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Navigating uncertainty: European outlook for investors

By Adrian Martuccio
4 minute read

As we bid farewell to another European summer, the region reflects on the surge in vital tourism. Beneath the surface, however, there are complex economic and market dynamics that are shaping the European market.

From the rise of Chinese EVs to a moderation in consumer sentiment, now is the time for investors to take a holistic and constructive view of European markets.

Luxury market dynamics

While Europe’s luxury goods market continues to thrive due to tourism from the US, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, the absence of Chinese tourists is noticeable. Brands such as LVMH and Hermes have enjoyed impressive margin expansion by organically growing their top line without significant expenditure. The VIP customer base remains robust, and loyal customers are diversifying their purchases in the upper luxury market.

To cater to this expanding customer base, LVMH will have to address how they remain iconic and relevant to younger customers. Playing a pivotal role in this is Louis Vuitton’s new creative director, Pharrell Williams. His status as a pop and fashion icon will help LV connect with a broader and younger demographic. LV’s competitive advantage lies in its scale and because of its size, it is able to sit directly in the middle, being accessible as well as premium but not so far detached in the ultra-high-end market. This will be extremely important for LV moving forward as we see increased volatility in the US market and a potential decrease in demand for luxury goods.

Chinese electric vehicles changing the game

The global electric vehicle market has witnessed a huge influx of Chinese manufacturers, posing a unique challenge to European mass-market car producers. The US has responded by imposing substantial tariffs of 27.5 per cent and limiting access to subsidies. In contrast, Europe’s tariffs are a mere 10 per cent, with subsidies more readily available.

This situation has led to an oversupply in the European market, with brands like BYD, Geely, Chery, Polestar, and Nio gaining market share. European manufacturers face a cost disadvantage of up to 25 per cent, prompting discussions within EU regulatory bodies about raising tariffs. Striking the right balance is essential.

Navigating the bigger picture

There is some uncertainty in the market as the EU faces challenges like the slower-than-expected Chinese rebound, supply chain bottlenecks, rising labour costs, and political tensions. In such an environment, revenue growth appears to be the key driver for upgrades and expansion, with executives focusing on cash preservation and revenue growth for a more sustainable business approach.

Looking ahead

While there are market challenges, they also present opportunities for savvy investors. Companies that successfully adapt to evolving markets will thrive and those with robust plans for sustainability and innovation will lead the way. As the European landscape transforms, those who maintain a constructive view and remain agile are poised to emerge stronger.

In this dynamic landscape, certain stocks have caught our attention:

  • Nemetschek (EUR): A key player in digitising the building industry, addressing the entire life cycle from design to facilities management. Despite recent challenges, its double-digit revenue growth and strong EBITDA margins make them a compelling choice.
  • Coloplast (DKK): A global leader in ostomy, incontinence, and wound care, with a recent acquisition poised for substantial growth. With a solid EBIT margin target, this company presents considerable upside potential.
  • Rational (EUR): Maintaining a singular focus on combi ovens, this business has carved out a niche in professional kitchens, improving consistency and reducing costs. The potential for swift payback makes Rational a standout choice.
  • Porsche (EUR): Positioned in the high-end auto market, Porsche’s strategic move towards electrification and its clientele composition offers a defence against market challenges. Understanding the contribution from China SUVs remains key.

While these stocks represent opportunities, it’s crucial to conduct thorough due diligence before making investment decisions. The dynamic nature of the market demands a vigilant and informed approach. Embracing the evolving landscape with strategic investments is the way forward for investors seeking to thrive in this uncertain environment.

Adrian Martuccio, co-portfolio manager, Bell Asset Management