Real Assets Adviser

September 1, 2022: Vol. 9, Number 8

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From the Current Issue

Private equity by the numbers

It can sound like an understatement to simply call the private equity channel “hot.” By estimate of The Economist, private equity managers handle $10 trillion in assets, a sum that has quadrupled in less than 15 years. Private equity funds raised an all-time record $940 billion in 2021, reported Wall Street law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. With that cash infusion, and returns from earlier investments, private equity titans are seated atop a pile of $2.3 trillion in cash as they enter 2022.

Report: The COVID-19 recession least damaging of all office sector busts over past 50 years

A two-year onslaught of gloomy, sometimes hyperbolic headlines about the future of office and cities could give casual observers the impression that urban areas are on a course to become post-apocalyptic ghost towns, with property values in steep decline. The pandemic has spurred existential dread about the office sector, with fierce debate over how remote working will impact office demand, property values and the economic viability of urban city centers.

Q&A: The crisis faced by insurance carriers in the era of extreme weather events

Global economic losses from natural catastrophes such as floods, hurricanes and wildfires reached $270 billion in 2021, according to an annual report published by reinsurance giant Swiss Re. Though less than half of those losses ($111 billion) were actually insured, the figure equaled the fourth-largest payout since the Swiss Re Institute, the insurer’s research arm, began keeping records in 1970.

Profile: Evan Roth, co-founder and co-CEO of BBR Partners

Never invest in anything that eats. That bit of financial advice sounds unorthodox until you learn it comes from the mouth of Evan Roth, co-founder and co-CEO of BBR Partners, a boutique wealth management firm that deals strictly with ultra-high-net-worth families, those with investable assets of $30 million or more. In other words, people with enough disposable income to invest in horses, animals whose care and feeding can become a fiscal sinkhole. Roth advises against such extravagances. He is well-acquainted with the instinct of coveting thoroughbreds, given that he is a native son of the Bluegrass State of Kentucky. Never mind that he’s been a New Yorker for many years; you cannot take the Bluegrass out of this man.

Offshore wind progress signals new era for U.S. renewable energy

The urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and transition to cleaner sources of energy is evidenced by the scientific community daily, most recently with news that the level of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere reached its highest levels ever recorded. Fortunately, we already have a sustainable tool to protect the oceans and achieve a cleaner energy future: offshore wind.

Acres of risk: The most viable option for investors might be to reduce their California ag exposure

California agriculture — a reliable and star performer for institutional capital over the past 20 years — is facing a number of significant, acute and persistent challenges due to climate change. Investors are at risk of more than just lower returns on those assets; there is even potential for capital impairment of their ample and growing farmland portfolios thanks to its impacts. Investors must look with a new lens at the geographies to which they allocate capital and should be actively pursuing more secure acquisitions in places other than the San Joaquin Valley.

The big footprint for the move to green energy: Acreage the size of Kentucky is needed

The United States’ drive to transition its economy to run on 100 percent renewable energy has made impressive strides. Since 2010, the share of U.S. power that is generated from renewable sources has more than doubled to 18 percent of all electricity consumption. Fueled by technological advances, that pace of expansion is likely to continue. The cost of solar and wind power generation is now cheaper than fossil fuels, even more so in a $6-per-gallon environment. Also supporting expansion of renewables are the climate-friendly values of large swaths of the investment community, the power industry, and individual consumers, all of whom are voting with their wallets.

Growth is in the air: Airbus reports double the number of aircraft needed by 2041

The world will need to more than double the number of passenger and freighter aircraft by 2041 to meet demand, according to the latest outlook from Airbus. The giant European aerospace company says that nearly 47,000 aircraft will be in service by 2041, up about 105 percent from the 22,880 aircraft that were in service at the beginning of 2020.

Profiting from the U.S. housing shortage

A crisis-level affordable housing problem exists on both the homeowner and rental sides of the market. The          average contract interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has roughly doubled over the past year, and the median home value in the United States is 19.8 percent higher than it was a year ago, according to data from Zillow. Assuming a 20 percent down payment (which itself is another part of the affordability crisis), the monthly principal and interest payment on the median U.S. home has gone from $997 to $1,699 in just one year — and that’s before factoring in taxes and insurance, which tend to increase along with home values.

Risk and opportunities: Investors who focus on ground-up real estate stand to capitalize on long-standing trends

In periods of uncertainty, wealth managers tend to advise investors to increase their share of hard assets such as real estate, which, because of deep capital sources available to support them, can typically withstand volatility. But all real estate isn’t created equal. In recent years, the tight labor market and low interest rates widely fueled a surge in real estate valuations. While this exuberance has begun to cool, the fundamental drivers supporting valuations and exacerbating the housing shortage in certain markets remain unchanged. In these cases, ground-up real estate can be attractive, though this is often an underserved portion of an investor’s portfolio.

A setback for nuclear power: Study finds small modular reactors are problematic

Just when it looked as though nuclear energy revival was gaining significant support, research by Stanford and the University of British Columbia has found that small modular reactors — which have been touted as the future of nuclear power — generate more radioactive waste than conventional nuke plants. Add to that estimates that new modular plants could cost tens of billions of dollars, and you can almost hear the energy running out of the atom.

Talking Points: Quotations from people in the news

Robert Carruthers, acting CEO of the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia: “Automation hasn’t led to the doomsday scenario of mass layoffs. In fact, it’s created a new roles that didn’t exist before automation.”

The era of digital wallets

For members of a certain generation, the expression “digital wallet” is an oxymoron, transforming reassuringly cold, hard cash into the uncertain and possibly vaporous virtual world. And, in fact, the term digital wallet is a bit of misnomer, generally referring to an “app,” or downloaded online application, that is accessed through that new ubiquity of the modern age, the smartphone. Thus, digital wallets are also dubbed “mobile wallets” or “e-wallets.”

Debunking mobile-home stereotypes could make them a new face of affordable housing

When you hear the words “trailer park” or “mobile home park,” what comes to mind? Crime? Poverty? Vulnerability to natural disasters? These negative images reflect the stigma, reinforced by popular culture, that many U.S. residents assign to manufactured home parks — the official name for these dwellings under federal standards adopted in 1976.

The bull market in commodities

Consider the comparison between the Goldman Sachs commodity index versus the level of the U.S. stock market, as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Although the Goldman Sachs commodity index was only constructed in 1971, we reconstructed it going all the way back to 1900. The upshot: Commodities and financial equities have both traded in long cycles that are usually inversely related.

Winter is coming and investors should prepare for both the best and worst

It has been nearly 14 years since the collapse of Lehman Bros. on Sept. 15, 2008. In response, total returns posted by the NCREIF Fund Index – Open End Diversified Core Equity (ODCE) declined 10 percent in 2008 and another 29.7 percent in 2009. Ever since, ODCE has posted positive returns for 12 consecutive years (including the first few quarters of 2022). Seven of these years posted double-digit returns, with total returns ranging between a low of 7.62 percent in 2017 and a high of 22.18 percent in 2021.

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