How to prosper in market turmoil

Professional stock picker Mark Page tips three stocks set to thrive in fragmented markets.

Each week, a professional investor tells us where he'd put his money. This week:Mark Page, Artemis European Opportunities Fund.

Economic activity in parts of Europe has stagnated for the best part of a decade. Despite this a number of stocks and industries have grown irrespective of the ups and downs in GDP data. Even during a grim decade of repeated crisis and last-minute bail-outs, my colleague Laurent Millet and I have been able to find European companies that have prospered.

Payment processing is a good example of an industry that is seeing transformative, or "secular", growth. Electronic and card payments are growing while payments by cash and cheque are flat and in sharp decline respectively. The reasons for this structural shift to electronic payments are obvious: shoppers find it faster, safer and convenient.

But while paying by card or smartphone appears easy to the customer, carrying out the transaction depends on a complex ecosystem involving multiple intermediaries. Completing the sale requires an acceptance system (the point-of-sales terminal in a physical store or a "gateway" for purchases made online) followed by multiple stages of processing by a payment service provider to acquire, authorise and clear the transaction.

Half of all payments in Europe are still processed by banks. However, regulatory pressure from the European Commission means pricing pressures are increasing, making the processing of payments uneconomical for most lenders. French payment processor Worldline (Paris: WLN) is ideally positioned to consolidate this sector. GrandVision (Amsterdam: GVNV), a Dutch retailer of eyewear such as spectacles, sunglasses and contact lenses, is well positioned for growth.

GrandVision's size means that it can buy lenses for prices that can be 30% lower than those available to smaller retailers, who it can undercut on price while also enjoying higher margins.Not surprisingly, many smaller firms are selling out to GrandVision, enhancing its organic growth and adding to its competitive advantage.

German pharmaceutical giant Bayer (Frankfurt: BAYN) will need to issue more debt to fund its $62bn bid for Monsanto. Yet the two underlying businesses pharmaceuticals and crop protection produce strong and predictable cash flows, so Bayer should be able to repay its debt quickly. And borrowing costs are at historic lows: the yield on Germany's ten-year bund recently dipped into negative territory for the first time.

Moreover, the European Central Bank (ECB) is now buying corporate bonds as part of its extended quantitative-easing programme. In a roundabout way, the ECB will help to fund the deal.

Despite this, news of the deal saw Bayer's shares fall. These short-term disruptions can present long-term investors with opportunities. Like Europe as a whole, Bayer might not seem the most exciting investment, but appearances can deceive.

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