Real Assets Adviser

October 1, 2018: Vol. 5, Number 9

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From the Current Issue

Q&A: An update on infrastructure — where it stands today and where private investment and advanced technologies promise to take it tomorrow

One of the major proponents of infrastructure development is Norm Anderson, CEO of CG/LA Infrastructure, an organization that, among other services, compiles annual lists of the top infrastructure projects on various continents, and hosts the project developers at their Leadership Forum events. Anderson agreed to be interviewed by Real Assets Adviser editor Mike Consol to discuss what he considers some of the most interesting projects currently in the works, the role private investment is playing, and the long-term role technology is destined to play in the space. The following is excerpted from the podcast interview Anderson recently did with the magazine.

Farm to smartphone to market: Technology as a new weapon against food waste and hunger

Worldwide, 570 million farmers and millions of agribusinesses, traders and retailers supply 7.6 billion people with food. Digital solutions will dramatically reduce time, costs and waste in today’s highly complex food supply chains. This explains why data-driven logistic firms like Amazon or Alibaba have moved into food distribution. This trend is likely to continue, perhaps even gather pace.

A place to live: China and India are rental-housing powerhouses in the making

The curtain is about to rise on China and India as rental-housing powerhouses. At present, the world’s largest securitized housing sector is in the United States, where REITs encompassing multifamily, manufactured homes and single-family dwellings sport a market cap of more than $145 billion. Japan’s housing REITs are next, with $24 billion.

Blowing in the wind: U.S. offshore wind energy market to hit $60b by 2024

The U.S. offshore wind energy market is predicted to be valued at $60 billion by 2024, according to a Global Market Insights report. Growing attention to curb the GHG emissions by shifting inclination toward renewable power generation will boost the industry dynamics. Furthermore, favorable government reforms and monetary support to capitalize the regional offshore potential will further enhance the business growth.

Turning trash to energy: Waste-to-energy plants have a compelling value proposition, but investors must beware of many risk factors, including their high construction and operation costs and changing government regulations

The world’s insatiable appetite to consume has two primary consequences — increasing energy needs and mounting waste. This begs the question: Is waste-to-energy technology the answer? Given recent technological advancements, increasing recognition of the benefits of turning waste into energy is now occurring on a more global scale. The uptake of this technology in other countries, including Australia, has been rather unenthusiastic; however, a recent decision from China to stop importing recyclable material may prove to be the catalyst for Australia to embrace this technology.

The opportunity for investors: Making commitments to private infrastructure funds

Historical underinvestment in infrastructure, accompanied by a diminished role of government, is leading to increased reliance on the private sector. This is being addressed through privatization and the outsourcing of new projects. Regulatory and structural changes in North America, the United Kingdom, Western Europe and Australia are further catalyzing this change. This has led to a convergence of public- and private-sector financing and operational participation in infrastructure businesses.

Blackstone’s billions: The red-hot private equity firm is dominating the space

Although Blackstone Group is one of the newest players in the nontraded REIT space, the firm continues to outpace every one of its peers. Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust has raised $3.1 billion of equity capital since its launch in 2016. That is just less than one-third of all equity raised by the entire industry. It has also been the most active in terms of investing its capital; the company has $7.4 billion of assets that it funded with $5.6 billion of debt.

Private vs. public real estate: Not all real estate is created equal, and new structures have made private real estate more accessible to individual investors

Institutional investors have historically benefited by investing in privately owned commercial real estate. Compared with publicly traded real estate, these benefits may include superior income returns, diversification and strong overall risk-adjusted returns. Owning private commercial real estate means investing in individual properties or through a pooled investment vehicle that is open to individual investors but is not listed on a stock exchange.

The bond market’s message: Rising interest rates have reminded investors they can also lose money in bonds, the ‘safe’ part of their portfolios

Many investors were raging bulls at the beginning of 2018, as equity prices vaulted higher. But that optimism faded dramatically as the news flow turned less favorable. Thus far in 2018, what is clear is certain assumptions and patterns that governed markets in recent years have shifted. Equity volatility, which was remarkably low in 2017, has returned, perhaps due to greater uncertainty about inflation, the economy and geopolitics. Rising interest rates mean the yield on 1-Year Treasuries (2.4 percent) is higher than the dividend yield on the S&P 500 Index (1.8 percent) for the first time in years, creating some competition for the stock market (different asset classes react differently to significant changes in interest rates).

Far horizons: Kathy Fisher, head of wealth and investment strategies at Bernstein Private Wealth Management, is a proponent of long-term allocations and structuring portfolios to stand the elongating test of time

Ask Kathy Fisher to identify the greatest risk faced by investors, and she is likely to reference actuarial tables that suggest a child born today stands a good chance of living to age 100 or longer. She points out government protections for aging populations were created at a time when people would retire at 62 and die at 67. With lifespans now expected to routinely hit the century mark, a young person who plans to stops working at 65 is going to need a retirement portfolio that provides sustenance for another 30 or 40 years.

The grayest of matters: Optimizing your team’s performance can be costly

The only sustainable advantage of any knowledge-based company is the quality and ingenuity of its personnel. That has become business catechism for good reason, because it’s so blatantly true. If hiring the best people is issue No. 1, than issue No. 2 is to get those people to perform at their optimum. What is optimal performance worth to your organization? What would you be willing to pay per employee to help ensure they are working at the acme of their skill level?

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