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Skagen’s £4.5bn Kon-Tiki emerging markets fund has started purchasing Japanese stocks as it now sees the country as an emerging market due to changes in its economy.

The Norwegian asset manager recently made its successful Kon-Tiki fund available to UK investors with a clean retail share class, having built up a strong track record of more than 20 years.

The fund is run on a bottom-up value-driven process and portfolio manager Hilde Jenssen revealed she had recently been buying some Japanese stocks.

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The fund has recently bought into Family Mart, a Japanese chain of grocery stores that has franchises across Asia and even in the US.

Ms Jenssen said she had bought the stock because “as a business it is an interesting play on growth in Asia and people needing convenience and value when they shop for groceries”.

While Family Mart is a play on the domestic consumer in both Japan and the rest of Asia, the Skagen team has also bought into Nippon Yusen, which is a Japanese company that is one of the largest shipping companies in the world.

Ms Jenssen said the stock had been purchased to exploit the “growing exports from Japan as the yen depreciates”, due to the need for more ships to carry and distribute the increase in exports.

Japan is not listed on any emerging market equity index because both the stock market and the economy is widely considered to be at developed world status.

However, Ms Jenssen said that Skagen currently considers the stockmarket to be an ‘emerging market’ due to the overhaul of the economy that is taking place under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Mr Abe has already embarked on a massive monetary stimulus programme in order to depreciate the Japanese currency, the yen, stoke inflation and spark growth in the Japanese economy, which has been struggling now for 25 years.

Ms Jenssen said the Japanese economy was “going through a rebirth” and so the team was happy to invest in the market.

The fund already has plenty of flexibility to invest in stocks listed outside of emerging market indices which have significant business operations with emerging nations, so only 75 per cent of stocks in the fund are currently listed in emerging markets.

The two biggest holdings in the fund are Hyundai and Samsung, which take up 9.2 per cent and 8.6 per cent of the fund respectively, more than double the size of the next largest holding.

Ms Jenssen defended the high weightings, saying that the stocks are a “play into the increasing wealth of middle class and people migrating to higher economic strata”, and she said the team had been having to trim its holding in Hyundai recently to stop the weighting going even higher.

The Kon-Tiki fund has significantly outperformed the MSCI Emerging Markets index in one, three, five and 10 years with its value approach to investing.

And Ms Jenssen said it was ideally positioned to capture the upside when sentiment to emerging markets turns positive because the managers have used the weakness to invest in heavily undervalued stocks.