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Brookfield Asset Management shifting investment focus to publicly traded debts, stocks as markets tumble – The Globe and Mail

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‘Our shares have sold off along with everything else. We have been acquiring, and will continue to acquire our own shares for value when it makes sense – and in time, we are certain they will recover,’ chief executive officer Bruce Flatt, seen here on May 16, 2019, wrote

HIDEYUKI SANO/Reuters

Brookfield Asset Management Inc. chief executive officer Bruce Flatt says his company is moving away from private assets and buying publicly traded debt and stocks – including its own – in the recent market carnage.

“We have switched our focus for investments to the listed stock markets. … There are some stocks and debt starting to trade at a large discount to intrinsic value and we are focused on these,” Mr. Flatt said in a shareholder letter released Monday.

It’s a massive shift for a company that manages more than US$500-billion in assets, largely by buying multibillion-dollar companies, real estate properties or infrastructure assets. Until the current crisis, Mr. Flatt had been sounding the clarion call that these “alternative assets” were in such demand for their long-term outperformance, they would eventually trump the public stock markets as the top option for pension funds and other huge money managers.

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In the past month of rapidly falling asset prices, however, the market for big private deals has frozen. Private-equity investors such as Brookfield borrow money to make long-term investments. Rock-bottom interest rates are great news for them – unless the companies they buy crumble in an economic crisis and can’t generate the profits needed to pay the debt.

That concern may explain why shares in Brookfield and its publicly traded affiliates have been hit harder than the average stock in the S&P/TSX 60 index of large companies. Since the Canadian markets peaked on Feb. 20, Brookfield and its Brookfield Infrastructure Partners LP, a fund focused on bridges, roads, and technology assets, are down about 40 per cent. Brookfield Property Partners LP, focused on commercial real estate, is down about 55 per cent.

“Our shares have sold off along with everything else. We have been acquiring, and will continue to acquire our own shares for value when it makes sense – and in time, we are certain they will recover,” he wrote. (He did not quantify the extent of Brookfield’s current share buybacks.)

Mr. Flatt’s letter seems an attempt to assuage his shareholders’ concerns and paint Brookfield as at least a survivor, and perhaps a victor, of the economic crisis. He said “We are also starting to receive calls from companies in need of capital, and we look forward to being helpful to companies in need, where we can.” Brookfield’s latest funds, totaling over US$50-billion, are only 40 per cent invested, “so we have a lot of capital to put to work in this environment.”

In a disclosure last week, Brookfield said it spent $6.7-million to buy an additional 1.172 million shares in Calgary-based power generator TransAlta Corp., taking its ownership of the company to 10.1 per cent.

Mr. Flatt also argued for the strength of the company’s balance sheet. He said Brookfield and its four publicly traded partnerships – which also include Brookfield Business Partners LP and Brookfield Renewable Partners LP – have about US$12-billion of lines of credit with banks, “virtually undrawn.” The Brookfield entities have US$5-billion “of financial and non-core assets that can be liquidated with relative ease (even in today’s markets) should we so choose.” Corporate debt totaled US$7-billion, versus a market cap of under US$40-billion in Monday’s trading.

“For us, compared to the direct hit we took on 9/11, this uncertainty and volatility feels manageable,” he wrote. “In 2008, with the banking system failing, real asset owners didn’t know if many lenders were going to exist in the future. Today, the banking system is in far better shape. It never feels very good to have this degree of chaos, but this will pass.”

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BDC launches matching investment program for Canadian VC-backed companies affected by COVID-19 – BetaKit

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According to a letter shared by the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA), BDC Capital today launched the BDC Capital Bridge Financing Program meant to support venture-backed companies with matching investments.

The idea behind the program is to support Canadian companies impacted by COVID-19 that may not qualify for many of the existing federal government relief measures. Through the program, BDC is set to invest alongside venture firms and, according to the CVCA, BDC Capital will also accelerate more capital into General Partners (GPs) in Canada as well as increase its co-investment activity.

According to the CVCA letter sent to members and obtained by BetaKit, BDC Capital, the investment arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada, may match, via a convertible note, current financing rounds being raised through “qualified existing and/or new investors made in an eligible company.”

The program is something that the CVCA has been calling for, along with a number of other measures it hoped government would take to better support the innovation sector. Last week, The Logic reported that such a program was in the works and sources that spoke to BetaKit on background confirmed that BDC and the CVCA had been in talks and that a program much-aligned with the CVCA’s recommendations was imminent. Notably, BDC Capital executive vice president Jérôme Nycz is on the board directors for the CVCA.

In its letter, the CVCA noted it is pleased that BDC Capital has launched the program, adding that it is “ideal for high potential companies who have investor syndicates that are willing to support them.”

According to the letter, in order to be eligible companies must be Canadian-based, venture-backed, and have raised at least $500,000 in external capital before applying. Importantly, companies must also be specifically impacted by COVID-19.

It is noted that any matching investment from BDC Capital will be subject to due diligence review, agreement on terms of the investment, and approval by a BDC investment committee.

The CVCA claimed BDC Capital has already been in touch with some of its investment partners, but all venture capital firms are welcome to see if they are eligible for the program. Startups are being encouraged to speak to their shareholder or investors and companies directly in BDC Capital’s portfolio should speak to their partner.

BetaKit has reached out to BDC Capital and the CVCA for comment.

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Province announces $2 billion investment in job creation – Lethbridge News Now

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By accelerating the capital plan, significant additional work will be undertaken. This includes $140 million for transportation projects and includes an additional $60 million for operating, which covers work repairing potholes across the province.

“These infrastructure investments will be focused on projects that can be actioned quickly. By doubling our capital maintenance and renewal project funds, we will deliver much-needed improvements to important assets, keep companies and most importantly, keep Albertans working,” Kenney said in a provincial release.

“As the weather improves and buildings are empty, now is the perfect time for us to act.”

114 projects are currently in planning and/or in design. There are also 95 projects currently in construction, including 27 schools and nine bridge and road projects, not including capital maintenance and repair.

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5 Simple Ways To Invest Your First $1,000 – Forbes

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It can be a scary time to think about investing but the recent pullback offers a good opportunity to learn how to invest.

Too many people think that you need to be rich or wait for a market downturn to start investing because “stocks are too expensive.”

The reality is that investing is a skill you must practice and learn over a period of decades. The one trait most successful investors share is making consistent investments—even if it’s a small amount of cash each time.

The first $1,000 you invest can be the most important investment you’ll ever make.

This statement may sound like an exaggeration at first, but here are two reasons why:

  • Your first investment has a lifetime to earn passive income
  • A failed investment may discourage you from investing more

While no investment is risk-free, a diversified portfolio helps you prepare for the market ups and downs. Investing with a long-term trajectory and choosing well-diversified assets can help you become a successful investor.

Fortunately, investing isn’t rocket science, despite what experts want you to think, and you don’t need to monitor the market all the time. The key is getting started and keeping it simple by buying high-quality assets with low fees.

If you don’t know where to invest your cash, here are some of the best assets to consider first.

Index Funds

Whether you can invest $1,000 or $10 million at the moment, it’s always important to remain diversified. Successful investors balance potential gains with downside risk and investment fees. The potential upside needs to be higher than the potential risk and costs to make money.

Index funds can be your best starting point because of their low costs and instant diversification. Many early retirees use index funds as a portfolio cornerstone. These funds track a specific market index and have a position in each company within that index.

A single share for several S&P 500 companies cost more than $1,000 each. Instead of only being able to buy a handful of shares for your favorite companies, buying the index is the easiest way to get exposure to the broad market. As a result, you can instantly diversify your portfolio.  

In addition to the instant diversification benefits, index funds have some of the lowest expense ratios. Low investment expenses mean more of your cash invests so you can earn more income.

Index funds have low expenses because they follow a passive investment strategy. Instead of trying to “beat the market,” index funds seek to match the overall market performance.

You can buy index funds as either or mutual fund or ETF at most brokerages with no trade commissions. You may need to buy ETFs by the share if the broker if you can’t afford the investment minimum for the mutual fund version.

While it’s not hard to invest in index funds, you may be initially overwhelmed by all of the options. Consider this three-fund portfolio to get exposure in the U.S. and global markets.

Target-Date Retirement Funds

For a more hands-off approach, you can pick a target-date retirement fund. For example, you would choose a 2050 target-date fund if you plan to retire in 30 years.

These funds typically invest in index funds with age-based risk tolerance. As your projected retirement date approaches, the fund increases its allocation of less volatile assets like bonds. 

You may appreciate these funds if you don’t feel confident rebalancing your portfolio. The minimum initial investment can be less than buying an index fund. Vanguard, for example, only requires $1,000 to start investing in their target retirement funds and $3,000 for index funds. 

As the fund manager plays a more active role, target-date funds have higher expense ratios than index funds.

Some target funds are more active than you might realize. As a result, their investing strategy may be more aggressive than you’re comfortable pursuing.

Certificates of Deposit

If you still have several decades until the traditional retirement age, most of your assets should be in stocks and equities. These assets have more risk but also have more long-term potential income so you can afford retirement.

You might park some of your cash in a bank certificate of deposit (CD) if you’re not putting the entire $1,000 into the market at once. These products pay a fixed yield for a specific number of months. However, your current annual returns won’t outpace inflation as most CDs yield low single digit APY at best.

Your brokerage high-interest cash management account is a similar alternative. The yield might be less than a bank CD and it isn’t fixed for a term but you have near-instant access to your cash without penalty

Individual Stocks  

New investors may have a burning desire to invest in individual stocks for their favorite brands. Maybe you have your eye on a dividend aristocrat.

Individual stocks are inherently riskier than a mutual fund or ETF. Until your portfolio balance expands, it can be difficult to buy stock and remain diversified.

A wise strategy can be buying an index fund or target-date fund first. Then you can buy a high-quality stock with any remaining funds. Take the time to ask these investing questions first

Zero trade commissions and fractional investing make owning individual stocks more affordable than ever. Choosing a broker with minimal cost barriers for funds and individual stock can make investing easier as your portfolio grows.

Alternative Assets

Stock market alternatives are another popular investment trend. Some of the private assets you can access include:

  • Crowdfunded real estate
  • Precious metals
  • Cryptocurrency
  • Small business loans
  • Peer-to-peer loans

Thanks to investing rule changes in 2012, average investors can invest in private equity markets with small amounts of money. These assets were previously only available to accredited investors and those with plenty of free cash. 

These assets have a more exciting investment story and can outperform the average stock market return. However, these assets each have their own unique set of risks. Their fees and investment minimums can also be higher than index funds and target-date funds.

Crowdfund real estate may not produce negative returns like a real estate index fund can during a broad market correction. However, crowdfund real estate can lose money if the property sells for a loss or the borrower defaults. 

Also, crowdfund assets may have a multi-year investment commitment and can take several weeks to sell. You will likely pay an early redemption fee if you sell your position prematurely. In some cases, the platform may not let you sell if market conditions deteriorate.

You might try focusing on alternative assets once your portfolio is larger and can absorb riskier assets. And, once you have a firm understanding of how these stock market alternatives can make or lose money.

Best Investment Account for New Investors

Which assets you invest your first $1,000 in is vital to starting a healthy investing career. The type of investment account you open is also worth pondering.

For example, retirement accounts like a 401(k) or an IRA minimize your taxable investment income. However, most withdrawals before you turn 59 ½ years old are subject to an early withdrawal penalty.

Taxable brokerage accounts require you to report your sold investments and dividend income on your annual tax return. Yet, you can have penalty-free access to your investments.

Here are the highlights of each investment account type. Choosing the best account can help you maximize your investing power.

401(k) Plan

Your employer-provided 401(k) plan is the first investment account for many. One reason why is that you can withhold money directly from your paycheck. If the funds must first reach your paycheck, you may use it to pay bills or save for upcoming expenses instead.

Another incentive is if your employer offers matching contributions. These contributions grow tax-deferred, and you pay income tax on the withdrawal amount. This tax treatment holds even if you have a Roth 401(k). Still, the match is “free money” that instantly makes your $1,000 increase before you get your first dividend payment.

Most 401(k) plans have relatively limited investment options:

  • Index funds
  • Target-date retirement funds
  • Company stock

You likely won’t be able to invest in less-diversified investments like sector ETFs or individual stocks. But if you’re comfortable with only having passive investing assets, a 401(k) is a good start.

Traditional IRA

All traditional individual retirement account (IRA) contributions grow tax-deferred. You get an immediate tax deduction that can increase your tax refund. The only time you pay taxes is when you make a withdrawal on the withdrawal amount.

An IRA has more investment options as you can invest in any asset your brokerage offers. Your choices include individual stock, ETFs, and mutual funds at a full-service broker.

You can contribute to an IRA and a 401(k) at the same time if you have access to both account options. An IRA can have fewer fees and better investment offerings than your 401(k).

A traditional IRA can be your best option if you want the immediate tax benefits but don’t plan on touching this first $1,000 until retirement.

Roth IRA

A Roth IRA requires you to pay income tax on your contribution this year. The good news is that you won’t pay taxes again on your gains or withdrawals under current tax rules.

You will have the same flexible investment options as a traditional IRA. Roth IRAs can be better than a traditional account if you don’t need the immediate tax relief.

Taxable Account

You may decide to divide your $1,000 between a retirement and non-retirement investment account. Taxable accounts may not offer tax-advantaged investing, but you have instant access to your cash.

You may likely need to tap some of your investments before you can make penalty-free IRA or 401(k) withdrawals. It’s possible to “buy today and sell tomorrow,” although selling assets is a taxable event.

A taxable account is an excellent place to invest cash that you don’t want to keep in a stagnant bank account. This “flywheel fund” is not part of your emergency fund.

Use a Robo-Advisor?

It’s entirely possible to invest all by yourself, especially if you choose index funds and target-date funds. However, you might consider using a robo-advisor if you want the broker to manage your portfolio.

Robo-advisors charge a small additional fee—usually 0.25% of your account balance. Most of these automated platforms invest your cash in various index ETFs.

You can get similar results by doing it yourself. But if a fully-automated platform is what’s necessary for you to start investing in 2020, a robo-advisor can be a wise move.

Investing your first $1,000 is an exciting opportunity. Although investing may feel complicated at first, it’s easier than you think to diversify and keep your fees low.

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