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Opinion

Emerging market banks: Where there’s a will there’s a way

Emerging market banks should brace themselves for when the coming bubble bursts.

New flows to emerging market bond funds reached an all-time high last month. Weekly flows to emerging market equities neared $2 billion. Even central and eastern Europe is benefiting from the predilection for emerging markets.

At around 2.1 times book value and 12 times forward earnings, share prices across emerging markets suggest there is leeway for more. When emerging market valuations peaked in the 1990s, prices were around 20 times earnings and in 2007 they were around 14 times earnings. On both occasions, prices were around three times book value.

Interest rates will remain low in developed countries, assuming the recovery there is gradual. Public debt problems in Greece and elsewhere in the west will continue to underline the better prospects further south and east for portfolio investment. As markets such as India boom, they will continue to increase interest rates. So yields in emerging markets will still be more attractive.

Meanwhile, during the global financial crisis, credit in Brazil, China, India and Russia did not decline as much as portfolio inflows and asset prices. Lending in these countries has remained high relative to trend, according to the IMF. Their economies might be overheating.

For the moment, Brazil’s minerals are in strong demand – above all in China.

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