abrdn keeps big China bets despite crackdown

Aberdeen Standard Investments’ veteran Asia chairman Hugh Young told Bloomberg in an interview the Edinburgh-based asset management giant is sticking with its big China investments despite Beijing’s recent crackdown on certain sectors which has knocked tens of billions of dollars off the valuations of some of the country’s biggest companies.

About $1 trillion of value was wiped off China shares listed on the mainland, Hong Kong and US last month amid clampdowns by Beijing on sectors ranging from education to technology.

China’s State Council imposed stringent requirements on the private tutoring sector, which in China is a $120 billion industry that includes many overseas-listed education firms.

Young told Bloomberg his firm bought the dip in Tencent Holdings Ltd. and kept most of its other big technology holdings in China largely unchanged during the recent selloff.

Singapore-based Young told Bloomberg that while still keen on Chinese technology firms, Aberdeen Standard Investments is now avoiding the education sector.

“I don’t think anything strategic has changed” in China and regulations will benefit the responsible players, Young said.

“We have topped up with Tencent,” he said, adding to what already was a large holding for the Edinburgh investment firm.

Aberdeen Standard Investments manages £456.6 billion of total assets worldwide and is currently changing its name to abrdn.

Tencent shares fell as much 3% on Tuesday to the lowest since August 6 while the Hang Seng Tech Index declined as much as 1.8% to its lowest since July 28.

Both have dropped more than 20% this year due to China’s crackdown.

“China is just trying to make everything fairer for its citizens,” Young said.

“Does that put us off investing in China? ‘No,’” he said, noting that regulatory crackdowns also “happened in other economies when things boom.”

Young said more measures are likely in the housing market — but that Aberdeen Standard has not sold its shares in leading developers.

China will probably “correct regulatory policies for the sector’s good,” he said.

That means companies such as real estate giant China Vanke, in which Aberdeen Standard owns shares, “will ultimately be net beneficiaries,” said Young.

“Huge opportunities” will come with a broadening of the economy and “responsible growth,” Young said.