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Emerging Market Weakness Could Boost Travel Firms

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European travel firms may reap some benefits from an emerging market sell-off that has otherwise roiled equities across the globe.

While heightened awareness of emerging market vulnerabilities has shaved 5.5 percent off world shares since mid-January, investors are looking to stocks with exposure abroad that could benefit from a prolonged period of local currency depreciation.

Stocks with high exposure to developing economies usually suffer when earnings are hit by unfavorable exchange rates. Some EM-focused companies are already taking steps, such as covering their exchange rate risks, to protect earnings from the latest upheaval.

However, a handful of firms in certain sectors stand to gain as weakness in currencies such as Turkey's lira and South Africa's rand reduces local costs.

"If you're an operator in those countries and you're a producer in those countries and you sell in a developed market currency, your costs will be going down, and if you sell in (US) dollars, that trend is very helpful," Gerard Lane, equity strategist at Shore Capital, said.

"There will be companies that are net beneficiaries of this emerging market fallout."

If Turkey's cheapness also attracts tourists eager for a cheap deal, Ryanair and easyJet could stand to gain from an increase in passenger numbers.

"So long as they can fill up planes both ways... then utilization could improve impressively," Neil Wilkinson, European equities fund manager at Royal London Asset Management, said.

DUTY-FREE

Such a trend could also boost the likes of Swiss duty-free firm Dufry, Wilkinson added. Dufry posts full-year results on March 13.

Shore Capital's Lane said that while some tourists may simply switch from euro zone destinations such as Greece to Turkey, with a limited net effect on airlines, providers of package holidays often operate high-margin businesses in Turkey.

"There's definitely a trend for the UK holiday-maker to start going overseas again. For the likes of Thomas Cook and TUI Travel, they're seeing that come through in terms of the higher margin "all inclusive" packages, and Turkey is a big destination for those two," he said.

"If the tourist consumer is feeling a bit more flush, those firms could be a big beneficiary."

(Reuters)