The Silver Lining, in the Emerging ‘Silver Economy’ 0 660

By: Dr. Kenneth De Zilwa

It has become a fad to argue that political and corporate leaders ought to be younger, the world around us has undergone extensive change over the past few decades. In the context of population ageing experienced in many parts of the world, it is argued in political and business realms that leaders require to be more age appropriate and not aged. The old guard, it is contended, is not in keeping with the winds of rapid technological transformation that is taking place.

Silver-lining-01

The 21st century business leadership belongs to the youth who are keeping abreast with technological innovations, robotics, and artificial intelligence in the corporate world. The global economic system seems to be sending out signals suggesting a need for change in the age composition of political and corporate leadership.

Silver-lining-02

Yet there are tendencies in the world today to embark upon a new strategy of capturing the potential of the silver economy which is estimated to be USD 15 trillion per year by 2020. The silver economy is thus becoming a significant mega trend that is shaping the world. In contrast to the past, we are living in an unprecedented era of the global longevity cycle. The age composition of world leaders and policy makers shaping this thought process is indicative of the fact that as the world population is ageing, & more and more business and political leaders will invariably be those with silver hair tips, representing the silver economic ethos. The data indicates that by 2050 the population segment of silver tips, i.e. those above the age of 60 years, will double from its current 890 million to reach 2 billion people, thereby accounting for 22percent of the global population. The UNDP projections also indicate that between 2018 and  2040, China’s 65+  population  would  jump  by  almost  150  percent,  from  135 to 340  million.  Thus by 2040, China will be a “super aged society” with 25 percent of its people being 62 years of age or older, while the Asia-Pacific region would be home to approximately 1.2 billion older people out of a total of 2.1 billion worldwide in that category by the year 2050. It’s not only the sheer numbers of individuals, but the sheer spending power of the silver hair tips that plays an even more important part in shaping global mega trends. According to Merrill Lynch, the investment bankers, the silver economy will grow from its current USD 7 trillion to a population segment with the spending power of USD 15 trillion per year by 2020. This would amount to approximately 16.4 percent of World GDP.  Such will be the scale and influence of this market segment.

Cont..

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Hyper-leap to a vibrant equity market 0 1010

 

In this exclusive interview with BiZnomics Magazine, the Chairman of the Colombo Stock Exchange Mr.Dumith Fernando, discusses the digitalization of the Colombo Stock Market. He also touched on the future investment environment in Sri Lanka. Fernando is Chairman of the leading investment banking firm, Asia Securities Holdings Ltd, which he has led for the last six years. He also serves as a member of the Financial Stability Consultative Committee of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. With 25 years of experience in international and Sri Lankan capital markets, Fernando spent much of his career in global financial centers in New York and Hong Kong with global banking giants JPMorgan Chase and Credit Suisse.

What role will the ‘hyper-leap to the future’ play in creating a vibrant equity market for Sri Lanka?  

The “hyper leap” to the future, what it refers to is the digitalization of the stock market. The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) called for a joint committee of the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) and SEC with the intent of digitalizing some of the core activities of market and market participants. The goal was to digitalize as many of the stakeholder touchpoints, enabling end to end connectivity electronically with interactive user interfaces and interactive user experiences so that the stock market can be accessible to anyone with a smartphone. Early on we converted a lot of the statements to electronic form, for instance, CDS statement is sent via email, and companies listed on the CSE were allowed to pay dividends directly into their shareholders’ accounts, electronically. In the second phase of the initiative, we introduced a mobile application. A CSE mobile app that allows anyone from anywhere in the country to open a stockbroking and Central Depository System (CDS) account without visiting a branch of a stockbroker physically. It helps broad-base the market and brings a lot more individual investors onto the market, which is a fundamental part of creating a vibrant equity market.

How has the market performed in the past few weeks?

The activity levels and market valuations have gone up considerably. In the past few years, after 2015, every single year the average daily turnover in the market was under a billion rupees. It was Rs. 710 million a day in 2019. Today we are probably doing over Rs. 1.5 billion of turnover per day. On the 14th of October, there was a turnover of Rs. 5 billion, and the number of actual trades in the market was the highest since 2011. Before the lockdown, there was very heavy foreign selling in particular, and when the market reopened for one or two days you had markets falling about 13 or 14%. From that time what we have witnessed is local investors, seeing very good value in the market and taking advantage of this opportunity.

How will the market face a second scenario?

The market was closed for about 7 or 8 weeks in March through mid-May, a big part of that was the lack of full confidence that trades could be settled, due to the trade settlement process. So with the current digitalization move, we’ve asked brokers to get on board as many of their customers for online settlement and online payment to bank accounts. This allows us to be much more confident about operating the market even during the unfortunate eventualities of a lockdown or a curfew. In terms of COVID management we have performed much better, the markets and companies are better prepared now to deal with the COVID situation. So that’s why I think even if there is a second wave of any sort, companies are much better prepared for that and we would expect to see companies and the stock market also performing in a much more resilient manner than before.

What role has interest rates played in boosting the market?

This was a fundamental catalyst for the share market performance. Since the reopening after the lockdown, there was a precipitous drop in interest rates. Interest rates falling has always been good news for equity markets for three reasons.

First for individual investors in particular, if you’ve been sitting on high-interest rate deposits for the last few years they might sometimes be getting double-digit returns on fixed deposits. That has now fallen considerably. For a lot of people, the return they are getting on their money from bank deposits is just not enough.

That has made them shift to the equity asset class particularly because valuations were so low by the end of the lockdown. Dividend yields in the equity markets are probably about 3% so that combined with the price appreciation that have been expecting will give them a better return. Secondly, when interest rates drop, the finance cost of listed companies go down,  and with that comes a boost in earnings.  This resulted in some of these particular companies being highly geared and a boost in their earnings, leading to their stocks performing quite well. Third impact will be for those who trade stocks on margin. Their margin interest cost also goes down, then they are in a better position to get into the market. There’s a high degree of confidence that you can make more money in the market than you pay in margin interest costs. That is also one of the positive impacts of low interest rates.

Will we be seeing more IPOs in the coming years?

When people come to the market to list, generally we would look at two or three different things. High valuation, high price to earnings multiples, and high price to book value multiples in the market. These factors would assure much greater investor engagement. Sentiment and confidence also plays a big role, because it’s not just a matter of placing your shares in the market, you want the share price to perform well. Now we’ve obviously gone through a period where markets have been somewhat challenged. Even as of last month the valuations of our market were the lowest among peer countries. That’s one of the reasons why I think a lot of companies in the last three years have not gone out for listing.

We want to see more companies tapping into the public share market to raise money; raise capital for their growth. With the COVID-19 lockdown I think there may be a number of companies who have survived on bank financing, some challenges of the COVID impact may mean that raising equity is the way out of any sort of balance sheet challenges. So we would expect to see some of those companies as well, now considering equity markets. State minister for capital markets Hon. Nivard Cabraal has challenged the CSE to look at getting to 500 listed companies in five years. We’re at about 300 at the moment and that 300 hasn’t really changed over the last few years. We have been having promotional campaigns and doing various things to get them to come into the market but we are definitely going to have to redouble our efforts to push towards some of those targets now.

What is the outlook for the Sri Lankan economy in the medium to long-term?

I’m generally positive. We should expect to go back to 5 percent or 5% plus growth as an economy. Even though there is a lot of noise around the current sovereign rating downgrade and international debt repayments I’ve never had doubts about our October bonds being repaid. I don’t have doubts about our July repayment. Clearly there are concerns and fears! I’m not trying to say that the future or the next year or two is going to be easy but, there’s a lot of free space between it being easy and not being able to repay debt and I think we will definitely find the middle ground in that space to do what we have done for all these years, which is, never default on a sovereign issue.

Outside of that we are in a very good position. There’s a lot of infrastructure investment that still needs to happen, the road network and the country being better connected, the two ports being expanded, the Hambanthota Airport now potentially getting more utilized, I think the logistics infrastructure is a fundamental necessity for economic growth and it is all falling into place. We’re also seeing potentially quite positive wins from some of the government focus to move towards local manufacturing. If you look at local manufacturing stocks on the exchange, they performed extremely well in the last few months

One sector that is seeing a bit of slowdown and will do so in the next 12 to 18 months will be the financial and banking sector in particular. But with other parts of the economy growing and strengthening the banking sector will pull through.

We don’t have the answers to when the tourism sector will bounce back, it’s not a massive part of our economy but contributes about 4-5 % of the economy. It’s a big foreign exchange earner and there are quite a few jobs that depend on it. There’s a lot of dependencies, not just economic dependencies, primarily health-related dependencies including travel bans been lifted, a vaccine for COVID, and treatments for COVID advancing. So there are number of things that are very hard to predict at this stage.

However we’ve seen exports bouncing back with about a billion dollars of exports a month, that run rate would make it possible to put us ahead of last year’s full year export number.

On the production and manufacturing side, I think we’re much better organized to operate even if there were a COVID second wave.

With that in mind, there will need to be much stronger capital formation across industries and that’s where we see a big opportunity for the Stock Exchange. With more companies raising capital through the CSE.  I am positive about our outlook! We have a game plan; we’ve been able to stabilize policy uncertainty which we had for the last few years, with a consistent government in place, good policy and solid public sector private sector engagement, I think we should get back to 5% plus growth.

Sri Lanka in a Transforming South Asian Economic Landscape (Data as at 2018) 0 944

SL in Transform

 

  • India remains the Global leader and among the fastest growing economies of the world with a population of 1,316 Mn and USD 2,689 Mn.
  • Bangladesh with 162 Mn people with a GDP of USD 286 Bn has also sustained high economic growth in recent times.
  • Pakistan With a population of 199 Mn people and economy of USD 306.0 Bn GDP has slowed down its growth momentum, but remains a potentially important player in the region.
  • Nepal with a population of 29 Mn and an economy of USD 28 Bn sustains 6 percent growth in GDP in its transition to a lower middle income country.
  • Bhutan and Maldives with smaller in terms of population as well as GDP sustain near 7 percent growth in their respective GDP. Maldives commands the highest per capita income status in South Asia  while Bhutan commands one of the happiest country in the world,
  • Sri Lanka with 21 Mn people and a GDP of USD 92 Bn have lost its growth momentum and its development drive in recent years although it is still commanding the highest per capita income of around USD 4,000 in South Asia next only to Maldives.
  • Afghanistan with 30 Mn population remains as one of the poorest economies in the world with 2.5 percent growth in GDP and South Asia.   

 

Source : IMF – World Economic Outlook 2018 and Country Economic Updates
Source : IMF – World Economic Outlook 2018 and Country Economic Updates

By: BiZnomics Special Economic Correspondent