Investing in space

I mentioned it somewhere before, but I like to point it out one more time: Investors are in general positive people. Especially those who focus on the long term prospects of the world. We might be in a pandemic that is devastating economies across the globe right now. But most investors know that we will pass this, that the economy will come back, that new jobs will be created, and that this is not the end for humanity.

So naturally, every crisis is an opportunity, and when things turn doom and gloom for many, investors are trying to look beyond that, always on the look-out for some fresh straws of grass that start to (re-)grow from the ground.

Where does humanity go from here?

One such straw of grass for me is a future trend that is gathering tremendous momentum. The space industry.

I know: Space stations, space mining, space exploration, it all sounds like crazy stuff. And if you are not actively researching about it you might believe that this is something still far beyond our reach.

But you might get surprised how this is, in a sense, not a new industry at all, and how many players are already actively working in this field. I recently stumbled upon this amazing infographic from a company called “Seraphim Capital”, a specialist investor group:

The most recent launch of a SpaceX shuttle was a moving moment for me. It went so smooth and stable, one would even wonder how it was a special moment at all. But for those who don’t appreciate the significance of this: Sending people into space in such a safe and controlled manner, is like setting foot on a proper boat to cross an ocean for the first time. It opens up a new world for us. For an investor, this is an entirely new frontier opening up. Literally, a new world to discover.

Personally, I am invested in two companies that focus on this future business: One is Virgin Galactic (SPCE), and the second one is Hexcel Corp. (HXL). The first one is focusing on bringing people to space. Whether as tourists, future astronauts, or general space flight training and transportation. The second company is developing structural materials that can be used for various kinds of vehicles and protective systems, like for example hulls for planes and space ships, or possibly protective walls for a moon base.

There are endless options and the race is on

As you can see from the infographic, there are plenty of companies for investors to choose from. For those who prefer ETFs. I also found some which are focusing on space investments, but I can’t trade them in Europe so I also won’t talk about them here just yet. But whether it’s computer software or hardware, engines, communication systems, satellites, drones, navigational systems, data crunchers, launch services, protective equipment, … the opportunities seem endless… and the race is on!

Disclosure: I own SPCE and HXL.

Keeping investing in difficult times

There is a lot of “happy talk” from governments around the world promising a swift recovery and promoting a way back to a “new normal” on the immediate horizon. However, when listening to politicians we always need to keep in mind what their incentives are. Politicians have a vast interest in painting positive pictures because their positions and their re-elections might depend on it.

In times of crisis, it is better to listen to other voices, and in particular to businesses. Not to their press releases, which are also often overly positive to keep investors patient and calm. The more relevant information is flowing in the background: Are they hiring people or did they freeze their payrolls? Are research and development projects being continued? Did they request their financial partners to extend credit lines? Are assets being sold off or do they continue to add value with acquisitions? Are they scrambling to get through the crisis, or do they take the opportunity to eradicate weak-points in their business models?

You don’t need to DO the research

For large companies, you can trust that somebody is doing this research for you. Financial magazines, newspapers, analysts, online blogs. There is a lot of work being done by many people out there. All you need to do is to find this research, to read it, to evaluate it, and after reading a few of these sources, to form an opinion based on the information you received.

You can do this for individual companies, but as an investor, you definitely should do this for entire markets. The world’s most famous and successful investors read a lot, and the majority of what they read are assessments, opinions, and evaluations of products, services, trends, and opportunities.

People like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates. You don’t need to like them or to necessarily agree to their ideas and positions. But you should acknowledge that they have a significant amount of knowledge about what is happening in the world. They use this knowledge for their decision-making process, where to invest, which project to support. Which idea or business model, or charity offers the best chance of success, adding value to the market, to investors, and to potential customers or recipients of the product or service.

The picture is pretty bleak

Looking at what is happening in the markets right now, the picture is pretty clear. And pretty bleak. We are in a recession, one that might last a few years.

Almost every colleague of mine is on a salary cut, furloughed, or anxious that he might get into a challenging situation in the next few months to come. Companies in the travel sector are obviously heavily impacted, but also other sectors experience similar challenges. Job cuts, sales of assets, and project delays are mentioned daily basis in newspapers around the world. And while some economies started to slowly re-opening, cash-flows are still very far away from where they were in 2019. The numbers for the first half of 2020 will come in and will be reported in the next weeks to come, and it’s pretty safe to say that there will be some shocks ahead to those who kept listening to the happy talks of politicians.

All this doesn’t mean that you should stop investing

As I mentioned in a previous article, this could nevertheless be a great opportunity for investors. Every crisis has survivors and losers. And survivors usually come out stronger every time when they are challenged and pushed to improve, to re-invent, and to innovate. From my point of view, this crisis has pushed us into new investment territories by emphasizing the importance of sectors that were neglected in the past.

Technology is already a clear winner (again), but it’s worth taking a deeper look into it. Some areas of technology will shift into a stronger focus than others. Cybersecurity for example is such a sector. Work and freelance platforms are another.

Producers of hygiene products and business which focus on health & safety can expect long-term benefits for the years to come. But the same goes for companies which not many had on their radar like waste management systems, and water supply and filtration technologies. You know where all your germs go to every time you shower or visit the toilet, right?

Plenty of opportunities in every crisis

When you read enough, gather a sufficient amount of information and knowledge, and adapt your thinking to understand that there are opportunities in every challenge, then you will quickly realize that, crisis or not, there is no reason to ever stop investing.

The only limitation I would see is when you are running out of time. When you get old. But by that time, your portfolio should be the last worry you have. By that time, I would hope that you have had a successful investment history and that you can happily retire on your monthly dividend income.

Doing the right thing – with conscious investments

There is lot’s of discussions about whether investing in a company does anything to support it, hence whether purchasing shares of a company puts you in a position of responsibility for what the company stands for and for what it does. Let me address this today and tell you my point of view on this highly debated topic.

If you buy stock in a company you become, to a tiny part, owner of that company. As a co-owner of a business, you obviously take on some responsibilities of that business.

The most obvious one is that you receive votes to influence major company decisions, which you can exercise once a year at the annual general meeting of shareholders. The other responsibility you take on is the financial responsibility in relation to the share price. If the company goes bust, your money will be gone. However, should the company keep succeeding, you are entitled to participate in that success through a rising share price and/or dividends.

Does your investment have an effect on the share price?

Your purchase may increases the share price, or support in stabilizing it. The effect that you as an individual with only limited purchasing power might have on the share price will be very small in most cases. Some might say it’s negligible. But, there is certainly an effect.

If you purchase shares which are rising in value, you support the move up by showing confidence in the company through your willingness to pay more for it. When the share price is falling, your purchase also supports the company. This is due to a stabilizing effect that it will have on the sellers. If you wouldn’t buy the shares at the lower price, then the seller would have had to lower the price further, thus increasing the down-turn for the shares price of the company.

So whenever you buy shares, to a tiny amount you either contribute to pushing the share price higher, or help stabilising it on it’s way down at a certain level.

How does that influence the company?

The share price of a company determines the companies value. Based on the value, the company receives a range of financial options, including loans, debt issuance, credit lines and guarantees to grow or improve its operations.

Furthermore, as mentioned above, your voting rights are a benefit and a responsibility you have as an investor.

Admittedly, with only these two main points, your influence is an individual investor is very small. With limited purchasing power and therefore a small amount of shares you might purchase, your voice doesn’t get too loud. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Your part is comparable with let’s say a presidential election. Your vote alone might not appear strong, but the more people follow those same ideas and convictions you hold and exercise their rights, the more of an impact it will have on the company.

You get a voice

Looking at the points above, the process of becoming an investor is another version of a democratic system on an enterprise level. You get actively involved in it by purchasing shares of a company, and to a tiny amount, you do influence the company by purchasing shares.

Once invested, it will be up to you whether you continue holding the shares, thus contributing in keeping the share price stable. And whether you will exercise your voting rights, thus contributing to steering the company in the direction you believe to be the right one.

Do the right thing

In my opinion, investing is the only way to get a voice and a say with even large companies. For many it doesn’t sound like much, but I see it otherwise. It’s a great opportunity to have influence beyond the small bubbles of our own lives.

For example: Just imagine, if all members of an environmental NGO would unite and purchase shares of a company which is responsible for environmental pollution.

With enough shares and votes on hand, they would very likely receive the opportunity to change the direction of a company. They would receive the rights to support or to reject decisions on who runs the company, where money is being invested, and which policies are being drawn going forward. With only as little as 10% ownership they already could assemble veto rights, and insights into the companies internal processes and decisions which they won’t get in any other (legal) way.

So, if you want to help others doing the right thing. Invest. Invest consciously in good companies to continue supporting them in doing the right thing. And if you want to contribute in bad companies becoming better (or less bad), purchase shares of bad companies and exercise your voting rights, to help the company doing the right thing.