is why it’s important to tune out the noise and remember that Russia – and Gazprom – will be there next week.”
Europe, too, depends on exports of natural gas from Russia. Although a fresh set of sanctions have been passed against Russia, Europe has been hesitant to push the country too far, Colyer said, and because of that he said he believes Gazprom will be unaffected.
As result of the Crimean crisis, the Russian market fell and Colyer said that left many companies attractively priced. However, aside from Gazprom and other large, liquid companies, he said he’s not keen to venture too far afield into smaller companies.
Beyond Russia, Colyer said he sees investment opportunities – and the potential for growth – in BRICs despite the current period of slow economic growth. Until things start to improve, he said he plans to stick to larger, more liquid companies like Brazil’s Petrobras and Vale, and China’s Baidu and Petrochina.
He said the situation could only get better for investors, because with the exception of Brazil, the governments of BRIC and other emerging market countries are doing what it takes to stimulate their economies, he said.
Central banks are injecting reserves into the system in an attempt to stimulate economic growth “in the face of currency leaving their countries,” he said. “That phenomenon, though, won’t last long, and in light of the future, we think the debt [of these countries] is very well priced right now.”
China is particularly interesting, said Colyer, even though “the world has turned up its nose and said that China’s growth will trough at 6% or 7%.”
That rate, though, is stellar compared to growth rates in the developed world, and in China, the leadership is doing what it takes to clean things up and make the country more attractive to foreign investment by tackling corruption, among other problems.
But most importantly, China has a great deal of surplus and no debt, Colyer said, and “they’re not afraid to use their wealth to stimulate their economy and inject reserves into the banking system,” which makes the case for investing there even more powerful, both now and in the long-term.