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Investing Megatrend: How Rapid Urbanization is Shaping the Future

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An Investing Megatrend: How Rapid Urbanization is Shaping the Future

How Rapid Urbanisation is Shaping the Future

The world is constantly changing, and many of these shifts have the potential to alter the investment landscape.

While some of these changes can be temporary and fleeting, others can be powerful, transformative “megatrends” that shape how society is organized at a fundamental level.

One such megatrend that has been in place for decades is the rapid rate of population growth in urban areas — and while it’s been highly influential thus far, we’ve likely only seen the beginning of its formative impact on the global economy.

An Intro to Rapid Urbanisation

Today’s infographic comes to us from iShares by BlackRock, and it highlights the case for rapid urbanisation as being one of the most important overarching trends to watch in markets over the long term.

It’s a trend that originated in developed economies in the 21st century, as people transitioned from agricultural work to factory and service jobs.

RegionUrban share of population (1900)Urban share of population (2016)
United States40%82%
Japan12%91%
Western Europe41%80%

In these developed economies today, cities are major sources of innovation and wealth creation, and the World Bank estimates that over 80% of global GDP is now generated in cities.

A Global Shift

Over the coming decades, the large-scale role of cities will become even more amplified as rapid urbanisation spills over to the rest of the world.

Billions of people — especially in Asia and Africa — will be seeking opportunities in cities over the coming decades. Between 2018 and 2050, the global urban population will increase from 55% to 68%, adding another 2.5 billion people to cities around the world.

RankCountryUrban population growth (2018-2050)
#1India416 million people
#2China255 million people
#3Nigeria189 million people

Nearly 90% of this growth will be in Africa and Asia, with India alone adding 416 million new people to its cities — more than any other country in the world over this timeframe.

The Dawn of the Megacity

People are not only flocking to cities, they are flocking to megacities — urban conglomerations with more than 10 million people.

In just 40 years, the total amount of megacities will quadruple, gaining nearly 600 million residents in the process:

Year# of MegacitiesPopulation% of Urban Population
199010153 million7%
201023370 million12%
203041730 million14%

With billions of new people living in urban areas – and many of them living in megacities — we will have to rethink how our cities are designed and engineered.

And as this happens, the city as we know it will be revolutionised.

The Urban Opportunity

Rapid urbanisation will create both opportunities and challenges for society, and a plethora of investment possibilities in the process.

As global cities become more integrated with technology, new business models will emerge as cities become smarter, denser, and more connected.

These potential opportunities include:

  • Smarter cities
    Cities will embrace technology to improve services and infrastructure, adding tech-driven features like smart lighting or real-time traffic updates.
  • New infrastructure
    Cities and companies will invest heavily to build next generation infrastructure, such as data centers, green energy, and citywide WiFi.
  • A focus on personal security
    With higher crime rates in cities than rural areas, governments will employ elevated levels of surveillance on citizens in cities. Increasing connectivity means that every activity is logged and monitored.
  • New services
    As cities become more connected, non-traditional players — such as cybersecurity experts or cleantech engineers — will be needed as a part of city planning processes.
  • No car ownership
    A lack of space and the rise of autonomous cars will mean fewer people will own a car, preferring to use ‘summon-able’ services instead.
  • New healthcare systems
    As population density grows to unprecedented levels, existing healthcare systems will need to be radically overhauled to deal with this influx.

Rapid urbanisation will have a wide-ranging impact on global economics, demographics, and society as a whole.

As rapid urbanisation and other megatrends collide and feed off each other, there’s no doubt that even more thematic investment opportunities will be created.

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Markets

CBD Oil vs. Hemp Oil: What’s the Difference?

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CBD Oil vs. Hemp Oil: What’s the Difference?

For many consumers, cannabis plays a significant role in the treatment of medical conditions and managing general well-being. As a result, certain products have seen a rapid increase in popularity in recent years.

But while awareness of these products is at an all-time high, false or misleading information continues to cause confusion, and creates an unnecessary barrier for consumers who want to experiment with, or try different products.

For example, 69% of cannabidiol (CBD) products are reported to have inaccurate labeling, so it’s no surprise that some consumers are uncertain about the suitability of these products and are hesitant to invest.

Today’s graphic from Elements of Green dives into the differences between popular cannabis products, CBD oil and hemp seed oil—more commonly known as hemp oil— and the common misconceptions that are inhibiting consumers from entering the space en masse.

Same Plant, Difference Characteristics

Typically, both CBD oil and hemp oil originate from the hemp plant, a non-psychoactive cannabis plant. Therefore, it typically does not result in any intoxicating effects. However, many consumers mistakenly believe that CBD or hemp products will get them high, when in fact it is the marijuana plant—hemp’s psychoactive cousin—that can induce mind-altering effects.

Even though both oils are extracted from the same plant, they each have very different characteristics and uses that consumers should be aware of.

CBD Oil

CBD oil is extracted from the flowers, leaves, stems, and stalks of hemp plants, and contains high levels of the naturally occurring CBD compound. Various CBD oil formats include tinctures, vape oil, and capsules, which are commonly used for their proven therapeutic benefits, such as:

  • Pain management
  • Relaxation
  • Stress relief
  • Treatment of medical conditions such as epilepsy, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis
  • Reduction in anxiety
  • Sleep aid

When it comes to product labeling, consumers should be aware that different types of CBD oils exist, depending on the chemical compounds—known as cannabinoids—they contain.

  • CBD Isolate: Pure CBD, with no other cannabinoids such as THC
  • Full-spectrum CBD oil: Contains CBD among other cannabinoids, with no THC
  • Broad-spectrum CBD oil: Contains CBD among other cannabinoids including low levels of THC

These oils are used in a wide variety of consumer products such as beverages, beauty products, and even pet food.

Hemp Oil

Hemp oil, on the other hand, is extracted from hemp seeds and contains no cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. It is used more like a traditional cooking oil, but can also be found in topical creams and lotions.

More recently, hemp oil is being hailed for its use in industrial products such as concrete, bio-plastics and fuel. While it has huge potential for use in both consumer and industrial products, its benefits differ slightly to CBD oil:

  • Source of plant-based protein and rich in fatty acids and antioxidants
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Reduces severity of skin conditions such as acne, eczema, or psoriasis
  • Anti-bacterial properties
  • Could reduce PMS or menopause symptoms

Consumers should ensure that hemp oil is listed as the active ingredient on the product’s packaging, but it may also be listed as cannabis sativa seed oil.

Busting the Myths

While there is strong scientific evidence to support the efficacy of CBD oil and hemp oil, companies need to commit to both appropriate and safe labeling regarding dosage levels and ingredients.

Following that, previously held stigmas and misconceptions should slowly disintegrate as these products become more widely available and consumers increase their knowledge and understanding of their benefits.

Considering that the popularity of cannabis consumer products has only exploded over the last decade, initial confusion surrounding them is to be expected, and the true potential of these products is yet to be realised.

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Technology

Visualizing the Size of Amazon, the World’s Most Valuable Retailer

Amazon’s valuation has grown by 2,830% over the last decade, and the tech giant is now worth more than the other 9 largest U.S. retailers, combined.

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Visualizing the Size of the World’s Most Valuable Retailer

As brick-and-mortar chains teeter in the face of the pandemic, Amazon continues to gain ground.

The retail juggernaut is valued at no less than $1.4 trillion—roughly four times what it was in late 2016 when its market cap hovered around $350 billion. Last year, the Jeff Bezos-led company shipped 2 billion packages around the world.

Today’s infographic shows how Amazon’s market cap alone is bigger than the nine biggest U.S. retailers put together, highlighting the palpable presence of the once modest online bookstore.

The New Normal

COVID-19’s sudden shift has rendered many retail outfits obsolete.

Neiman Marcus, JCPenney, and J.Crew have all filed for bankruptcy as consumer spending has migrated online. This, coupled with heavy debt loads across many retail chains, is only compounding the demise of brick-and-mortar. In fact, one estimate projects that at least 25,000 U.S. stores will fold over the next year.

Still, as safety and supply chain challenges mount—with COVID-19 related costs in the billions—Amazon remains at the top. It surpasses its next closest competitor, Walmart, by $1 trillion in market valuation.

How does Amazon compare to the largest retailers in the U.S.?

10 Largest Public US Retailers*Market Value July 1, 2020Market Value July 1, 2010 Normalized % Change 2010-2020Retail Revenue
Walmart$339B$179B90%$514B
Costco$134B$24B458%$142B
Amazon$1,400B$50B2,830%$140B
The Kroger Co.$26B$13B107%$118Be
Walgreens Boots Alliance$36B$26B38%$111B
The Home Depot$267B$47B466%$108B
CVS$84B$40B112%$84B
Target$60B$37B64%$74B
Lowe's$102B$29B251%$71B
Best Buy$23B$14B59%$43B
Combined value of retailers (without Amazon)$1,071B

Source: Deloitte, YCharts
*Largest public US retailers based on their retail revenue as of fiscal years ending through June 30, 2019, e=estimated

With nearly a 39% share of U.S. e-commerce retail sales, Amazon’s market cap has grown 2,830% over the last decade. Its business model, which aggressively pursues market dominance instead of focusing on short-term profits, is one factor behinds the rise.

By the same token, one recent estimate by The Economist pegged Amazon’s retail operating margins at -1% last year. Another analyst has suggested that the company purposefully sells retail goods at a loss.

How Amazon makes up for this operating shortfall is through its cash-generating cloud service, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and through a collection of diversified enterprise-focused services. AWS, with estimated operating margins of 26%, brought in $9.2 billion in profits in 2019—more than half of Amazon’s total.

Amazon’s Basket of Eggs

Unlike many of its retail competitors, Amazon has rapidly diversified its acquisitions since it originated in 1994.

Take the $1.2 billion acquisition of Zoox. Amazon plans to operate self-driving taxi fleets, all of which are designed without steering wheels. It is the company’s third largest since the $13.7 billion acquisition of organic grocer Whole Foods, followed by Zappos.

Accounting for the lion’s share of Amazon-owned physical stores, Whole Foods has 508 stores across the U.S., UK, and Canada. While Amazon doesn’t outline revenues across its physical retail segments—which include Amazon Books stores, Amazon Go stores, and others—physical store sales tipped over $17 billion in 2019.

Meanwhile, Amazon also owns gaming streaming platform Twitch, which it acquired for $970 million in 2017. Currently, Twitch makes up 73% of the streaming market and brought in an estimated $300 million in ad revenues in 2019.

Carrying On

Despite the flood of online orders due to quarantines and social distancing requirements, Amazon’s bottom line has suffered. In the second quarter of 2020 alone, it is expected to rack up $4 billion in pandemic-related costs.

Yet, at the same time, its customer-obsessed business model appears to thrive under current market conditions. As of July 1, its stock price has spiked over 51% year-to-date. On an annualized basis, that’s roughly 100% in returns.

As margins get squeezed and expenses grow, is Amazon’s growth sustainable in the long-term? Or, are the company’s strategic acquisitions and revenue streams providing the catalysts (and cash) for only more short-term success?

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