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Sectors and Stocks Benefiting From Global Deleveraging


While consumers in the West are trading down, those in emerging markets are trading up. Trusted Western brands from Unilever, Tesco, and Molson are poised to benefit.


Gregg Early: I am here with Jeff Auxier, president and CEO of Auxier Asset Management and the Auxier Focus Fund (AUXFX).

Jeff, one of the things that you have been talking about and mentioned in a recent Fortune article where you were featured was that deleveraging across the globe has brought about certain opportunities in certain sectors. Could you tell us more about that?

Jeff Auxier: Yes. The first thing, Gregg, is we want to look at the balance sheet of the businesses we're in, but also in a macro environment and where we are in debt levels and the stages of deleveraging.

So the developed countries of Europe and US and UK are in a period of deleveraging -- basically, excessive indebtedness has led to a period, probably the next seven years, of painful cutbacks. That is a period that leads to people buying necessities, and we like the lower-ticket necessities at this time, generally.

Gregg Early: So you're looking at the developed markets where their consumers are moving down the scale as opposed to up the scale. They are buying their necessities, but they might not be buying a sub-zero refrigerator.

Jeff Auxier: Yeah. Well, there are two kinds of stories going. The first one -- that's a lot more exciting -- is you've got a 1.8 billion-person emerging middle class now, and we're adding each year 150 million people to that middle class.

Again, in these countries, this urbanization that is taking place, and also this is the most rapid urbanization industrialization in history in Asia. So the necessity in the food part of that growth is three times faster than the overall economy. That is the exciting deleveraging.

In other words, that is not really a deleveraging story. That is one where you are actually moving up. And that group is spending between $10 and $15 trillion a year. So if you have companies that can sell into that -- there's 200 million Indonesian fundamentals or 200 million people there. It's far more exciting than, say, Greece. But if you're in the developed countries, again, the lower-ticket items in a deleveraging tend to be better.

Gregg Early: So you're saying that in a developed nation, people might not go out to eat, but they might go buy a pint of Ben and Jerry's. And in an emerging market, people will go out and buy a pint of Ben and Jerry's, because now they have the money to be able to do it.

Jeff Auxier: Yeah. The big thing in Asia...a lot of it is just the trust-food, safety, and what have you-in Western brands; if you have a trusted Western brand -- and a lot of the Unilever (UN) brands or what have you have been very exposed to the emerging markets as far as their distribution goes.

The big thing is if you can develop a quality trusted Western brand that's a little lower-ticket, that's where we're seeing strong fundamentals throughout the globe.

Gregg Early: You've been a proponent, and continue to be with the fund as well, which is highly successful; but instead of going for the Ferrari kind of eye candy, you stick with solid companies and sort of a "slow and steady wins the race" philosophy. Is that correct?

Jeff Auxier: Yeah, because the most underappreciated concept in investing, I think, is the power of compounding.

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