A tour or a tipple? Emerging markets take up slack

LONDON Wed Feb 15, 2012 12:50pm EST

LONDON Feb 15 (Reuters) - The world's top yoghurt maker Danone now sells half its goods in emerging markets, and from beer to holidays, Europe's consumer industry depends ever more heavily on the rising wealth of Brazilians, Russians, Indians and Chinese.

Danone and Heineken, the world's third-largest brewer, are two of the most exposed consumer companies to sluggish European economies, but both targeted emerging markets to overcome increasingly gloomy home markets in their annual results on Wednesday. .

Danone, which in 2010 acquired Unimilk to become Russia's second-largest dairy company, said it would focus investment on nations with high growth potential, namely the MICRUB nations -- an acronym that takes in Mexico, Indonesia, China, Russia, Brazil and the United States, which in yoghurt terms, at least, counts as an emerging nation compared with western Europe.

Rival food group Unilever has 54 percent of its sales from emerging markets and Nestle nearly 40 percent.

TUI AG, which controls Europe's largest travel group, TUI Travel, said it was also looking to developing nations to compensate for its sluggish established markets.

"I'm not surprised that these big developed market companies are making more and more money from emerging markets (EM). This is a story that is going to run. EM growth has weakened, and it won't recover too quickly, but the element that's held up is household consumption," said Maarten-Jan Bakkum, investment strategist for ING Investment Management's emerging markets funds in The Hague.

In January the World Bank said it expected economic growth in developing economies of 5.4 percent in 2012 and 6 percent the following year. The forecasts were down from earlier estimates, but remain at a level that developed world finance ministers would give their right arms for.

The bank said Europe, by contrast, was probably already in recession, and the euro area would shrink 0.3 percent.

Little wonder, then, that Bank of America/Merrill Lynch's monthly survey of fund managers found this week that emerging markets were investors' biggest overweight, with 44 percent overweight.

Within emerging markets, the preferred sector was consumer discretionary, with a net 60 percent overweight.

SUN, SEA AND KEGS

TUI Chief Executive Michael Frenzel said the company would increasingly look at bringing holidaymakers from countries such as China, Russia, Ukraine, India and Brazil to Europe.

"Organised tourism is only just starting in these countries," Frenzel told the group's annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday, adding that in China alone there were more than 3 million people willing to spend on holidays.

TUI last year became the first European tour operator to win a licence to organise international travel for Chinese holidaymakers, whom industry experts expect will overtake Germans as the world's biggest spenders on holidays within the next few years.

Heineken, which already counts Mexico, Nigeria and Russia as its three largest markets, said it would continue to invest in emerging markets, where it makes about half its sales, to maintain its growth momentum. All its reporting regions apart from western Europe showed revenue growth in 2011.

The Dutch brewer's fastest growing region last year was its Americas business, boosted by its acquisition of Mexico's No. 2 brewer FEMSA in early 2010, while strong growth was recorded in Brazil, the Caribbean, Chile and Argentina.

It also saw strong performances in China, Nigeria, and Vietnam and launched its eponymous beer brand in India and Mexico.

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