Fund Manager’s Diary

Monday It is the first day of what promises to be another fascinating visit to Asia. The taxi ride from Singapore airport brings home once again the breathtaking pace of economic development here. The skyline is crammed with construction cranes and the pavements are heaving with people.

I have dinner with executives of a locally listed property company and discuss their recent land purchases in Vietnam while enjoying hairy crabs. There is huge potential in Vietnam, but the stockmarket is relatively underdeveloped and achieving exposure is difficult. One solution for us is to invest indirectly through property companies in neighbouring countries.

Tuesday to Thursday I attend a three-day regional forum organised by a leading international broker. It is a popular event and, with the lifts hopelessly congested, I am forced to run up and down flights of stairs so that I do not fall behind the punishing schedule of five to six company meetings a day.

Not surprisingly, I field several questions from the corporates I am interviewing on the impact of the credit crunch on global markets.

My mission is to find companies whose businesses will be resilient to the slowdown in consumer spending in America. From the meetings I had, I was struck by the demand in areas such as shipbuilding, ports and heavy machinery, which all stand to benefit from China’s rapid pace of industrialisation.

Friday It is an early start to catch a plane to Hong Kong, then a ferry to Macao. I check into the stunning new 3,000-suite Venetian hotel. It takes me 10 minutes to walk through the world’s largest gaming area to my room in the north wing.

Gambling is an obsession in this part of the world and I visit six more casinos, for purely professional reasons, of course, to assess the impact of the millions of visitors who flock over every year from mainland China.

The high rollers cannot wait to spend their winnings and one of the hotel casinos I visit houses the most profitable branch of Louis Vuitton – per square foot of floor space – in the world. I watch a successful female punter choose her handbag there.

Saturday Sidestepping early morning gamblers, I check out of the hotel to visit the Macao observation tower to get a feel for the development potential of the property market. Looking across into southern China, I am amazed at the scale of the industrialisation.

Sunday I cross back into mainland China and take a two-hour train trip to Guangzhou, the capital city of the Guangdong Province. The urbanised view from my window is a dramatic contrast to the unbroken agricultural landscape of 20 years ago.

I visit six different property projects, from high rise to villa-style developments and, joining the throng accompanying the sharply dressed saleswomen, I am impressed with the quality of their decor and high specification. Many properties boast the same level of shared club house amenities you would expect in Florida or California.

I end my trip concluding that now is not the time to be taking my chips off the table as far as the structural growth story in Asia is concerned. The twin drivers of investment and consumption look to be pretty reliable bets right now.

Vanessa Donegan is head of Far East Equities at Threadneedle Investments. Her diary runs from 12-18 November.