In this second part of our two-part series, we demonstrate that deglobalization implies trend increases in capex and the labor share, as well as a higher weighted average cost of capital (WACC). This constitutes a secular headwind for margins and free cash flow (FCF), especially for tech and manufacturing. With companies facing greater macro volatility and an elevated WACC, we expect lower average multiples. This will prove especially challenging for longer duration assets, such as venture capital and speculative tech companies that are years away from generating FCF on a sustainable basis.
Global supply chains are being overhauled to reduce vulnerabilities and to restrict Chinese imports of “dual-use” products that can be used for both commercial and military purposes. In Part I of this two part series we show why the initial focus is on semiconductors and energy, and where it might go from there (AI, quantum computing, and other advanced tech). We also demonstrate the challenges for Chinese equities and U.S.-based multinational corporations, which have been the two biggest beneficiaries of globalization.
Of late, people are blaming a variety of economic ills on an unlikely villain: the desire of investors to earn good returns on capital. But, no industry can be expected to survive if it is not creating value for the investors in that industry. Earning good returns on capital is not an obstacle to satisfying consumer demands; it’s what enables companies to continue to satisfy those demands.
Until recently, we had been living in a disinflationary environment that started in the 1980s. We believe three factors – Deglobalization, Demographics and Decarbonization – have led us to a secular reflationary environment. As a result the next decade is going to look quite different than the 2010s, with a number of critical implications for investors.
The transition to net-zero emissions (NZE) involves a fundamental change in the structure of the economy, and will likely be messy, implying periodic supply shortages and even more volatile energy prices. Further, inflation and nominal interest rates will probably be higher and more volatile, especially relative to the levels of the last two decades. This has not yet been priced into markets.
The recent surge in start-ups and unicorns reflects the broadening of the digital revolution across industries, and suggests improving productivity and free cash flow. Further, although the digitization of the economy is still in early earnings, we expect digital platforms to represent the majority of market cap by 2025, with tech, health care and communications the most promising sectors.