Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI) is expanding and strengthening its capabilities in Emerging Markets Debt (EMD) in the Middle East, with a mix of initiatives ranging from multi-channel, multi-media marketing to new arrivals in its Abu Dhabi office.
Globally, the firm manages around $15bn in EM bonds, of which over $2bn is invested in dedicated EM corporate bond portfolios.
The brighter spotlight on the Middle East is intended to leverage this track record, as well as extend ASI's global footprint in the region's exciting and growing bond markets.
The GCC region is starting to diversify away from traditional sectors such as oil and gas. We are seeing debt issuance from a wider range of companies which include well-known consumer brands, healthcare and telecoms."
"The Middle East is a key market for Aberdeen Standard Investment and increasing our local focus on EMD is an affirmation of our investment style, wherein we like to be close to the corporate and sovereign issuers we invest in," explained Edris Alrafi, head of Middle East and Africa at ASI.
"We believe there is no substitute or shortcut to conducting comprehensive bottom-up research and analysis to identify attractive new investments and to closely monitor our portfolios. The Middle East region has been a key component of EMD portfolios," he adds.
Out of an overall emerging market corporate bond market of around $2trn size, the Middle East makes up $79 billion. The asset class is larger than US High Yield ($1.5trn) and hard currency EM sovereigns ($1.1trn).
A coordinated campaign will reinforce the message that ASI is bolstering its EMD expertise with a greater commitment to the Middle East. This will be visible across planned activities that include content, PR, digital, social media and print advertising, as well as an outdoors promotion at Abu Dhabi international airport.
To help deliver on the firm's EMD intentions, Kathy Collins, investment manager, emerging market debt has relocated from London to Abu Dhabi. Further, Peter Dunbar, director of business development, and Nouf Alsagar, manager, business development have also joined the team in Abu Dhabi to reinforce the local presence.
Collins focuses on corporate bonds within ASI's 51-strong EMD team. The flagship fund she helps to manage is the $723m Aberdeen Standard SICAV I - Emerging Markets Corporate Bond Fund, which is top quartile over one, three, and five years and since launch in December 2010 (to 31 August 2019).
Her presence in Abu Dhabi will support the overall team's efforts in engaging with local issuers. "The GCC region is starting to diversify away from traditional sectors such as oil and gas. We are seeing debt issuance from a wider range of companies which include well-known consumer brands, healthcare and telecoms," she explained.
The relocation of Collins follows ASI's recent hiring and relocation of investment professionals in Shanghai with an intention to further broaden the team. All of this will add more weight to the EMD ambitions out of the Middle East.
"We believe those new locations, together with our large existing presence in Asia - from where our team also covers a number of Middle Eastern countries and companies - will help us remain close to government and corporate issuers in the GCC region," added Brett Diment, head of global emerging market debt at ASI.