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Global equity star sells down US bets to buy European value

Global equity star sells down US bets to buy European value

The emergence of valuation discrepancies in European equities over the last few weeks has led Robeco Boston Partners' Chris Hart to sell off some of his US exposure in favour of its developed world rival.

Speaking to Citywire Global, the Citywire A-rated manager said Europe had become too expensive and earnings had weakened during the course of 2014.

At this stage, Hart increased his US exposure to a high of 58% in his Robeco BP Global Premium Equities fund after earning's prospects for technology, healthcare and the packaging sector had risen.

However, European valuations once again became attractive as of the end of December and, as at the start of January, Hart said he has focused purchases on continental small and mid-cap companies.

'We have shifted our exposure pretty heavily since Q3 when we had a pretty high exposure to the US and healthcare,' he said.

'Healthcare went from 20% of our portfolio to 12%, this was driven by the selling of some global pharmaceuticals as they had reached our valuation level. We have also trimmed several US industrials, selling them from November to January but more for oil-related reasons.'

The fund's exposure to the US now stands at 52% while Europe accounts for 23% of his portfolio, up from 18% last quarter, while the UK has risen from 9% to 11% of its geographical allocation.

Among the US companies he has trimmed is US refiner Valero, which has been heavily impacted by the oil price drop, while he has bought French IT company Atos and Irish specialty food retailer Greencore.

Oil approach

Oil's vertigo-inducing drop led Hart to reduce his exposure to US industrials but overall his fund has a low exposure to the commodity.

The exposure he does have is concentrated in small and mid-cap US and Canadian oil exploration and production companies as he believes they are better equipped to deal with a low oil price.

'Large caps have integrated an oil price level which reflects a valuation of $70-80 a barrel and with oil at $45, that is a big valuation discrepancy. These small and mid-cap companies are reflecting an oil price of $45 and also have low cash costs.'

'The world loves to talk about oil, it makes for good cocktail fodder but there are many sides to it.'

One area that has benefited, and one which Hart has seized upon, is the chemical sector. He has increased his holdings in several small chemical companies he already holds in the portfolio.

Over the five years to the end of January 2015, the Robeco GP Global Premium Equities fund returned 78.49% while its benchmark, the MSCI World Value TR, has risen 62.85%.

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