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WHAT DOES BREXIT MEAN TO PROPERTY INVESTORS & DEVELOPERS?

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WHAT DOES BREXIT MEAN TO PROPERTY INVESTORS & DEVELOPERS?

A commentary from Rick Nicholls, Managing Director, Bastien Jack Group Ltd, UK property developer.

In short, we have opportunity.

BrexitInitial shock at the prospect of leaving the EU sent the markets into decline, but have they not reacted pretty much as anticipated? Never letting a crisis go without opportunity, selling high to force a low, and then buy back? Since then there has been some indication stability is returning to the markets though GBP to USD and Euro are still trading lower. This is a good thing for UK exports, making them more competitive, assisting those companies that rely on export markets to grow. The UK vote for Brexit probably doesn’t mean that the housing market in the UK is about collapse either. While some uncertainty in the short term may reduce house price growth, for the longer-term property investor, this could be a good opportunity for investing.

The foreign property investor has a boost in value-for-money

In the 24 hours after the Brexit vote, the value of sterling fell on foreign exchange markets. Not by as much as predicted but by around 6% against the euro and 8% against the dollar. As I’m writing this, the pound is now worth €1.11. This fall means the European property investor has more sterling to spend.

Demand for property, specifically in London from foreign investors is still likely to increase, interest has been high from China and Asia as their currency exchange has automatically allowed them a discount on current prices. This though is likely to bea short window of opportunity as we see markets recover from the initial shock.

Domestic demand will remain strong

Demand from home buyers and renters probably won’t collapse either.

There is concern that demand for housing will fall in London and the UK. However, parliamentary research produced for the 2015 Parliament put demand at between 232,000 to 300,000 new housing units per year through to 2020. Demand for new homes is exceeding supply by around 150,000 every year. This demand, fed by the number of new households created each year, is unlikely to fall below the level of supply. 

Immigration will probably remain strong

One of the main negotiations the UK and EU will have to discuss is the free movement of people. Despite the ‘Leave’ campaign suggesting a limit to immigration, we now understand there needs to be movement but objective negotiations will have take place. This will form a significant part of the negotiations to leave the EU.

Outside the EU, the Prime Minister’s current visit to India has the subject of immigration firmly on the agenda for a post Brexit trade deal. 

Fundamentals of the UK Property Market

The uncertainty of the exact outcome of Brexit may cause the property investor a little nervousness, but the fundamentals for UK property remain strong.

In terms of capital growth, there are a number of comparable data choices but the Real House price tracker provides more meaningful guide to house prices and has been adjusted for the effects of inflation over the same period. Results confirm the increases in house prices have risen faster than inflation, and includes the last recession where the fall can be seen as a correction when compared to the overall property performance.

There has been widespread comment as to the likely effects on house prices, with falls of between 5% and 10% for areas outside London, though little evidence can be found to support this so far.

The BTL investor has also seen positive movements since 2001 with the size of private renters beginning to grow again.

Annual rent rises too have accelerated in recent years and these are not limited to London. Bristol and Brighton both enjoyed increases, averaging circa 18% in 2015 compared to the previous year. The insurer Homelet reported similar rises in the North (Newcastle upon Tyne and Edinburgh) with around 16% over the previous year. Ultimately the increases are attributable to what’s happening in their specific area and will be influenced by strong fundamentals. Perhaps Hull can expect some positive growth when it is crowned City of Culture?

Rents in London have continued to rise with greater pace than other areas in the UK but have slowed since 2014, therefore a narrowing of the rent inflation gap between London and the rest of the UK.

Even with the recent policy change for buy-to-let investors paying additional stamp duty, more people have turned to BTL investments perhaps as an alternative to low interest rates, bolstered with the knowledge the pace of house building has not kept up with demand therefore sustaining their investment. At the time of the referendum result, there was speculation the base rate would reduce from 0.5% to 0.25% which did take place in August. The Bank of England indicated they would consider reducing further if the economy worsened, which so far has not been the case. It was also confirmed at the time, they also would add money to support confidence and restrict banks freezing liquidity, if not this would probably cause a further credit crunch and restrict mortgage finance. The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, confirmed the reserve of £250bn can be made available if required.

Carney further commented the substantial capital held and large liquidity gives banks the flexibility to continue to lend to businesses and individuals even during challenging times. This suggests provision and safeguards are in place to maintain current lending to suit demand.

Since the referendum, the markets have rallied well and only recently fallen as investors are perhaps concerned that central banks around the globe are easing up on the monetary policies given the uncertainty of the US election result.

In the UK, mortgage approvals by the main banks increased in September after a 19-month low in August. They were lower than the year before but speaking with our local agents, they suggest it’s down to a lack of supply of new build property rather than purchasing confidence.

There are four main areas for focus as we get to grips with the prospect of the UK outside the EU.

1) Calm – we have some indication this is already with us; the markets do seem to have calmed. This is probably due to all the positions the markets took on ‘Remain’ have now well and truly played out. It’s not over yet though, the volatility is set to continue until Article 50 has been triggered and a new directional plan from the government for the UK to leave is known.

2) Change – Nothing ever stays the same, what works for today may not be right for tomorrow. A pertinent example is Kodak, they tried to ignore new technology hoping it would go away by itself on the basis of it being too expensive, too slow, too complicated etc. It wasn’t and their market changed irreversibly in a relatively short period of time, moving from wet film to digital technology.

3) Opportunity – Leaving the EU does provide opportunity. With price correction, there is opportunity to procure better land deals than prior to the referendum, as there may be fewer developers with available funding. Contractors had full order books and build costs had become very high prior to the referendum. We are aware some development contracts have been cancelled as a result of Brexit. Therefore, there might be more opportunity to reduce build costs as price elasticity plays out. The current volatility will ease. The fact the UK has to build more houses to meet demand won’t change.

Bastien Jack Group Ltd has a strong project pipeline and always procures sites which have strong fundamentals and in areas where people want to live. There is a huge amount of due diligence which goes into every site appraisal including courting many local agents and advisors to confirm local demand and Gross Development Values. Speaking with agents in our pipeline areas, they have confirmed confidence is still strong and enthusiastic house viewings are still going ahead. As long as lending is still being offered and liquidity remains within the economy, there remains a great opportunity for us to progress.

Investing

Is It The Right Time To Invest In Gold?

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Is It The Right Time To Invest In Gold? 1

By Zoe Lyons, Hatton Garden Metals

The current climate is one of uncertainty, so it can be difficult to know what to do with your money, particularly investments. When faced with the decision on what to do with your savings, there are a number of options, but one investment which many have opted for over the years is gold buying.

Purchasing gold can be a great investment. Although the price of which can fluctuate just like anything else, the value of gold has generally tended to increase at a good rate and many prefer it over other saving options. With bank interest rates currently at a low and discussions of negative interest rates, many are opting to purchase gold as a way to earn money on their savings.

So is gold buying right for you? We take a look at some commonly asked questions when it comes to purchasing gold.

Why Should I Buy Gold?

Buying gold is often seen as a good investment due to value increases, so you may be able to make a profit from selling it on if the price of gold increases after you have purchased. The price can fluctuate, so profit is not guaranteed and is based on a number of factors. Looking back over previous years since the 1970s, the value of gold has prospered compared to other investment types, albeit with some dips in value at certain points over the past 50 years.

Buying gold also allows you full control as you are the owner. So you can choose if and when you want to sell.

Buying Gold Vs ETFs

When looking at investment opportunities, you may consider ETFs. An ETF is an Exchange Rated Fund, which when purchased is similar to buying stocks and shares. They can be a good investment, but is it more beneficial than purchasing gold?

When purchasing physical gold you will need to consider where to store it. This can incur charges, whereas with an ETF there is no need for storage, but an ETF can come with admin charges and investment management costs. When you choose to sell an ETF, you may also be required to pay a commission, which are often small amounts, but can add up if you are an active trader. There is also less control with an ETF as the price of which can change and is based on the company’s actions.

Gold Bars Vs Gold Coins

If you do choose to purchase gold, you will be faced with the option of whether to buy gold coins or gold bars. Although similar, they have varying benefits.

  • Gold Coins

The purchase of gold coins are often favoured by those who appreciate the historic value of the coin. Many people collect coins, so an investor may be inclined to pay more if they are a keen collector of such. Many may also pay more for gold coins based on their rarity. These factors can affect the price you pay or sell at, meaning the value of gold coins is not solely deemed by the live price of gold, so you may receive a higher price, dependent on the investor. This allows the price of gold coins to be more fluid than gold bars.

  • Gold Bars
Zoe Lyons

Zoe Lyons

Gold bars are not seen as a collectors item and don’t tend to have historical attachments. Because of this, the price is not influenced by these factors and is based on the weight, purity and the live price of gold at the time of selling or purchasing. This allows for a more accurate estimate of the price of your gold bars.

Where Should I Store Gold?

One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to gold buying is storage. If you do choose to purchase gold, you will need to consider storage. Just like anything else of a high value, it needs to be stored securely. Simply keeping gold stored at home could be risky. When kept in your property, if not stored in the correct conditions, it is more susceptible to damp and corroding. There is also the possibility that your home insurance does not cover your gold, so if you are burgled, you could lose your investment. Because of this, it is wise to protect your gold with proper secure storage. Look for companies that offer storage abilities that are covered by insurance and be sure to do your research on pricing and look for cost effective storage as the fees incurred can soon add up. You may also want to look for a company that allows you quick and easy access to your gold to ensure you can buy and sell with ease.

Should I Invest In Silver Too?

Although gold is often a more popular investment option, many choose to purchase silver alongside it. The price of silver tends to be much more volatile than the price of gold, for this reason, many see gold as a safer choice. The price of silver will still have an intrinsic value but may be more worthwhile for those looking into long term investment options due to its VAT charges.

Negative Interest Rates

Although it is not a current practice, there has been recent talk of banks in the UK potentially introducing negative interest rates. If a savings account has a negative interest rate, this could mean you are charged for keeping money in the bank. If introduced, this could mean savers lose out. Instead of receiving interest on your savings, you may be charged a rate for keeping your money in the bank.

Could purchasing gold be a better option for your savings? Possibly, but this will depend on how much you have saved and the rates of the negative interest (if they are introduced). They may be minimal, but if you have a large amount in a savings account, this could add up to an expensive charge. If you choose to use your savings to buy gold, you may make a profit upon selling, but you will need to consider costs of storage as well as the chances of the price decreasing in the future.

So, is it the right time to invest in gold? It’s a very popular question. Hopefully the above will give you a bit more insight into gold investing and how it may work for you, but with any investment, there is never a guarantee that it will generate profit, so take careful considerations when diversifying your portfolio.

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Investing

Private public investment is more inter-dependant than ever

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Private public investment is more inter-dependant than ever 2

By Konstantin Sidorov, CEO and Founder of London Technology Club

Today, one thing unites the majority of governments around the world: their fiscal position is destitute. COVID 19 has seen an extraordinary, forced expansion in public sector expenditure, which has come just as the world was getting back on its feet following the Global Financial Crisis. The financial strains are already showing and will become more apparent as we move through the pandemic into social and economic recovery.

If you want to understand the impact that the re-focusing of public sector spending is having, then there is no better example than the space economy. In the US and Europe, we are becoming increasingly reliant on the space rockets and space launch companies pioneered by private investors and entrepreneurs.

NASA, that powerhouse and flag bearer for American national pride, is having to partner with the private sector in order to fulfil their missions. Private investors, the likes of Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos alongside smart use of new technologies have brought the economics of space down and the excitement around what’s possible up. With it comes a whole satellite manufacturing, launch and servicing industry growing to $271bn in revenues in 2019. Of the total revenues in the space economy ($366bn in 2019), government space budgets made up $95bn of that.

Commercial entities, being patiently built and backed by private capital willing to dig deep and progress their own missions has helped fuel the space economy. Many are realising now just how crucial space is for the future of a country’s protection, position in the world and prosperity. In China, India and Russia we still see significant public sector expenditure in space projects as an agent for military and economic expansion. The role of private investors in plugging major gaps in public sector funds and national pride in Western economies is therefore increasingly important.

Private and public investment must be seen as a partnership. We should not forget that Elon Musk’s SpaceX survived from the brink of collapse only because of a ten-figure NASA contract awarded at the last minute. Musk, since then, has looked for public infrastructure contracts to fuel his companies, the likes of The Boring Company winning the contract to build a downtown-to-airport loop, a  government program for high-speed transport in Chicago. Musk proves his products and services work and then secures lucrative government contracts in order to quickly scale which in turn leads to transforming whole industries.

It’s not just space infrastructure where we see this redefinition of the role of public and private finance. The Chinese have invested at least US$160 billion in infrastructure projects as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, creating roads, ports, energy infrastructure and providing aid to foreign governments to create the most ambitious infrastructure project the world has yet seen.

Konstantin Sidorov

Konstantin Sidorov

For Western countries, access to that scale of public finance is not fiscally-possible, a new solution is needed and just as the space race has been redefined by private capital, so will the development of new industries, infrastructure and the reinvigorating of economies facing structural change that has been accelerated by COVID.

Private capital has the huge advantage of being driven by conviction and competence. It can cost-effectively be deployed, fast and targeted with a laser-like focus by entrepreneurs who know exactly what they want to achieve. Private capital, currently, is also in abundance.

In a world which is providing slim returns across multiple traditional asset classes, private capital is being stockpiled and is waiting for the opportunity to be invested for growth. We need private investors to have the confidence to deploy their capital to fuel the system once again.

This new world, post COVID, won’t see public capital replaced. Its role is likely to focus more heavily on health, welfare and critical infrastructure. However private investors will step in where gaps appear. Ten years ago, the scale and ambition of private space companies would have been greeted with snorts of derision and looks of disbelief. Today governments embrace the private capital, and regard the companies that have deployed it as systemically important national assets.

As we look to the future, huge macro trends emerge that demand significant investment: the aging population, the threat of pandemic, the drive to create a sustainable economy and lifestyle, the need to decarbonise, the digital revolution. The list goes on.

Public finance cannot hope to provide the finance and pioneer the bold thinking and accept the risks required to find new solutions that drive us forward in a world of change. That role goes to the private investor and private capital.

For the investors themselves the opportunities are immense, and for society as a whole they are just as big. As we look forward public and private sector needs to embrace private capital. Rather than fearing private investors as locusts who strip organisations and opportunities of profit then fly away, a narrative that gained traction after the last great economic crash. This time we need to see private capital as agents for positive transformation. Private-public partnerships fuelling each other.

Private money is already building rockets that send people and payloads into space, but that isn’t the final frontier for entrepreneurial investors or the societies and economies that benefit from their boldness.

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Investing

What should I invest and How do I invest

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What should I invest and How do I invest 3

By Imogen Clarke, The Fry Group

With all the uncertainty that has arisen from 2020, with lockdown threatening businesses and the warning of a second wave, the topic of investments has taken on new meaning. Nowadays, more people are concerned with what makes for a good investment, or, if you’re a novice, how to best invest.

For instance, you might be unsure about the reliability of the company you’re looking to invest in, as well as the long-term prospects of your investment.

If you are unsure of your investments, then it is best to seek advice from financial experts like The Fry Group, who deal with tax, wealth and estate planning. They will see that you have a strong financial plan in place to help meet your objectives. They will develop a strategy that is built around your needs and asses any risks that could hinder your plans.

There are some things you’ll need to consider for your strategy; for instance, are you looking to make investments that are more of a risk and will take longer to come to fruition? Or, alternatively, are you wanting a faster approach that will result in a steady income? Whether or not you decide to play it safe all depends on your current financial situation and whether you have the means to take more of a risk. Do you have any other debts that take precedence over your future plans? Is your investment strategy realistic?

With the aid of a specialist – or investment manager – you can design an investment concept that works for you and your goals, and start to build a regular income from your investments. There are four main areas when it comes to assets (groups of investments) that you can consider:

  • Equities
  • Bonds
  • Alternatives
  • Cash

Your investment manager will test the risks associated with your investment, and if it proves to be a positive investment choice, then you will be able to invest more over time.

So, how do you decide where to invest?

According to The Fry Group, ESG investing (Environmental, Social and Governance) is a good option for investors looking to support businesses that meet their similar ethics.

The main areas of ESG investing include:

  • Environmental challenges (climate change, pollution, etc)
  • Social issues (human rights, labour standards, child labour, etc)
  • Governance considerations relating to company management

According to The Fry Group, “Many investors choose to consider ESG investing in order to ensure any investment decisions reflect personal beliefs and values. As a result, they choose to support companies who are making informed, responsible decisions which take into account their wider societal and global impact. In this way investors can achieve peace of mind that their investments are creating a positive effect.”

ESG investing is also more relevant now than ever, as more businesses are looking to present themselves as an environmentally conscious corporation that recognises the values of their consumers.

As The Fry Group puts it, “In the past, ESG investing has been seen as a niche investment approach, for a relatively small number of people with specific requirements. This has changed significantly in recent years, with a growing awareness of environmental issues such as climate change and an increasing understanding of social issues and human rights. As a result, many people are increasingly interested in reflecting their opinions and lifestyle choices through the way they invest.”

So, if you want your investments to pave the way for your personal values and reflect your own morals, then this is the route to go down. But how does it all work?

There are four areas of ESG investing:

  • Responsible ownership and engagement: when companies are encouraged to make necessary improvements.
  • Avoidance or negative screening: whereby businesses are ‘graded’ based on how ethical their business practices are and are avoided altogether if their methods are not approved.
  • Positive screening strategies:when companies meet the ESG goals and are approved for investments.
  • Impact investment strategies: the purpose of this is to use investment capital for positive social results such as renewable energy.

You will need to take into account your own personal objectives as well as the objectives that meet the ESG investment criteria. And, in terms of financial performance, ESG investing can be hugely beneficial. Those who opt for ESG investing perform a more in-depth analysis into long-term and future trends that affect industries, meaning that they are better prepared for changes in consumer values when they arise. And, with all the unpredictability that this year has offered us so far, isn’t it better to do the research and have all angles covered?

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