Vietnam – Sweet Spot in Asia

Have you ever visited Vietnam? If so, you will probably have noticed not only the beauty of the country but also its dynamism. Many tourists returning from Vietnam bring unique impressions with them – and also the desire to benefit from this dynamism with a portion of their savings. In fact, Vietnam’s gross domestic product (GDP) has grown by an average of 6.25% per year over the last 20 years. By way of comparison, the Swiss economy has grown by an average of 2% over this period.

This amazing growth story began in 1986 with the Đổi mới policy (Vietnamese for renewal). This formed the basis for a long-lasting wave of market economy reforms with the aim of evolving from an agricultural to an industrial and service economy and thus enabling the population to enjoy a higher living standard. The reform policy created an attractive environment for foreign direct investment and capital market investments – a necessity, as the country itself does not have enough capital of its own for the transformation. Labor costs are less than half as high as in China, and the education level of the 100 million inhabitants is high compared to many other countries. The literacy rate is over 96% and in the latest Pisa study Vietnam ranks 31st globally in mathematics, 34th in reading comprehension and 35th in science. The country’s demographics are also favorable – two thirds of the population are between 15 and 64 years old, so there is an immense pool of workers available.

A typical picture in the streets of Vietnam's cities: packed with mopeds and motorcycles. Who dares to cross the road? Bellecapital, 2019
A familiar image in the streets of Vietnam’s cities: packed with mopeds and motorcycles. Who dares to cross the road? Bellecapital, 2019

In order to promote international trade, Vietnam has ratified numerous free trade agreements, thereby integrating itself into the worldwide globalization process. These include, for example, membership of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which includes 15 member countries and around 30% of the world’s population and 30% of global GDP, as well as bilateral agreements with the EU and the USA. The country is thus cleverly positioning itself between China, the US and Europe and avoiding excessive dependence on a single country or bloc. Vietnam’s largest trading partner is China, but at the same time the USA is its largest export market.

Together with the business-friendly attitude of the Vietnamese government, this multitude of reasons makes Vietnam one of the main beneficiaries of the much-discussed global relocation of production. According to the country’s General Statistics Office, realized foreign direct investment in Vietnam grew by around 3.5% to 23.18 billion US dollars last year. Well-known companies have invested in Vietnam. Samsung, for example, is the largest single investor in Vietnam with over 20 billion US dollars in capital, Apple has relocated parts of the production of Airpods, iPads, and many other products to Vietnam and Lego is currently building a new production facility in Vietnam for one billion US dollars. Chinese companies too have increasingly discovered Vietnam for themselves. This is not only due to the cheaper production location, but also partly due to the trade dispute between China and the USA.

Along with industrialization, more and more Vietnamese are moving to the cities. While the urbanization rate was still below 32% in 2012, it is already over 38% today. And it is likely to rise further in the coming years thanks to the greater availability of jobs and higher living standards in the cities. The real estate market for residential property is therefore experiencing natural demand. This is in contrast to the residential property market in China, for example, which already has an urbanization rate of 66%.

A typical floor plan of a city apartment in Vietnam, Bellecapital, 2023
A typical floor plan of a city apartment in Vietnam, Bellecapital, 2023

In order to cope with all these changes, the country has invested heavily in the renewal and expansion of its infrastructure, such as ports, roads, the electricity grid, and the stock exchange system. However, additional infrastructure investments are necessary to ensure that the country can continue to exploit its growth potential in the future.

At the same time, Vietnam has other challenges to tackle. The country currently ranks 83rd in the Corruption Perceptions Index, which represents an improvement of 21 places over the past three years, but there is still room for improvement. Other examples include environmental pollution, China’s growing claims to power in the South China Sea and the geopolitical balancing act between China and the USA.

Charging stations and electric cars from Vinfast, the local car manufacturer, Bellecapital 2023
Charging stations and electric cars from Vinfast, the local car manufacturer, Bellecapital 2023

However, we are convinced that Vietnam will overcome these challenges and continue to benefit from the structural tailwind mentioned above. The opportunities for the population, companies and investors are very good. This is why Vietnam is currently the only country equity fund in Asia in Bellecapital’s fund range.

Vietnam is also currently prominently represented in our equity fund for the Asian region – the Galileo Asia Fund – with 23%. The country is not yet included in most regional Asian indices, as it is still classified as a frontier market country rather than an emerging market country. Many Vietnam investors are betting on Vietnam’s reclassification as an emerging market country. In our opinion, this is an additional kicker, but it should not be the main reason for investing, as investors have been disappointed in this regard in the past. There are plenty of other reasons to be invested in this exciting and dynamic country.

Christian Kürsteiner is Head of Asset Management at Bellecapital, an asset manager with USD 5 billion in assets under management and 60 employees in offices in Zurich, Lausanne and London. Among other things, the company manages two equity funds focusing on the Asian region (the Galileo Asia Fund) and the country of Vietnam (the Galileo Vietnam Fund).

The “Food Revolution” – investing in structural change in the food industry

Our food industry is highly inefficient and marked by the structural overuse of natural resources. It accounts for 10% of the world GDP, but it generates over a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, consumes half of the habitable land and uses 70% of the available fresh water (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: The inefficiency of global food production in figures
Figure 1: The inefficiency of global food production in figures

In view of an unresolved energy crisis, record droughts and structural agricultural land loss, this situation is already problematic for global food security. And it is likely to get worse in the coming years.

Closing the food gap is a major challenge
The world’s population is expected to grow to almost 10 billion people by 2050. At the same time, the average disposable income will continue to rise. According to estimates by the World Resources Institute, the total demand for food is therefore expected to increase by more than 50% (see Figure 2). In order to close this food gap with resources already overused today, the efficiency of the factors land, energy, water and labor must be significantly increased.

 

Figure 2: Food gap by 2050 – Source: World Resources Institute, Creating Sustainable Food Future (2018)
Figure 2: Food gap by 2050 – Source: World Resources Institute, Creating Sustainable Food Future (2018)

Food security and technology

Technology plays a central role in the pursuit of a more efficient use and a more sustainable use of these resources, as can be seen in the overview below (Figure 3). This includes innovations along the entire agri-food value chain, from seed technology, precision agriculture or intelligent irrigation systems, to automation solutions in food production or logistics technologies.

These technologies are part of the structural change in the global agri-food system and will attract considerable financial resources in the coming years. The resulting investment opportunities are at the heart of the “Food Revolution” investment strategy.

Figure 3: Global food security and technology
Figure 3: Global food security and technology

According to estimates by the institute “The Food and Land Use Coalition”, this structural change will require annual global investments of USD 300 to 350 billion by 2030. The annual economic added value resulting from this transformation – in the form of lower external costs – is estimated to be 16 to 19 times this amount by 2030 (USD 5.7 trillion).

Why now?

The current environment on the capital markets, combined with the structural growth resulting from this transformation, offers very attractive opportunities for long-term investors. Rising interest rates and tightening financial conditions have led to a short-term capital outflow from the sector, resulting in a significant decline in valuation multiples (for listed companies) as well as investment volumes in the agrifood VC sector. Despite a decline of -44% in 2022, these investments have grown by an average of +25% per year over the last 10 years (see Figure 4).

 

Figure 4: Global agrifoodtech investments (2012-2022) – Source: Agfunder, Global Agrifoodtech Investment Report 2023
Figure 4: Global agrifoodtech investments (2012-2022) – Source: Agfunder, Global Agrifoodtech Investment Report 2023

This picture stands in stark contrast to the underlying fundamental development of the companies in the “Food Revolution” universe, which are benefiting more than average from the structural growth brought about by the transformation of the food industry.

If we take the development on the capital markets as an indicator, the “Food Revolution” appears to be a lesson in Amara’s Law, which states: “We tend to overestimate the impact of a technology in the short term and underestimate it in the long term.” Indeed, in the wake of the pandemic, euphoria erupted around the topic, resulting in overly high short-term expectations and subsequent disillusionment. However, the de-rating of the last two years has now pushed valuations to extremely low levels.

The “food revolution” is in full swing and has undoubtedly passed the point of no return. Technological innovation is key to closing the food gap that is opening up before our eyes. As investors, we have made it our mission to identify true technological innovators that are driving the transition to a more resilient and sustainable food system. This is a remarkable challenge that will attract significant financial flows and offer attractive investment opportunities for those who know where to look.


Elad Ben-Am is the Head “Food Revolution” at Picard Angst. He and his team manage the PA UCITS Food Revolution fund.

Cheers for us – for Switzerland!

Vermögensverwaltung Basel Univest

Those were the days when Andreas Bourani’s catchy tune was played up and down in 2014, just in time for the World Cup in Brazil. The inevitable happened; Germany became world champion, the sky was the limit. Collective ecstasy, in short ” cheers for us”.  One year later, in 2015, the slogan was “We can do it.” Germany’s motto years had reached their peak.

Times have changed a lot since then. One pandemic and one undigested economic crisis later, with an ongoing war on our doorstep, abrupt rifts in economic performance, innovation, technological progress and political upheaval are revealing themselves within Europe. The old continent’s draught horses are limping under the burden placed upon them. Increasing tendencies appear primarily in the areas of regulation and new legislation. The danger of some states degenerating into so-called satrap economies can hardly be minimized.

And yet they do exist, the quiet, unagitated, successful and no less self-confident creators in Europe. Switzerland can count itself among them. Together with most Scandinavian countries, we are on the sunny side. In Switzerland, we don’t talk, we just do. Quietly and orderly. Because the bigger and louder the sounds, the bigger the problems. Unfortunately, we have observed this comparative too often in the recent past.

Major divergences are also evident in European inflation rates. In Switzerland, the inflation rate in August was 1.6%, while in the euro zone it was 5.3%. In Germany, the figure is as high as 6.1%. So how does Switzerland manage to maintain such a low inflation rate compared to its neighboring countries?

As is often the case, economic development is based on a variety of factors. One important factor is certainly the Swiss franc – the safe haven, as it is often referred to in times of crisis. Since its low point in spring 2021, the Swiss franc has appreciated by more than 15% against the euro. This has discreetly absorbed some of the imported inflationary pressure.

However, in addition to the Swiss franc as a kind of inflation protection wall, Switzerland’s independent energy mix also contributed to a relatively mild inflation development. In 2021, around 80% of Switzerland’s energy demand was covered by renewable energies (68% hydropower and 11% from photovoltaics, wind, small hydropower and biomass). In addition, another 19% came from nuclear energy. Only 2% is still attributable to predominantly fossil energy sources. However, the energy mix changes from year to year, as electricity production from hydropower in particular is strongly influenced by precipitation levels.

A comparison with Germany – the largest economy in the European Union (EU) – comes to mind. Germany’s higher dependence on fossil fuel natural gas (13%) is obvious. In 2020, natural gas was even the most important energy source with a share of 31.2%. The share of Russian gas deliveries to Germany was 55% in 2021. Consequently, a rapid substitution had to take place as a result of the boycott, which ultimately resulted in expensive liquefied natural gas deliveries from the USA. We omit the topic of nuclear energy, which is very controversial in Germany, in favor of reading length, even though it would be no less significant. The end product of this political balancing act resulted in fueling German inflation.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) towers over the Swiss economy, pulling the strings strategically in the background and also recently determining the monetary policy of the Swiss Confederation with the greatest possible foresight. In addition to its role as Switzerland’s monetary policy compass, it also acts as a multi-billion dollar investor in the international financial markets. Calls for a division of responsibilities and the establishment of a separate investment fund – along the lines of the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund – are growing louder, especially in view of the high foreign currency holdings of CHF 800 billion.

But even without the existence of a separate sovereign wealth fund, the SNB is a boon for Switzerland and its entities. Through the usually annual payouts in the billions of francs to the federal government and the cantons, the population ultimately benefits as well. In each of the last two years, six billion Swiss francs (the maximum possible payout amount) flowed to the public purse. But not so this year: Due to the sensitive loss of a good CHF 130 billion in the past financial year, no distributions were made. This was last the case in 2014. However, this should by no means obscure the SNB’s most important secondary activity. In the past, the SNB’s securities portfolio contributed to the positive development of Switzerland’s prosperity through its profit distributions – and this will probably continue to be the case in the future.

The factors described above influence our daily lives. Consequently, they affect our satisfaction and desire for stability as well as security. And according to surveys by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), almost three quarters of the Swiss population feel happy most or all of the time. In the past, only Austria, Ireland and some Nordic nations such as Finland, Norway and Denmark were able to keep up with such values.

Only 3.9% of the total Swiss population rate their health as poor or very poor, fewer than in any other country in Europe. In the EU, the figure is 8.8%, and in Germany it is as high as 12.4%, the fifth-highest value in Europe. Even if these are merely snapshots specific to the study, causal relationships between cultural, political and economic conditions cannot be ignored.

Relying primarily on existing intra-European trading partners is likely to pay off in the long run in a world subject to constant change. Even for an agile country like Switzerland, challenges remain to be overcome. But thanks for the confidence, Andreas – cheers for Switzerland. We can do it!

Think Big – Beijing’s Quest for World Power

The Chinese advanced civilization dates back 4000 to 5000 years and is the only one to still be alive. Especially its historical development is highly remarkable. While Europe developed slowly, an advanced civilization had long since established itself on Chinese soil. Numerous symbols can be used to describe China’s unique development. One of them is the Great Wall of China: It is one of the “Seven New Wonders of the World”, and its construction is said to have taken about 2000 years. It is said to have been built in large parts during the Ming Dynasty (1386-1644) as a protective structure to secure the border. Since then, it has been regarded as a symbol of Chinese culture.

This propensity for immense construction projects is now also evident in China’s gigantic “New Silk Road” project (also known as the “Belt and Road Initiative”). The plan for the creation of the new trade routes (see graphic) is based on China’s ambitions, which have been ambitiously defined since the beginning of the 2nd century. Since Xi Jinping took power as autocratic president of the People’s Republic of China in 2013, his government has emerged more clearly than ever from the shadows of America and Europe and is openly communicating its great power aspirations. While Europe in particular is pursuing a value-driven policy, China is pursuing a strongly pronounced interest-driven foreign policy (realpolitik) – or in Trump’s words: “China First”. Besides all the existing problems (real estate bubble, an aging and recently for the first time declining population) and moral as well as human rights reservations, we should show respect for the economic success story of the – until recently – most populous economy in the world (India has recently replaced China as the most populous country on earth). The rise of Shenzhen, now a city of millions as well as a showcase city, is an impressive illustration of this growth story.

A United Nations report calls Shenzhen the fastest growing city in human history from 1980 to 2010, and (along with India’s Mumbai) the youngest city in the world with an average age of 29 years – compared to London’s average of 35 years, New York’s 36 years and Berlin’s 43 years. 40 years ago, Shenzhen had only about 60,000 inhabitants. Today, the population is around 18 million. Furthermore, the city is considered the “Silicon Valley” of China – 5G was developed in the metropolis and public transport is almost completely electrified. The rapidly growing domestic market is thirsty for imports as well as exports and requires new trade routes. The Belt and Road Initiative is intended to remedy this situation.

The now completed transformation from the world’s workbench to a high-tech giant underscores China’s global economic position in a remarkable way. The Chinese government is to invest more than one trillion U.S. dollars in ports, bridges, railroad lines and roads in more than 100 countries – the Belt and Road Initiative is thus a worldwide infrastructure project on a colossal scale with the sole aim of cementing China’s global supremacy – following the historical model of the former “ancient Silk Road. More than 70 countries are already part of the “New Silk Road,” which is intended to link the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe even more closely in terms of trade through a gigantic network of roads, ports and rails. The USA, however, is left out of this process.

In China, the widely cited trend toward deglobalization does not appear to be taking hold for the time being. On the contrary, the country was Germany’s most important trading partner for the seventh year in a row in 2022. The downside: Never before has Germany’s trade deficit been so high; in 2019, it was only one-sixth of the 2022 deficit. This allows for manifold conclusions. But one thing is clear; China is aware of its strengths and is playing to them. For example, the Chinese government is increasing the pressure on foreign companies to produce locally. This in turn accelerates the transfer of human capital and technology. In addition, the proclaimed “Dual-Circulation” and “Made in China 2025” strategies are the industrial policy master plan to make China more self-sufficient. Even though this is intended to increase Chinese domestic demand in particular, China also wants to become a highly developed country with global technological leadership. This project requires new and more efficient trade routes.

According to China’s head of state Xi Jinping, Chinese freight trains now reach over 200 cities in 24 European countries. In addition to these rail routes, ports in Africa and Europe are a key factor in China’s expansion strategy. The port of Piraeus has been owned by majority shareholder Cosco (China Ocean Shipping Company) since 2016. The Chinese state-owned shipping company is one of the largest container ship shipping companies in the world and is considered the world’s largest port terminal operator. For China, the port of Piraeus represents an elementary hub for effective land and sea connections between Asia and Europe, as well as subsequent fine distribution to Europe’s cities.

But the expansion strategy also has weighty disadvantages for China’s partner states – they place themselves in a massive dependency. It is not uncommon for serious accusations to be made. The tenor of the accusations is that the loans granted by China to third countries are one-sided, that China is practicing modern colonialism, and that it is using its own state-owned enterprises with its own personnel for infrastructure projects (for example in Serbia or Montenegro). It is more than questionable whether the flow of capital in favor of the favored third countries, which has taken place through loose lending, can ever be repaid. As a consequence of defaults, increased Chinese influence is likely to be exerted on the states mentioned.

One thing is clear: China is pursuing its plans with an iron fist and knows how to use its strengths. But in many places – especially in Europe – China’s path to “silent invasion” is being smoothed by the European Union looking the other way and not pursuing a unified strategy. It will take some skill and agility to counter the further expansion of China’s political influence through economic dependencies. In Germany at least, opposition to a possible entry by Cosco into a Hamburg container terminal now seems to be solidifying. Apparently, the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) is said to have recently classified the Tollerort terminal in question as critical infrastructure, which means it is considered to be in need of special protection. Last October, the German cabinet agreed that Cosco could acquire only 24.9 percent of the terminal instead of 35 percent as originally planned. But this deal could now be dropped due to the new classification by the BSI.

The descriptions impressively show how China consistently pursues an ambitious growth strategy and instead of thinking in terms of years, thinks in terms of several decades (see China 2049 initiative – 100th founding anniversary of the People’s Republic of China). China divides minds, moving us between fascination and apprehension about an unknown giant – but one thing is certain: Asia’s potential is far from exhausted and offers a variety of investment opportunities in addition to the well-known risks. As long-term investors, investments in Asia – especially with a focus on China – have enjoyed a fixed place in our broadly diversified portfolios for some time.

Innovations in Swiss inheritance law 2023 – what you need to know

Every life ends sooner or later. Dying makes heirs, or as the French are wont to say: “Le mort saisit le vif” – the dead seizes the living. Each and everyone will be affected by this at some point. Who inherits and what happens to the assets left behind is determined by law. However, a future testator can deviate from this by means of a testamentary disposition and make different arrangements for his or her estate. The framework to be observed in this respect is again determined by law.

The current Swiss inheritance law essentially dates back to 1912, which means that it is over 100 years old. Swiss inheritance law is now to be revised step by step and adapted to the requirements of modern times. A first part of the revision came into force on January 01, 2023.

Parents no longer have a compulsory portion

As of January 01, 2023, the parents of the deceased are no longer among the heirs protected by the compulsory portion. However, they remain legal heirs if the deceased did not leave any descendants (children, children’s children, etc.). Until December 31, 2022, the parents’ compulsory share entitlement was half of the statutory inheritance entitlement.

If the testator dies unmarried and without descendants, the parents inherit the entire estate, unless there is a contrary disposition. The father and mother who have predeceased the deceased are replaced by their descendants, i.e. the siblings and sibling children of the deceased. If these are also absent, the inheritance passes by law to the grandparents or, in the case of predecease, again to their descendants, thus to uncles, aunts, cousins of the deceased. The revision of the law does not change the previous regulation.

In addition to a spouse, the parents of a deceased without children inherit a quarter of the estate by operation of law, unless otherwise provided. The revision of the law does not change the previous regulation.

However, as a new feature, the inheritance entitlement of the parents can be completely waived and cancelled by a disposition of death, i.e. by a will or a contract of inheritance. In estate planning, therefore, the parents’ previous entitlement to a compulsory portion no longer has to be taken into account.

What does this mean in practice?

If the decedent left neither a spouse nor descendants by December 31, 2022, but did leave his or her parents, they had to be taken into account with half of the estate. If he or she left a spouse, the parents still had to be taken into account with one eighth of his or her estate. Since January 01, 2023, the testator or testatrix can exclude the parents from the inheritance and dispose otherwise. There is no longer any risk of contestation.

But beware: without a disposition upon death, the statutory law of succession continues to apply. If the parents are to be excluded from the inheritance, this must be done by means of a will or inheritance contract.

Reduction of compulsory portions for descendants

By law and without a contrary disposition, children receive the entire inheritance in equal shares if they are not required to share with a surviving spouse of the deceased or the deceased. In addition to a surviving spouse and in the absence of a contrary disposition, the children receive half of the inheritance by operation of law.

Since January 01, 2023, the descendants’ entitlement to a compulsory portion is now half of their statutory entitlement to the inheritance. Prior to the revision, this compulsory share entitlement was three quarters of their statutory inheritance entitlement.

This reduction in the compulsory portion is a central point of the law revision. It allows significantly more room for maneuver in estate planning. The reduction in the compulsory portions to be taken into account means that the freely available portion is now at least half of the estate.

Compulsory portion claim in divorce proceedings

The compulsory portion entitlement of the spouse or registered partner remains unaffected by the revision and thus unchanged. It continues to amount to half of the statutory inheritance entitlement.

However, the claim to the compulsory portion now already expires if divorce proceedings are pending or if the couple has lived separately for at least two years. Previously, this was only the case after the couple had been legally divorced or the registered partnership had been dissolved.

Prohibition of making gifts after concluding an inheritance contract

By concluding an inheritance contract (for example, between spouses and descendants), the contracting parties may, for example, provide for waivers of inheritance and beneficiaries. Until December 31, 2022, the contracting parties could continue to freely dispose of all their assets despite the conclusion of an inheritance contract.

As of January 1, 2023, this freedom of disposal has changed to an actual prohibition of gifts: Now, after the conclusion of an inheritance contract, all gifts are in principle contestable, unless they are occasional gifts and unless the inheritance contract explicitly allows such gifts.

Do existing wills / inheritance contracts have to be adapted?

The new law applies if the testator dies after December 31, 2022. The applicable law is determined solely by the date of death. The revision of the law does not provide for any transitional arrangements.

It is advisable to review wills and inheritance contracts that have already been drawn up and to make adjustments if necessary. Does a will / contract of inheritance clearly state whether the old or new law rules on the compulsory portion apply? Does the content of the deed still correspond to the will of the person or persons making the disposition (and with regard to the new legal regulations)? If not, an amendment or supplement to the document should be considered.

Practical example:

A married couple has no common children. The husband has two children from his first marriage. The wife’s parents are still alive. The couple would like to maximize their beneficiaries and have already made a testamentary disposition some time ago. Due to the revision of the law, the beneficiary status can now be improved.

The wife can now appoint the husband as sole heir.

1) I hereby cancel all wills made to date in their entirety.

2) From my estate assets, all outstanding liabilities are to be paid in advance and an appropriate amount is to be secured for the funeral.

3) I appoint my husband ……………, born on …….., as universal heir for my entire estate.

4) If I die after my husband …………… or at the same time as him, such that he cannot inherit me, the intestate succession shall apply.

The husband can newly give three quarters of the estate to the wife.

1) I hereby cancel all wills made up to now in their entirety.

2) From my estate assets, all outstanding liabilities are to be paid in advance and an appropriate amount is to be secured for the funeral.

3) I set my children …………………………….., and ………………………………, on the compulsory portion provided by law. I allocate the available quota of my estate to my wife ……………… in addition to her statutory inheritance entitlement. She thus receives three quarters of my estate.

4) If I die after my wife ……………… or at the same time as her, such that she cannot inherit me, the statutory succession shall apply.

Corporate succession – an outlook

As of today, no civil corporate inheritance law exists in Switzerland, in contrast to the rural inheritance law. However, legal changes are planned. In June 2022, the Federal Council adopted a dispatch for the attention of the Federal Assembly. What could be in store for us in the future?

If the decedent leaves a business, that business could in future be assigned to an heir as a whole and upon request. To date, this has been practically impossible due to the legal regulations. As a result, the business must be sold and the proceeds divided among the heirs.

If the business is taken over by an heir, the heir must generally make compensation payments to the other heirs. The draft law provides for a deferral of payments for this purpose. In this way, the takeover of a company would in fact be possible in the first place without the acquiring party getting into considerable financial difficulties.

Finally, it is planned to base the takeover value on the market value of the company at the time of the lifetime transfer, and no longer on the time of the inheritance. This is intended to prevent the acquiring descendant from having to share with the other heirs any entrepreneurial profit that he or she has earned after the death of the deceased. Conversely, the other heirs do not have to share any losses.

Conclusion

The revision of inheritance law leads to more freedom in estate planning. Of course, more freedom also means more responsibility. However, the new possibilities can only be used during one’s lifetime. It is therefore never too early, but unfortunately often too late, to start thinking about your own estate.

 

The author, Simon Stemmer, is a lawyer and notary. In 2011, he founded the legal practice STEMMER – Advokatur & Notariat – in Liestal. He started his professional career at Swiss Bank Corporation, Basel, in the area of inheritance. This was followed by positions as a lawyer at the Federal Office for Housing, as a notary and land registry administrator at the Canton of Basel-Landschaft for many years, and as head of real estate contracts at the staff of the ETH Board, Zurich.

 

Long-term return on investment on the high seas

Imagine this: Your newly built investment property is fully booked with long-term tenants for the next decade and is operated by the market’s leading property manager. Your new construction also has 20% more leasable space, emits nearly 40% less carbon dioxide, and is significantly more energy-efficient than comparable older buildings. Imagine contributing substantially to the energy transition already today, and also expecting a target annual return of nine to ten percent. Dreams? Not on the high seas!

The ocean as the main mode of transport

The most important mode of transport for global trade is shipping. Around 90%, or just under 10.7 billion tons, of the world’s traded goods and commodities are transported across the oceans, with this transport accounting for less than 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The oceans are thus the main transport routes for global trade. As demand for global goods will continue to rise steadily, it is estimated that the volume of maritime trade is likely to triple by 2050.

A market niche in merchant shipping

At the beginning of 2021, the global merchant shipping fleet numbered around 100,000 vessels of 100 gross tons or more. This usually brings to mind container ships and oil tankers. But there are other relevant types of cargo ships. Descending by gross registered tonnage in %, the global merchant shipping fleet includes:

  • Bulk carriers ~43 %
  • Oil tankers ~29 %
  • container ships ~13 %
  • miscellaneous vessel types 11 %, such as gas and chemical tankers, offshore installation vessels, ferries and passenger ships
  • General cargo vessels ~4 %

Compared to the bulk carrier and container ship fleets, the general cargo ship fleet is small. And in the general cargo vessel sector, so-called multipurpose vessels are a niche. Multipurpose vessels, often equipped with heavy lift cranes, carry all kinds of cargo – from containers, bulk and dry bulk to complex, heavy infrastructure goods, such as bridgeheads, railroad cars or wind turbines and rotor blades. This makes them the Swiss army knife of shipping. But since the end of the last shipping boom a decade ago, hardly any multipurpose ships have been built. As a result, the global fleet is massively outdated and overdue for renewal. The average age of the global multipurpose vessel fleet is 19 years. The average service life of a vessel is 25 years.

Briese Schiffahrt: a pioneer in multipurpose shipping

Briese Schiffahrt, a family-owned German shipping company, is the world leader in multipurpose shipping and owns the largest fleet of over 130 vessels. It has built, bought, operated and sold more than 160 vessels over the past 30 years, generating attractive returns for its shareholders.

The group of companies also includes the chartering business, which is carried out by BBC Chartering for ocean shipping and by Briese Chartering for coastal shipping. In addition, Briese Schiffahrt operates the research vessels of the German Federal Republic and its federal states.

High demand

About five years ago, merchant shipping had reached the bottom of its crisis. Ship values and charter rates were at historically low levels. Maritime transports were cheaper than ever, cargo space was abundantly available, and supply chains functioned like Swiss clockwork. Many ocean-going shipowners were forced to pull the plug in the past decade, and the competitive market consolidated. And although capital was cheap at the time and there was no talk of inflation, the market situation did not permit investment in newbuilds. The global merchant fleet was already significantly outdated, including technologically, and its renewal was long overdue, as hardly any ships had been built since the end of the last shipping boom of the noughties.

With fleet renewal overdue, it was only a matter of time before charter rates started to rise again. The pandemic-related supply chain dislocations accelerated this development. Thus, with the massive increase in charter rates, many shipping companies were now able to order new ships again.

The shipbuilding yards for merchant ships are virtually all located in Asia. Naturally, shipyards prefer to build large container ships with a lot of steel and without additional complexity, such as cranes. Thus, at present, most shipyards are fully booked with the construction of container ships with lengths up to 400 meters until the year 2024. Unfortunately, this means that no shipyard will currently accept an order to build a complex multipurpose vessel of only about 150 meters in length at an acceptable build price. The renewal of the global multipurpose ship fleet has therefore been postponed for another few years, and its average age continues to increase.

Ships ordered with foresight

Looking ahead to this development, Briese Schiffahrt has already secured ten multi-purpose vessels of the latest generation in 2018. Compared to the most widely used workhorse in the industry, the F-type, the new Briese F-500s generate up to 40% less CO₂ emissions and consume up to 27% less fuel. Cargo space has been increased to ~17,600 m³ and deck area to ~1,800 m². The two cranes can lift loads of up to 250 tons each (+108%) or up to 500 tons in combination. Deliveries of the new Briese F-500 type started during 2020 and will run until the end of 2023.

Investing in ships

Professional and institutional Swiss investors, such as entrepreneurs and managers, wealthy private individuals, family offices, pension funds, etc., have substantial and direct stakes in each of the delivered ships of this newbuilding series. In September, Univest Family Office became the first investor to indirectly participate in the business success of the latest ship of this newbuilding series – BBC Manila – via a securitized and bankable certificate solution.

Participation in a ship by means of a certificate is a novelty on the Swiss market. The privately placed structured product in the form of an Actively Managed Certificate (AMC) is an innovative solution that allows investors to comfortably and efficiently participate in the success of Briese Schiffahrt over the next years. The AMC was issued by Ventum Group Issuer PCC Ltd, Guernsey, and is managed locally in Switzerland by Briese Schiffahrt (Schweiz) AG.

Guaranteed full capacity utilization

Briese Schiffahrt guarantees full employment of the ship during the term of the certificate. Already today, the Briese Schiffahrt fleet delivers every second wind turbine across the world’s oceans. The future of the new Briese F-500 is even more promising as not many multipurpose vessels can carry the new generations of wind turbines with rotor blades over 107 meters long – and wind power will experience exponential growth. The new F-500 giant is also eco-efficient and ready for the future. That’s because the World Maritime Organization (IMO) will introduce another set of new regulations and milestones starting in 2023 to reduce ship emissions and carbon intensity for all ships by 2030.

Equipped for the future

Furthermore, the EU plans to include maritime shipping in its Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) in the coming years. Many ships will only be able to comply with the upcoming regulations by throttling their sailing speeds. Reduced transport speeds and low newbuilding activity will lead to a further shortage of transport capacity, while increasingly government-funded infrastructure projects will look for transport solutions. Those in possession of latest generation multipurpose vessels will want to hold on to them for the long term.

The author, Patric Käser, is co-founder and managing director of Briese Schiffahrt (Schweiz) AG. He started his professional career at Swiss Bank Corporation in Basel as an apprentice, where he was allowed to finance Swiss Rhine vessels, among others. For over two decades Patric Käser worked in investment banking in Switzerland and abroad, where he also developed his interest in the freight forwarding, transport and logistics sector.

 

The Value of Art

One auction record seems to chase the next in the art world. We have long been accustomed to associating works of art with seven-figure sums. Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” changed hands for USD 450 million in November 2017, and just a few days ago Andy Warhol’s “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” from the collection of Doris and Thomas Ammann was auctioned off for USD 195 million in New York.

But record sales are not only achieved at elaborately staged auctions and exclusive events in the world’s art capitals. In recent years, some of the biggest art sales have taken place in so-called “private sales”, discreetly and to the exclusion of the public. Demand for them has risen steadily in recent years. In 2015, the sale of Paul Gauguin’s Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When are you getting married?) for USD 210 million from a private collection in Basel became well-known.

The art market in a few figures

According to figures just published *, the global art market reached an estimated turnover of USD 65.1 billion in 2021. This represents an increase of 29% after the years of crisis caused by the pandemic. The art market is thus financially far less significant than one might sometimes think. On the NYSE, the New York Stock Exchange, a multiple of the annual art market is traded – every day.

Public vs. private

The division of the art market into a “public” and a “private” market leads to the art market being perceived as intransparent. Sales figures are available for auction houses – the public market. Their sales amounted to USD 26.3 billion in 2021. These figures can be accessed via the global database artnet and are available to all interested parties. However, reliable information is lacking for private sales via art dealers, galleries, and at fairs. And at USD 34.7 bn, these accounted for 54% of the total market in 2021. A large part of the trade is therefore only rarely perceived by the public.

Highlights vs. everyday life

Nevertheless, the art market is far less sensational than one might sometimes think. Record results are the highlights of the art market. The top sales mentioned at the beginning of this article cause a sensation and are communicated worldwide in the media. But such highlights are a rarity. In fact, works selling for more than USD 5 million account for only 15% of sales at auction. As many as half of all works are sold for less than USD 500,000.

In the private art trade, at fairs and in galleries, even more than 80% of the works are sold at a selling price below USD 50’000. Only four percent sell for more than one million USD.

Basel as the center of the international art market

This week, as every year since the first edition of Art Basel in June 1970, Basel is the center for the international art world. The world’s most famous galleries offer their best works for sale here. But why Basel in particular?

It’s certainly no coincidence. In 1661, the city and the University of Basel bought the legendary Amerbach Cabinet. In the same year, it was put on public display in the Haus zur Mücke on Schlüsselberg. Since then, Basel has had the oldest museum collection of a civic community. This happened at a time when art collections were the privilege of an aristocratic world and were only exhibited in palaces or private residences. The Amerbach Cabinet in Basel was therefore a real sensation and a pioneering step in the international art world. By comparison, the Louvre in Paris was not opened to the public until 1793, more than 130 years later.

Since then, art and living with art have had an important tradition and status in Basel. This is one of the reasons why the city has an impressive density of museums – especially when measured against its size. In addition, the city is also home to important private collections, which in turn are always making a name for themselves.

Art as an asset

Art is inherited, collected, bought and sold again. A passion for collecting, a passion for art, an interest in an artist, an art movement, as an investment or simply for the pleasure of seeing works of art – the reasons for living with art are many and varied.

The important thing is that art always represents an asset and should be treated accordingly – just like other tangible assets. Professional inventory and documentation provide an overview of what is available. This is an important basis for decision-making in the case of inheritance, insurance questions, tax issues, sale, estate planning or divorce and separation. Berney Fine Arts Services offers these services – discreetly, conscientiously and reliably !

Angela Berney is founder of Berney Fine Arts.

*”The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report,” Dr. Clare McAndrew, Arts Economics