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Investing in the Rise of the New Spending Class

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Investing in the Rise of the New Spending Class

Investing in the Rise of the New Spending Class

It’s no secret that the world has been a little down on China.

The world’s most populous country has been the primary engine of economic growth for decades, but recently investor optimism around China has diminished significantly. With a sliding manufacturing sector and lower GDP growth, most mainstream pundits have shifted focus to whether the country will have a “soft” or a “hard” landing.

Ever the contrarian, investor and author Gianni Kovacevic is not one to buy into this Kool Aid.

In his new book “My Electrician Drives a Porsche?”, Kovacevic examines the fundamentals around China and other emerging markets to create perspective on the newest and fastest-growing generation of consumers. Using an allegorical conversation between a doctor and his Porsche-driving electrician, the impact and ripple effects of this new “spending class” are described, affecting everything from the economy to the environment.

We thought the book had some great statistics on emerging markets, and that the easy-to-follow conversation was an effective way at introducing the contrarian way of thinking. Further, the book also outlines an interesting track on how to invest in green energy specifically.

Key Themes

Today’s infographic pulls some of the themes from this book to show who makes up the new spending class, and why their inevitable rise will translate to a blossoming green energy sector. There is much more meat to the book and to avoid spoilers, we’ve left out Kovacevic’s ultimate investment conclusion.

However, here are some of the points that we thought were most compelling:

Millennials

Millennials get a lot of media coverage in the United States. There’s 87 million of them and they have already had a profound impact on the economy. That said, it is incredible to think that the same generation in China is nearly 5x as big with 415 million people. This cohort of millennials (16-35 years old) in China is larger than the entire working populations of the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe combined.

Millennials in China and other emerging markets are nothing like previous generations. For example, in China, millennials have already earned 107 million college degrees, while all other previous generations have combined for a grand total of only 14 million. Newly educated and aware of the modern world through technology, China’s millennials do not want to work in factories or fields.

Spending Class Potential

China’s spectacular growth isn’t coming to an end anytime soon. The country is in 74th place worldwide in GDP per capita with $8,280. This is compared to neighboring countries such as Japan and South Korea, which have amounts closer to $30,000 per capita.

Only 22% of the Chinese population has drivers licenses, yet the country is already the largest auto market in the world with close to 25 million cars sold per year. Imagine how many refrigerators, air conditioners, and other basic comfort products the spending class will be buying over the coming years as their disposable income rises.

Energy

The common denominator of these goods is that they all take significant amounts of raw materials and energy to manufacture. Most of these goods, such as refrigerators or air conditions, require great amounts of energy to constantly power as well.

Today, the average person in China uses less than 30% of the energy used each year by an American. As 400 million people buy these essential goods of human progress and comfort, the energy draw will rise rapidly. Where will this energy come from?

Certainly all power sources will be a part of this energy mix going forward, but China is leaning green the most. Air pollution is so bad in China that it is commonly referred to as the “Airpocalypse”. It’s estimated that pollution kills 4,000 people per day in China, and green energy will help combat this problem.

That’s why China is building 1,000 GW of green energy capacity between 2014 and 2030, which is the equivalent of 90% of the entire current U.S. energy grid.

Tesla Tour

To amplify the message of the book, Gianni Kovacevic is embarking on “The Realistic Environmentalist Tesla Tour” to 32 official cities in North America. This one-of-a-kind, zero emissions book tour will be facilitated by driving a Tesla Model S from Toronto to California. The objective is to enlighten millions of people by illustrating what makes green energy and human progress factually possible while debunking common myths from the validity of electric cars to the future of energy.

Here’s more on the Tesla Tour in his own words:

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Charting the Rise and Fall of the Global Luxury Goods Market

This infographic charts the rise and fall of the $308 billion global personal luxury market, and explores what the coming year holds for its growth

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The Rise and Fall of the Global Luxury Goods Market

Global demand for personal luxury goods has been steadily increasing for decades, resulting in an industry worth $308 billion in 2019.

However, the insatiable desire for consumers to own nice things was suddenly interrupted by the coming of COVID-19, and experts are predicting a brutal contraction of up to one-third of the current luxury good market size this year.

Will the industry bounce back? Or will it return as something noticeably different?

A Once Promising Trajectory

The global luxury goods market—which includes beauty, apparel, and accessories—has compounded at a 6% pace since the 1990s.

Recent years of growth in the personal luxury goods market can be mostly attributed to Chinese consumers. This geographic market accounted for 90% of total sales growth in 2019, followed by the Europe and the Americas.

Analysts suggest that China’s younger luxury goods consumers in particular have significant spending power, with an average spend of $6,000 (¥41,000) per person in pre-COVID times.

An Industry Now in Distress

The lethal combination of reduced foot traffic and decreased consumer spending in the first quarter of 2020 has brought the retail industry to its knees.

In fact, more than 80% of fashion and luxury players will experience financial distress as a result of extended store closures.

luxury market McKinsey supplemental

With iconic luxury retailers such as Neiman Marcus filing for bankruptcy, the pressure on the luxury industry is clear. It should be noted however, that companies who were experiencing distress before the COVID-19 outbreak will be the hardest hit.

Predicting the Collapse

In a recent report, Bain & Company estimated a 25% to 30% global luxury market contraction for the first quarter of 2020 based on several economic variables. They have also modeled three scenarios to predict the performance for the remainder of 2020.

  • Optimistic scenario: A limited market contraction of 15% to 18%, assuming increased consumer demand for the second and third quarter of the year, roughly equating to a sales decline of $46 billion to $56 billion.
  • Intermediate scenario: A moderate market contraction of between 22% and 25%, or $68 to $77 billion.
  • Worst-case scenario: A steep contraction of between 30% and 35%, equating to $92 billion to $108 billion. This assumes a longer period of sales decline.

Although there are signs of recovery in China, the industry is not expected to fully return to 2019 levels until 2022 at the earliest. By that stage, the industry could have transformed entirely.

Changing Consumer Mindsets

Since the beginning of the pandemic, one-quarter of consumers have delayed purchasing luxury items. In fact, a portion of those who have delayed purchasing luxury goods are now considering entirely new avenues, such as seeking out cheaper alternatives.

However, most people surveyed claim that they will postpone buying luxury items until they can get a better deal on price.

luxury market supplemental

This frugal mindset could spark an interesting behavioral shift, and set the stage for a new category to emerge from the ashes—the second-hand luxury market.

Numerous sources claim that pre-owned luxury could in fact overtake the traditional luxury market, and the pandemic economy could very well be a tipping point.

The Future of Luxury

Medium-term market growth could be driven by a number of factors, from a global growing middle class and their demand for luxury products, as well as retailers’ sudden shift to e-commerce.

While analysts can only rely on predictions to determine the future of personal luxury, it is clear that the industry is at a crossroads.

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The New Energy Era: The Impact of Critical Minerals on National Security

The U.S. finds itself in a precarious position, depending largely on China and other foreign nations for the critical minerals needed in the new energy era.

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In 1954, the United States was only fully reliant on foreign sources for eight mineral commodities.

Fast forward 60+ years, and the country now depends on foreign sources for 20 such materials, including ones essential for military and battery technologies.

This puts the U.S. in a precarious position, depending largely on China and other foreign nations for the crucial materials such as lithium, cobalt, and rare earth metals that can help build and secure a more sustainable future.

America’s Energy Dependence

Today’s visualization comes from Standard Lithium, and it outlines China’s dominance of the critical minerals needed for the new energy era.

Which imported minerals create the most risk for U.S. supply chains and national security?

Supply Chains and National Security

Natural Resources and Development

Gaining access to natural resources can influence a nation’s ability to grow and defend itself. China’s growth strategy took this into account, and the country sourced massive amounts of raw materials to position the country as the number one producer and consumer of commodities.

By the end of the second Sino-Japanese War in 1945, China’s mining industry was largely in ruins. After the war, vast amounts of raw materials were required to rebuild the country.

In the late 1970s, the industry was boosted by China’s “reform and opening” policies, and since then, China’s mining outputs have increased enormously. China’s mining and material industries fueled the rapid growth of China from the 1980s onwards.

Supply Chain Dominance

A large number of Chinese mining companies also invest in overseas mining projects. China’s “going out” strategy encourages companies to move into overseas markets.

They have several reasons to mine beyond its shores: to secure mineral resources that are scarce in China, to gain access to global markets and mineral supply chains, and to minimize domestic overproduction of some mineral commodities.

This has led to China to become the leading producer of many of the world’s most important metals while also securing a commanding position in key supply chains.

As an example of this, China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of rare earth materials. The country produces approximately 94% of the rare earth oxides and around 100% of the rare earth metals consumed globally, with 50% going to domestic consumption.

U.S.-China Trade Tensions

The U.S. drafted a list of 35 critical minerals in 2018 that are vital to national security, and according to the USGS, the country sources at least 31 of the materials chiefly through imports.

China is the third largest supplier of natural resources to the U.S. behind Canada and Mexico.

RankCountryU.S. Minerals Imports By Country ($US, 2018)
#1Canada$1,814,404,440
#2Mexico$724,542,960
#3China$678,217,450
#4Brazil$619,890,570
#5South Africa$568,183,800

This dependence on China poses a risk. In 2010, a territorial dispute between China and Japan threatened to disrupt the supply of the rare earth elements. Today, a similar threat still looms over trade tensions between the U.S. and China.

China’s scale of influence over critical minerals means that it could artificially limit supply and move prices in the global clean energy trade, in the same way that OPEC does with oil. This would leave nations that import their mineral needs in an expensive and potentially limiting spot.

Moon Shot: Building Domestic Supply and Production

Every supply chain starts with raw materials. The U.S. had the world’s largest lithium industry until the 1990s—but this is no longer the case, even though the resources are still there.

The U.S. holds 12% of the world’s identified lithium resources, but only produces 2% of global production from a single mine in Nevada.

There are a handful of companies looking to develop the U.S. lithium reserves, but there is potential for so much more. Less than 18% of the U.S. land mass is geologically mapped at a scale suited to identifying new mineral deposits.

The United States has the resources, it is just a question of motivation. Developing domestic resources can reduce its foreign dependence, and enable it to secure the new energy era.

In the clean energy economy of the future, critical minerals will be just as essential—and geopolitical—as oil is today.

—Scientific American

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