Manulife Philippines’ ASEAN Growth Fund rides on attractive prospects in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam


MANILA – The Manulife Philippines – ASEAN Growth Fund (AGF) has delivered net return of 3.9 per cent since its November 2012 inception while its benchmark MSCI South East Asia Small Cap Index shed 3.6 per cent in the same period. This translates into 7.5 per cent outperformance of the benchmark index. 

This positive performance was achieved despite volatile equity market conditions. In mid-2013 significant liquidity exited the region and equity markets lost ground on concern over the US Federal Reserve’s withdrawal of quantitative easing (QE) and the potential for interest rates to subsequently rise. Markets took another hit in the first quarter of 2013, when concern over the Chinese economy led investors to trim emerging market exposure. 

“The AGF’s relative resilience amid tough market conditions is largely due to careful selection of stocks that have attractive company specific growth catalysts and solid management,” said Kenglin Tan, Senior Portfolio Manager, Equities for Manulife Asset Management. “This investment strategy enables us to somewhat limit losses amid market volatility.” 

The AGF is based on the company’s Southeast Asian Small Cap strategy, an investment approach which seeks to generate long-term capital growth by investing in US dollar-denominated equity and equity-related securities issued by companies incorporated in ASEAN member countries or those with material exposure to ASEAN markets. The AGF allows local investors to take advantage of attractive investment opportunities across the ASEAN region. 

Manulife Asset Management (Asia) manages the Southeast Asian Small Cap strategy and the AGF. The company, which is the global asset management arm of Manulife Financial, has a network of about 25 equity professionals located on the ground across the ASEAN region. These investment experts apply local-market knowledge to conduct in-depth analysis of often under-researched stocks and identify those with strong re-rating potential. 

Tan commented on the outlook for regional equities: “We see a generally positive economic backdrop for ASEAN equity markets. The ASEAN 5 (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) are expected to post average GDP growth of 4.9 per cent this year while Singapore’s economy is forecast to expand 3.6 per cent. These growth rates far exceed the 1.6 per cent GDP rise expected in the EU and the 2.8 per cent growth outlook in the US . 

“Against this backdrop, we see the potential to generate decent returns in every ASEAN market based on careful research to select the right investment opportunities. We are particularly positive on Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam at the moment. That being said, we will continue to look for good investment opportunities across the region and will strictly adhere to our sell discipline and take profits if valuations become too rich.” 

The AGF is attached to the Manulife Affluence Max, Manulife Affluence Max Gold and Manulife Affluence Builder variable unit-linked products. To learn more about the ASEAN Growth Fund, contact (02) 884-7000, e-mail or consult a Manulife Financial Adviser. 

Manulife Asset Management’s Asian small cap investment capability has been widely recognized by the wider investment industry. Linda Csellak, Head of Asia Pacific Equities and lead manager of the Asia Small Cap strategy, was named "Long-only Fund Manager of the Year - Asia Pacific" at The Asset's Triple A Investment Awards in 2011.

In addition, the company’s Asian Small Cap Strategy has been recognized for its performance by:
§ Lipper awards in the three-year Equity Asia Pacific Small and Mid Caps category in 2013 and 2014 and best in the five-year Equity Asia Pacific Small and Mid Caps category in 2014;
§ TFF-Bloomberg, which named it best in the foreign category: Asia Pacific Equity Fund in 2014;
§ Benchmark Magazine, which named it “Best in Class” in the Asia ex Japan equity category for 2012 and 2013.

About Manulife Asset Management
Manulife Asset Management is the global asset management arm of Manulife Financial, providing comprehensive asset management solutions for institutional investors and investment funds in key markets around the world. This investment expertise extends across a broad range of public and private asset classes, as well as asset allocation solutions. As at 31 December 2013, assets under management for Manulife Asset Management were US$263 billion. Manulife Asset Management’s public markets units have investment expertise across a broad range of asset classes including public equity and fixed income, and asset allocation strategies. Offices with investment capabilities are located in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines. In addition, Manulife Asset Management has a joint venture asset management business in China, Manulife TEDA. The public markets units of Manulife Asset Management also provide investment management services to affiliates' retail clients through product offerings of Manulife and John Hancock. John Hancock Asset Management and Declaration Management and Research are units of Manulife Asset Management. Additional information about Manulife Asset Management may be found at 

About Manulife Financial
Manulife Financial is a leading Canada-based financial services group with principal operations in Asia, Canada and the United States. Clients look to Manulife for strong, reliable, trustworthy and forward-thinking solutions for their most significant financial decisions. Our international network of employees, agents and distribution partners offers financial protection and wealth management products and services to millions of clients. We also provide asset management services to institutional customers. Funds under management by Manulife Financial and its subsidiaries were approximately US$563 billion as at 31 December 2013. The Company operates as Manulife Financial in Canada and Asia and primarily as John Hancock in the United States. Manulife Financial Corporation trades as ‘MFC’ on the TSX, NYSE and PSE, and under ‘945’ on the SEHK. Manulife Financial can be found on the Internet at

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