Benefits of active ETFs for investing in China A-Shares

Benefits of active ETFs for investing in China A-Shares


The long-term growth opportunities in Chinese A-shares are compelling, but gaining exposure to the key themes that are driving this growth requires active management rather than a passive index approach. The unique features of China’s onshore market present an unparalleled opportunity for active managers to generate alpha over the long term.

Diverse long-term growth opportunities for active ETF investors

The A-share market is both broad and liquid, with over 3,500 listed stocks to choose from, which is similar to the combined number of stocks listed on US exchanges. According to the World Federation of Exchanges, in 2020 the average daily turnover of the Shanghai and Shenzhen markets was over $130 billion, compared with $356 billion for US equity markets. An opportunity set that is both broad and liquid means two key prerequisites for successful stock selection are met.

This breadth of opportunity extends across a wide range of sectors, with the A-share market offering active investors abundant opportunities to gain access to long-term trends in the Chinese economy. For example, with China’s expanding middle class both supporting and demanding an increasingly sophisticated set of premium consumer goods, the power of domestic brands is increasing. Identifying industry leaders that will benefit as China transitions towards a consumer-based, services led economy will help uncover rewarding investment opportunities that deliver sustainable growth.

Inefficiencies bring opportunities

The unique features of China’s onshore market present an unparalleled opportunity for bottom-up stock selectors to generate alpha. One such attribute is its high retail participation rate which is unmatched by any other major exchange. Retail investors make up 42% of the holding value of the Chinese A-shares free-float and contribute over 80% of its trading volume. The speculative nature of retail investors means this market is often moved by rumours rather than company fundamentals. Related to the dominance of retail investors, another key attribute of the Chinese A-shares market is its very high turnover. Index funds are unable to mitigate the impact of the market’s high turnover, and the short-term investment horizon of its investor base, which can lead to a tendency towards periods of over-exuberance or over pessimism. These market inefficiencies create opportunities that can be exploited by active managers with local market knowledge, a long-term investment horizon that looks through short-term volatility, and a rigorous valuation framework.

Navigating the ESG landscape

Sustainability is another key area where active ETFs have an advantage when it comes to allocating to China’s onshore market. While Chinese capital markets are still in their infancy, Chinese companies are improving their environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosures at a rapid pace. Over 80% of the 300 largest onshore companies now produce corporate sustainability reports, and MSCI’s estimates for weighted average carbon intensity of the MSCI China A Index at the end of 2021 (261.5 tons per million dollars of sales) compare favourably with the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (328.8 tons)1. However, ESG disclosures can often be in Mandarin only, with inconsistent metrics that require interpretation. Locally-based analysts that are able to delve into the data and actively engage with company management can help encourage better disclosure in key areas, such as carbon emissions.

ESG: Dedicated resources can help identify and manage risks

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Source: Bloomberg, Wind, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, MSCI, Goldman Sachs, WIND. *EM = Emerging Markets. Guide to China. Data as of December 31, 2021. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current and future results.

JPM China A Research Enhanced Index Equity (ESG) ETF

JREC, our China A Research Enhanced Index Equity (ESG) ETF seeks to exploit stock-specific insights in the onshore Chinese equity market while maintaining index-like characteristics through robust risk management—all within a rigorous ESG framework.

JREC also benefits from low tracking error market exposure and a cost-efficient investment approach. The fund managers aim for a tracking error of between 1.0% and 2.0% against the MSCI China A Index. The TER of 0.40% means the fund offers cost-efficient access to an active approach to the onshore market in China. JREC is Article 8 under the SFDR regulation.

Find out more about our Research Enhanced Index (ESG) ETF range:

UK: Click here

Germany: Click here

Netherlands: Click here

France: Click here

Italy: Click here

All other countries: Click here

1 Source: Bloomberg, Wind, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, MSCI, Goldman Sachs, WIND. *EM = Emerging Markets. Guide to China. Data as of December 31, 2021

For France: Investors should note that, relative to the expectations of the Autorité des Marchés Financiers, these ETFs presents disproportionate communication on the consideration of non-financial criteria in its investment policy.

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