REPEAT-Gold miners, travel firms to buck trend, benefit from EM weakness

Mon Feb 10, 2014 12:55am EST

* Weaker EM currencies to benefit firms with costs abroad

* Could ease wage pressure on South Africa-based gold miners

* Conflicting impact on carmakers

* Travel firms to benefit from lower costs in Turkey

By Alistair Smout

LONDON, Feb 9 (Reuters) - European stocks from travel firms to South Africa-focused gold miners may reap some benefits from an emerging market sell-off that has otherwise roiled equities across the globe.

While heightened awareness of emerging market vulnerabilities has shaved 5.5 percent off world shares since mid-January, investors are looking to stocks with exposure abroad that could benefit from a prolonged period of local currency depreciation.

Stocks with high exposure to developing economies usually suffer when earnings are hit by unfavourable exchange rates. Some EM-focused companies are already taking steps, such as covering their exchange rate risks, to protect earnings from the latest upheaval.

However, a handful of firms in certain sectors stand to gain as weakness in currencies such as Turkey's lira and South Africa's rand reduces local costs.

"If you're an operator in those countries and you're a producer in those countries and you sell in a developed market currency, your costs will be going down, and if you sell in dollars, that trend is very helpful," Gerard Lane, equity strategist at Shore Capital, said.

"There will be companies that are net beneficiaries of this emerging market fallout."

While emerging market weakness is often associated with fears over global growth that lead to lower commodity prices, the falling rand can help to hold down local costs for gold miners such as Anglo American and Randgold Resources that operate in South Africa.

Their shares are up 8.7 percent and 10.6 percent respectively in January, benefiting also from upbeat production updates from the strike-prone sector and from investors seeking the traditional safety of gold.

The mining firms have been under pressure from local workers demanding wage hikes, and these could be easier to grant if the value of the rand versus other major currencies remains depressed.

Lower local costs have provided an "immediate benefit to margins," Credit Suisse said in a note on Wednesday, highlighting Anglo as prospering the most due to this factor.

For Randgold, estimates of first-quarter earnings have risen 10.9 percent over the last 30 days, data from Thomson Reuters StarMine showed.

The equation is more complicated for other firms that produce in emerging markets: the benefits from lower costs and cheaper exports can be outweighed by a weaker domestic currency eating into profits.

For example, strong demand in Russia for locally-produced Renault group cars last year was offset by a weakening rouble.

However, Renault also has plants in Turkey, which could be a low-cost base for exports to other countries.

More than three quarters of cars made by Renault in Turkey are exported, according to the company's website, while Autostat data shows it exports less than 5 percent of the cars it makes in Russia.

"Lots of car manufacturers have plants in Turkey, which has just become more competitive. Having gone through the pain of the euro crisis, the euro zone needs to become more competitive again, else Turkey will steal their lunch," Lane said.

If Turkey's cheapness also attracts tourists eager for a cheap deal, Ryanair and easyJet could stand to gain from an increase in passenger numbers per plane.

"So long as they can fill up planes both ways... then utilisation could improve impressively," Neil Wilkinson, European equities fund manager at Royal London Asset Management, said.

DUTY-FREE

Such a trend could also boost the likes of Swiss duty-free firm Dufry, Wilkinson added. Dufry posts full-year results on March 13 and is expected to beat consensus expectations on pre-tax profit by 9 percent, StarMine showed.

Shore Capital's Lane said that while some tourists may simply switch from euro zone destinations such as Greece to Turkey, with a limited net effect on airlines, providers of package holidays often run high-margin businesses in Turkey.

"There's definitely a trend for the UK holidaymaker to start going overseas again. For the likes of Thomas Cook and TUI Travel, they're seeing that come through in terms of the higher margin "all inclusive" packages, and Turkey is a big destination for those two," he said.

"If the tourist consumer is feeling a bit more flush, those firms could be a big beneficiary."

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