Emerging markets guru Mark Mobius to retire

Mr Mark Mobius, 81, made prescient calls on major market movements, including snapping up bargains during the Asian financial crisis. With a long-time base in Singapore, he travelled about 250 days a year, visiting factories and distributors in remot
Mr Mark Mobius, 81, made prescient calls on major market movements, including snapping up bargains during the Asian financial crisis. With a long-time base in Singapore, he travelled about 250 days a year, visiting factories and distributors in remote corners of the globe to identify investment opportunities.ST FILE PHOTO

BOSTON • Veteran investor Mark Mobius, the bald-headed market guru who became one of the most recognised authorities on money-making opportunities in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, plans to retire from Franklin Templeton Investments after three decades at the firm.

The company announced his retirement, effective Jan 31.

After accepting a job offer from money manager John Templeton in 1987, Mr Mobius headed one of the first emerging-market equity funds available to American customers.

With a long-time base in Singapore, he travelled about 250 days a year in a Gulfstream IV private jet, visiting factories and distributors in remote corners of the globe to identify investment opportunities.

"There is no single individual who is more synonymous with emerging-markets investing than Mark Mobius," Templeton chairman and chief executive Greg Johnson said in a statement last Friday.

Mr Mobius, 81, who said he kept most of his own money in Templeton funds, made prescient calls on major market movements. He correctly predicted the start of a bull market that began in 2009, snapped up bargains during the Asian financial crisis after Thailand floated its currency in 1997, and bought Russian stocks as panic selling took hold in Russia in 1998. He was also one of the first institutional investors to identify Africa as a promising frontier market, setting up the Templeton Africa Fund in 2012.

"My idea of a bargain is, by the way, not very complicated," he wrote in Passport To Profits, his 1999 book. "I buy stocks in companies with good growth potential over a five-year period."

AN INDUSTRY LEGEND

There is no single individual who is more synonymous with emerging-markets investing than Mark Mobius.

MR GREG JOHNSON, chairman and CEO of Franklin Templeton Investments.

SIMPLE STRATEGY

My idea of a bargain is, by the way, not very complicated. I buy stocks in companies with good growth potential over a five-year period.

MR MARK MOBIUS, writing in his 1999 book, Passport To Profits.

Born in Hempstead, New York to a German father and Puerto Rican mother, Mr Mobius grew up on Long Island speaking German and Spanish at home. In 1955, he won a scholarship to study at Boston University and worked as a pianist at a nightclub to help pay for his tuition. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in fine arts and a master's in communications before completing a doctorate in economics and political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

After working as a political consultant, Mr Mobius travelled to Hong Kong for the first time in 1967 and became a market researcher for Monsanto Overseas Enterprises, testing a new high-protein drink. He then started his own research business, branching into securities analysis.

Prior to joining Templeton, Mr Mobius worked as a director at Vickers da Costa, a UK stock brokerage, in the early 1980s and became president of Mega International Investment Trust in Taiwan in 1983. At age 50, he received a phone call from Mr John Templeton, a pioneer in emerging-markets investing.

After losing a third of his fund's value in the 1987 stock market crash in his first year at Templeton, Mr Mobius diversified his holdings from just five Asian countries to emerging markets such as Argentina, Mexico, Indonesia and Russia.

"When he started, there was no Internet and you could barely make a phone call," said Mr Michael Rosen, chief investment officer at Angeles Investment Advisors in Santa Monica, California. "People on the ground had a distinctive advantage."

As technological advancements gave rise to new investment strategies, Mr Mobius' performance began to taper, according to Mr Russel Kinnel, director of manager research at Morningstar in Chicago. The Templeton Developing Markets Trust, which he co-managed from 1991 to last year, trailed 80 per cent of its peers over the past 15 years, Morningstar data show.

"Though some people probably pity me for having no home, no family, no domestic life to speak of, my somewhat eccentric lifestyle offers untold opportunities for variety, stimulation and creativity," he said in his 1999 book.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2018, with the headline 'Emerging markets guru Mark Mobius to retire'. Print Edition | Subscribe