Wie wirken sich wichtige globale Trends wie das Streben nach mehr Nachhaltigkeit und Chinas Wirtschaftsmacht auf europäische Unternehmen aus?
Im aktuellen Talking Heads-Podcast diskutieren Daniel Morris, Chief Market Strategist, und Steve Sherman, Senior Portfolio Manager, European Equities, an, darüber, wie große europäische Unternehmen sich der Nachhaltigkeit verschreiben.
Beispielsweise steigen Unternehmen in die Produktion von Kraftstoffen auf Basis erneuerbarer Energien ein. Oder sie passen High-Tech-Produkte an, um die Nutzung von Elektrofahrzeugbatterien zu verbessern. Darüber hinaus erläutern Morris und Sherman die Öffnung der chinesischen Wirtschaft nach Covid und ihre Auswirkungen auf Sektoren, die von Luxusgütern bis hin zu Rohstoffen wie Öl reichen.
Sie können Talking Heads auch auf YouTube oder Ihrem Lieblings-Podcast-Kanal hören und abonnieren.
Lesen Sie das Transkript
This is an article based on the transcript of the recording of this Talking Heads podcast
Hello and welcome to the BNP Paribas Asset Management Talking Heads podcast. Every week, Talking Heads will bring you in-depth insights and analysis on the topics that really matter to investors. In this episode, we’ll be discussing European equities. I’m Daniel Morris, Chief Market Strategist, and I’m joined by Steve Sherman, Senior Portfolio Manager, European Equities. Welcome, Steve, and thanks for joining me.
Steve Sherman: Thanks, Daniel. It’s great to be here.
DM: The performance of European equities over the last year has been a major surprise, particularly given how negative sentiment was early in 2022 with the invasion of Ukraine. From the market perspective, the biggest worry was the increase in energy prices. As we looked for historical parallels, we thought back to the OPEC shocks in the 1970s and what happened to economic growth and inflation at the time. It wasn’t a pretty picture, with worries about blackouts in the winter in Europe, recession, stagflation, and a pretty significant decline in earnings.
Fortunately, that hasn’t happened this time. Energy prices have fallen more quickly than expected. We had a relatively mild winter. Households and companies were able to cut back on energy consumption. 2022 saw the reopening of the European economy after lockdown, so a lot of pent-up demand is still being expressed. We see that, for example, in the services purchasing managers indices (PMIs), which are still quite high and rising.
But equity investors are always asking: “what have you done for me lately and what can we look for ahead?” One worry might be interest rates, because a consequence of the strong economic growth we’ve had is higher inflation. The ECB needs to react to that. The increase in interest rates in the eurozone and the US was arguably a trigger for the banking turmoil we saw last month.
So, let’s start with the banking sector which has been a cause for much concern over the last month. What’s been the impact on European equities, and do you see it more as a risk or an opportunity?
SS: Concerns about banks flow into [wider] concerns about the economy. Over the past month, there’s been more fear about what happening to the rate of global growth. The world needs healthy banks to lend money to facilitate economic growth and the earnings growth of companies. There’s always some risk in banks, but we feel relatively optimistic about the balance of risk and opportunity with our European banks.
When we look at European banks relative to US banks, two differences provide us with some comfort. The first is that US banks took in a large amount of deposits at the wrong time, and that led to some very large losses in their bond investments. If you think back to the early days of the Covid lockdowns in Europe, we mainly had government furlough programmes that provided some income for people if they could not work.
But the US government decided to send money to everyone. Some people really needed the money, but many did not. That led many consumers to make bank deposits, so the banks had a lot of money that they needed to do something with. At that point, US banks did not have many opportunities to lend money, so they took those deposits and played safe by buying government bonds and mortgage-backed securities. That’s what a bank is supposed to do when it doesn’t have opportunities to lend.
But last year was historically bad to own bonds because interest rates rose very rapidly – just when US banks owned far more bonds than normal and much more than European banks. So they have large unrealised losses on those bonds. In the US, there is less capital backing lending than normal. That might be a little constrictive for the US relative to Europe.
The second difference is that European banks had more scars from the financial crisis, so they had built more capital over the last decade. In Europe, we first had the financial crisis, then government austerity programmes, then a debt crisis. The financial crisis here went on a lot longer than it did in the US. European bank regulators then went through several years where they consistently asked banks to hold more capital in reserve to make their business safer.
After building up capital for years, European banks are viewed by the regulators as having too much capital, so they are repurchasing shares and issuing special dividends that are all approved by the European Central Bank. The ECB currently thinks European banks are in such good shape they can return extra money to investors. This is good for the health of European banks, and also creates an interesting investment environment. Now, there are no guarantees in banking, but that situation gives us a good feeling about European banks and we think that over the next couple of years they’re likely to produce a lot of earnings growth.
DM: When we think about the shift towards sustainability, we often hear about start-up companies set up to address a new opportunity. Are the big European companies participating in that as well, or are they going to be left behind?
SS: Sustainability is an important growth driver for European companies. Small companies are always interesting to talk about because they can focus on doing one really exciting thing. With larger companies, we get businesses transitioning part of their company toward an emerging area of growth. The advantage you get with larger companies is that they have the capital and the patience to do big things well.
Sustainability tends to require large investments over a long period. For many European companies, this is significantly accelerating their growth rate. As an example of doing the big things well, the global leader in renewable fuel is a European company that used to be an oil refiner. Now it takes food waste such as used cooking oil and animal fat waste and turn it into diesel fuel. The company had to invest a lot in upfront research to learn how to convert waste products to fuel. Then it invested in networks for the collection of waste and it invested billions of euros in large processing facilities. Over time, they kept on producing more and more renewable diesel fuel for vehicles and gradually became a large provider helping the world become cleaner.
This is an old high-carbon business that generated a lot of growth as a transition towards sustainable fuel. Looking ahead, it’s even more exciting because the same company is working on sustainable aviation fuel as well. Air travel is particularly difficult to decarbonise and this company has been working with large airlines on fuel that is at least 50% renewable. In the coming years, the flights we take could generate less carbon [dioxide], so this is a major European company that can achieve a lot of growth participating in the transition to a low carbon world.
Another example is of a large European company taking a lead in providing clean hydrogen to some of the high carbon footprint companies to help them clean up their operations. It invests in facilities that produce green hydrogen, which uses renewable energy as the power source for separating hydrogen from water molecules. It also invests in facilities that produce blue hydrogen. This morning they told me that 40% of their new project backlog is related to the energy transition.
So they’re poised to spend several billions of euros over the next few years on the decarbonisation of hydrogen, which can then be used by oil refiners and chemical companies to reduce the carbon footprint of their manufacturing, making those businesses cleaner.
European semiconductors are providing critical technology for power conversion to make electric vehicles and renewable energy more efficient. When people think about technology companies, they tend to think about the big companies in the US. But in Europe, the focus on sustainability has created an ‘early mover’ advantage for one of the big semiconductor companies.
In an electric vehicle, the power that comes from the battery needs to be converted to an alternating current, which lets people stop, start and accelerate. There’s a large European company that invested early to learn how to develop semiconductors that convert power more efficiently. Instead of using traditional silicon as the basis of the semiconductor, they’re using a new material, silicon carbide. These new semiconductors mean an electric vehicle will use 5% to 10% less power to drive the same distance on the same level of charge.
DM: How does the reopening of China’s economy after authorities there ended their zero-Covid policy impact European equities?
SS: The way China handled its Covid lockdowns meant there were many periods when cities were locked down, which was a big drag on economic activity in China, but also in Europe. Many Chinese businesses are only just starting to re-emerge. China is extremely important to European companies, in some sectors representing 20% or even 30% of sales. So as Chinese economic activity improves, this is likely to have a material impact on growth for European equities this year.
We’ve already seen that during the early stages of the first-quarter earnings reporting season. Some companies have been performing better than expected due to improving Chinese demand, and many others say their business started to show signs of improvement during March after the Chinese New Year.
In terms of the impact on individual sectors, China is important in the luxury sector where a lot of European companies have a large presence in China. It’s also important in the materials sector and more broadly, including commodities such as oil.
The technology sector is another area where Chinese demand is significant, particularly for European semiconductor companies. We think this can be a boost to growth over the next year because companies in Europe have been generally relatively conservative in the way they’ve been forecasting the opportunity, but they’re starting to see more signs that business is picking up.
DM: Steve, thank you very much for joining me.
SS: Thank you for having me, Daniel. It’s been great to be here.