In 2002, there were only 1,300 movie theaters in all of China. Think about that: 1,300 theaters to serve more than a billion people. To put that in perspective, the U.S. had a whopping 35,688 theaters in 2002, or roughly one movie screen for every 8,000 people. China’s paltry 1,300 screens meant there was only one screen for every 1.04 million people. That’s like going to the drive-in with half the population of Houston, Texas.
Investors in emerging markets usually look to the Big Three: international companies, consumer companies, and commodities. These are the bread-and-butter investment opportunities that come with a very large upswing in growth. But when global growth gets shaky, investing in growth markets—or even former growth markets, for that matter— gets trickier. Nowadays you can’t just throw a dart at a board and pick a winner.
Open any cupboard in any home and you’ll find tableware of all shapes and sizes. Shelves groan with ornaments of cats, clowns, and cottages; many homes today have something made of china. But what the owners of these fine artifacts don’t know is that antique china, delft, and porcelain have become highly collectible over the last few years…so much so that those dusty dishes on your shelf may be worth a lot more than what you paid for them many years ago. So collectible has antique china become that a rare, 500-year-old cup decorated with a hen and cockerel sold in 2014 for $36.3 million to a Shanghai-based billionaire; he shocked his counter bidders by drinking tea from it right there in the auction room.
The timing of the next great macro trend couldn’t be better. Social and political pressure, market innovation, falling prices, and global demand have all fallen in line to form one of the great investment opportunities of our time. And investors in the know stand to reap huge profits.
As a child, I ran roughshod across our Chinese carpets without a thought for their value. When my sister and I divided up the family home, I let her take our parents’ deep-piled prized possessions. I’m rather regretting that now… Authentic rugs and carpets from the Eastern world have strong collectible value, regardless of changing trends in fashion. Authentic pieces add an exotic touch to any home, whether hung on the wall or (as their creator intended) laid on the floor.
These days, most developed countries have huge government debts. But there’s one country with massive net assets. It also has substantial natural resources and twin surpluses (budget and current account). Despite this, its stocks are on sale right now. And these stocks could net you a solid return over the coming years—if you act quickly.
Every once in a while, an investor with fresh money to invest should pause and ask an important question: “What asset class can I buy that is unquestionably cheap?” The asset class on the bargain-basement table today is emerging markets. Hard to believe, but you can buy most emerging-market stocks today at valuations that are nearly as low as what they reached during the 2008 financial crisis.
Here comes the sun…for consumers as well as investors.The solar power industry has had its ups and downs during the past few years, but it seems to have turned a corner. Indeed, you could say that solar is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. In June, United States solar facilities smashed their record for power generation. Utility-scale solar power plants—those with a capacity of one megawatt or more—produced 2,765 gigawatt-hours of electricity.
The next big thing in Australia isn’t a new uranium mine or a natural gas field off the western coast. In fact, it’s not a commodity at all. But it’s adding tens of billions of dollars to the economy and sparking double-digit growth that you can tap.
In the deserts of western Nevada, ground has been broken on a building that, when complete, will cover some 10 million square feet. This building—which will soon be the biggest in the world—is Tesla’s Gigafactory, just outside of Reno. It’s a manufacturing plant for making car batteries and Powerwall packs, which store electricity for home use.
Within a generation, the world’s population will surpass nine billion people. Do you know how much food the world will have to grow and produce in order to feed all those hungry mouths? Right now, we produce about 3.94 billion tons of food for consumption each year, but experts say we will need 50% to 70% more food in order to meet demand by 2050. That’s a huge increase and an extremely daunting challenge.
If you were to make your way far below the icy North Pole to the seabed at a certain spot, you would ﬁnd an unusual titanium ﬂag. It’s Russian, and it was stuck there in 2007 by the crew of two mini-submarines as a symbolic land-grab that rivals anything in history. Though it’s not a “New World” that Russia and other Arctic countries are seeking. It’s new oil. And now, with the scramble for Arctic oil heating up, the abundant black gold buried beneath the ice could constitute a fantastic investment opportunity.
Over the next two years, the emerging-market scene will have a new favored son… Overall, India has been a bit unloved by international investors—never quite living up to the hype that the rest of the BRICs seem to enjoy. But that’s all changing. Favorable demographics and a businessfriendly government have set India on the path to renewed growth again.
Conventional Western views of Africa are of a poverty-stricken continent devoid of modern technology and economic opportunity. But over the past few years, indicators have emerged to challenge this dated and misplaced narrative. The combined GDP growth of Africa makes it the second-fastest-growing economy in the world. Clearly, there are investments on this continent worthy of anyone’s portfolio.
I ’d spent the day with Mr. Khun, my translator, as we hopscotched between meetings in Rangoon, Burma, on a sultry morning. I had arrived in the middle of monsoon season and the day’s torrential rains had bathed the city clean. Now, the tropical, noonday sun was boiling the puddles into a steamy vapor that embraced the city like a hot Wet-Nap. A pair of large, sliding glass doors glided open and a wave of air-conditioned cool slammed into me.
In October of last year, China and Russia signed a landmark currency-swap deal allowing Russia to tap into $24.4 billion in liquidity. This was followed by an announcement that the People’s Bank of China would permit trading of renminbi-ruble derivatives and China’s Import-Export Bank extended credit to two sanctioned Russian banks. In other words, China’s doing what it can to help Russia keep its head above water. This is one of the greatest economic chess moves in recent history. And could be one of the greatest investment opportunities in our lifetime.
For four long months between October 2014 and January 2015, oil prices tumbled down a black hole…one that seemed to have no bottom. And that was after a 10% correction in the oil market. The U.S. public was dancing at the pumps, and I filled my tank for less than $2 a gallon, a price I hadn’t seen since early 2009. The last time oil prices fell this hard this fast, the global economy was in a tailspin that threatened to turn into a depression. This time, though, the global economy is not to blame. This time, oil is having a true “blood in the streets” moment—one that could be very profitable to investors in the know. You see, lots of good investors will tell you to buy when there’s blood in the streets. Essentially, that means you’re getting assets on the cheap in hopes that those who pressed the panic button sent prices down too far.
For many centuries, coins have been collected and hoarded. They have provided security against war, disaster, inflation and panic. And an added bonus is the thrill of owning a unique item with a history dating back hundreds or even thousands of years. And right now, there’s an opportunity for you to diversify your collection with rare world coins that are seeing substantial and steady growth in value. Rare and early coins from particular parts of the world are increasingly in demand from collectors in search for a piece of history. Coins from Eastern Europe and Russia have seen some prices increase tenfold in the past decade. Coins from India and the Middle East are now of intense interest to collectors in those countries. Even traditional collecting areas—such as Ancient Greek and Roman, as well as Western European and British coins—have increased over fivefold in the past decade. And this trend is set to continue.
For more than 11 years I’ve traveled all over Latin America. From the U.S.-Mexican border all the way to Argentina, I see firsthand the opportunities this vast land has to offer. I’ve never seen a better time to invest in development land in Latin America than right now. The biggest returns in development come to the earliest speculators who take positions. You don’t need deep pockets to invest in development land—if you know how to do it. Nicaragua, for example, is a country of stunning natural beauty and abundant resources. It has a young population and its economy is catching up from a very low base. It has great potential as a retirement and vacation locale for North Americans. In the early 2000s, money and people raced in. Many didn’t have the skills or the experience to develop real estate.
Seven years ago, I sat in a sparkling high-rise in the middle of downtown Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, waiting to meet with the managing director and chief investment executive of VinaCapital, Andy Ho. From the window on the 17th floor, you could look out and see huge infrastructure and commercial real estate projects all over the city. “Have you ever been to Shanghai?” Andy asked. “We, too, are building a whole new city. When you come back in five years, you won’t recognize this place.” He was right. Consider the Bitexco Tower, the crowning glory of the Ho Chi Minh City skyline. It rises 68 stories and has a stunning observation deck cantilevered off the 49th floor. When I was looking out Andy’s window in VinaCapital’s Sun Wah Tower, it wasn’t there.
A war looms in Asia, though you won’t have heard of it. This will be a war fought for resources and strategic positioning in the global economy of tomorrow: a war for economic dominance in what is emerging as the most crucial region of the world. The challenge for us—investors—comes in knowing where to go to profit from this new war in Asia. And I know where. Burma…a country less than two years removed from a military junta that ruled, often violently, since 1962. The aging military leaders have finally released their death-grip on power and now businesses from pretty much every major country you can think of—Australia, Japan, China, Canada, Singapore, Korea, India, Great Britain, Thailand—are beginning to swarm to opportunities that exist everywhere.
“Chinese stocks have the potential to deliver triple-digit returns within 24 months,” I explained in a recent CNBC interview. That was a bold thing to say on camera… but I believe it’s absolutely possible… In fact, twice in the last decade, Chinese stocks have soared by triple digits within two years. When China goes up, it can soar… In China’s 2006-2007 bull market, Chinese stocks soared by 500%. It soared by more than 100% in its 2009 bull market as well. Importantly, Chinese stocks today are just as cheap as they were when they started their last two triple-digit runs in 2006 and 2009. They are hated, too… Investors have been avoiding them for the last year. Meanwhile, Chinese stocks are now in a definite uptrend. This is the ideal setup for big gains… So how can you trade it?
Unless the European crisis is news to you, you probably know that Greece just suffered through its own Great Depression. Its economy shrank for six years in a row. Economic output fell by a quarter. The unemployment rate is 27%. And asset prices collapsed. No wonder, then, that some of the most successful investors are in Greece picking up bargains—including Dan Loeb’s Third Point, Prem Watsa’s Fairfax Financial, Seth Klarman’s Baupost, and John Paulson’s Paulson & Co.
Sales for the 1,000 most sought after single-malt scotches have risen around 175% since 2008. That’s based on auction figures compiled by Scottish company, Whisky Highland, which track the market. In 2013, some 20,211 bottles were sold at auction, up from 5,431 in 2010.
Bram Stoker never visited Transylvania. Instead, the Irish-born novelist relied on dusty old volumes from London’s libraries and second-hand stories from Ármin Vámbéry, a Hungarian writer and traveler with whom he was well acquainted, to inspire and inform his neck-biting masterpiece, Dracula.
Romania acceded to the European Union back in 2007… just in time for the global financial crisis to bite it in the neck. GDP growth, which at a robust 6% to 7% during the previous few years had been among the highest on the continent, promptly collapsed. The economy contracted by a whopping 6.5% in 2009 and remained in the red the following year. It’s been in a state of tentative recovery ever since.
I believe we all have a bit of the “collector” gene inside of us. We gather things throughout our lives…things capable of reminding us of a good time or a pleasant memory. It’s a way of capturing the moment to be relived at some point in the future. My Dad had the “collector” gene for sure. He collected mugs, decals, spoons, coins, stamps, Emmett Kelly paintings, Boy Scout council strip patches (CSP’s), Hummel figurines…and the list goes on.
By name, you don’t likely know Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi, “Basboosa” to his friends and family. He died of hunger. He was 26. But you’ll know of the young street vendor who set himself alight in front of the governor’s office in a small Tunisian town on December 17, 2010. That morning, police harassed the impoverished fruit seller struggling to feed his family on $140 a month.
The old notion that “when America sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold” is fading. U.S. businesses and consumers no longer rule the globe. And for smart investors everywhere, the message is clear: For solid profits, you must put some wealth to work in markets beyond U.S. borders.
In Chinese script, the character for crisis is actually a construct of two symbols: one for danger and the other for opportunity. The danger is what everybody sees; the opportunity is not quite as obvious, but it’s always lurking somewhere. Late last year I visited Cyprus to search through the rubble of a crisis—one of the most significant financial meltdowns in recent history.
I found Rebekah Opuni sitting on the tailgate of a truck with her younger sister. The air conditioner inside her small boutique hadn’t been installed yet and indoors without A/C isn’t always the coolest place to relax in Accra, Ghana…in midafternoon…in midsummer…just five degrees north of the equator.
The morning rush hour spreads through the central business district of Popayán, Colombia. But the rush of activity isn’t the relatively few cars and motorbikes slipping through the narrow lanes of this well-preserved colonial city. It’s the armada of street vendors for whom these lanes serve as a showroom floor.
Europe isn’t ridiculously cheap right now. But it is a heck of a lot cheaper than wading into U.S. blue chips at current levels. It is also packed full of high-quality companies with global reach…and a lot of these businesses are going at fair prices.
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 undersea, mega-thrust earthquake became the greatest ever to hit Japan. Minutes later another unforeseen event struck: a giant tsunami.
The Burmese story is pretty simple. There’s an economy of 60 million people that were shut off from the rest of the world and now the doors have opened. But what exactly will you find if you walk through them?
Today, owning productive farmland is one of the safest ways to grow or preserve your nest egg. The case for farmland has never been stronger. Increasing populations and wealth in emerging economies is the primary driver. As people in these economies become richer, they eat more food.
There’s something strange going on in Brazil. You might call it a “schizophrenic economy.” Brazil is an economy of two halves. From the outside looking in, it’s a former star player plagued by socialist leaders with no understanding of free-market principles. But from the inside looking out, it’s a booming emerging market with record low jobless numbers, a strong currency, and high interest rates to keep the economy from overheating.
It had to happen sometime. After a decade of outperforming U.S. stocks, Brazil has started lagging behind the States. Now, I have recommended Brazil a number of times in these pages. So in true IL fashion, I hopped on a flight to São Paulo to put “boots on the ground.”
Norway is uniquely placed to protect wealth. It is outside the euro zone, has low public debt, ultra-low unemployment, and a strong and stable currency. It also has the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund…with a staggering $664 billion under management. Think of Norway as the Saudi Arabia of Europe.
Banksters…fat cats…one-percenters… there’s no shortage of put-downs for bankers these days. But not all bankers are evil. And not all banks are created equal. One bank that stands apart is Panama-headquartered Banco Latinoamericano de Comercio Exterior S.A.—or Bladex, as it is more commonly known.