With Chinese mainland A-shares surging this year, investors seeking exposure to the emerging market may be better off with China H-shares and related country-specific exchange traded funds.
“The H-share index is much more attractive versus the A-shares at the moment, and we’re positioned that way,” Helen Zhu, head of China equities at BlackRock , told CNBC.
ETF investors who are interested in the Chinese market also have a number of options to choose from. For instance, the iShares China Large-Cap ETF (NYSEArca: FXI) is the largest China-related ETF that tracks Chinese companies listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Similarly, other China H-shares ETFs options include the SPDR S&P China ETF (NYSEArca: GXC) and the iShares MSCI China ETF (NYSEArca: MCHI). [China ETF’s Moment in the Limelight]
The China H-shares ETFs still show relatively cheap valuations. FXI has a 11.77 price-to-earnings ratio and a 1.5 price-to-book. GXC has a 12.3 P/E and a 1.49 P/B. MCHI shows a 12.37 P/E and a 1.55 P/B.
In contrast, China A-shares ETFs that track mainland Chinese stocks traded in Shanghai and Shenzhen are trading at higher valuations after this year’s surge. For example, the Deutsche X-trackers Harvest CSI 300 China A-Shares ETF (NYSEArca: ASHR) has a 16.97 P/E and a 2.38 P/B. The KraneShares Bosera MSCI China A ETF (NYSEArca: KBA) shows a 19.28 P/E and a 2.51 P/B. The Market Vectors ChinaAMC A-Share ETF (NYSEArca: PEK) has a 17.41 P/E and a 2.41 P/E.
BlackRock’s Zhu is also voicing concerns over the skyrocketing valuations on China’s onshore equity market. The Shanghai Composite Index and Shenzhen Stock Exchange Composite Index show a P/E ratio of 22 and 62, respectively, whereas the Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index has a 12 P/E.
“There are warning signs that some pockets of the A-share market have become overheated,” Zhu said. By comparison, “Hong Kong-listed China shares are not at all expensive.”
The rally in Chinese equities could continue as the market is still “massively under-owned” by global asset allocators, Zhu added.