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Bottom in emerging markets near: Fund manager

Wednesday, 28 Aug 2013 | 1:12 PM ET
Hot money flees risk; seeks safe haven
Wednesday, 28 Aug 2013 | 7:44 AM ET
Leah Zell, Lizard Investors founder, explains why she is bullish on several deep value plays in emerging markets, including a trade in Baidu and MagnaChip Semiconductor.

The recently struggling emerging markets are getting "closer to a bottom," Leah Zell, founder and portfolio manager at Lizard Investors, told CNBC on Wednesday.

She also said she likes shares of Chinese-language search engine Baidu and South Korea-based MagnaChip Semiconductor.

Looking at the MSCI Emerging Market Index—which covers more than 20 markets in Asia, South America, Europe and Africa—it's already dropped about 12 percent in the past three months. And now, the escalating crisis in Syria, along with all the Federal Reserve taper talk, could turn many already-jittery global investors even more cautious.

(Read more: Syria casts 'big black cloud' on emerging markets)

"There has been a 28 percent spread as of last Friday between the performance of the U.S. [stock] market and the emerging markets," Zell said in a "Squawk Box" interview—adding that "66 percent of all fresh money has gone into the U.S. market this year."

Zell, sister of billionaire real estate mogul Sam Zell, cautioned investors to remember that emerging markets had clawed their way back from the financial crisis to multiyear highs before coming under pressure in 2011. "With every headline, I think the emerging markets are getting closer to a [two-year] bottom."

Despite the broader troubles in these global markets, she said, "Baidu is a big pick."

Shares of the search company, often called the "Google of China," are up 36 percent this year. The $47-billion-market-cap Baidu has "70 percent market share [there]. It's a business where scale begets scale, so I do not think they will be dislodged."

There's been skepticism about Baidu's transition from desktop to mobile, Zell acknowledged, but said she's encouraged by the company's latest earnings, which showed that 10 percent of its revenues are coming from mobile.

Meanwhile, Zell said her like of the South Korean stock market is one of the reasons behind her second pick, MagnaChip Semiconductor, which is based there and has an $811 million market cap.

"It went into bankruptcy in 2009 because it had been over-leveraged. It became public, so it has the reputational hangover," she said. "[But] they are close to Samsung Electronics and close to all of the Asian electronics manufacturers."

Zell pointed out that MagnaChip's chairman and CEO, Sang Park, was trained at Hewlett-Packard and IBM and is part of a top management team at the company.

MagnaChip has also attracted the attention of billionaire investor Marc Lasry, whose New York-based Avenue Capital owned a large position as of the hedge fund's latest 13F filing.

—By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_SquawkCNBC.

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