Wall Street hunts for next wave of AI winners beyond the US – South China Morning Post

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“We see AI as a growth driver in emerging markets,” said Jitania Kandhari, deputy chief investment officer at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. “While we have previously invested in direct AI beneficiaries like semiconductors, going forward it will be key to look for companies in different industries that are adopting AI to enhance earnings.”


Apple supplier Foxconn to build ‘AI factories’ using US hardware leader Nvidia’s chips and software

Apple supplier Foxconn to build ‘AI factories’ using US hardware leader Nvidia’s chips and software

AI stocks are already leading a US$1.9 trillion rebound in emerging markets this year, with Taiwanese and South Korean chip companies such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) and SK Hynix accounting for 90 per cent of the gains, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Despite this rally, most emerging-market AI stocks still offer far better value than their US peers. While Nvidia trades at 35 times its projected earnings, Asian AI giants are typically valued between 12 and 19 times.

Developing markets also offer faster growth. Analysts see a 61 per cent increase in earnings for emerging-market technology companies as a whole, compared to the 20 per cent rise that they were pencilling in for US peers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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That duo and MediaTek, also a chip maker, feature in a JPMorgan single-country fund that invests in Taiwanese equities and has outperformed 96 per cent of more than 1,400 peers. The three stocks are also among the top-10 holdings of the iShare MSCI EM Ex-China ETF, which has doubled in value over the past five months.

“The tech companies that have historically been the suppliers to the big names, may well emerge as the big players themselves,” said Anuj Arora, head of emerging markets and Asia-Pacific equities at JPMorgan Asset Management. “The early adoption of this technology means these companies are far ahead of their competitors in leveraging newer evolutions.”

Still, the buzz is widening and more investors are pouring in money.

For example, South Korea’s Hanmi Semiconductor Co, majority-owned by billionaire Kwak Dong Shin’s family, has surged about 120 per cent this year for the best gains among members of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. It as also seen its share of foreign ownership increase in recent weeks, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
In Vietnam, information technology services provider FPT Corp has jumped almost 20 per cent this year, lifting the Ashmore EM Frontier Equity Fund as the best performer among actively managed emerging market funds in the US.

For emerging markets-focused exchange-traded funds, more than half of all inflows this year have gone into the iShares MSCI EM ex-China ETF, whose top 10 holdings include companies that are investing in AI, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Elsewhere, established businesses have attracted fresh investor interest after signalling that they are moving into AI.

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India’s Reliance Industries, the petroleum giant run by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, has developed a ChatGPT-style AI model with capabilities in 22 Indian languages. The company is also part of the digital transformation in the country of 1.4 billion people.

“We would point to the potential ‘national champions’ mindset that is developing around AI in some markets,” said Luke Barrs, global head of fundamental equity client portfolio management at Goldman Sachs. “Countries are focused on fostering home-grown companies that can be future leaders.”

The trade is not without its risks.

Emerging markets are tied closely to the US, meaning that an AI sell-off could echo across the world. Alternatively, if stock-market gains broaden out, then other sectors may catch up and AI names could lag behind.

Still, investors are increasingly finding emerging market alternatives to US tech stocks that have overextended themselves, said Morgan Stanley’s Kandhari.

“In emerging markets, they are seeing AI as an underappreciated driver going forward,” she said. “There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit to juice there.”

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