Emerging markets investments can be rewarding.
Dave Williams received the Order of Civil Merit from Spanish President and Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar Lopez on Nov. 30. The award, which is "a great big medal on a ribbon" according to Mr. Williams, was presented at The Foreign Policy Association's luncheon at the St. Regis Hotel, New York.
The chairman emeritus of Alliance Capital Management LP, New York, got interested in Spanish equities more than 10 years ago. The result was The Spain Fund, a fund started in 1988 to encourage investments in that country. Today, the fund's approximately $100 million in assets, mostly from individual investors, are managed by Mark Breedon of Alliance Capital's London office. It has a four-star rating from Morningstar.
Before Spain joined the European Union in 1986, it was "an emerging market in many respects," Mr. Williams said. But EU membership brought about numerous changes in the economy such as modernization, corporate governance and fiscal responsibility. In 1988, Mr. Williams, then chairman and chief executive officer of Alliance, noticed the equity market of still-emerging Spain had low valuations. He traveled to the country to investigate investment opportunities and created the closed-end fund later that year.
The fund "has been kind of a beacon for other investors," said Mr. Williams. "The economic transition has come about, and Spain has had the fastest economic growth [in the European Union]."
Mr. Williams is still interested in emerging markets. He stepped down as chairman of Alliance Capital in May, allowing him more time to spend with White Williams Equity Partners, Vienna. He is an owner of the Austria-based company, which seeks out private equity investments in Eastern Europe.