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Hedge funds: Latin America offers a safer bet in 2009

The Latin American hedge fund index compiled by HFR was down 25.41% at end of November as the Brazilian real was hit, but compared with Russia/eastern Europe and Asia ex-Japan, which were down 53.95% and 35.61%, respectively, the region is the safer of the emerging markets.

Marcos Duarte, co-founder of Brazil-based Latin American event-driven fund Polo Capital Management, says the worst is over. "There have been massive redemptions in emerging markets funds, particularly from foreign investors, and these have created huge disruptions in liquid names in Brazil but the worst appears to be over now and there are opportunities to be had," he says.

"The opportunities that will come are great. Next year should be much better for alpha generation even if a slowdown occurs"

Marcos Duarte, Polo Capital Management

Duarte highlights Brazilian financials. "Brazilian large banks have not suffered as much as banks in other parts of the world. Some are trading at 2.5x book value, and have a ROE of 25. So for each dollar, you are making 10% a year in terms of capital invested. Small banks you can get for 40% of book value due to forced liquidations. If there is not a massive slowdown in the economy, you will see your money back fast." Brazil has also benefited compared with the rest of the world from the fact that its population is relatively lightly leveraged.

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