Emerging market risks, Turkey & Koc Holding
Emerging markets stocks are risky. This is not a very original insight but a pretty well-known fact. Among the obvious risks compared to most “developed” countries are:
– general legal risks (listing, disclosure, property rights)
– volatility of economy
– general political instability
Following the Sistema story, I would add another significant risk for any Emerging market based company:
– personal disputes between a controlling shareholder and the current government
That this risk is real can be seen very well in Turkey at the moment at Asya Bank. Asya Bank is supposed to be owned or influenced by the major Erdogan enemy, the Gulen movement. What is happening in Turkey, at least from my perspective is pretty unique: The Government is more or less actively trying to bankrupt a private bank because the owner of the bank is opposing the current government:
Investors have dumped stocks and bonds of Istanbul-based Bank Asya as the lender was dragged into a feud between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based Islamic cleric who Erdogan blames for a graft probe that implicated his government in December. The president this week called for Turkey’s banking regulator to take action on Bank Asya, citing deteriorating finances.
It seems to be that Erdogan has become much bolder since he won the election a few weeks ago and seems to care less about any negative short-term impacts on the economy.
Honestly, that made me pretty nervous with regard to my largest EM based investment, Koc Holding. I am not completely sure if everything is well now between Erdogan and the Koc family. There were already several probes against Koc companies, the latest I found was against subsidiary Turpas in July 2014.
The big question is always: Am I getting paid for the risk I am taking ? In Koc’s case, especially after the nice run up in the share price, I am not so sure anymore.
Koc is now trading at around 11 times 2014 profits, which is in line with the overall Turkish stock index. Although I believe that Koc is a far above average quality Turkish company, the individual political risk is much higher than for the general Turkish market.
In my initial post, I wrote the following:
I am clearly no expert here, but the fact that the Koc family, among others, survived 3 military coups, the second world war and hyperinflation, the probability is maybe relatively high that they survive the current episode, but risks are clearly there.
Following the Asya story however, I got much more cautious and in EUR terms, Koc is almost 40% more expensive since I bought them. It could easily be that I am too cautious here, but I am not sure if I get actually paid for this Koc related “relationship” risk when I hold Koc stocks at the current level, especially with a portfolio weight of around 3,5%. If I compare this for instance with MIKO or Hornbach, I can still invest in a nice “Boring” stock at the same level without the very specific and real risks of Koc in Turkey.
As a consequence, I will reduce my stake by more than 2/3 to a 1% level which for the future will be my maximum exposure per position to any single Emerging market based company.