Opportunity Zones: Aligning Public and Private Capital
At the end of 2017, a potential $6.1 trillion in unrealized capital gains was available for reinvestment.
Throughout the U.S., unrealized capital gains have significant tax implications with enormous potential. Unrealized capital gains occur when the value of an asset has gone up on paper, but has not yet been sold for a profit. Taxes are triggered once the asset has been sold.
Investors can offset or defer these taxes in a few ways, including one new strategy: investing in opportunity zones.
Today’s infographic from Bedford Funds explains what opportunity zone funds are, their core benefits, and their potential impact across the country.
What is an Opportunity Zone?
Opportunity zones are U.S. Census tracts whose citizens experience economic distress.
Originating in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, they offer the potential to connect long-term capital with low-income communities across the country to drive return and impact.
How are opportunity zones chosen? The initial base is low-income census tracts, which have:
- Poverty rates of at least 20%; or
- Median family incomes lower than 80% of the surrounding area
The state’s governor or chief executive then nominates up to 25% of these areas as opportunity zones. Nationwide, a total of 8,700 opportunity zones exist, and 7.9 million of the areas’ residents live in poverty.
Overall, 35 million people live in these opportunity zones. There are a number of disparities between opportunity zones and notional averages across key variables:
|Poverty Rate||Median Family Income||Education*|
*Adult with Bachelor’s degree or higher
It’s evident these cities could benefit from increased investment.
What is an Opportunity Zone Fund?
An opportunity zone fund (OZF) is an investment vehicle that provides tax benefits for private capital to help revitalize economically distressed communities. Both operating businesses and real estate are eligible for investment.
Many investor types may take advantage of opportunity zone funds:
- Corporations– Also includes partnerships
- Accredited investors– Defined as high net worth individuals, brokers, and trusts
- Nonresident foreign investors– Only on capital gains earned in the U.S.
- Retail investors– Through funds that have lower minimums, though options are more limited
In addition to their wide eligibility, OZFs have a number of potential benefits.
Tax breaks on capital gains can be organized into three tiers:
- Initial Tax Deferral– Once the previously-earned capital gains are channeled into a qualifying OZF, federal tax is deferred until December 31, 2026 or the date the investment is sold— whichever comes sooner
- Step-Up In Basis– 10% of the original capital gains will be excluded from federal taxes if an investment is held for five years
- Capital Gains Tax Exclusion– Federal tax on capital gains earned within the OZF is 100% eliminated if an investment is held for 10 years
All things being equal, OZFs realize after-tax outcomes that are over 40% higher than a standard portfolio investment. For example, the potential after-tax value of a $100 investment after a 10-year holding period would be as follows.
|Initial Investment||Net after-tax value|
|Standard portfolio investment||$76.20 ($100- 23.8% capital gains tax)||$132.36|
*Note: assumes long-term federal capital gains tax rate of 23.8%, no state income tax, and annual appreciation of 7% for both the OZF and alternative investment.
While it takes a few years to realize these tax benefits, OZFs have long-term horizons to encourage sustained investment with a lasting impact. The result is the potential for sustainable and equitable wealth creation.
Although real estate investments have captured significant attention, recent regulation has clarified that operating businesses are also eligible OZF investments.
By investing in businesses, OZFs can have a direct impact on economic growth and job creation.
Ultimately, OZFs have the potential to catalyze collective impact through their scalable operating company and real estate investments. Working directly with community leaders, OZFs can help drive long-term rejuvenation from within, versus gentrification from outside forces.
Opportunity zone funds are projected to raise $44 billion in capital designed specifically to invest in this future growth.
A Visual Guide to Stock Splits
If companies want their stock price to rise, why would they want to split it, effectively lowering the price? This infographic explains why.
A Visual Guide to Stock Splits
Imagine a shop window containing large pieces of cheese.
If the value of that cheese rises over time, the price may move beyond what the majority of people are willing to pay. This presents a problem as the store wants to continue selling cheese, and people still want to eat it.
The obvious solution is to divide the cheese into smaller pieces. That way, more people can once again afford to buy portions of it, and those who want more can simply buy more of the smaller pieces.
The total volume of the cheese is still worth the same amount, it’s only the portion size that changed. As the infographic above by StocksToTrade demonstrates, the same concept applies to stock splits.
Like wheels of cheese, stocks can be split a number of different ways. Some of the more common splits are 2-for-1, 3-for-1, and 3-for-2. Less common splits can take place as well, such as when Apple increased its outstanding shares by a 7-to-1 ratio in 2014.
Why Companies Do Stock Splits
Of course, stocks aren’t cheese.
The real world of the financial markets, driven by macro trends and animal spirits, is more complex than items in a shop window.
If companies want their stock price to continue rising, why would they want to split it, effectively lowering the price? Here are a some specific reasons why:
As our cheese example illustrated, stocks can sometimes see price appreciation to the point where they are no longer accessible to a wide range of investors. Splitting the stock (i.e. making an individual share cheaper) is an effective way of increasing the total number of investors who can purchase shares.
2. Sending a Message
In many cases, announcing a stock split is a harbinger of prosperity for a company. Nasdaq found that companies that split their stock outperformed the market. This is likely due to investor excitement and the fact that companies often split their stock as they approach periods of growth.
3. Reducing Capital Costs
Stocks with prices that are too high have spreads that are wider than similar stocks. When spreads—the difference between the bid and offer—are too large, they eats into investor returns.
4. Meeting Index Criteria
There are specific instances when a company may want to adjust its share price to meet certain index requirements.
One example is the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), the well-known 30-stock benchmark. The Dow is considered a price-weighted index, which means that the higher a company’s stock price, the more weight and influence it has within the index. Shortly after Apple conducted its 7-to-1 stock split in 2014, dropping the share price from about $650 to $90, the company was added to the DJIA.
On the flip side, a company might decide to pursue a reverse stock split. This takes the existing amount of shares held by investors and replaces them with fewer shares at a higher price. Aside from the general stigma associated with a lower share price, companies need to keep the price above a certain threshold or face the possibility of being delisted from an exchange.
Stock Splits Happen, but are not Inevitable
Alphabet will become the most recent high profile company to split their stock in early 2022. The company’s 20-for-1 stock split aims to make the share price more accessible to retail investors dropping the price from approximately $2,750 to $140 per share.
Conversely, Berkshire Hathaway has famously never split its stock. As a result, a single share of BRK.A is worth over $470,000. Berkshire Hathaway’s legendary founder, Warren Buffett, reasons that splitting the stock would run counter to his buy-and-hold investment philosophy.
Visualizing The World’s Largest Sovereign Wealth Funds
To date, only two countries have sovereign wealth funds worth over $1 trillion. Learn more about them in this infographic.
Visualized: The World’s Largest Sovereign Wealth Funds
Did you know that some of the world’s largest investment funds are owned by national governments?
Known as sovereign wealth funds (SWF), these vehicles are often established with seed money that is generated by government-owned industries. If managed responsibly and given a long enough timeframe, an SWF can accumulate an enormous amount of assets.
In this infographic, we’ve detailed the world’s 10 largest SWFs, along with the largest mutual fund and ETF for context.
The Big Picture
Data collected from SWFI in October 2021 ranks Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (also known as the Norwegian Oil Fund) as the world’s largest SWF.
The world’s 10 largest sovereign wealth funds (with fund size benchmarks) are listed below:
|Country||Fund Name||Fund Type||Assets Under Management (AUM)|
|🇳🇴 Norway||Government Pension Fund Global||SWF||$1.3 trillion|
|🇺🇸 U.S.||Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund||Mutual fund||$1.3 trillion|
|🇨🇳 China||China Investment Corporation||SWF||$1.2 trillion|
|🇰🇼 Kuwait||Kuwait Investment Authority||SWF||$693 billion|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||Abu Dhabi Investment Authority||SWF||$649 billion|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR||Hong Kong Monetary Authority Investment Portfolio||SWF||$581 billion|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Government of Singapore Investment Corporation||SWF||$545 billion|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||Temasek||SWF||$484 billion|
|🇨🇳 China||National Council for Social Security Fund||SWF||$447 billion|
|🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia||SWF||$430 billion|
|🇺🇸 U.S.||State Street SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust||ETF||$391 billion|
|🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates||Investment Corporation of Dubai||SWF||$302 billion|
SWF AUM gathered on 10/08/2021. VTSAX and SPY AUM as of 09/30/2021.
So far, just two SWFs have surpassed the $1 trillion milestone. To put this in perspective, consider that the world’s largest mutual fund, the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSAX), is a similar size, investing in U.S. large-, mid-, and small-cap equities.
The Trillion Dollar Club
The world’s two largest sovereign wealth funds have a combined $2.5 trillion in assets. Here’s a closer look at their underlying portfolios.
1. Government Pension Fund Global – $1.3 Trillion (Norway)
Norway’s SWF was established after the country discovered oil in the North Sea. The fund invests the revenue coming from this sector to safeguard the future of the national economy. Here’s a breakdown of its investments.
|Asset Class||% of Total Assets||Country Diversification||Number of Securities|
|Public Equities||72.8%||69 countries||9,123 companies|
|Fixed income||24.7%||45 countries||1,245 bonds|
|Real estate||2.5%||14 countries||867 properties|
As of 12/31/2020
Real estate may be a small part of the portfolio, but it’s an important component for diversification (real estate is less correlated to the stock market) and generating income. Here are some U.S. office towers that the fund has an ownership stake in.
|601 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY||45.0%|
|475 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY||49.9%|
|33 Arch Street, Boston, MA||49.9%|
|100 First Street, San Francisco, CA||44.0%|
As of 12/31/2020
Overall, the fund has investments in 462 properties in the U.S. for a total value of $14.9 billion.
2. China Investment Corporation (CIC) – $1.2 Trillion (China)
The CIC is the largest of several Chinese SWFs, and was established to diversify the country’s foreign exchange holdings.
Compared to the Norwegian fund, the CIC invests in a greater variety of alternatives. This includes real estate, of course, but also private equity, private credit, and hedge funds.
|Asset Class||% of Total Assets|
As of 12/31/2020
A primary focus of the CIC has been to increase its exposure to American infrastructure and manufacturing. By the end of 2020, 57% of the fund was invested in the United States.
“According to our estimate, the United States needs at least $8 trillion in infrastructure investments. There’s not sufficient capital from the U.S. government or private sector. It has to rely on foreign investments.”
– Ding Xuedong, Chairman, China Investment Corporation
This has drawn suspicion from U.S. regulators given the geopolitical tensions between the two countries. For further reading on the topic, consider this 2017 paper by the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
Preparing for a Future Without Oil
Many of the countries associated with these SWFs are known for their robust fossil fuel industries. This includes Middle Eastern nations like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Oil has been an incredible source of wealth for these countries, but it’s unlikely to last forever. Some analysts believe that we could even see peak oil demand before 2030—though this doesn’t mean that oil will stop being an important resource.
Regardless, oil-producing countries are looking to hedge their reliance on fossil fuels. Their SWFs play an important role by taking oil revenue and investing it to generate returns and/or bolster other sectors of the economy.
An example of this is Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which supports the country’s Vision 2030 framework by investing in clean energy and other promising sectors.
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