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14 REASONS TO CONSIDER BRAZIL AS THE HOME OF YOUR NEXT PROPERTY INVESTMENT

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Even though Brazil’s hopes of being crowned the FIFA 2014 World Cup champions are dashed after a staggering defeat by Germany in the semi-finals this week, the Latin American powerhouse still boasts numerous other winning qualities.

So, as the world’s greatest football tournament draws to a close, leading developers Ritz Property pays homage to this year’s World Cup host nation and presents 14 reasons to consider Brazil as the home of your next property investment.

1)  Tourism is on the increase – and not just because of the World Cup

14 REASONS TO CONSIDER BRAZIL AS THE HOME OF YOUR NEXT PROPERTY INVESTMENT 53.7 million visitors, including 600,000 international tourists, are expected to have descended on Brazil’s 12 host cities over the course of the 2014 tournament, but the nation’s healthy tourism sector doesn’t begin and end there. The World Bank, recording data on international inbound tourists, showed that the Brazilian tourism market has been on a steady increase over the last three decades, with significant growth in the last few years. 2009 saw 4,802,000 tourists visiting Brazil rising to 5,677,000 by 2012, a noticeable increase of 18%.

The positive effects of travel and tourism on the Brazilian economy in 2014 are also echoed by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC); in the WTTC’s Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2014 – Brazil report, the total contribution of Travel & Tourism to Brazil was BRL443.7 billion, some 9.2% of GDP in 2013. This is forecast to rise by 5.2% in 2014 and by 4.1% per annum to BRL696.6 billion by 2024.

2)  Improved aviation accessibility easing travel concerns

The North East city of Natal, Brazil’s popular ‘City of the Sun’, has welcomed the development and opening of a brand new international airport, taking the old airport capacity of 2.6 million passengers annually to 6.2 million passengers in addition to cargo.

Flights taking off from the new Greater Natal International Airport, the first private airport in Brazil located in the northern growth zone of the city, are signalling a new era for the city with both the Mayor of Natal and the Governor of the State of Rio Grande do Norte, in which Natal lies, actively in discussions with airlines from southern Europe, the Middle East and USA regards expanding direct routes to the city.

3)  Employment levels are on the up

The World Cup gave an obvious boost to Brazil’s construction industry, with the building of new stadia, renovations to existing venues and improvements made to the country’s infrastructure. One million jobs have been said to be generated by the World Cup overall, according to a report issued by economic research institution Fipe on behalf of Brazil’s tourism ministry, yet this increase also forms part of a wider, longer term uplift in the Brazilian job market.

The IBGE (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística) has reported that whilst the average unemployment rate in Brazil from 2001 to 2014 was 8.65%, this figure has fallen from 5% in March 2014 to an encouraging 4.9% as of April.

4)  A country of natural wonders

From breathtakingly unspoiled beaches of white sands and azure waters in the North East, to the magnificent Iguaçu Falls and the mighty Amazon jungle, representing over half of the world’s remaining rainforest with unparalleled biodiversity, Brazil is a treasure-trove of natural wonders which draws visitors year-in year-out.

Brazil is also famous for the samba rhythms that beat at its heart and the accompanying carnival, bright with colours and eye-popping attire, alive with excitement and energy, the largest taking place each year in Rio de Janeiro in February / March.

5)  An unbeatable climate

The climate of this expansive South American country varies, rather widely, from region to region but is characterised overall by a tropical climate of often high temperatures and long days of sunshine. Perfect for attracting tourists year round.

Over 60% of Brazil’s population live in locations tempered by sea winds, altitude or polar fronts, making coastal regions popular for visitors and locals alike, and in turn investment.

6)  Economic buoyancy

The economic report released by Fipe and commissioned by Brazil’s tourism ministry, claimed that the 2014 World Cup will add 30 billion reals or $13.4 billion to the country’s economy, with Vicente Neto, Head of Embratur, Brazil’s official tourism promotion agency, stating, “It is an extraordinary human legacy”.

In a wider sense, Brazil’s economy is reaping the rewards of a successful tourism industry, in the long term as well as immediately. The WTTC Travel & Tourism Economic Impact Report for Brazil is anticipating a rise of 3% in the direct contribution of Travel and Tourism to Brazil’s economy in 2014, and predicting an even greater average annual increase of 3.9% in the coming decade to 2024.

7)  Stable currency

This month Brazil celebrates 20 years of the introduction of the real. This inflation busting currency marked a true watershed moment in Brazil’s economic history and played an important role in poverty reduction according to many.

Whilst hyperinflation is no longer an issue, President Dilma Rouseff and her Party are working towards the Central Bank’s inflation target of 4.5% (current levels are 6%) and investors can invest with confidence in a far more stable economy.

8)  The doors are open to foreign direct investment

Some countries are easier than others for foreign investors to enter but Brazil has for some years recognised the importance of foreign direct investment (FDI) to the economic future of the nation. The latest data from the ECLAC report reveals that FDI into Latin America reached $185 billion in 2013 continuing the upward trend seen in the last 3 years.

Brazil retained its number one position accounting for over one third, $64 billion, of all regional FDI. Indeed the UKTI has pledged, as part of British Chancellor’s next Budget, a further £2 million a year to increase its presence in Latin America to mirror the successful expansion strategy it has pursued in China. And at a regional level, Carlos Eduardo Nunes Alves, the Mayor of Natal, at a private meeting with Ritz Property only last month, stated that FDI is “extremely important” and that the city “has vast potential to grow and treasures investments from partner companies in Natal”.

9)  A rising middle class

Indeed the progressive attitudes of the Brazilian nation filter down from the very top to ordinary people. The middle classes have seen vast expansion with data from Savills revealing growth of 40 million people from 2005 to 2011, with Cetelem BGN and Ipsos Social Research Institute showing that 34% of the population were classified middle class in 2004, a figure that had leapt to 54% by 2011.

This goes hand in hand with a poverty reduction programme that has resulted in a rise of 9% in average Brazilian incomes in the decade to 2012. These figures not only provide added reassurance for a growing economy but also indicate a growing consumer market with greater demands for housing, spelling good news for property investors.

10)  An emerging property market with real potential

14 REASONS TO CONSIDER BRAZIL AS THE HOME OF YOUR NEXT PROPERTY INVESTMENT 6Increased individual wealth, access to mortgage finance and declining interest rates have been massive triggers in the boom of Brazil’s property market in recent years. Whilst there may be some concerns that the top of the market may have been reached in certain super-prime districts of Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo, Brazil is a vast country covering some 8,500,000 km2 and opportunities still abound elsewhere.

Nationally the market is stable with Brazil’s composite FIPEZAP house price index rising by 12.7% during 2013 from a year earlier and by 3.5% in Q4 2013 from the previous quarter according to the Global Property Guide. Regionally the North East city of Natal and its 800,000 and growing population is tipped as a property investment hot spot due to the high demand for quality accommodation, affordable entry points (from R$411,488 / £111,000 for a 2 bedroom western style apartment at Ritz Property’s Costa Azuldevelopment) and capital appreciation levels forecast to be strong.

11)  A healthy rental market

There is no doubt that the presence of the World Cup has had a positive impact on the rental markets of the 12 host cities. Local real estate agents in Rio de Janeiro for example are reported to have rented out luxury residences for hundreds of thousands of dollars with the average rental cost in the city rising by 144% in the last 5 years driven by this year’s sporting event and the 2016 Olympic Games.

Savills recently claimed that Brazil’s property market, unlike many other emerging economies growing at a fast pace, does not look overheated, meaning that there is still room for growth and, in turn, investment opportunity. The buy-to-let market is on the up, with figures for Rio de Janeiro recognising an increase of 5.1% in residential yields and 8.5% in commercial yields (according to Savills’ ‘12 Cities Real Estate Costs of Living and Working Around the World’ report).

12)  Impressive hotel occupancy rates provide opportunity

Looking to another accommodation sector, high occupancy rates for key hotels during the World Cup were to be expected, but Vicente Neto from Embratur revealed that the ‘World Cup effect’ was greater than anticipated for the 12 host cities. Hotel occupancy rates were 45% higher than expected, a rate in line with travel website Trivago.co.uk which revealed that searches for Brazilian hotels during the tournament were up an incredible 387%.

Interestingly, while hotel searches by UK travellers related to the football were up by 344%, they were still up an impressive 19% this year in general terms. This increased interest in hotel stays in Brazil offers opportunities for those looking to capitalise on this lucrative asset class by buying into a hotel project such as the new Mercure Natal or soon to be refurbished Piramide Hotel both located in prime Natal sites and available from Ritz Property.

13)  Growth in demand for branded hotels

Having a brand name associated with a hotel always offers added reassurance for guests and investor’s alike but in Brazil, this is even more apparent.Lauro Ferroni, VP of research for Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, explains that this is because they are simply fewer,

“In the U.S., there is one brand-affiliated hotel room for every 100 residents. In Brazil, the ratio offers a stark difference, with one branded hotel room for every 2,800 residents. This highlights just how much room there is for the establishment of branded hotel supply in Brazil.”

Natal’s hotel market is already bigger than other cities within the North East such as Recife or Fortaleza with some 27,000 at present and more in the pipeline, such as the Mercure Natal from Ritz Property. Indeed the imminent presence of one of the world’s largest hotel chains in Natal is also most welcome by the Mayor of Natal, Carlos Eduardo Nunes Alves.

14)  The future is bright as Rio de Janeiro to host 2016 Summer Olympics

One of the key features of the FIFA World Cup, as expressed exclusively to Ritz Property by both the Mayor of Natal and the Governor of Rio Grande do Norte, Rosalba Ciarlini, is legacy. Ensuring that Brazil capitalises on its achievements for this sporting tournament for future benefit is a priority.

Looking ahead, the future is bright for Brazil as Rio de Janeiro, currently the only city to be designated as a World Heritage Site owing to its ‘Cultural Landscape’, has been chosen as host of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

Like with the World Cup, spending on facilities and infrastructure is set to be impressive with an estimated R$1 billion expected to be spent in the city owing to the Games, alongside around R$30 billion injected into the Brazilian economy overall (according to FIPE).

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COVID-19 creates long and winding road for startups seeking investment

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COVID-19 creates long and winding road for startups seeking investment 7

By Jayne Chan, Head of StartmeupHK, Invest Hong Kong

Countless technology and other companies describe themselves as innovators, disruptors or game changers, or maybe all three, and sometimes that’s true. But none have had quite the disruptive force of COVID-19 which has flipped work and life habits upside down and sucked so much oxygen out of the global economy. The impact will be lasting: many of those new habits are here to stay.

Yet, while a recalibration of lifestyles and business processes is perhaps overdue – and to be embraced given it’s happening anyway – the change presents huge challenges for startups and new businesses that were on a growth trajectory prior to the pandemic. Few would deny that opportunities exist amid the disruption, but the challenge right now is to survive the crisis intact.

The global economy this year will see its biggest contraction in decades. The World Bank projects global gross domestic product to fall by 5.2% this year,[1] with advanced economies shrinking 7% and emerging economies 2.5%. It forecast East Asia and the Pacific to grow just 0.5% this year, down from 5.9% last year. These forecasts assume the markets will return to somewhere near normality during the second half of the year.

Despite all the economic murk and gloom, there are signs that a post-COVID bounce is likely. The World Bank predicts economic growth of 6.6% in East Asia and the Pacific in 2021.

Some business sectors fare better

Looking around, it’s reasonable to anticipate a relatively speedy recovery. In a few business sectors, such as healthcare and telemedicine, e-commerce, fintech, home delivery and food retail sectors, there are companies that have fared better. In some instances, the situation has been transformational in a positive way.

In fintech, for example, global investment actually rose year-on-year in the first half of 2020, according to Accenture,[2] up 3.8% to US$23.1 billion from US$22.3 billion, albeit with the help of COVID-related government loans in some markets. Asia-Pacific saw a sharp rise driven by China and Australia. In the first half, China’s fintech market grew 177% year-on-year to US$2.3 billion, while Australia’s grew 189% to US$1.2 billion.

Resilience is clear to see, but businesses face huge challenges. From a startup perspective, within weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, many companies went from being solid-growth enterprises, possibly looking to raise money, to ones simply trying to stay afloat.

Debtor books have grown massively as companies stop cash going out the door. Many well-run companies have customers who may not be cancelling, but they are also not paying as fast. For such companies, it becomes a cash issue rather than a fundamental underlying business one. The reality is that businesses are ensuring that every penny going out the door absolutely needs to – so payment terms get stretched. It’s understandable, but it’s problematic if everyone does it.

For startups seeking to work their way onto the fundraising ladder, the process typically starts with an initial pre-seed and/or seed round, which then moves on to Series A to B, C and onwards as needed. The funds usually come from angel investors, accelerators or venture capital firms, in return for an equity stake. Even at the best of times, pitching to get on the first rung of the ladder is perhaps the greatest challenge.

Bar for investment higher as company valuations drop

Advice for many prospects looking at fundraising, certainly during the first wave of COVID-19, was to do nothing except focus on survival. For investors, a business that weaves and navigates its way through the crisis, or even take advantage of the pandemic environment to flourish, is likely to resonate.

Even for those companies that have fared better in recent months, barring an utterly compelling reason to raise funds, now may not be the ideal time. It’s clear that the bar for investment has gone up and company valuations have come down, neither of which is a surprise given higher risk profiles at present.

For companies that are well known to investors, such as Grab, Lu.com, Airwallex or WeLab, fundraising is more manageable. And for slightly smaller but relatively new companies, there are plenty of examples of recent success attracting fresh investment, often through existing investors.

Jayne Chan

Jayne Chan

But for smaller, newer companies, not being able to do face-to-face pitches creates much more of a challenge – after all, most funds like a boots-on-the-ground physical interaction before putting money in, particularly if the sums are large.

Despite all that, for new businesses planning to seek funds down the line, there is no harm warming up investors. Having the right conversations now makes sense and would help a startup to hit the ground running when the pandemic abates. The conversations should include ones with government funding organisations. For an investor, matching government funding is attractive because of the higher startup success rate.

Pandemic drives consumers and businesses online

Thanks to the pandemic, people are now far more willing to go online for all manner of transactions. Working remotely from the office is now commonplace, with work hours more flexible.

This trend among consumers, healthcare professionals and office workers has become more entrenched – more retailers are going online, while companies rethink their office space needs. This extends to investors, many of whom initially sat on their hands expecting COVID-19 to quickly pass by. They quickly adapted when it became clear coronavirus was going nowhere fast.

Quantitative easing and low interest rate policies by central banks, along with a boom driven by the lockdown – appetite for online entertainment, financial services, communications, healthcare, shopping, etc. – spurred fresh demand for tech products, pushing share prices rising to record highs. This created an attractive environment for investors to seek fresh investment opportunities.

A consequence of widespread digitalisation is that software, e-commerce and, more broadly, digital startups have an advantage in the competition for funding. An ability to do business both face-to-face and remotely makes such businesses less vulnerable to other trade pitfalls and therefore more attractive for investors.

Conversely, it’s harder for hardware startups at a time when global trade is weakening. They have to consider whether production costs and the markets they promote will be affected by such issues as tariffs or people flow. This type of startup is likely to have access to fewer financing opportunities.

It may seem obvious, but it’s of paramount importance for startups seeking funding to be clear about what they are looking for from investors. Are they simply injecting capital as a passive investment hoping for a return, or are they looking to create synergies to help develop the business? Startups should consider what resources investors can bring to the business besides capital.

These are testing times. However, founders of startups need to stay positive and true to their mission and vision, and why they started the companies in the first place. After all, that’s their value proposition.

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COVID-19 and PCL property – a market on the rise?

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COVID-19 and PCL property – a market on the rise? 8

By Alpa Bhakta, CEO of Butterfield Mortgages Limited

Over the last five years, demand for prime central London (PCL) property has been fairly inconsistent. Sudden peaks in interest from buyers could be followed by periods of stagnate price growth. Nonetheless, the advantages of PCL property investment, particularly by international investors, has remained well known.

Well-funded development and neighbourhood re-generation schemes, alongside an influx of overseas investment, has resulted in a vibrant market with a diverse range of opportunities for prospective buyers.

Nonetheless, the PCL market has not been immune to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first half of the year, the lockdown meant physical valuations and onsite inspections could not take place. People in the UK were also discouraged from moving properties unless they found themselves in extreme circumstances.

However, as we now enter the final weeks of 2020, I believe there’re plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future prospects of the PCL property market. Buyer demand has resulted in a new wave of activity, and this is resulting in significant house price growth. Indeed, it was recently revealed by Halifax that the average rate of house price growth in November was at a four-year high.

Obviously, there are multiple factors that have helped sustain this strong level of house price growth. Most notably, the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) holiday has succeeded in coaxing buyers back to the property market––be they seasoned buy-to-let (BTL) investors or first-time buyers––by offering up to £15,000 in tax savings on any given property purchase.

However, it’s worth considering the other factors underway in London’s property market. With the UK in a second national lockdown, many investors will be keen on hedging against future COVID-imbued market uncertainty through acquiring safe-haven assets like British property. As you’ll read below, this is having a positive impact on the PCL market.

Investors are flocking to PCL opportunities

The PCL property market has managed to be one of the most active areas of the UK’s real estate market during the whole of 2020. When discussing why this is so, we must first begin by understanding the behaviours of overseas buyers.

Given that international investors represented over half (55%) of all the PCL property purchases recorded in the second half of 2019, anything to further incentivise or dissuade such foreign actors would hugely impact PCL property transaction figures.

Earlier in the year, alongside the announcement of the aforementioned SDLT holiday, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak indeed announced that he would be implementing 2% SDLT surcharge for non-UK based buyers of British property from April 2021 onwards.

So, for those seeking properties worth over £5 million in the UK capital, a 2% additional cost may represent a substantial amount of wealth. To avoid this, many overseas buyers who may have been contemplating a PCL property acquisition have rushed to buy such properties before this surcharge is applicable. This trend will undoubtedly continue until 1 April, 2021.

Remote working and PCL

On the topic of the PCL market’s future, many property speculators were concerned earlier this year that London’s property market would potentially collapse entirely as a result of remote working. With homeworking set to remain the norm for the foreseeable future, commentators predicted that professionals would escape the capital en-masse in favour of roomier, cheaper properties farther from their London employer’s offices.

While there have been some signs of shifting demand from urban London neighbourhoods to suburban ones, according to Rightmove statistics, there has been no recordable effect on the UK’s property market as a result.

Conversely, property specialists Savills have actually discovered that over half of all transactions including properties worth more than £5 million in the UK this year were all located in just five central London postcodes.

A busy few months

Given the performance of the PCL property sector in 2020, I only foresee this market growing stronger and stronger in the years ahead. Recent developments in the production of COVID-19 vaccine have many hoping that we may return to normality by Spring 2021, which would represent fantastic news for those involved in bricks and mortar, should it transpire.

In the coming months, I anticipate a surge in activity across the PCL market as buyers look to take advantage of the tax breaks on offer. As such, it will be important that these buyers have access to the financing needed to complete these transactions quickly. If not, there is a risk any purchase they attempt might be concluded in April 2021 when the current tax breaks in place are removed.

Overall, I cannot help but be impressed by the performance of the property market more generally during the pandemic. Having experienced slow growth in the years following the EU referendum in June 2016, it is clear that buyers are eager to take advantage of the opportunities on offer. This is particularly true when it comes to PCL property.

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An outlook on equities and bonds

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An outlook on equities and bonds 9

By Rupert Thompson, Chief Investment Officer at Kingswood

The equity market rally paused last week with global equities little changed in local currency terms. Even so, this still leaves markets up a hefty 10% so far this month with UK equities gaining as much as 14%.

The November rally started with the US election results but gathered momentum with the recent very encouraging vaccine news. This continued today with the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine proving to be up to 90% effective in preventing Covid infections. This is slightly below the 95% efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines already reported but this one has the advantage of not needing to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures. One or more of these vaccines now looks very likely to start being rolled out within a few weeks.

Of course, these vaccines will do little to halt the current surge in infections. Cases may now be starting to moderate in the UK and some countries in Europe but the trend remains sharply upwards in the US. The damage lockdowns are doing to the recovery was highlighted today with the news that business confidence in the UK and Europe fell back into recessionary territory in November.

Markets, however, are likely to continue to look through this weakness to the prospect of a strong global recovery next year. While equities may have little additional upside near term, they should see further significant gains next year. Their current high valuations should be supported by the very low level of interest rates, leaving a rebound in earnings to drive markets higher.

Prospective returns over the coming year look markedly higher for equities than for bonds, where return prospects are very limited. As for the downside risks for equities, they appear much reduced with the recent vaccine news and central banks making it clear they are still intent on doing all they can to support growth.

Both factors mean we have taken the decision to increase our equity exposure. While our portfolios already have significant allocations to equities and have benefited from the rally in recent months, we are now moving our allocations into line with the levels we would expect to hold over the long term.

Our new equity allocations will be focused on the ‘value’ areas of the market. The last few weeks have seen a significant rotation out of expensive high ‘growth’ sectors such as technology into cheaper and more cyclical areas such as financials, materials and industrials. Similarly, countries and regions, such as the UK which look particularly cheap, have fared well just recently.

We think this rotation has further to run and will be adding to our UK exposure. This does not mean we have suddenly become converts to Boris’s rose-tinted post-Brexit view of the UK’s economic prospects. Instead, this more favourable backdrop for cheap markets is likely to favour the UK.

We will also be adding to US equities. Again, this does not represent a change in our longstanding caution on the US market overall due to its high valuation. Rather, we will be investing in the cheaper areas of the US which have significant catch-up potential.

We are also making a change to our Asia ex Japan equity holdings. We will be focusing some of this exposure on China which we believe deserves a specific allocation due to the strong performance of late of that economy and the sheer size of the Chinese equity market.

On the fixed income side, we will be reducing our allocation to short maturity high quality UK corporate bonds, where return prospects look particularly limited. We are also taking the opportunity to add an allocation to inflation-linked bonds in our lower risk, fixed income heavy, portfolios. These have little protection against a rise in inflation unlike our higher risk portfolios, which are protected through their equity holdings.

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