(Bloomberg News) Mark Mobius, who manages $45 billion at Templeton Emerging Markets Group, is buying Argentine stocks that are trading at their cheapest levels in almost three years.
"Although the political environment is not very good, the companies are very cheap so we're looking closely," Mobius, the firm's executive chairman, said by telephone from Santiago. "We continue to add selectively as more money comes into the fund."
Argentina's Merval stock index fetches 6.9 times estimated earnings, the lowest level since May 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The gauge plunged 30 percent last year, compared with the MSCI EM Latin America Index's 22 percent drop, as gross domestic product increased 8.3 percent, more than other major Latin American economy, according to the median estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
So-called frontier markets such as Argentina, Nigeria and Kenya offer faster growth than other emerging markets, Mobius said during a trip to Latin America this week.
"There's lots of volatility and lots of problems in trying to get your research done, but I think these frontier markets are really interesting," he said.
The Merval surged 5.7 percent today, the most among major global indexes and the steepest gain since May 2010, as the MSCI Emerging Markets Index fell 0.2 percent. The Argentine index has rallied 10 percent in the past five days.
Argentina became the only major Latin America market classified as "frontier" in June 2009 when MSCI Inc. removed the country from its benchmark emerging-market index, citing capital controls. The demotion also followed President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's seizure of about $24 billion in assets held by private pension funds, the country's biggest stockholders. New York-based MSCI classifies its markets based on size, liquidity and economic development.
The Templeton Emerging Markets Fund returned 15 percent in the past three months compared with a peer average of 9.6 percent and the MSCI Emerging Markets Index's 11 percent gain, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Last year the fund lost 23 percent versus the index's 18 percent decline, the data show.
Mobius is also adding Brazilian, Chilean, Peruvian and Colombian stocks, he said, declining to give examples. In Santiago he has meetings scheduled with management at Lan Airlines SA and Banco Santander Chile.