Mark Mobius’s long reign as the king of emerging markets investing will come to an end later this year, when he steps down as the lead portfolio manager of the flagship Templeton Emerging Markets Investment Trust (TEMIT).
Turkey-based Carlos Hardenberg has been named as the new lead portfolio manager, with effect from 1 October. Hardenberg will relocate to London. Mobius will remain a portfolio adviser on the $1.9 billion London-listed fund.
Mobius has spent decades heading Franklin Templeton's emerging markets funds from a base in Singapore. He joined the firm in 1987 as president of the Templeton Emerging Markets Fund, the first EM equity fund available to US investors.
Despite his high profile, the performance of the mainstream emerging market equity funds has tailed off in recent years, leading management to ring the changes.
It is unclear at this stage what other changes are going to be made for the more than 50 funds across different domiciles and structures managed in whole or part by Mobius. A Singapore-based spokesman said: “Mark will continue as portfolio manager of other funds managed by the Templeton Emerging Markets Group (TEMG).”
But he is no longer in charge, and at the age of 78 it is only a matter of time before Mobius will relinquish control completely. He remains executive chairman of TEMG, directing 53 analysts based in 18 emerging-market offices. The spokesman confirmed there was no age limit for executives at Templeton.
Hardenberg is currently managing director for Turkey, and director of frontier markets strategy for the TEMG. Prior to joining Franklin Templeton in 2002, Hardenberg was an analyst in the corporate finance department at Bear Stearns International in London. He entered the financial services industry in 1999.
In addition, Chetan Sehgal, managing director for India and the director of small cap strategy for the TEMG, will continue to serve as senior research analyst on the investment team. Both Hardenberg and Sehgal sit on the executive committee of the TEMG and have served with the group for 13 years and 20 years respectively. Prior to joining Templeton, Sehgal was a senior ratings analyst at Credit Rating Information Services of India.
Mobius said: “The group [TEMG] and I continuously evaluate how to bring out the best from our investment talent. The appointment of Hardenberg as lead portfolio manager, with continued support by Sehgal as senior research analyst on TEMIT, is an acknowledgment of their significant contributions and TEMIT’s desire to benefit from a more dedicated application of their considerable skills to the portfolio.”
Mobius has always cultivated the persona of an explorer of new and exotic markets, playing up to his flamboyant image, especially in Asia where Franklin Templeton made full use of his image in support of their regional brand-building.
Although born in the US, he renounced his US citizenship on the grounds that it could complicate his international travel. He now takes German citizenship. In Asia, he retains an office base in Singapore, but rarely spends time there, given he is constantly on the move visiting new investment opportunities and managing his media profile.
While this strategy paid off handsomely for many years, more recently Templeton’s emerging market funds have not been amongst the top performers in the sector. While Franklin Templeton's EM smaller companies funds have done particularly well over one, three and five year periods, the mainstream emerging portfolios are much less impressive, in absolute terms and compared to their peer group.
The underperformance of TEMIT has led Templeton’s management to seek a “renewed focus” for the funds, according to Peter Smith, the chairman of TEMIT.