Voyageur, October-December 2020

Page 24

Where will the Investments be in 2021? Written by: Greg Beatty


he poet Robert Graves wrote of life in the trenches during WW1, “noise never stopped for one moment – ever.” This year feels a bit like that. It’s the screaming that comes across the sky in Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Vulnerabilities have been exposed by trade tensions, a highly charged political climate, and now a global pandemic. Though our circumstance falls short of war, 2020 is a cacophony of dire news headlines, Zoom meetings, and we can’t get on an airplane to escape ourselves.

on a rolling monthly basis. The relief programs are more akin to disaster relief than traditional stimulus programs. They are designed to keep business afloat and deaden the shock of unemployment.

This year can be summed up in two words: Big Disruption. We’re early in decade, but it’s already imposing change on us. Not incremental change, but transformative change. We all face the same disruption, but our reactions and solutions will be different. As we seek to pivot, it will be grave for some and a rebirth for others.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing a $1.5B loan to support Thailand’s response to the pandemic. The ADB is also supporting a pipeline of green and climate-resilient infrastructure projects, as well as other sustainable initiatives intended to eradicate extreme poverty.

In particular to Thailand, the Tourism Authority is promoting Thailand as a pandemic safe zone and the Board of Investment has unveiled a “Think Resilience, Think Thailand” campaign to showcase the country’s competencies.

Corporate Investment In all the noise, is anyone investing now, and if they are, where? We’ll highlight some areas where governments, companies and individuals are prioritizing investments and then pivot on the word investment. Investments create wealth, but they are also about believing you can control the environment around you and provide emotional well-being.

Global Economic Battlefield Raising our sights from the trenches for a treetop view, we see that large parts of the global economy have shut down: boarded storefronts, dark hotels, and empty airports. But there has been no collapse of financial systems, nor misguided fiscal policies. The economic situation is a paralysis, not a depression. People who would otherwise willingly participate in the economy, buying and selling goods and services, cannot do so simply for fear of infection and quarantine regulations. Still, it is the economic fears at all levels—national, corporate, and individual—that have become paramount to health worries. The pandemic infects, but the economic response affects.

Government Investment Large scale infrastructure projects are pushing ahead, especially where construction creates employment. Investments by governments focus on COVID-19 stimulus packages to sustain the economy 24 October-November-December 2020

Given the uncertainty, it’s only a matter of time before we see an increase of non-performing loans (NPLs). In fact, NPLs are already apparent, they’re just not recorded as such. Government subsidies and loan relief extensions from banks mask reality and extend the inevitable. A scrutinizing look at the banks’ financial statements would provide a truer picture. Venture capitalists and high net worth individuals lay in wait for corporate assets to become further distressed. In VC parlance, the best time to invest is when there is blood on the streets. Law firms are not yet seeing a flurry of mergers and acquisitions. But when the time is right, there will be more disintegrations than acquisitions. The ‘make or break’ for companies depends on business sector. Generally, IT companies are seeing a boon. For companies that sell products and services globally, the challenge is selling to countries in different stages of recovery: some have flattened the curve and are re-opening, others have increasing numbers of infections and are closing. According to Steven Bronken, a Nova Scotia native and Exec VP Marketing & Brand Management at Safely NetAccess, a technology partner to leading hotel chains and hospitals worldwide, “there is a definite interest in everything ‘contactless’ and ‘health-centric’. We’re seeing a demand for self-check-in, keyless entry and thermo related cameras. This is a dynamic shift in requirements and budgets (already weakened) are re-carved from other departments.”

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