From Constantinople to Istanbul, Turkey Has Never Been Better

Every time he travels to Turkey, portfolio manager of our Emerging Europe Fund (EUROX), Tim Steinle, says the country continues to develop. Although technically classified as an emerging market, one wouldn’t think to label the country as such upon arrival. The population is young and growing, there are improvements to infrastructure everywhere you look, beautiful green parks are more prevalent, and the professional staffs that run many of the shops and businesses are both well organized and thriving.

Tim told me the entire taxi system has improved upon each visit that he makes. There are newer, cleaner cars, and more professional drivers who run meters without being asked to do so. The same higher quality of service holds true when it comes to hotels, restaurants and employees of bus systems and airlines. Tim says these kinds of improvements are merely a side show in comparison to even larger companies that are run by world-class management teams.

A sweet spot in Turkey
As Tim saw first hand, wanting the richer things in life can start with something simple, like chocolate. During his time in Turkey, he visited the Ulker Chocolate factory, a highlight for him and the group of individual investors he was traveling with.

The Ulker family owns the global Godiva brand through its Yildiz holding (a major Turkish manufacturer of food products), while the remainder is held by the publicly listed Ulker company.

Ulker, the market leader among Turkish chocolate companies, processes its cocoa beans in-house, unlike many of its competitors. Ulker has started a pilot farming project in Ghana. Although there were no photographs allowed inside the Ulker plant, Tim was very impressed with what he saw and shared this observation, “The plant was spic-and-span, and the cocoa bean processing hardware was just as complex as I have seen at a petroleum refinery.” Ulker is one example of the dynamic nature of many companies in Turkey; nothing is static for them, and innovation is constant.

Car purchases continue to drive growth
Fiat is another company that is capitalizing on the consumer-oriented growth in Europe. Fiat-branded cars are manufactured around the world, but the company also has joint ventures in several countries including Turkey. Fiat S.p.A. is a majority shareholder in Chrysler and parent company to the Fiat Group.

Tim visited Tofas headquarters during his trip, and as you can see in the photo below, he and the rest of the group were able to check out the Fiat Doblo, a vehicle that looks very similar to a van but also has characteristics of most sports utility vehicles.

In 2010, Tofas, Fiat’s JV partner, began building the newest version of the Doblo in Turkey. There are several versions of the vehicle, including the Doblo EV, which is the all-electric version. The Doblo is also coming to the U.S. as Dodge Ram, and will be branded as a light commercial vehicle.

Tim pointed out to me the growing number of European-made vehicles that we see today, including the Ford Transit which is similar in style to the Doblo. The Transit was the first product of Ford of Europe, a subsidiary of Ford Motor Co., and won the 2010 Truck of the Year award. Volkswagen is yet another car company with European roots. “Just look under the hood,” says Tim, “these cars’ engines are made in Hungary.”

Money in the bank
We know an increasing majority of the Turkish population has more money in their pockets, but how are Turkish banks doing? It seems the financial sector and individual banks are keeping up with the demand for innovation. One of the companies Tim met with while in Turkey was Garanti Bank, the second-largest private bank in the country.

Tim was impressed with the bank’s presentation and the incredible functionality of Garanti’s ATM machines. In the U.S. it is common to use an ATM to withdraw money, check your account balance, and in some instances deposit money. The Garanti ATM allows users to make over 100 different types of transactions!

Available to both Garanti customers and those who do not bank with the company are unique packages of cardless services in a network of over 200 ATMs from all over the country, according to Garanti’s website. A few examples include mobile phone recharges, exchange transactions with different currencies, invoice payments and deposits, all without needing to have your bank card with you.

Yet again we see world-class innovation from a Turkish company. The financial sector in Turkey, as well as in Greece as I’ve written about recently, has taken off in the last year. After concerned investors sold their emerging markets holdings last year, the central bank in Europe took action by raising rates this February. It was at this time that we saw a tremendous rally in Turkish banks and the lira began to stabilize. Strength returned to financials.

Investing in the best
At U.S. Global Investors we are always looking for companies that are growing. As an emerging market, Turkey is dependent on foreign inflows, but the positive growth throughout the country is incremental and simultaneously wide-spread in many companies both big and small. Within our EUROX fund, it is companies like the ones Tim visited that we like to invest in; those that are in growing sectors of the market and display robust fundamentals.

Foreign and emerging market investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and less public disclosure, as well as economic and political risk. By investing in a specific geographic region, a regional fund’s returns and share price may be more volatile than those of a less concentrated portfolio. The Emerging Europe Fund invests more than 25% of its investments in companies principally engaged in the oil & gas or banking industries. The risk of concentrating investments in this group of industries will make the fund more susceptible to risk in these industries than funds which do not concentrate their investments in an industry and may make the fund’s performance more volatile.

F Fund portfolios are actively managed, and holdings may change daily. Holdings are reported as of the most recent quarter-end. Holdings in the Emerging Europe Fund as a percentage of net assets as of 03/31/14: Chrysler Group LLC 0.00%, Fiat S.p.A. 0.00%, Ford Otomotiv Sanayi AS 0.96%, Turkiye Garanti Bankasi AS 2.58%, Tofas Turk Otomobil Fabrikasi AS 3.00%, Ulker Group 0.00%, Volkswagen 0.00%, Yildiz Holding 0.00%.

F All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. The Borsa Istanbul-Banks Index (XBANK Index) is a capitalization-weighted, free-float adjusted Industry Group Index composed of National Market listed companies in the banking industry. All members of the index are also constituents of the XUMAL Sector Index.

Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase after clicking a link, we may receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

About Frank Holmes 282 Articles

Affiliation: U.S. Global Investors

Frank Holmes is CEO and chief investment officer of U.S. Global Investors, Inc., which manages a diversified family of mutual funds and hedge funds specializing in natural resources, emerging markets and infrastructure.

The company’s funds have earned more than two dozen Lipper Fund Awards and certificates since 2000. The Global Resources Fund (PSPFX) was Lipper’s top-performing global natural resources fund in 2010. In 2009, the World Precious Minerals Fund (UNWPX) was Lipper’s top-performing gold fund, the second time in four years for that achievement. In addition, both funds received 2007 and 2008 Lipper Fund Awards as the best overall funds in their respective categories.

Mr. Holmes was 2006 mining fund manager of the year for Mining Journal, a leading publication for the global resources industry, and he is co-author of “The Goldwatcher: Demystifying Gold Investing.”

He is also an advisor to the International Crisis Group, which works to resolve global conflict, and the William J. Clinton Foundation on sustainable development in nations with resource-based economies.

Mr. Holmes is a much-sought-after conference speaker and a regular commentator on financial television. He has been profiled by Fortune, Barron’s, The Financial Times and other publications.

Visit: U.S. Global Investors

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.