Profit From The Meltdown:
Part 2: Huge Profit Opportunities In The Coming Recovery
By Imran Anwar
In the previous column we discussed why the current economic crisis appears far worse than it actually is. Yes, grave dangers exist if the world’s economies are mismanaged. But, so far, it appears that all major governments understand the global implications and are working together to stave off global ruin.
It is for this reason that I argue this may be the best time in the world to start investing, to take advantage of the huge opportunities and bargains that surround us, before everyone else does. This is especially true of younger generations, young families, and dynamic people who can afford to take a long term view more than someone close to retirement or already retired (unless they have significant amounts available to invest).
I believe the recession, though painful, will be short lived and will end soon into the Presidency of the new American President. This is especially true if history is any indicator. A Bush in the White House always leads this country into war and economic ruin, and his exit always leads to a historic economic recovery and the opportunity to create great wealth. I can hardly wait for Inauguration Day, 2009!
I also believe we will not have a global Great Depression version 2 between now and then.
There are several reasons for this. One is that most of the world governments and nations had learned several lessons from that historic crash of 1929 – which is referred to as The Great Depression. (I am not sure what was so "great" about it). In that particular crash, the then American administration had made many bad moves. That included not responding, not responding in time, then responding in a parochial, inward looking, protectionist way and doing too little too late.
You are not hearing me say that George W. Bush or his team of incompetent henchmen have done anything right. However, because we live in the Internet age, and most of world economies are so tightly intertwined, in general most of the developed world’s governments are working in unison to avoid a global meltdown, even while they recognize a recession is already underway.
How to minimize its damage, and to prevent it from turning into a domino effect – that brings the planet to its knees – is what they are fighting for. Bush and his team, and even Presidential candidate Senator John McCain, showed their cluelessness on the economy. At 9 AM one day McCain was saying the economy was strong. Two hours later he was saying the country (America) was in a grave crisis, as if a sudden earthquake had just taken place.
Then Bush’s Treasury Secretary Paulson said there were specific steps that would be just plain wrong – like the government taking equity stakes in American banks in exchange for large sums of capital. But, when the British, Europeans and Japanese governments did exactly that and saved their economies, literally a day later he was doing the same thing. So much for having any competent person in the White House team! (Maybe Bush can now say, "You’re doing a heckuva job Pauly"?)
But, regardless of how incompetent these people are, fortunately they are not the only ones who have a stake in saving the American economy from imploding.
There are countries with huge amounts of United States dollars stashed away in their banks. This includes countries like China. Even the Chinese Communist government, regardless of how disdainfully it may think of the United States, is smart enough to know that the greatest source of its wealth in recent years has been from manufacturing cheap goods that the American market just cannot get enough of buying.
Also, as few people realize, an American meltdown, of its economy or its currency, will also mean financial ruin for China in several ways. China’s growing working middle class depends on feeding the American consumption beast for it to survive and grow itself.
On top of that, over the least few years, despite participating in a world economy, and benefiting from capitalism and open markets, China has always manipulated its own currency to ensure its goods do not become too expensive to export. As a result, for several years, America has had a huge trade deficit with China, leading, effectively, to America owing China a lot of money.
Now its policy of protecting its own currency is coming back to bite China. That is because China is possibly the biggest non-American holder of huge reserves of Dollars. A crash of the Dollar can effectively wipe out China’s current economic wealth.
America, just like Pakistan right now, is hardly in a position to turn down economic support from any quarter. Sure, it’ll be a shameful and sad day for the United States to go begging to China. The one remaining superpower in both military and economic terms, before George W. Bush came into office, would actually now be dependent on a communist country like China to help save it’s capitalist society!
China, previously the source of cheap socks and itty-bitty cheap plastic toys could be and, I would say also for its own self-interest, has to be America’s economic savior.I also see this as a huge opportunity for Middle Eastern countries, also slush in Dollars and Petro-Dollars, to offer their help but leverage it to increase opportunities for their businesses. But, sadly, I have not seen much strategic exploitation of that of any significance. Sure, we have the occasional deal worth Billions (e.g. when a financially suffering chip-maker AMD has sold off a majority stake to ATIC of Abu Dhabi, an investment arm wholly-owned by the government of Abu Dhabi.
But, I do not see a concerted, strategic and financial effort on the part of Middle-Eastern, or Muslim, investors and entrepreneurs to exploit opportunities as I see Indian and Israeli companies doing. I can imagine us crying in 20 years about how not only do the Jews control Hollywood and the media but then how Indians and Israelis control Silicon Valley.
Yes, I do see that Arabs have started buying up real estate, the one business they understand well here in America (being among the biggest buyers of casinos and other entertainment properties also). But, can they leverage this to help establish a foothold for Arabs and Muslims in things like Venture Capital and other next-generation financial industries? Sadly, it does not appear that is even a goal for them. It seems real estate is already, correctly, being targeted for massive investments but not much else.
It is for this reason that I am quite confident that huge opportunities exist for Pakistani, Middle-Eastern and Muslim investors to benefit, not just from real estate, but also from many other opportunities to buy financial, corporate and technology company assets at bargain prices.
Even though, like everyone else, I took significant hits in the stock market during the last several months, I have actually increased my holdings, especially in stocks of Citibank, as well as Apple. I have also bought stocks of others, like Amazon, Pepsi-Cola, etc. that also got hammered a few days ago. But, the greatest upside I still see in the stock market is in companies like Apple, as well as other battered financial stocks.
Last but not least expensive desirable real estate is going to become even more expensive and more desirable as the market turns around, which is sure to do in the coming days. This will be true especially in the United States when my fellow Americans are smart enough to change the direction this country is headed in. It will happen even sooner if they elect a candidate who is not simply going to continue George W. Bush’s policies of economic disaster. We will find out on November 4.
But, don’t lose sight of the huge opportunity for real estate that exists in other markets too.
Major American institutions have created funds of several Billion Dollars to start buying real estate in countries including India. Thanks to the self-destructive tendencies of my fellow Pakistanis, people hardly consider Pakistan as a safe haven for their money (much less their bodies!), but as real estate investment takes off, there will also be a trickle-down or trickle-sideways (osmosis?) effect on Pakistani real estate prices.
I have been making my best efforts to interest American investors in also including Pakistan in the list of places that they invest in – but so far it has been a losing battle. I am hopeful in the new Administration in America (and some improvement in Pakistan’s war on terrorists) that the USA will feel a greater need to invest in Pakistan. But, similar huge opportunities exist for Pakistanis of means to invest in real estate in the United States and I am seeing that a lot more from clients that I advise on doing business in the USA.
All in all, I am not just hopeful, but certain, that the current recession will be a short one, though not without short-term pain. I am positive that savvy investors are going to start putting their money, and their instincts, to work before everyone else jumps back on the bandwagon. I am working to do that, and hope you will too!