View from Madrid: what now for Spain?
Citywire Global was in Madrid as protesters took to the streets. We spoke to two of the country’s leading fund managers for an insider’s view of the Spanish crisis.
by Atholl Simpson on Nov 22, 2012 at 07:01
After a summer where things were starting to look up for the eurozone, the Spanish economy’s precarious position has now caused tensions to rise and a potential ECB bailout is on the cards.
I was in the Spanish capital recently as its police force prepared to deal with further protests from the country’s increasingly frustrated population.
Spaniards have repeatedly taken to the streets to demonstrate against the government’s austerity measures and over the last few weeks the city has witnessed large-scale protests which at times turned violent as some small groups clashed with police.
The protests were directed at recent government spending cuts, tax hikes and the country’s alarmingly high unemployment rate which has breached the 25% mark.
The investors’ response
During our recent fund selector forum in Madrid, Citywire Global’s guest speakers were two of Spain’s leading fund managers, Iván Martín, former head of equities at Aviva Gestión, and Fernando Bernad, Citywire AA-rated equity manager at Bestinver.
I took the opportunity to speak to them for an insider’s view of the current environment in Spain and how it was affecting their investment approach.
As the full extent of the Spanish government’s emergency measures comes to light, the population’s income is being badly hit but Martín believes his government should also be focusing on some other cost-cutting programmes in order to reduce the country’s debt levels.
‘The problem is with the expenses of the government and it should attack these measures not just the revenue because the Spanish population and its corporates are very sensitive to these issues,’ said Martín.
The Spanish market is looking bleaker than before and solid, well run companies appear thin on the ground. Bestinver’s Bernad says his approach to the Spanish and Iberian market has changed little since the crisis with his focus remaining firmly on exporting companies.
‘Our exposure to the domestic economy and especially to the businesses that are more linked to the business cycle is still limited,’ said Bernad.
On the other hand, his counterpart Martín said that the crisis has also generated some good opportunities which he is currently taking advantage of in sectors like utilities.
‘We have seen a strong sell-off of these kinds of companies, like Iberdrola and Gaz Natural, and they are trading at very low levels because of government taxes on revenue. So it generates some good opportunities.’
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