Stick with the emerging markets: Aberdeen CEO

EM to become 'the place to be'?
EM to become 'the place to be'?   

Emerging market assets have suffered a volatile ride in the last year, falling in and out of love with investors. But the boss of Aberdeen Asset Management told CNBC that picking the right companies to invest in and sticking with them is crucial.

"We've always invested for the long-term, we've held some companies in emerging markets for 25, 30 years, that we bought 25, 30 years ago," Martin Glibert told CNBC in a TV interview.

"So (with) emerging markets, it's very important (to) find good companies with good management and stick with them for the long-term."

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The comments come after a shaky year for emerging markets as the U.S. Federal Reserve cuts back its unprecedented asset purchase scheme by $10 billion a month. Last summer, when the Fed originally floated plans to begin the so-called taper, emerging market equities saw a massive sell-off with currencies getting battered as investors pulled money out of developing countries.

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Another panic set in at the start of February as investors fretted over the start of tapering. Concerns over the pace of growth in some economies such as India and South Africa, as well as worries over high current account deficits added to the anxiety.

But Gilbert said the alarm amongst investors was merely "event driven" and did not signal fundamental problems with investing in the emerging markets.

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"It was really a macro led event but at the company level we are still seeing profits improving in 2013 over 2012. So the companies are getting better, they are less leveraged, a lot of them are cashed up and we say they are well-managed now," he said.

The MSCI Emering Market is up 4.53 percent in the year to date and up 18 percent in the last 12 months. Eurekahedge's emerging market index which tracks hedge funds investing exclusively in those countries is up 1.2 percent year to date.

Many analysts have seen the sell-offs in emerging market equities as buying opportunities and agree that the area looks cheap. Gilbert said investors previously bought companies exposed to the emerging markets but are now looking at companies from developing countries to invest in.

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"We are seeing a bit of switch back from developed market companies with very big emerging market exposure to going directly in now because it's a cheaper way to play emerging markets," he told CNBC.

Not all economists are as optimistic as Gilbert. With structural issues remaining in many emerging markets and the Fed's quantitative easing program coming to an end, equities may not offer stellar returns for investors, according to Neil Shearing, chief emerging market economist at Capital Economics.

"Give the continued weakness of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China), given the Fed moving towards tighter policy, given the local risk in a few emerging markets, I think it's going to be difficult to see a very large increase in EM stocks from here, but the period of underperformance will come to an end this and EM stocks will move broadly in line with developed market stocks," Shearing told CNBC in a phone interview.

- By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal