China’s biggest fund manager with 87 per cent gains picks market laggard and rival to Foshan Haitian as winning recipe

Zhang Shidong
·4-min read

Zhang Kun, who manages US$18.4 billion in assets as China’s biggest money manager at E-Fund Management, has been building up a substantial stake in Jonjee Hi-Tech Industrial and Commercial Holding as a winning recipe for his market-beating funds.

This year alone, Zhang’s three equity mutual funds have spent 3 billion yuan (US$459 million) on picking up 53.5 million shares in Jonjee from the market, according to the company’s latest shareholding data. These purchases have increased his overall stake to 74 million shares, or 9.3 per cent of the company’s capital base, as of April 1.

Jonjee, based inZhongshan in China’s southern Guangdong province, produces food seasoning ranging from soybean sauce to edible oils and chicken essence, having transformed itself from an obscure business of developing industrial development zones since it went public in 1995.

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Zhang, who is himself based in the provincial capital of Guangzhou, could not be reached for comment. The stock’s attraction may lie in its valuation, which has lagged behind market leader Foshan Haitian Flavouring & Food for the past year.

“The company’s business is stable and healthy,” said Zhang Yuguang, an analyst at Kaiyuan Securities. “And its current valuation has fallen to a level that is worth buying.”

Jonjee aims to achieve 11 per cent profit growth this year on top of a 24 per cent increase in 2020, according to its annual results. The stock is valued at 43 times projected earnings, compared with the multiple of 71 times for Foshan Haitian, China’s biggest food-seasoning producer.

Jonjee’s shares rose 2.2 per cent to 54.54 yuan on Wednesday in Shanghai, after the company announced a share buy-back programme worth as much as 600 million yuan. The stock has declined by about a third from an all-time high of 83.38 yuan in early September.

The stock has risen 14 per cent over the past 12 months, trailing Foshan Haitian and the CSI 300 Index by 20 to 39 percentage points.

Chubang soybean sauce, one of the products in Jonjee’s stable. Photo: Chubang
Chubang soybean sauce, one of the products in Jonjee’s stable. Photo: Chubang

Zhang’s investment picks have drawn attention from fund holders not only for the industry-beating size of the funds under his charge. He has also generated strong returns for investors since being entrusted with money from fund subscribers in 2012.

His Quality Value Fund has generated an annualised return of 34 per cent over the past five years, beating 99 per cent of its peers, according to Bloomberg data. Two of his funds that invest in onshore stocks have returned at least 87 per cent over the past year, while an offshore-focused fund yielded 61 per cent.

Jonjee has 27 buy ratings, three hold recommendations and no sell calls, according to analyst coverage tracked by Bloomberg. The stock will probably increase 15 per cent on average to 62.05 yuan in the next 12 months. Credit Suisse is the most bullish with a target of 83 yuan.

At Jonjee, the food-seasoning business made up 97 per cent of its revenue in 2020, while soybean sauce contributed 63 per cent to sales, according to its latest annual report.

Zhang may have ploughed more money into Jonjee by paring his stakes in so-called stampede bets, or bubble stocks, such as baijiu producers, a popular rotational game among star fund managers earlier this year.

His interest in Sichuan Swellfun has dwindled to about 11 million shares last quarter, compared with 14 million shares recorded at the end of 2020. Swellfun’s stock has declined 13 per cent so far this year.

Kweichow Moutai, the world’s most valuable distiller, and Contemporary Amperex Technology, the maker of lithium batteries for new-energy vehicles, have tumbled most more than 20 per cent from this year’s highs, slipping into bear-market territory.

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