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Middle East offers “biggest immediate investment opportunities”: Hazem bin Jassim

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18 Nov 2021 02:11:14 GMT9
18 Nov 2021 02:11:14 GMT9

Anthony Rowley

TOKYO: Asia has long been praised for its economic “miracle,” while Africa is often seen as the future land. But prospects in the Middle Eastern region countries are not always described in such glowing terms by those in the investment community.

However, Hazem bin Jassim, co-chief executive officer of Bahrain-based asset manager Investcorp, is taking a bolder line. Asia is “compelling,” but the Middle East is expected to offer the biggest immediate investment opportunities, he argues.

Investcorp is a global manager of alternative investment products for private and institutional clients. Founded in 1982, the firm has offices in New York, London, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Doha, Mumbai, and Singapore.

“I love Asia for its growth, and the macro momentum (there) is compelling,” Bin-Jassim said during a panel discussion at the Milken Institute Asia Summit 2021 in Singapore on November 15, according to a report by Asia Asset Management.

But the biggest immediate investment opportunities are in the Middle East, giving several reasons for his positive assessment of the region’s prospects.

These opportunities include a US$1.5 trillion economy and one of the highest gross domestic product per capita in the world. In addition, Hazem bin Jassim noted that 85% of the population are in key cities, and about two-thirds are below 24 years old. “It has all the ingredients of a solid momentum,” bin-Jassim said.

Nevertheless, the biggest long-term investment opportunities lie in North America, bin-Jassim said. “It is the single geography that survived the test of time. It is resilient. Very few nations can talk about their resilience for decades.”

Sustainability – of economies, financial systems, and companies – is becoming a key theme among global investors now as climate change hangs like a black cloud over the entire world.

The key to capturing growth opportunities lies in how a company or region makes progress on sustainability, Jeffrey Jaensubhakij, group chief investment officer of Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte argued at the Singapore meeting.

“Today, companies that currently look like they are the worst in terms of sustainability if they can pivot around, make decisions that allow them to be more sustainable, suddenly the market will reward them for the climb up,” he said.

“I think it is the same with regions. Today, many regions are priced to fail, but the US is priced to continue to succeed.”

Investors will reprice a country or a region where the government succeeds in creating an environment that is “more immutable” for innovation, technology adoption, and capitalism, bin Jassim suggested.

“Many Asian countries are in this category, and I think other regions as well,” he added.

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