By Martin Soderberg, Partner, SPEAR Capital
The Scottish Widows Fund recently announced that it will dump £440m of company holdings that fail its Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) tests. Being one of the most far-reaching exclusions policies adopted by a major UK pensions provider to date, it’s important to take note of this action.
And as pension funds and asset managers across the world face increasing pressure to protect client portfolios from the risks of climate change, others will follow. Even as ESG becomes an imperative, however, fund managers will still be expected to provide solid returns to investors. That may become increasingly difficult, especially as some commentators suggest that ESG investing risks becoming another stock bubble.
Even if that turns out to be true, however, there are still real opportunities in the ESG arena, especially for funds willing to look at the Private Equity space and to Africa in particular.
High compliance standards
Given the kind of Africa-centric stories that typically reach Western audiences, that might seem like a surprising statement. How can countries grappling with corruption and wide-scale poverty offer solid ESG opportunities? Surely the best ESG opportunities are to be found in developed markets where more widespread access to technology and societal pressure have led to companies embracing it is a philosophy?
In actual fact, the situation is somewhat more complex. According to the 2019 Morningstar Sustainability Atlas, for example, companies in South Africa have levels of ESG compliance on par with those in Italy, Belgium, and Australia. Africa’s most developed economy fares particularly well when it comes to carbon risk, carrying levels on par with those of Switzerland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, France, and the US. While ratings will vary across African countries, many South African companies operate across the continent, indicating a widespread willingness to embrace ESG principles.
That’s to say nothing of the fact that many African economies are set to outperform global growth rates despite the ructions of 2020.
Barring any state-imposed limits on how much they can invest offshore, there is no reason, therefore, for ESG-focused pension funds not to look at Africa.
Good returns, low cost
Another benefit is that many African countries have relatively less depth in the investment space, meaning far less competition for UK funds to make quality investments and, potentially, reap big rewards as a result of entry at cheaper comparative prices.
Of course, that’s not to say that there aren’t risks when it comes to investing in Africa. The developing nature of these economies mean macroeconomic conditions can be unpredictable at times. It’s therefore important that pension funds not simply barge into Africa of their own accord but partner with experienced players with a proven track record on the continent.
The power of private equity
Here, private equity (PE) companies have an important role to play. PE not only plays an important role in diversifying investor portfolios, but the companies that play in the space are geared to the long-term. That means they’re less susceptible to the vagaries of the stock market, something that’s become increasingly important in the wake of 2020’s economic shocks.
Additionally, PE firms are geared to not only generate returns for investors but also to contribute to the overall wellbeing of the companies they invest in. That can be a good thing for pension funds with high ESG requirements, as it means they won’t sacrifice long-term vision and values for short-term shareholder gains.
Betting on potential
As much as ESG investing should be a matter of principle, especially for pension funds, investors do require returns. And if, as some people suggest, that’s becoming more difficult to achieve in developed markets, then fund managers should look elsewhere. With the right guidance, Africa can provide these alternative opportunities and others that may not be available in the developed world. UK pension funds should embrace them.
About SPEAR Capital
SPEAR Capital holds complimentary skills and experience across multiple industries. We provide partnerships that leverage Strong business ethics and local knowledge to grow successful businesses. SPEAR provides growth capital to SMEs focused on fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and local production in a few carefully selected countries. The engagement of DFIs and institutional investors ensures that ESG issues are the value drivers. We are located in Harare and Cape Town, with a fund raising office in Oslo.
Estate planning for wealthy celebrities or UHNWIs
By Sean Sheridan, Client Director, ZEDRA Isle of Man
Estate planning often gets pushed aside…sometimes with disastrous knock-on effects for a family. With today’s evolving regulatory environment, future planning can be challenging and often daunting.
Despite inevitable obstacles, there are ways to minimise the burden to enable even celebrities to have future generations enjoying the benefits of their wealth. In this article we explore why estate planning gets overlooked, and why it’s so important to protect prosperity and interests.
It’s easier to put off estate planning than you’d think – even for people like celebrities or UHNWIs who have earned significant wealth. For example, it’s thought that the great Diego Maradona passed away without leaving a Will or other plans for his assets, despite recent years of ill health. There were already reports of a contested estate just weeks after his funeral. Michael Jackson, Prince, James Gandolfini and Philip Seymore Hoffmann all passed away with various issues with their estates, despite having amassed fortunes.
It’s not disorganisation or a lack of desire that stops people planning their estate. In fact, often the last thing people want is to leave family or loved ones having to deal with probate and complex legal affairs at an already difficult time. Many people simply put off estate planning, thinking they will have time later…whenever that is. Alternatively, they may not comprehend how challenging it can be to untangle an intricate estate, and what legal rules there are that surround how an estate will automatically be divided amongst heirs and spouses if forced heirship laws apply. Equally, many people may not know that some loved ones may not get any assets or be looked after if provisions aren’t made in advance.
For UHNWI a properly planned estate can also mean more privacy for family at a challenging time. Many HNWI will choose – along with advisors – a structure that will allow for maximum confidentiality and will keep the details of the estate and any beneficiaries private. Information about beneficiaries of an estate becoming public can also make them a target for press or other unwanted attention. As structures which allow for both discretion and succession planning, trusts can be very popular for this reason.
Trusts also allow for settlors to stipulate the conditions under which beneficiaries may have access to or be given money from a trust.
Trusts allow the settlor the ability to lay out one or more conditions. For example, a settlor could put aside assets in trust to support beneficiaries but not make all the assets available to them at once. This might be to support good governance or simply to protect beneficiaries from some of the hazards associated with wealth, as perceived by the settlor.
Practically, this means a settlor and their advisors might look at different conditions for a trust’s assets. For example, beneficiaries might only receive a lump sum every 10 years. Alternatively, they might get a monthly pay-out, similar to a salary. The settlor might wish that funds are paid out to beneficiaries for the sole purpose of paying for their college education or to purchase a property.
Corporate trustees like ZEDRA ensure that the settlor’s wishes are met, and the assets of the trusts are used in the way the settlor would like and as laid out in the trust deed.
Planning ahead with advisors is vital – especially for anyone with a complex assets and interests that span various geographies may be complex in terms of nature, like IP rights.
Expert advice that’s tailored around an individual’s personal situation is a must, so thinking ahead is crucial. It’s never too early to make sure you’re planning your estate and making sure loved ones or important causes will be looked after when you’re gone.
Dollar edges lower as investors favor higher-risk currencies
By Stephen Culp
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The dollar lost ground on Friday as market participants favored currencies associated with risk-on sentiment over the safe-haven greenback.
Risk appetite was stoked by better-than-expected economic data and expectations that U.S. President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package will come to fruition.
“The dollar’s down against other currencies but not by a whole lot,” said Oliver Pursche, president of Bronson Meadows Capital Management in Fairfield, Connecticut. “I expect the dollar to be where it is now at the end of the year, and the main reason for that is while I see some signs of improvement in the economy, monetary policy is going to stay where it is.”
“I don’t think the dollar is underpriced or overpriced,” Pursche added.
For the week, the dollar slid about 0.2% against a basket of world currencies, the euro was essentially flat, and the yen lost more than 0.5%. But the British pound advanced more than 1.1% against the dollar, its best week since mid-December.
Bitcoin continues soar to record highs. The world’s largest cryptocurrency was last up 6.6% at $54,961.67, hitting $1 trillion in market capitalization.
Its smaller rival, ethereum, was last up 0.7% at $1,953.28.
The digital currencies have gained about 89% and 1,420%, respectively, year to date, leading some analysts to warn of a speculative bubble.
“One concern I’ve always had (about cryptocurrencies) is how susceptible they are to manipulation,” Pursche said. “But they’re going to continue to gain legitimacy.”
“While it’s great that Tesla made an investment in bitcoin, I’m more intrigued by Blackrock and other major investment firms taking a hard look at cryptocurrencies as a viable investment.”
The Australian dollar, which is closely linked to commodity prices and the outlook for global growth, was last up 1.21% at $0.7863, touching its highest since March 2018.
The New Zealand dollar also gained, closing in on a more than two-year high, and the Canadian dollar advanced as well.
Sterling, which often benefits from increased risk appetite, rose to an almost three-year high amid Britain’s aggressive vaccination program. It had last gained 0.27% to $1.40.
The euro showed little reaction to a slowdown in factory activity indicated by purchasing manager index data, rising 0.21% to $1.2116.
The yen, gained ground against the dollar and was last at 105.495, creeping above its 200-day moving average for the first time in three days.
(Reporting by Stephen Culp, additonal reporting by Tommy Wilkes; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Shares rise as cyclical stocks provide support; yields climb
By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A gauge of global equity markets snapped a 3-day losing streak to edge higher on Friday, as the recent selling pressure on high-flying big technology-related stocks eased even as investors showed a preference for economically sensitive cyclical sectors.
Oil prices fell from recent highs as Texas energy companies began preparations to restart oil and gas fields shuttered by freezing weather, while the U.S. Treasury yields extended their recent rise.
The MSCI’s global stock index was up 0.47% at 681.88, after losing ground for three consecutive sessions.
On Wall Street, stocks steadied as cyclical sectors edged higher while tech names made modest advances after concerns about elevated valuations led to some selling in recent sessions.
“What we saw (this week) represents a market that is tired and may not do very much. So we are headed for some sort of a pullback, but I don’t think we’re there just yet,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.
“Investors are not really pulling out of the market, but they are becoming more cautious. It already has factored in another good positive earnings season.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 119.97 points, or 0.38%, to 31,613.31, the S&P 500 gained 12.93 points, or 0.33%, to 3,926.9 and the Nasdaq Composite added 92.58 points, or 0.67%, to 13,957.93.
The S&P 500 technology and communication services sectors, housing high-value growth stocks, were among the smallest gainers in early trading, while financials, industrials, energy and materials rose more than 1%.
European shares edged higher on Friday as an upbeat earnings report from Hermes boosted confidence in a broader economic recovery. The pan-European STOXX 600 index was 0.64% higher.
U.S. Treasury yields on the longer end of the curve rose to new one-year highs on Friday as improved risk appetite boosted Wall Street, while the yield on 30-year inflation-protected securities (TIPS) turned positive for the first time since June.
Core bond yields have pushed higher globally, led by the so-called reflation trade, where investors wager on a pick-up in growth and inflation. Growing momentum for coronavirus vaccine programs and hopes of massive fiscal spending under U.S. President Joe Biden have spurred reflation trades.
The benchmark 10-year yield was last up 5.1 basis points at 1.338%, its highest level since Feb. 26, 2020.
Oil prices retreated from recent highs for a second day on Friday as Texas energy companies began preparations to restart oil and gas fields shuttered by freezing weather.
Unusually cold weather in Texas and the Plains states curtailed up to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil production and 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas, analysts estimated.
Brent crude futures were down 28 cents, or 0.44%, at $63.65 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 66 cents, or 1.09%, to $59.86.
Copper jumped to its highest in more than nine years on Friday and towards a third straight weekly gain as tight supplies and bullish sentiment towards base metals continued after the Chinese New Year.
Spot gold XAU= was down 0.58% at $1,785.71 an ounce.
The dollar lost ground on Friday, extending Thursday’s decline as improved risk appetite sapped demand for the safe-haven currency and drew buyers to riskier, higher-yielding currencies. The dollar index was off 0.295%.
Bitcoin hit yet another record high on Friday, hitting a market capitalization of $1 trillion, blithely shrugging off analyst warnings that it is an “economic side show” and a poor hedge against a fall in stock prices.
(Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Nick Zieminski)
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