Real Assets Adviser

September 1, 2021: Vol. 8, Number 8

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From the Current Issue

Why Jack Dorsey and Square paid a record $29 billion for the Afterpay fintech platform

The $29 billion that Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s digital payments company Square is paying to acquire Australian upstart payments outfit Afterpay is the biggest takeover deal in Australian corporate history. It surpasses the $23.6 billion European commercial real estate giant Unibail-Rodamco agreed to pay for Frank Lowy’s Westfield Corp. in 2017.

The home of the square deal: CEOs didn’t always believe in 40-hour workweeks or medical benefits

What does a person need do to attract 40,000 people to his or her funeral? There is a precedent for this. And, no, the person in question is not a deceased dictator from a totalitarian state with compulsory attendance by its party members or local citizenship. This is a business executive named George F. Johnson, who, in 1899, became co-owner of Endicott-Johnson Shoe Co. along with Henry B. Endicott.

Industrial’s next act: The future of warehouse lies in automation and AI

Much of commercial real estate has undergone a nearly complete reimagination over the past 18 months as the pandemic upended traditional ways of work, life and leisure. While the impacts on office and traditional retail have been devastating — with both facing uncertain paths to recovery — the clear winner among real estate’s various sectors has been industrial.

BDCs are back, and here’s why investors should care

Business development companies (BDCs) are enjoying a renaissance. Designed to lend money to private middle-market businesses, these investment vehicles are growing rapidly, taking market share from other lenders and providing investors, both institutional and individual, with the potential for returns that are above those available on traditional fixed-income products.

Roundtable: What is the biggest risk lurking in investors’ portfolios?

The growing numbers of investors buying the ever-growing list of assets that they simply don’t fully understand. Understanding one’s investments is critical to long-term returns. Generally, it also means avoiding the manias and the “easy money” investments. It means hard work, and it often means doing nothing when there is nothing to do. Most importantly, it means being “OK” with others next to you making money in areas (generally with purportedly no risk) that you know nothing about.

The evolution of access to alternatives

Over the past decade, there has been a quiet revolution in access to private capital investments for the mass affluent investor. Investment in funds designed for accredited investors has boomed. In 2009, there was less than $50 billion in assets under management (AUM) in accredited investor funds targeting alternative strategies. By the end of 2019, this figure had risen to more than $260 billion. Numerous well-established, major players in the alternatives space have entered the market, including Ares, Carlyle, KKR, Pantheon, PIMCO and, in just the past year or so, Hamilton Lane, StepStone, and Neuberger Berman.

The 401(k) business meets technology

The good news is 401(k) plans are tax-advantaged, defined-contribution retirement accounts that employers can offer to their people as a benefit — and they become even more valuable when the employers offer to match employee contributions. The bad news is the vast majority of small businesses cannot afford the cost and human resource time involved. What’s more, it represented a lost opportunity for RIAs and their advisers.

Time for a supersonic air travel renaissance, as major aviation companies bet big on the technology

Imagine boarding a plane in London’s Heathrow Airport at sunset and landing at JFK International in New York during the day. This was once possible on the Concorde, the storied supersonic transport (SST) aircraft that screeched across the Atlantic at more than twice the speed of sound, cutting travel time down from close to seven hours to around three and a half. “Arrive before you leave” was the slogan used by British Airways, one of only two carriers that flew the high-speed civilian passenger jet, the other being Air France. Between 1976 and 2003, millions of people took part in the marvel of flight so fast it punched a hole in the sky.

Rethinking emerging markets

Call it the elephant in the room: Traditional approaches to emerging markets, broad in scope both in terms of regions targeted and types of companies captured, have not worked for years. They offer flawed, overconcentrated exposures to old-economy sectors, state-owned enterprises, mismanaged corporations too often run like dysfunctional family businesses, and legacy industries that may have once offered some potential, but have long since passed their “sell by” date. While some fund managers have made improvements, such as eliminating state-owned enterprises from their portfolios, there is much more to building a future-proofed emerging-markets portfolio.

Last-mile logistics: Commercial real estate’s newest growth engine

There is a sea change afoot in the warehouse and logistics business as manufacturers and retailers alike seek to deliver their wares to customers with same-day speed and efficiency. It’s called the last mile, and it has been the talk of the supply-line business and the holy grail of modern logistics. “Last-mile logistics has become integral in every aspect of our economy and a critical component in the functionality of commercial real estate,” writes K.C. Conway, chief economist at the CCIM Institute in a sprawling report on the topic.

Profile: Nancy Fahmy, head of alternative investments and specialty asset management, Bank of America

The head of alternative investments and specialty asset management at Bank of America had trouble envisioning herself on the cover of a business or financial magazine. In fact, the notion made her uncomfortable. Spend a little time talking to Nancy Fahmy, the woman who occupies that position at the financial giant, and it isn’t hard to understand why. Let’s start with her demeanor. Fahmy is soft spoken on all subjects. She was raised by Egyptian immigrant parents who, although professionally accomplished, were models of humility and conveyed those values to their daughter, whether by indoctrination or osmosis. And when Fahmy recruits new members to her organization, humility is one of the chief characteristics for which she vets.

Multifamily rent growth hits eye-popping levels

The average U.S. multifamily asking rent increased to a record $1,482 in June, up a whopping $23 in one month. The average asking rent climbed $62, or 4.4 percent, in the second quarter alone, according to research by Yardi Matrix. Asking rents are up by more than 10 percent year-over-year in nine of the top 30 metros, led by astounding growth in Phoenix (17 percent), Tampa and Southern California's Inland Empire (each 15.1 percent), and Las Vegas (14.6 percent).

Dispatch from Miami: South Florida is hot, literally and figuratively

The Miami market is sizzling — largely as an unexpected result of the pandemic, which prompted individuals and businesses alike to migrate to the Magic City. Miami offers a diverse culture, sunny weather and no state income tax, and as COVID-related restrictions ease, the momentum in the market continues to grow.

The Lazarus Complex: Some investors like bringing dead properties back to life and are finding the rewards are more than spiritual

Some properties, like some businesses, come to the end of the line. The rents or income don’t cover the costs, and the debts mount until the day of reckoning, be it return to lender or even padlocks. But unlike many businesses that can vanish into the night, the bankrupt and foreclosed properties remain, in the very tangible form of land, buildings and connections to infrastructure.

Proof of concept: Nuclear power player strikes JV deal for demonstration reactor

Bill Gates quest to bring a safer, more advanced brand of nuclear power to the United States just got an affirmative nod from Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and the electric utility PacifiCorp. Gates, who is founder of the nuclear energy company TerraPower, has joined an agreement with PacifiCorp and the state of Wyoming to make efforts to build a Natrium reactor demonstration project at a retiring coal plant in Wyoming. The companies are evaluating several potential locations in the state.

Drought and recycling: Congress members push $750m bill to purify wastewater

The lakes, aquifers and rivers are running dry on the western front and could eventually imperil the U.S. national food supply. Wired magazine recently pointed out that Lake Mead, a reservoir that provides water for 25 million people in the American west, has shrunk to 36 percent of its capacity. One rural California community has run out of water completely after its well broke in early June. Fields are sitting fallow, and some farmers are selling their water allotments instead of growing crops, according to the report.

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