Investing in 2021

April is coming to an end, which means that a third of the year has already passed. In as little as two more months we will be through the first half of the year. What started out more on the optimistic side is now back to where we were almost a year ago. At least here in Thailand.

But you wouldn’t know that if you would pay attention only to the stock market. Most company shares have recovered, and even grown beyond their pre-pandemic levels.

The explanation for this is multi-faceted, but given what I can see from my own company and competitors, it’s a mixture of pre-mature optimism, and the now all-too popular FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out.

Optimism

Most investors I know are optimists. Most tend to be a little greedy. And, unfortunately, many are trying to time the market. When the crisis started and markets fell by 30% or more, many saw a great buying opportunity. Myself included. The expectation was that a pandemic can’t last that long. Many of us didn’t actually believe it to be real. Or at least not ‘that’ bad.

Plenty of us tried to estimate the lowest possible market point, and then started to get back on the train. The more people started buying, the quicker shares started to stabilize, until demand overtook supply, and prices started to rise. Then FOMO kicked in. People noted the turning trend, and scared of missing out joined in the purchase frenzy. This is how we got here.

So far, this optimism has served us well, but the long-term success will depend on how things play out in the next 2-3 months. The US, Europe, and leading economies of Asia need to show that they can control the situation without sacrificing their economies. Otherwise optimism might turn into disappointment, and drag the market down once again.

What’s the plan?

For the young investor who is not in any financial distress, the simple strategy is to just hold your ground. It’s impossible to predict what and how it will happen, but for the long-term focused investor it doesn’t really matter that much. Stay your ground. When shares go up, enjoy. When they go down again, look out for the next buying opportunity.

For those who might have cash issues, this may be the time to trim some positions for shares which reached their all-time highs. Put some cash aside, re-fill your emergency fund, and be patient. You will sleep better at night.

About BitCoin

I often get questions from friends and colleagues about investments in cryptocurrencies, mainly BitCoin. Given the daily amount of news and reports about the BitCoin craze, it’s understandable. It’s almost impossible to not hear about BitCoin these days.

To give it right away: I am not invested in BitCoin, or any other cryptocurrency for that matter. I also don’t speculate with any other currencies on the FOREX market.

The blockchain technology is a very interesting development that will find, and in some instances already found its way in some form into business and into our society. BitCoin is only one of the first products to put that technology to use. But very few people who invest in BitCoin actually really understand what it’s about. Most investors today are simply following the upward trend, and speculate that it will continue to grow for some more time to come.

BTC=F (BitCoin Futures on the Stock Exchange in Frankfurt/Germany)

Looking at the chart, it’s hard to deny that investing in BitCoin so far has been a great way to multiply your money. The big question for investors is of course whether this trend will continue, or not.

Investing in BitCoin is easy. Now.

One reason why BitCoin has moved up significantly in just such a short amount of time is the recently developed ease of access to it. It’s easy to look at the chart and to say: Why didn’t I invest in BitCoin much earlier? Well, it’s really simple. Investing in BitCoin was previously not an easy thing to do.

I was looking into investing in BitCoin some 5 years ago. My journey to invest in BitCoin started like this:

First I needed to find a trustworthy digital wallet. Then I needed to transfer money to that digital wallet. In the final step, I needed to purchase BitCoin through that digital wallet.

The challenges that came with it were however pretty significant: I needed to make sure to safely store (and not to loose) the wallet number, which was a complicated compilation of numbers, letters, and individual characters. That digital wallet number was not retrievable in case of loss.

I also needed to make sure to have a bullet-proof password to it, AND that I don’t forget or loose that password either, because it would also be not retrievable in case of loss.

I needed to somehow try to verify that the digital wallet I decided to use was actually a trustworthy, real offering. That was pretty hard, because there were a lot of scam companies out there and no serious verification system that one could have relied upon.

So there was a real risk to BitCoin before the actual buying process, and even beyond after the purchase, due to the limitations on the quality and trust into the digital wallet. I remember that I did open an account with a digital wallet provider, but the amount of disinformation and misleading data on the internet, the lack of reviews and guarantees, it just made it really hard to believe that my money would be in any way protected if I transfer it to any of the accounts out there. This reason alone was the main reason for me to not invest in BitCoin at that time.

This hurdles have been overcome by now. Access and purchasing have been simplified, there is more trust in the process. But that was not the case 5 years ago.

Analysis

We can’t really do any analysis on the fundamentals, because there are none. It’s not a company, there is no product or management team behind it. It’s simply a scarce resource that is currently of interest.

Similar with other currencies, its value hinges on people believing in it. And to be fair, there are plenty of people believing in BitCoin. Right now. The easier access allowed more people to get invested. The media is pushing it. And many even prominent skeptics have changed their opinion in recent years, as cryptocurrencies gained more and more drive and appeal among investors.

An argument that I heard very often is that all the millionaires and billionaires in the world are invested in BitCoin, so it must be a reasonable place to park your cash.

The arguments

To the “rich people” argument, let me say that most of those millionaires and billionaires didn’t get rich with BitCoin. Most of them got rich with their own companies, or with stock investments. They invested in BitCoin after they were already rich, and had therefore much less worries whether their investment would go well or not. They were willing to accept a high risk factor, because they didn’t care that much to loose a couple of thousand Dollars or Euros. Most small investors cannot afford such a high risk-reward ratio.

The risks of an investment in crypto-currencies are still very real. Here just a few arguments to make:

  • The value of the currency depends on people believing in it. This believe might be weakened or even disappear when another, better and/or smarter cryptocurrency enters the market.
  • The most rigorous believers in BitCoin assume that it will at some point become a viable world-currency, free of government regulation and in tight control due to its scarcity. There is however valid reason to believe that most governments will regulate BitCoin at some point and introduce their own versions of digital currencies. No government in the world can afford to loose the power to monitor and control their cash flow and supply.
  • BitCoin prides itself in its anonymity, but the blockchain ledger is in fact an open-source controlled system, and not anonymous at all. Admittedly, it would require a significant amount of time to track BitCoin owners through the ledger, but it’s certainly possible, and with our ever-expanding computing power, it’s just a matter of time for systems to be developed that will be able to track owners throughout the chain.
  • The ever-rising price is not positively contributing for BitCoin to become a real alternative payment method. Why would anyone use BitCoin to buy any product, if the value of the BitCoin keeps increasing day by day?
  • BitCoin is an electronic system, and those can be cracked or infiltrated. We might need to get into quantum computing to get the computing power necessary to pull this off, but we are almost there. Slipping in a virus or a bug into the system could crack its security, expose owners, or allow BitCoin to get stolen. Of course, every bug or virus can also be corrected or eliminated, but a major event similar with a “bank robbery” could quickly undermine the trust in the entire BitCoin system and put pressure on it.

There is a great list of arguments and counter-arguments to be found here:
https://safehodl.github.io/failure/
I would encourage everyone interested in BitCoin to go through the comments and to form your own opinion on whether you believe in the upside or downside of it.

Should you invest in BitCoin?

If you follow the link above you will find plenty of smart arguments from both side of the aisle, that can help you making an informed decision.

Personally I don’t intend to invest in BitCoin because it doesn’t fit into my investing strategy. I buy great companies at a fair price, and enjoy benefitting from real-life products and real-life profits in the form of dividends that I receive. BitCoin doesn’t produce anything and doesn’t offer any service that I would consider useful (for now) to see it as a viable investment. This may change over time of course, but for now this is where I stand.

What I would however explore instead (and I will) is to dive deeper into the blockchain technology, and to invest in an ETF that would focus on companies that utilize blockchain for their products and services. This is because I am not as much interested in BitCoin, as I am interested in the technology behind it.

The blockchain technology has certainly more aspects to it, and in the long-run investing in companies that can utilize this technology will offer a better risk-reward ratio, than a hyped digital-currency.

Investing in Thailand – BGC.BK

Green investments are gaining traction, and while not as exciting as some online start-ups, there are lots of opportunities in this growing market. Also in Thailand. One crucial company for Thailands future success on the environmental front is BGC.BK. What does the company do? Let’s take a look at an excerpt from the “About us” part of their website:

BGC or BG Container Glass Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of Bangkok Glass Public Company Limited, operates in glass packaging business. The plant was established in 1974 and started its production in 1980 in Pathumthani with the production capacity of 150 tons per day. Currently, BGC has 5 glass packaging plants with the largest number of production capacity in Thailand.

From just one furnace, today, BGC has grown steadily. The company was incorporated into BG Container Glass Company Limited in the year 2016 and was registered as Public Company Limited in the year 2018 The company is built on a foundation of innovation, advanced production technology and effective performance that can be recognized internationally. Moreover, the products meet the standards and cover all needs of diverse customers.

With a commitment to innovation and new products, quality control and environmentally friendly for remaining the leader of Thailand integrated glass packaging market.

So there you go. It’s all about glass.

Commitment to reduce plastic usage will drive future business growth

Living in Asia one can’t help to notice the ridiculous amounts of plastic that is being used here for almost everything. Plastic bags, bottles, jars, food containers. And beyond those items critical for daily consumption, it goes even further. It’s very common to see households with plastic furniture, dishes and cutlery, even decorations. As a European arriving first time in Thailand, I was honestly shocked. But change is coming, slowly but steady, and glass solutions will play a crucial role on that front.

BGC.BK is a key player in this market, providing standardized solutions for jars, bottles, bottle closures, and caps. They have a wide range of products adjusted to international standards, and with the government pushing slowly towards plastic reduction in the market, they are poised to grow further.

Reading this I admit that while I am trying hard to make this sound like an exciting opportunity, it’s really not. It’s a pretty boring business with lots of old-school elements to it. Factories, chain-supplies, standard distribution. All basic industry 101. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s an already profitable company in a growing market, with almost no local competition, and an experienced team.

Solid dividend four times a year

Another key point for me to invest in BGC is the dividend policy. BGC has an annual dividend yield of above 4% and pays out 4 times a year. Last year the company paid a dividend in May, June, September and December. This year should be the same. Anyone interested in a passive-income strategy should therefore have this stock on a watchlist. Or in a stock account.

Disclosure: I am managing a portfolio that has purchased BGC.BK since 2020, and I am adding shares of BGC to this portfolio on a regular basis.

Market Crash – First Round

I somehow managed not to write an article for a whole month. No excuses, but I was busy. I got occupied with my wife’s smoothie business, I had to make a 1-week business trip to Krabi and Koh Samui, and my head office in Bangkok had plenty of requests for me to work on. My daughter required a little more attention, my dog had his final moments and sadly passed away after almost 18 years of companionship. March was a little overwhelming.

Most of the little free-time that I had left I spent at the gym. Turning 41 must have triggered a tiny midlife crisis in me, because recently I not only started visiting the gym more regularly. I even started applying face cream. Yes, I know. I might be late to the party but previously, I never actually considered doing that. Instead, I enjoyed getting to look older for the last 5 years or so. I don’t know, but all these small wrinkles, I always felt like they would add more character to the picture. This changed last month.

Anyway. That was some thoughtful introduction. Now back to finance.

With all my portfolios back in the greens, I call the market crash over. Done. Finished. History has once again proven reliable, and the stock market showed a pattern that experienced investors appreciate for many decades now. There is always a crash. And there is always a recovery. Once again those who trusted in the market and kept steady or even invested during the crash are now coming out stronger, and wealthier than before.

Don’t blame yourself if you missed out on the action. It might have been just the first round for you, but it surely won’t be the last. We don’t know when the next crash will come and it’s impossible to time the market. But history is teaching us over and over again, that there is no bad time to start investing. In the long-run markets tend to go up more frequently, and stronger if compared with the downturns. So when stocks do go down, it’s usually a good time to be looking out for great companies at fair or even at cheap prices. In the meantime, you can keep investing anyway.

The market was rising strongly for a few weeks now, and it’s very likely that it will continue to rise. Unless of course we get another pandemic, a war, or any other kind tragedy that would put the world in turmoil.

I am rather optimistic, by nature, mostly because the US has a reasonable person back at the top. President Biden is more predictable, communicates smarter, and pays attention to the world as a whole, in stark contrast to his predecessor. At the same time he is tackling massive investments in his countries future, which should push the entire world into a competitive streak of investments that will benefit a wide range of corporations globally. Investments create cashflows, revenues, salaries. These in return curb consumption, spending. That’s how the world works, and that’s why investors keep winning.

So if you are already invested: Enjoy the change of winds and watch your portfolio recovering or growing. If you are not invested yet, now is as good as ever. You might have missed the speedy recovery, but the opportunities are endless.