Safety net for danger zones

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The Independent Online
INVESTORS hoping for better than average growth from their funds are becoming increasingly attracted by the opportunities of emerging markets.

But as w ith many investments with the potential for dazzling performance, there are also serious risks attached to these funds.

Choosing just one country to invest in is dangerous - last year the Shanghai stock exchange fell by 27 per cent in March, before rising by more than 45 per cent in April, and plummetting back down by 30 per cent in May.

This year, the Brazilian stock market has shown gains of 84 per cent, while Turkey's is down by 45 per cent. Spreading risk is important.

Partridge Muir & Warren, a firm of financial consultants, has launched a new fund for investors who want an opportunity to enjoy some of the potential gains of emerging markets without risking their underlying capital.

TheEmerging Markets Capital Guarantee Plan combines investment in a fund run by Schroders, the investment managers, with a bond guaranteed by the Bank of Scotland.

One-third of the investment goes into the Schroders Global Emerging Markets Fund, a unit trust launched in October 1993. The remainder is used to pay for the money-back guarantee at the end of the investment period, in September 2000.

Neville Conrad, chairman of Partridge Muir & Warren, said: 'It is virtually impossible to imagine investors only getting their money back on maturity. For that to happen, all the investments in the Schroders fund would have to fail.' In the first 10 months, the Schroders fund has shown gains of 24 per cent.

Investors who are more prepared to accept an element of risk can opt for a new investment trust about to be launched by Murray Johnstone, another firm of fund managers.

The Murray Emerging Economies Trust plans to invest in a variety of 25 countries, including the Philippines, Pakistan, Colombia, Brazil, Jordan and Zimbabwe.

The offer period for the new investment trust opens for three weeks on 9 November.

The Association of UnitTrusts and Investment Funds advises savers to limit their exposure to emerging markets to not more than 10 per cent of their portfolios.

A spokeswomansaid: 'With most unit trusts, if you invest for a sensible period of five years or more you won't go far wrong.

'With emerging markets, you should be aiming for a longer period, because at some stage in the shorter term you are likely to see a significant fall in the value of your investment before growth resumes.'