He singles out two of Singapore’s leading banks -- UOB and OCBC -- stocks his firm has held for years. “These companies are now pretty cheap, they are trading close to one-time their book value, which we think is unjustified,” Elston says.
Elston adds that with the region’s export-dependent economies mired in recession or on the verge of one, Asian banks are not immune to issues such as growing non-performing loans. But he views that as a cyclical problem.
“Once we get through this period where exports collapse, we think that fundamentals, country, government balance sheets, personal balance sheets, corporate balance sheets in Asia are such that you can start to see a recovery in economic growth.”
ICICIBank in India and some of the Malaysian banks are also among his star picks. But he avoids Taiwanese banks due to their more complicated holding structure.
As for the right time to invest, Elston says that despite the recent run-up in equities, the patient -- the US economy -- is very sick and will take years to get well even as a great team of doctors is lined up to do the job. But on a long-term basis, Asia looks pretty attractive at current levels.
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