Baijing Yu was raised by two generations of Chinese bankers and talks with pride about her family’s contributions to the nation’s financial system over nearly seven decades.
But would the 32-year-old stock picker risk a penny of her clients’ assets on shares of a Chinese lender? Not a chance.
Yu, whose Comgest Growth Greater China fund has returned an annualized 22 percent over the past three years, says growing up in a house of Chinese bankers has only reinforced her view that the sector is un-investible. Lenders in China are often policy tools of the government, she says, with “black box” balance sheets that provide little clarity on their exposure to non-performing debt.
“As a bottom-up stock picker, it’s hard to find franchise value,’’ said Yu, who co-manages the 189 million euro ($202 million) fund for Paris-based Comgest with David Raper and Jasmine Kang. “These banks don’t fit the quality criteria that we look for.’’
Family history aside, excluding Chinese lenders from a Chinese stock fund is a bold move. The industry comprises about 10 percent of MSCI Inc.’s greater China index and includes some of the country’s biggest companies by market value. Yu says she ignores benchmark weightings, an approach that’s helped her fund beat 97 percent of peers tracked by Bloomberg since early 2014. Today, she’s finding the best opportunities in the technology, consumer and insurance industries, big beneficiaries of China’s shift toward a more services-oriented economy.
While Yu declined to comment on specific stocks, the Comgest fund’s top holdings as of February included China Life Insurance Co., the nation’s largest insurer, and NetEase Inc., a gaming and e-commerce company, according to a monthly fact sheet. The fund’s weighting of about 35 percent in technology shares compared with 33 percent for the MSCI Golden Dragon Index, while its allocation to consumer discretionary and staples companies totaled 28 percent, versus 10 percent for the index.
Her benchmark-defying bets haven’t always outperformed over the short term. This year, for example, the Comgest fund is lagging behind 61 percent of peers as China’s “old economy’’ stocks, including raw-materials producers and some banks, rally on signs the government will prop up growth before a leadership reshuffle this year. The MSCI Golden Dragon index rose 0.1 percent at 5:21 p.m. in Hong Kong, bringing this year’s gain to 11 percent.
Yu says she and her co-managers are invested for the long term. And on that measure, they’ve done remarkably well. In euro terms, the Comgest fund has topped the MSCI Golden Dragon index by 29 percentage points over the last three years and by 27 points in the past five years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Yu, who was born in China’s eastern Fujian province, joined Comgest in 2011 after stints at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in New York and Hong Kong. She majored in economics and minored in international studies at the University of Michigan.
Read more: A QuickTake explainer on China’s debt problem
Family had a lot to do with her interest in finance. Yu says her paternal grandmother began working as an accountant at a bank branch in the small township of Hui’An in 1950, a year after Mao Zedong’s Communist Party founded the People’s Republic of China.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Yu says, her maternal grandfather was a senior vice president at the Fujian branch of what’s now Agricultural Bank of China Ltd., while her mom helped issue the province’s first credit card as a consumer finance executive at China Merchants Bank Co. Dad worked for the nation’s central bank, and he helped establish one of China’s first state-owned brokerages in the early 1990s.
“At the dinner table, my dad was the regulator, my mom the commercial bank representative,” Yu said in an interview in Hong Kong. “It’s unavoidable that they would talk about work.”
Alibaba Group Holding Limited (BABA) ended last trading session with a change of 1.73 percent. It trades at an average volume of 9.54M shares versus 16.1M shares recorded at the end of last trading session. The share price of $105.18 is at a distance of 46.59 percent from its 52-week low and down -4.27 percent versus its peak. The company has a market cap of $259.83B and currently has 2.47B shares outstanding. The share price is currently 2.44 percent versus its SMA20, 5.8 percent versus its SMA50, and 12.34 percent versus its SMA200. The stock has a weekly performance of 2.81 percent and is 19.78 percent year-to-date as of the recent close.
JD.com, Inc. (JD) recently recorded 2.03 percent change and currently at $31.69 is 62.43 percent away from its 52-week low and down -2.4 percent versus its peak. It has a past 5-day performance of 4.21 percent and trades at an average volume of 6.88M shares. The stock has a 1-month performance of 9.24 percent and is 24.57 percent year-to-date as of the recent close. There were about 1.43B shares outstanding which made its market cap $45.22B. The share price is currently 4.11 percent versus its SMA20, 10.66 percent versus its SMA50, and 24.17 percent versus its SMA200.