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Five insights in five minutes

Five in Five: Metaverse, China, France election, EM Debt, Twitter
29. Apr 2022


    Gamers buying customised outfits and bling for their virtual selves has morphed into a lucrative fashion industry. The first ‘Metaverse Fashion Week’ was launched last month with more than 100,000 attendees experiencing virtual runway shows by high fashion houses such as Dolce & Gabanna. For such brands the opportunity is worth the investment – D&G sold digital clobber with a total price tag of six million dollars in an auction late last year. Likewise, Nike has flogged USD10m worth of ‘cryptokicks’ since this week’s launch of 20,000 NFT sneakers going for up to USD9,000 each. At least that’s one way to tackle today’s manufacturing and supply chain bottlenecks! Seriously though, Gen Zers play video games for more than seven hours per week on average, and as you can see below, gaming growth is being heavily driven by augmented and virtual reality applications. Indeed, the total metaverse market opportunity is projected to be USD800 billion by 2024. With potential winners expansive, stock selection (in the real world) becomes increasingly important as a way to capture the investment potential.

    Conversation starter for… metaverse funds, thematic funds


    China equities

    Lockdowns, stock rout, doomsday prophets. Déjà vu? Burdened by the Omicron spread, the MSCI China index was already on the slide in the first half of April before plunging a tenth more after a 25 basis point reserve ratio cut was perceived as inadequate by the market – although the full percentage point cut of the reserve ratio for foreign currency deposits announced afterwards did lead to a slight rebound. Sort of feels like the 2020 investors went through in developed equities, doesn’t it? A quantitative easing-fuelled rally would be nice, however back on planet earth there are other ways to out-manoeuver the ructions in Chinese stocks. For example, energy has played very good defence throughout 2022, up by 14 per cent, as can be seen below. Meanwhile, a depreciating yuan should help exporters. Another play is low volatility-factor names, which have displayed a 50 per cent negative correlation with the market factor (index return minus the risk free rate) since 2006. It’s déjà vu all over again when it comes to the benefits of active management.

    Conversation starter for… Chinese equities, Chinese bonds

    China equities  

    French president

    Emmanuel Macron's re-election last Sunday didn’t have much of an impact on markets. Even the spread between French and German ten-year government bond yields – a typical measure for French political risks – is still oscillating around 50 basis points, barely above the average since February. It’s reasonably safe to say therefore, that the result of the election was anticipated and priced in by investors. That is not to say it doesn’t matter. France is the second largest economy in Europe, and victory by a euro-enthusiast removes some uncertainty around the block’s stability and ambition over the months and years to come. The result should also be reassuring news for investors. Even with Ukraine only an 18-hour drive from Paris, pro-business Macron gives reason to have a second look at a regional equity market that offers compelling valuations to counter the risks. As can be seen in the chart below, earning yields in Europe are currently 1.6 per cent higher than their ten-year average while prices relative to ebitda are back in line for the first time since the pandemic.

    Conversation starter for… European equities

    French president  

    EM local debt

    In its latest Global Financial Stability Report, the International Monetary Fund brings attention to the risk associated with the increased share of emerging market government debt held by foreign institutions. To summarise, the worry is these investors can amplify shocks in times of market turmoil – which would impact local banks who are also exposed to these assets and, ultimately, threaten domestic financial systems. Why are foreign investors holding so much emerging market debt? Diversification for one. But the asset class is also demonstrating impressive resilience given higher US interest rates and a rampant dollar. So far this year global aggregate indices and treasuries have lost between seven and eight per cent of their value. The decline in emerging market local debt over the same period is half as much. And thanks to aggressive policy tightening by many emerging market central banks, real bond yield differentials against their American peers are at the top of their historical range (see chart below). At current valuations, emerging market bonds (and currencies) may continue to attract investors, however remember that a mixed bag of political regimes in the universe means that being selective is key.

    Conversation starter for… EM debt

    EM local debt  


    It’s the week’s biggest story, but we cannot opine on individual stocks. Perhaps an opportunity then, to learn a simple technique that equity investors can use when one of their holdings is bid for, or when a company they own buys another. Should you keep your shares or bail out? First calculate the premium paid in market capitalisation terms. That’s the deal value minus the market cap before any rumour or activity was detected in markets. For Twitter, that was just before Elon’s nine percent stake was revealed – so the premium is about USD14 billion. Usually an acquirer would also announce the synergies expected. These should be taxed, and a multiple applied (say a conservative ten times) to arrive at a current value. If this number exceeds the premium the deal is attractive to the bidder and the target should haggle higher. If beneath then shareholders in the acquirer should complain, but those owning the target should take the money and run. In Elon’s case, there are no synergies, so the deal only makes financial sense if the entire market had mispriced Twitter’s prospects. Who knows? All we can say is that’s a cheaper claim to make than it was, as per the chart below.

    Conversation starter for… equity funds, private equity


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