Helium makes up 25% of the atoms in the known universe, so one would guess that the inert gas would be quite plentiful on Earth.
Unfortunately, a familiar property of helium prevents this from happening. Helium gas is lighter than air and literally rises into space, depleting the Earth of almost all valuable helium resources over time.
Where do we get helium?
So how do we actually obtain new helium gas, which is necessary for important technological applications such as MRI machines, superconductors, and even the Large Hadron Collider?
Today’s infographic from Helium One shows everything you need to know on helium, including where we can find it on Earth, as well as the most important uses of the gas.
Although helium is plentiful in the universe, on Earth it is quite rare and difficult to obtain.
Why Do We Need Helium?
Helium has several properties that make it invaluable to modern humans, particularly for technological uses:
|Inert||Doesn’t react with other elements, and doesn’t explode like hydrogen|
|Non-toxic||Can be used by humans in a variety of applications|
|Lighter than air||Ability to lift and/or float|
|Melting point -272˚C||Liquid at ultra-cool temps enables superconductivity|
|Small molecular size||Can be used to find the smallest of leaks|
Helium demand has risen consistently since 2009, and the market has been increasing at a CAGR of 10.1% since 2010. With that in mind, here are the specific constituents of helium demand today:
|Helium Use||Global Share||Description|
|Cryogenics||23%||Superconductors use ultracooled helium liquid.|
|Lifting||15%||Used in airships and balloons|
|Electronics||14%||Used to manufacture silicon wafers|
|Optical Fiber||11%||Necessary to make optical fiber cables|
|Welding||9%||Used as a shielding gas for welding|
|Leak Detection||6%||Helium particles are small, and can find the tiniest leaks|
|Analytics||6%||Used in chromatography and other applications|
|Pressure & Purging||5%||Used in rocket systems|
|Diving||3%||Mixed into commercial diving tanks for various reasons|
|Other||8%||Helium's diverse properties give it many other minor uses|
Helium’s melting point, which is the lowest found in nature, allows it to remain as a liquid at the coolest possible temperature. This makes helium ideal for uses in superconductors, including MRI machines – one of the fastest growing components of helium demand.
But where do we obtain this elusive gas?
It turns out that new helium is actually created every day in very tiny amounts within the Earth’s crust as a by-product of radioactive decay. And like other gases below the Earth’s surface (i.e. natural gas), helium gets trapped in geological formations in economical amounts.
Today, much of helium is either produced as a by-product of natural gas deposits, or from helium-primary gas deposits with concentrations up to 7% He.
Here’s helium production by country:
|Country||2016 production (in billion cubic feet)||Share|
|USA (from Cliffside Field)||0.8||14%|
USA (from Cliffside Field)
The USA government has a helium stockpile at the Cliffside Field in Texas, developed as part of a WWI initiative. It is in the process of being phased out, and by as late as 2021 it will no longer contribute to supply.
In December 2013, the Qatar Helium 2 project was opened. This new facility combined with the first helium project makes the country the 2nd largest source of helium globally.
Russia is looking to become a player in helium as well. Gazprom’s Amur LNG project will be one of the biggest gas facilities in the world, and it will include a helium processing plant. This won’t be online until 2024, though.
Though not a helium player yet, scientists have recently uncovered a major helium find in the Rift Valley of Tanzania which contains an estimated 99 billion cubic feet of gas.
The Future of the Helium Market?
Because of inflated demand, especially for cryogenics in MRI machines, helium prices have risen significantly over the years.
And with these market dynamics in mind, it’s clear that the future of helium is not full of hot air.
The Dominance of U.S. Companies in Global Markets
U.S.-based companies have a heavy weighting in global equity markets. In most industries, their market capitalization exceeds 50% of the total.
U.S. Companies Dominate Global Markets
Are global indexes as “global” as you think they are?
With the aim of tracking market performance around the world, these indexes incorporate securities from various regions. However, while the number of securities may be relatively well diversified across countries, a dollar perspective tells a different story. When market capitalization is taken into account, country weightings may become much more unbalanced.
Today’s visualization is based on a concept by S&P Dow Jones Indices that shows the percentage of U.S.-based companies in global sectors and industries as of December 31, 2019. The calculations reflect the market capitalization of companies in the S&P Global Broad Market Index (BMI), an index that tracks over 11,000 stocks across 50 developed and emerging economies.
Percentage of U.S. Companies by Sector
U.S-based companies—those that maintain their primary business affairs in the U.S.—are a major component of many global sectors and industries.
Here’s how it breaks down:
|Sector||% of U.S.-based Companies||Most U.S.-heavy Subsector|
|Information technology||73%||Software (86%)|
|Health care||65%||Health care providers (82%)|
|Utilities||53%||Electric utilities (57%)|
|Real estate||51%||Equity REITs (69%)|
|Consumer discretionary||49%||Specialty retail (73%)|
|Consumer staples||46%||Household products (74%)|
|Industrials||46%||Aerospace & defense (73%)|
|Energy||44%||Energy - other (73%)|
|Financials||44%||Financials - other (73%)|
U.S.-based companies make up a staggering 73% of the information technology (IT) sector. However, China may soon threaten this dominance. The Made in China 2025 plan highlights new-generation IT as a priority sector for the country.
The U.S. is still the world’s leader, but China is coming up very fast.
—Rebecca Fannin, Journalist & Author of Tech Titans of China
Healthcare is also heavily skewed towards U.S-based stocks, which make up 65% of the sector’s market capitalization. This weighting is perhaps not surprising given the success of many U.S. healthcare companies. In Fortune’s list of the 500 most profitable U.S. companies, 41 healthcare organizations made the cut.
The materials sector has the smallest weighting of U.S.-based stocks, but they still account for almost one-third of the overall market capitalization. Three American companies are in the sector’s top 10 holdings: Air Products & Chemicals, Ecolab, and Sherwin-Williams.
U.S. Equity Views in a Global Context
Given the high weighting of U.S. stocks in global sectors and industries, having a U.S. view is important. This refers to investors gaining a clear perspective on the risks and opportunities that exist in the country. Investors can consider the trends influencing American companies in order to help explain stock performance.
U.S. stock dominance also impacts geographic diversification. While it helps non-U.S. investors overcome their home bias, American investors may want to consider targeting specific international markets for well-rounded exposure.
Intangible Assets: A Hidden but Crucial Driver of Company Value
Intangible assets – such as goodwill and intellectual property – have rapidly risen in importance compared to tangible assets like cash.
Intangible Assets Take Center Stage
View the high resolution version of this infographic by clicking here
In 2018, intangible assets for S&P 500 companies hit a record value of $21 trillion. These assets, which are not physical in nature and include things like intellectual property, have rapidly risen in importance compared to tangible assets like cash.
Today’s infographic from Raconteur highlights the growth of intangible asset valuations, and how senior decision-makers view intangibles when making investment decisions.
Tracking the Growth of Intangibles
Intangibles used to play a much smaller role than they do now, with physical assets comprising the majority of value for most enterprise companies. However, an increasingly competitive and digital economy has placed the focus on things like intellectual property, as companies race to out-innovate one another.
To measure this historical shift, Aon and the Ponemon Institute analyzed the value of intangible and tangible assets over nearly four and a half decades on the S&P 500. Here’s how they stack up:
In just 43 years, intangibles have evolved from a supporting asset into a major consideration for investors – today, they make up 84% of all enterprise value on the S&P 500, a massive increase from just 17% in 1975.
The Largest Companies by Intangible Value
Digital-centric sectors, such as internet & software and technology & IT, are heavily reliant on intangible assets.
Brand Finance, which produces an annual ranking of companies based on intangible value, has companies in these sectors taking the top five spots on the 2019 edition of their report.
|Rank||Company||Sector||Total Intangible Value||Share of Enterprise Value|
|1||Microsoft||Internet & Software||$904B||90%|
|2||Amazon||Internet & Software||$839B||93%|
|3||Apple||Technology & IT||$675B||77%|
|4||Alphabet||Internet & Software||$521B||65%|
|5||Internet & Software||$409B||79%|
|7||Tencent||Internet & Software||$365B||88%|
|8||Johnson & Johnson||Pharma||$361B||101%|
|10||Alibaba||Internet & Software||$344B||86%|
|12||Procter & Gamble||Cosmetics & Personal Care||$305B||101%|
Note: Percentages may exceed 100% due to rounding.
Microsoft overtook Amazon for the top spot in the ranking for 2019, with $904B in intangible assets. The company has the largest commercial cloud business in the world.
Pharma and healthcare companies are also prominent on the list, comprising four of the top 20. Their intangible value is largely driven by patents, as well as mergers and acquisitions. Johnson & Johnson, for example, reported $32B in patents and trademarks in their latest annual report.
A Lack of Disclosure
It’s important to note that Brand Finance’s ranking is based on both disclosed intangibles—those that are reported on a company’s balance sheet—and undisclosed intangibles. In the ranking, undisclosed intangibles were calculated as the difference between a company’s market value and book value.
The majority of intangibles are not reported on balance sheets because accounting standards do not recognize them until a transaction has occurred to support their value. While many accounting managers see this as a prudent measure to stop unsubstantiated asset values, it means that many highly valuable intangibles never appear in financial reporting. In fact, 34% of the total worth of the world’s publicly traded companies is made up of undisclosed value.
“It is time for CEOs, CFOs, and CMOs to start a long overdue reporting revolution.”
—David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance
Brand Finance believes that companies should regularly value each intangible asset, including the key assumptions management made when deriving their value. This information would be extremely useful for managers, investors, and other stakeholders.
A Key Consideration
Investment professionals certainly agree on the importance of intangibles. In a survey of institutional investors by Columbia Threadneedle, it was found that 95% agreed that intangible assets contain crucial information about the future strength of a company’s business model.
Moreover, 98% agree that more transparency would be beneficial to their assessment of intangible assets. In the absence of robust reporting, Columbia Threadneedle believes active managers are well equipped to understand intangible asset values due to their access to management, relationships with key opinion leaders, and deep industry expertise.
By undertaking rigorous analysis, managers may uncover hidden competitive advantages—and generate higher potential returns in the process.
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