x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Economic outlook good across GCC

Profile: Sebastien Henin, a porfolio manager at The National Investor, talks about investment prospects in the region as well has his best and worst investment decisions.

Sebastien Henin covers the Middle East and North Africa for The National Investor. Lee Hoagland / The National
Sebastien Henin covers the Middle East and North Africa for The National Investor. Lee Hoagland / The National

What is the asset class and geography you are focused on?

I cover the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, from Casablanca to Baghdad. The assets are fixed-income and equities. In terms of investment style, I do long-only and alternative as well.


What is the outlook for the month ahead?

I think it's quite positive. The main idea is now that markets have started to benefit from the strong revival that we have across GCC countries, which has been fuelled by very strong government budgets with all these expansionary policies. The second point is that valuations are still very attractive at these levels. Thirdly, the sentiment has improved, and for these retail-driven markets, its quite important.


What are the main risks (either upside or downside) to the outlook?

There is clearly one, which is a bit technical, but related to the opening of the Saudi market to direct foreign investments. We know Saudi Arabia is the largest market across the Mena region. It should have a big impact. That's the main upside risk. At the same time there is more downside risk. From an economics point of view, there could be a steep oil-price correction. After that you have some political risk related to Syria. If there is a contagion for the conflict. The potential worsening of the economic and political stability in Egypt could be worrying … The Iranian threat is the third downside risk. For sure it's related to the nuclear story. It has been here for a long time now, and we do not know what could be the solution for this issue.


What is the best investment at the moment?

That is a very good question. Most of the quality names have enjoyed a strong rally in the past six months. Now it is more interesting to have a top-down view versus stock picking. In 2012, the game was to be a good stock picker. In 2013, you need to have a good top down overview. Saudi and UAE should be the best markets, even if we have already seen a strong rally. From a sector point of view across the GCC market, consumer and real estate, and banks [but only in Saudi Arabia], should outperform and even in absolute terms it should be great. We should expect some very good returns.


What was the best investment you were ever involved in?

Addoha in Morocco. It is the largest real estate developer in the country. The story is soon after the company listed in 2006, we had accumulated the shares and made a few times our initial investments in less than one year.


What was the worst?

I didn't take a decision to exit the Egyptian market before the revolution in 2011. When the market reopened I suffered heavy losses. That was my worst investment decision.