Even though global stock exchanges may have steadied following the colossal see-sawing seen at the start of the year, escalating concerns over the health of emerging markets have put the kibosh on a robust move higher.
More specifically, the relentless flow of poor data from China — the world’s second largest economy — has shown no sign of letting up, underlining the struggles that lawmakers are experiencing in rebalancing the economy. Economic growth hit a 25-year nadir of 6.9% in 2015, and further slowdowns are anticipated in 2016 and 2017.
But that’s not to say there are not pockets of opportunity elsewhere for developing-market hungry investors. Sure, China’s slowdown may affect large swathes of Asia, but I believe the country’s neighbour India provides plenty of opportunity. The Indian economy expanded 7.5% last year, outpacing regional powerhouse China for the first time in donkeys’ years. And Moody’s expects similar growth rates this year and next.
This naturally bodes well for an array of companies operating in the country, and particularly for those with direct access to India’s 1.3-billion-plus consumers.
Ringing up the gains
Telecoms giant Vodafone (LSE: VOD), for one, is enjoying the fruits of improving wealth levels amongst India’s growing populace. Despite the impact of increased price competition, the business saw organic service revenues leap 2.3% between October and December, and its customer base climb by an extra 5.4m in the period.
And the impact of Vodafone’s Project Spring organic investment programme looks set to keep revenues headed higher. In particular, the business has identified data demand as a key pillar to its growth story in the country, and Vodafone built an extra 7,600 3G sites in India in the past quarter alone. The operator has also ramped up its 4G services in key population areas.
A fashion favourite
Like Vodafone, British retail institution Marks & Spencer (LSE: MKS) is also increasing its devotion to India as demand for its ‘traditional’ wares takes off. Indeed, the company said that a “strong performance” from its owned businesses in the country helped total international sales advance 2.9% during October-December.
Given its surging popularity with Indian shoppers, ‘Marks & Sparks’ told the Wall Street Journal back in September that it plans to double the number of stores it operates in the country by the close of 2016, to around 100. The retailer currently operates in more than 20 major cities, and aims to enter Jalandhar, Vijayawada and Vizag by the close of the year.
Product roll-outs rising
A backcloth of stomping consumer spending power also bodes well for household goods giant Unilever, (LSE: ULVR) naturally. Indeed, chief executive Paul Polman told Economic Times this week that Unilever plans to hold its next board meeting in the country later this year to help executives get a better handle on a territory in which the firm already enjoys considerable success.
Such is Unilever’s confidence in the long-term potential of its Indian marketplace that the firm hiked its stake in subsidiary Hindustan Unilever in mid-2013 to 67.3%, from just over 50%, at a cost of some €2.49bn. The division saw turnover rise 3% between October and December, and is confident that a steady stream of product innovations should keep the top line expanding.
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Royston Wild has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK owns shares of and has recommended Unilever. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.