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Why Funds Are Bullish on Chinese Markets

Lately Harriss has been shying away from exporters. Their margins have been shrinking as Chinese wages rise and global demand softens. He is finding better earnings at companies that serve China's domestic economy. A holding is NetEase (NTES), a supplier of Chinese language online role-playing games, such as Heroes of Tang Dynasty. By developing new games, the company has been reporting high returns on equity. NetEase also runs online content channels that provide news on sports and finance.

For broader exposure to Asia, a top choice is Columbia Pacific/Asia. The fund lost 2.6% annually during the past five years, outdoing 89% of funds in the Pacific/Asia category. Columbia has 11% of assets in China. The fund seeks high-quality companies selling at modest prices. The portfolio includes a range of blue-chips, such as Toyota Motor (TM) (TM) and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSM), an industry giant.

A holding is China Mobile (CHL), the biggest wireless provider in the country with 650 million subscribers. After a period of rapid expansion, the company is growing more slowly. But portfolio manager Daisuke Nomoto says that the cash flow should continue growing as data usage increases.

For a broad emerging-markets fund, consider Aberdeen Emerging Markets (GEGAX), which has 7% of assets in China. During the past five years, the fund returned 7.6% annually, outdoing 99% of peers. The Aberdeen portfolio managers seek companies with solid balance sheets that can deliver consistent growth.

The managers often prefer steady businesses that can grow 8% to 12% in the next year instead of faster-growing businesses that could sink in a downturn. Once they buy a stock, the managers hold on for years. In 2011, the fund only turned over 2% of its portfolio, while the turnover figure for the average peer was 81%.

A holding is PetroChina (PTR), one of the major oil producers in the country. "They have a relatively clean balance sheet and strong cash flow," says Adrian Lim, an Aberdeen portfolio manager.
Stan Luxenberg is a freelance writer specializing in mutual funds and investing. He was executive editor of Individual Investor magazine. At the time of publication he had no holdings in the stocks mentioned.
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