Free | Global Macro & Strategy

Impact on emerging market equities from Russia-Ukraine conflict

Given the impact the Russian-Ukraine conflict has had on financial markets, Lonsec has surveyed relevant Global Emerging Market Equity managers to ascertain their exposure to Russian, Ukrainian and Belarussian securities through the months of December 2021 to February 2022. Where such exposures are identified, Lonsec has also ascertained the underlying holdings and what steps managers have taken given the equity market fall-out from the conflict.

In terms of products with exposures, Lonsec notes that throughout the month of February 2022 the situation was fluid and highly volatile. Key market events included the closure of the Moscow Stock Exchange for all trading alongside major foreign exchanges suspending trading of all Russian Global and American Depository Receipts (GDRs/ADRs). These actions severely limited the optionality of asset managers to respond and transact as desired.

In light of this, asset managers who held Russian equity holdings in mid-to-late February 2022 have been forced to write these off entirely following a period of these being severely impaired. These actions have already been taken and are reflected in unit prices. Additionally, such managers have typically placed hard limits on not acquiring Russian, Ukrainian and Belarussian securities for the foreseeable future.

Timeline of events

January 2022

  • The build-up of Russian troops along the border of Ukraine and heightened tensions compelled some Managers to reappraise the geopolitical risks and pair back their associated Russian exposures throughout the month.

February 2022

  • Sanctions against Russia escalate throughout the month from the US, UK and EU. Asset managers faced increasing liquidity issues trading their Russian equities. On February 22, the US announced full blocking sanctions on several Russian banks and cancelled Russian sales of sovereign bonds on US money markets.
  • February 24, Russian troops invade Ukraine which brings further international condemnation. As a result, Russia’s local bourse fell 40%.
  • February 25, Russia’s Central Bank closed the Moscow exchange, suspending all stock and foreign currency trading.
  • February 25, asset managers begin to severely impair their Russian assets and introduce fair value pricing to calculate unit prices due to the inability to trade and accurately price Russian assets.
  • February 26, the European Union announces sanctions to limit Russia’s ability to access an estimated US$630bn in reserves to finance war and avoid the impact of sanctions being applied.
  • 27 February, the US and EU announce a ban on Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank transaction system which is the backbone of the international financial transfer system. The sanction cuts Russia off from the international banking system crippling their ability to trade with the rest of the world.
  • 28 February, major stock exchanges progressively introduced suspensions on trading Russian equity American Depository Receipts/Global Depository Receipts (ADRs and GDRs).
  • 28 February, the Russian Ruble succumbs to heavy exchange pressure, weakening by over 20% against the greenback. In an effort to stabilise the currency, Russia’s Central Bank called an emergency meeting and increased interest rates from 11% to 20%.
  • 28 February, asset managers begin to write down their Russian asset entirely.

March 2022

  • 1 March, S&P Global Ratings downgrades several Russian banks and placed the ratings of another 19 on CreditWatch negative.
  • 2 March, Russia’s Central bank desperately attempts to prevent a run on Russian bank reserves by announcing lower reserve requirements. The Central bank announced that the liquidity gap in the Russian banking system was US$68 billion dollars, a 27% increase in the gap in just one day.
  • 3 March, the International Energy Agency unveils a 10-point plan to reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian gas. Europe currently is immensely reliant on Russian oil with roughly 40% of its gas supplied by Russia.
  • 4 March, Major index providers, such as MSCI, FTSE and S&P begin to announce that the Russian market is “uninvestable” with indices recalculated by 9 March. All Russian assets were marked down to effectively zero.
  • 4 March, the Australian Federal government called on Australian superannuation funds to divest Russian assets. Australian superannuation funds confirm that they are set to encounter losses of up to A$2bn on Russian assets when trading resumes on the Moscow Stock Exchange.
  • 6 March, Visa, Mastercard and American Express announce that they will be suspending all foreign transactions associated with Russia.
  • 8 March, countless top brands and industry leaders such as Disney, Exxon, Shell, Apple and McDonalds either suspend operations in Russia or make plans to wind them down. Further, the US announced a ban on all imports of Russian Energy in addition to banning exports of oil refining technology making it substantially more difficult for Russia to continue the modernisation of their oil refineries.
  • 10 March, Russian companies begin looking into the possibility of relocating employees from Russia.

Conclusion

While share price movements have been severe in isolation, Lonsec notes that losses at an overall fund level have tended to be relatively contained given Russia makes up only a small proportion of the emerging markets universe. There were however a small number of managers which had a material allocation to Russia through the early parts of 2022. While these exposures were progressively paired back in most instances, the write-off of the remaining holdings will however meaningfully impact Fund performance in the short-to-medium term.

Regardless of direct exposure, Lonsec highlights that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will continue to meaningfully influence financial markets for the foreseeable future given the long-lasting repercussions on global trade. The idea of a single and open global economy is now a distant dream given the geopolitical tensions between superpowers Russia, China, the US and NATO nations. This comes off the back of already fractured relations following the onset of the pandemic in 2020. The onset of war and related sanctions add fuel to an inflation bonfire initially lit by a resurgence in demand as the world emerged from the pandemic. Higher interest rates could well be imposed at an even quicker rate than expected, potentially stifling economic growth and asset prices in the process.

 

Author: James Kirk
Manager, Global Equities & Alternatives Research

Issued by Lonsec Research Pty Ltd ABN 11 151 658 561 AFSL 421 445 (Lonsec). Warning: Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Any advice is General Advice without considering the objectives, financial situation and needs of any person. Before making a decision read the PDS and consider your financial circumstances or seek personal advice. Disclaimer: Lonsec gives no warranty of accuracy or completeness of information in this document, which is compiled from information from public and third-party sources. Opinions are reasonably held by Lonsec at compilation. Lonsec assumes no obligation to update this document after publication. Except for liability which can’t be excluded, Lonsec, its directors, officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability for any error, inaccuracy, misstatement or omission, or any loss suffered through relying on the document or any information. ©2022 Lonsec. All rights reserved. This report may also contain third party material that is subject to copyright. To the extent that copyright subsists in a third party it remains with the original owner and permission may be required to reuse the material. Any unauthorised reproduction of this information is prohibited.

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