Short sellers are circling asset managers Aberdeen and Ashmore because of their emerging markets exposure

Jessica Morris
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Emerging market assets have suffered amid low commodity prices (Source: Getty)

Hedge funds are circling asset managers such as Aberdeen, Ashmore, Hargreaves Lansdown and BlackRock in the belief that turbulence in the emerging markets will eat into their profitability.

Emerging markets, once a bright spark of the global economy, have struggled over the last few years. Commodity prices have crumbled on the back of weak Chinese demand, hurting resource-based economies.

Now, investors who were once optimistic about the prospects for this asset class, are fleeing in droves.

In the second half of 2014, the world's biggest emerging market economies experienced the largest absolute withdrawal of funds since the financial crisis. But from April onwards, investors continued to push their investments away from this increasingly risky sector.

Read more: Should you invest in emerging markets?

Short sellers have increased their positions on Aberdeen by 53 per cent to 8.8 per cent of shares outstanding on loan, according to Markit. The firm's shares have suffered as its total assets under management slipped from £330bn to £307bn during this last quarter alone, and its shares have fallen so far this year.

In the case of Ashmore, short interest has risen to 12.9 per cent of shares outstanding on loan.

Shares in Hargreaves Lansdown, a more diversified asset manager, have risen so far this year. Yet short interest has increased with shares outstanding on loan increasing 85 per cent to 5.3 per cent.

Even BlackRock has seen short interest tick up in recent weeks.

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