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  • 08/05/2016

Phoena Tsang of BEA Union always one step ahead of her Asia HY peers: Risk and Return


Change is Not a Challenge But a Benefit

By Justin Lee

Against a challenging market environment, BEA Union Investment Management has demonstrated its flexible investment approach, winning a BENCHMARK Best-in-Class award in the Retail Mutual Fund Category for its Asia High Yield Bond Fund.

Building on a Solid Base

Pheona Tsang, Head of Fixed Income at BEA Union Investment, explained that the key to success in 2016 was to remain flexible and build upon the solid base established in previous years. The investment team adopted a more defensive position in January 2016, with an overweight allocation to investment-grade bonds and less exposure to higher beta Asian emerging market countries. The Fund’s weightings in oil and commodity bonds, metals and mining credits and to countries such as Indonesia and India was subsequently increased later on in the year, as more attractive valuations emerged.

“Although the outlook on oil and commodity prices was still uncertain, we were able to find value in some oil and commodity related credits because they were trading at distressed levels at around US$30-50 dollars. We saw that the companies had been trying to sell their assets and thought that regarding risk/reward it was a good time to invest,” explained Tsang.

“We continued to hold this view through the year and were able to capture the rebound in the oil and commodity sector over the past year. Our AUM has also grown by approximately 220% despite the transaction costs involved. This was the key strategy for 2016, having positioned the Fund well in 2015 to avoid most of the bonds that had dropped by 50% or more, we were able to pick up bonds at good prices over the last year when the market was very bearish,” she added.

China Property Developers

Despite some market concerns over Chinese property developers in 2016, the Fund still has a relatively high exposure to Chinese property bonds, at around 35% of the total portfolio at end-2016. Tsang says she does not have any major concerns about the Chinese property sector, trimming exposure in the first quarter of 2016 – a move that was purely based on more attractive valuations elsewhere.

“We have kept our position in China property in shorter-dated bonds which are maturing or callable in 1–2 years’ time. At the end of last year, there were a couple of long-dated issues from property developers in China, but we did not participate because we factored in the risk that they may need to raise more money in the offshore market. Our strategy was to keep to short-dated tenors. We were not concerned with the developers we invested in, as most of them already have completed their funding in 2015 and had restricted cash balances of 30-40% of debt or sometimes even higher,” explained Tsang.

Given that almost US$18 billion worth of Chinese property bonds is scheduled to mature or be called in 2017, Tsang believes that the sector is remains backed by strong technicals and robust demand, while larger developers are set to be the primary beneficiaries of any consolidation in the sector.

A Robust Internal Credit Rating Model

Tsang also credits BEA Union Investment’s internal credit model as playing a significant role in the Fund’s outperformance. This has been adapted from a credit-rating agency model and is regularly updated with company financial statements over the past 2–3 years. A rating is then generated, taking into account the company outlook for revenue, margins and any potential extension of capex or cashflow, and adjusted with input from both the fund manager and research analyst regarding their our outlook.

“Our internal credit model provides an independent view of the market which is crucial for outperformance, as you have to look for something that your peers are not able to see. Using the model, we can cover 80 rated high-yield issuers, 20 non-rated issuers and another 100 names in the investment-grade space. The model has helped us to find the fair value of a bond when comparing new issuance with pricing in the secondary market. Therefore the model helps us to find value. We do not look at external ratings for valuation purpose. Instead, we compare our internal rating with market valuation and market pricing,” said Tsang.

Asian High-Yield Landscape

BEA Union Investment is also upbeat on the Asian high-yield segment, on the back of an improving global growth outlook and improved global purchasing managers’ index (PMI) data. The US is also likely to increase fiscal spending and cut taxes, which will be beneficial for global growth, noted Tsang.

“With growing domestic demand combined with a better global growth outlook, we believe Asian companies are likely to benefit, and Asian high-yield names are likely to do well. Many issuers have also managed to raise funding for the next 12 months, so the sector has decent cash flow, carry and short duration. Given the volatility in rates markets, high-yield bonds with short duration will be quite attractive for fixed income investors as global government bond yields continue to remain low. I think there will be high demand for corporate bonds, especially high-yield bonds given their overall growth and earnings outlook,” Tsang added.

Tsang also expects low default rates for Asian high-yield, given that there are not many bonds maturing this year. Indeed, the default rate for Asian high-yield bonds in 2016 was only 1%, much lower than other emerging markets and the global default rate. Regarding other markets and sectors, Tsang likes China industrials, Chinese retail, Chinese cement companies and the China auto-related sector, as they are likely to be long-term beneficiaries of the increase in domestic consumption growth. The manager is also bullish on gaming names in Macau as the industry has been recovering, with some companies offering an attractive yield and carry after undergoing refinancing.

Experienced Team

Tsang explained that the team consists of four members and all come from a credit research background. The fund managers also directly trade the bonds in the portfolio, allowing them to gain a real understanding of market supply and demand, rather than when purchasing through a broker.

“We accumulate much knowledge regarding price history by directly trading the bonds and can balance our risk position as sometimes you have to take a position earlier to get a good return. We like the size of our team, as it is very efficient in terms of reaction time to market events, and our experience means that we have good relationships with issuers and can directly trade with counterparties. These are the elements that will keep us outperforming in the future,” she added. BM

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變化並非挑戰

Justin Lee 撰文

在過去充滿挑戰的投資市場下,東亞聯豐投資管理有限公司已展示出靈活的投資策略,而當中的亞洲高收益債券基金更在《指標》年度基金大獎的零售共同基金類別中榮獲同級最佳獎。

穩固基礎

東亞聯豐投資管理有限公司定息投資部主管曾倩雯解釋,2016年的成功源於保持靈活性的策略,以及建基於多年來所打造的穩固基礎上。投資團隊於2016年1月開始採取更具防禦性的策略,例如增持投資級債券及減少投資於較高beta值的亞洲新興市場國家。基金組合於去年逐步增加有關石油和商品債券、金屬和礦業信貸的投資比例,尤其是來自印尼和印度等國家的,這是因為市場出現了更具吸引力的估值。

曾倩雯解釋:「雖然石油和商品價格的前景仍不明朗,但我們依然能夠在部分石油和商品相關的信貸中找到投資價值,因為那些債券價格已經跌至30至50美元左右,而那些公司亦致力出售其資產,以風險回報而言,我們認為乃是投資的好良機。」

「過去一年,因我們繼續維持此觀點,故能把握石油和商品股票的反彈時機。另外,就算計及交易成本,我們的資產管理規模仍增長約220%。其實,2016年投資策略的關鍵全賴2015年時早已重新配置的基金組合,避免了那些已下跌了50%甚至更多的債券,同時於市場不明朗時,我們卻幸運地以良好價格收購了不少債券。」她繼續補充。

中國房地產開發商

儘管在2016年,市場對中國房地產開發商出現輕微憂慮,但中國房地產債券佔基金組合的比例尚算較高,在2016年底近有35%。曾倩雯表示個人對中國房地產並沒有太大顧慮,而2016年第一季度減少持倉比例的舉動,純粹是因其他投資產品的估值更具吸引力。

她補充:「我們在中國房地產板塊的持倉都是短期債券,大多在1至2年後到期或可贖回。去年年底,雖然部分中國房地產開發商發行長期債券,但我們並沒有參與,原因是考慮到需在離岸市場籌集更多資金的風險。我們的策略是繼續持有短期債券。當然,我們並不擔心所投資的開發商,因為他們大多已在2015年完成融資,而受限制的現金餘額佔債務的三至四成,有時甚至更高。」

2017年,預計將近180億美元的中國房地產債券到期或被贖回。曾倩雯認為,中國房地產仍受專業技術和龐大需求而支撐著,而較大規模的開發商依然是行業裡任何合併的主要受益者。

強大的內部信貸評級模型

曾倩雯也認為對於基金的出色表現,東亞聯豐投資管理的內部信貸評級模型扮演着重要的角色。它取材自信貸評級機構的模型,並定期更新目標公司過去兩、三年的財務報表。然後,再根據公司的預期收入、利潤率,以及任何可能擴張的資本支出或現金流來產生評級,再配合基金經理和研究分析師對行業前景的預測而作出調整。

她表示:「我們的內部信貸評級模型能提供獨立的市場觀點,這對於投資表現能否『跑贏大市』至關重要,因為我們要先較其他人發掘不能看到的機會。利用此模型,我們可以涵蓋80個高收益評級發行商、20個非評級發行商及另外100個投資級債券發行商。該模型可以在新發行和二級市場定價比較時,計算出債券的公允價值。因此,模型有助我們評估債券價值。 我們不會只依賴外部評級的資訊,相反,我們將內部評級、市場估值和市場定價進行比較。」

亞洲高收益債券環境

曾倩雯指出,由於環球經濟增長的前景以及環球採購經理人指數(PMI)的數據改善,東亞聯豐投資管理亦對亞洲高收益債券的前景表示樂觀。美國亦有可能增加財政支出和減稅,這將會有利於環球經濟增長。

「隨着本土的需求增長,加上對環球經濟的憧憬,我們相信亞洲公司也會同步受惠,故亞洲高收益債券亦相對會表現良好。不少發行商已能為未來12個月籌集足夠資金,因此亞洲高收益債券市場將持有不俗的現金流、利差,以及保持短期限。鑑於利率市場的波動,以及全球政府債券收益率一直維持於低水平,持有短期高收益債券將對定息投資者頗具吸引力。我認為,由於整體經濟增長和對盈利的前景預期良好,公司債券(尤其是高收益債券)將會有很大的需求。」她繼續補充。

因為今年期滿的債券不多,故曾倩雯亦預期亞洲高收益債券的違約率偏低。事實上,2016年亞洲高收益債券的違約率只有1%,遠低於其他新興市場及環球的違約率。

至於其他投資市場,她則偏好中國工業、中國零售、中國水泥及中國汽車相關行業,因為那些公司將可能是國內消費增長的長期受益者。由於博彩業正在復蘇,某些博彩公司再次融資後,其收益率和利差變得相當吸引,故她亦看好澳門的博彩業務。

團隊經驗豐富

曾倩雯分享到團隊的經驗,定息投資團隊由四名成員組成,全部均有信貸研究的背景。基金經理可於投資組合中直接進行交易債券,除了毋須透過經紀買賣外,最重要是讓他們能夠直接了解市場的真正供需。

她最後補充,「我們透過直接交易債券的經驗,累積不少過往價格的走勢,從中可以平衡風險承擔的程度,例如有時我們必須提前持倉,才能獲得良好的回報。我們滿意目前的團隊規模,因為面對市場變動時,所作出的反應是相當有效率。另外,我們豐富的經驗也意味着我們與發行商之間具有良好的合作關係,甚至可以直接與對家進行交易。這些元素將會造就我們,在未來日子中繼續表現優越。」 BM

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