I have a truly adventurous thought today. I’ve long thought that intrepid investor’s (and travellers) need to pay more attention to Eastern Europe. For most Brit’s this border region is a slightly exotic set of countries, populated by people who we regularly encounter on the streets of London (Poles, Hungarians, Romanians) but whose history most of us know next to nothing about. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that we encounter many more East Europeans on a regular basis than poison wielding Russians, yet we know a huge amount about Russia and nothing about places such as Macedonia and Bulgaria. I’d even go so far as to say that we can reduce our knowledge to just a few words – authoritarian nationalists, corruption, poor treatment of Roma, ex-communists, works for Amazon, bashed around by the Germans in WW2.
This is, of course, a huge generalisation but I also think a mistake. Some of our closest allies such as the Poles sit in East Europe and traditionally we’ve ignored this region at our peril. Anyone looking to remedy this situation might want to make a start by reading the superb “Border: A journey to the edge of Europe” by Kapka Kassabova, (Granta Books) which examines the tangled history and environment of Thrace (Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey). First-rate and hugely illuminating.
From an investment perspective, East Europe is also usually overlooked – regarded as an adjunct to the much bigger Russian market. Invest in most Emerging Europe funds and you’ll find huge exposure to Russia, some exposure to Poland and the Czech Republic, with Hungary trailing not too far behind – and next to nothing for the Balkans.
Over in the FT, I’ve recently suggested looking closely at Romanian based GlobalWorth, a London listed real estate developer which has expanded aggressively into Poland. The shares have jumped up substantially since I first talked about them in the pink one but I suspect they may have further to go.
If all this whets your appetite for even more Eastern and Balkan adventures, then I have some great news.
You can now buy single country ETFs which focus on all the major East European markets. My colleagues at ETF Stream ran a story this week which revealed that a Bulgarian issuer has listed ten individual ETFs on the Xetra market. As most UK invests can invest easily on this German market through any mainstream online broker, you should now be able to target your investment more directly on particular countries. Here’s the www.etfstream.com story…..
“German investors wanting access to East European indexes now have it slightly easier thanks to a raft of cross-listings from Expat Asset Management, a Bulgarian ETF issuer. (The first and only Bulgarian issuer we have encountered). The products being cross-listed on Xetra offer direct access to indexes like PX, the major Czech index, BET-BK, the Romanian index, MBI10, the Macedonian index, and plenty of others. They are:
- Expat Croatia CROBEX UCITS ETF ECDC
- Expat Romania BET-BK UCITS ETF ROX
- Expat Macedonia MBI10 UCITS ETF MKK1
- Expat Hungary BUX UCITS ETF HUBE
- Expat Slovenia SBI TOP UCITS ETF SLQX
- Expat Slovakia SAX UCITS ETF SK9A
- Expat Serbia BELEX15 UCITS ETF ESNB
- Expat Greece ASE UCITS ETF GRX
- Expat Czech PX UCITS ETF CZX
- Expat Poland WIG20 UCITS ETF PLX
” East European companies may sound like duds but they’ve performed remarkably the past couple of years. The MBI10, the Macedonian index, for example, has delivered a 33% 1-year return.”