Catching the flight to quality

- Global and domestic factors are contributing to short-term volatility, but the longer term outlook remains positive.

- Tough conditions and a flight to quality are creating opportunities for companies to consolidate their positions.

-The Aberdeen New India Investment Trust is well positioned in the current environment, benefitting from strong domestic consumption themes and companies with good management track record.

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The macro outlook for India remains challenging amid global uncertainties, slowing domestic growth and concerns over certain sectors. There’s unlikely to be any real pick-up in the next 12 months and the reforms put in place by the government have been disruptive, albeit we expect the short-term pain will produce long-term gains. It’s a tough environment that has its advantages, however, both for the trust and for certain types of companies in India.

My most recent visit - which took us to Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai - was particularly informative because companies tend to be much more realistic when the outlook is challenging.

But it was clear that the market remains structurally attractive over the long term and that there are strong companies that will get stronger with each cycle.

We have been able to find companies able to take advantage of the current challenging environment to consolidate their markets simply by doing better than their competitors. Some are also benefiting from a flight to quality.

Real estate offers a good example. This is a very difficult sector to be in currently, with a glut of uncompleted projects that has contributed to excess housing supply. But there is a positive theme emerging. While many developers are unable to secure funding, there is still strong demand for those real estate companies with a good reputation for completing high-quality projects.

With the competition struggling to deliver, there has been a flight to quality companies such as Prestige Group and Godrej Properties, which have good balance sheets and cash flow and are finding opportunities to buy better assets for cheaper.

A similar theme is developing in banking, where those in strong positions in retail continue to deliver higher than industry growth. India’s biggest retail lender, HDFC Bank, is benefiting from structural consolidation in the housing and real estate sector. It is also taking advantage of opportunities in the corporate lending space, now that there are fewer banks willing or able to compete.

This environment has been good for the trust in terms of positions. The trust is overweight in consumer staples, banks and life insurance and we’ve been adding to real estate, but we’re still very selective in infrastructure and businesses dependent on the corporate cycle.

All but one of our holdings are private sector enterprises. We have minimal exposure to the index-heavy energy sector as we don’t hold Reliance Industries, which has diversified out of its core petrochemicals and refinery businesses to invest heavily in the telecoms and retail sectors.

Instead we will continue to focus on the quality of management teams and look for companies with strong balance sheets and that have a good track record of navigating difficult cycles.

Important Information

• The value of investments and the income from them can fall and investors may get back less than the amount invested.

• Past performance is not a guide to future results.

• Investment trusts are specialised investments and may not be appropriate for all investors.

• There is no guarantee that the market price of the Company’s shares will fully reflect their underlying Net Asset Value.

• As with all stock exchange investments the value of the Company’s shares purchased will immediately fall by the difference between the buying and selling prices, the bid-offer spread. If trading volumes fall, the bid-offer spread can widen.

• The Company may borrow to finance further investment (gearing). The use of gearing is likely to lead to volatility in the Net Asset Value (NAV) meaning that any movement in the value of the company’s assets will result in a magnified movement in the NAV.

• The Company invests in emerging markets which tend to be more volatile than mature markets and the value of your investment could move sharply up or down.

• Movements in exchange rates will impact on both the level of income received and the capital value of your investment.

• Yields are estimated figures and may fluctuate, there are no guarantees that future dividends will match or exceed historic dividends and certain investors may be subject to further tax on dividends.

Other important information:

Issued by Aberdeen Asset Managers Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the United Kingdom. Registered Office: 10 Queen’s Terrace, Aberdeen AB10 1XL. Registered in Scotland No. 108419.

An investment trust should be considered only as part of a balanced portfolio. Under no circumstances should this information be considered as an offer or solicitation to deal in investments. You should obtain specific professional advice before making any investment decision.

These can be obtained free of charge from www.newthai-trust.co.uk or by writing to SL Capital Partners LLP, 1 George Street, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, EH2 2LL.

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Kristy Fong is Investment Director at Aberdeen New India Investment Trust.