Remember 2019? The world wept as the Notre Dame Cathedral was incinerated, and Americans begged the government to end the shutdown. Hydro Flasks and Crocs were taking off. It feels like a lifetime ago.
Nobody could anticipate what was to come next. Three years later, the world has experienced a global pandemic, numerous shutdowns, and the nation is staring down what feels like an inevitable recession. Who could have predicted so much would go wrong?
Microsoft Corp. Co-Founder Bill Gates built his fortune on reading the market and making savvy decisions accordingly. What current global monstrosities, pitfalls and horrific conditions does the billionaire stand to profit from?
Housing: Gates has long been a proponent of green energy and has poured countless money into battling climate change. So, it should come as no surprise that he’s using eco-friendly solutions to put his stamp on the housing market.
Gates’s rebuttal is Vantem. The venture aims to address the affordability gap between net-zero energy homes and prefabricated housing and is backed by Gates’s Breakthrough Energy. The venture-capital fund started investing in clean-technology startups in 2016. Last year, the fund raised $1 billion that it’s pouring into several companies with the same green ambitions as Vantem. The companies make things like hydrogen-fueled airplanes, zero-carbon building materials and other green innovations.
Vantem erects buildings around 50% faster than standard construction and costs around 20% less, according to company CEO Chris Anderson.
According to Vantem’s website, the company first launched in South America and the Caribbean. After years of testing, code approvals and building proofs of concept, it has spent the last three years building over 3 million square feet of prefabricated housing. Global construction is a $9 trillion market, and Gates is about to shake it up.
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How early Gates got involved in the testing, coding and concepts is unclear. Given his history, it’s extremely unlikely he helped the company pass its Series A funding in July. The years of research and testing Vantem used to perfect its craft likely means Gates has had his eye on it for a while.
However, this isn’t the first time that Gates has looked to some of the poorest countries in the world for great ideas to make a profit.
Food shortages: Gates likely saw food shortages coming years ago. He has been buying farmland at an alarming rate. While he’s getting attention now that he’s the largest American farmland owner with about 242,000 acres, the collection didn’t grow overnight.
In 2014 The Wall Street Journal noted that Cascade Investments Group Inc., a firm that manages Gates’s money, owned “at least 100,000 acres of farmland in California, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana and other states — or an area seven times bigger than Manhattan.”
In 2017, the Gates-affiliated Mt. Lemmon Holdings invested in some 40 square miles of “transitional” land on the western fringe of the Phoenix sprawl. According to The Land Report, Gates owns about 27,000 acres of nonagricultural land, in addition to his farm holdings.
In January 2021 the New York Post wrote: It’s uncertain why Gates has invested in so much farmland or how his tracts are currently being used. Cascade did not immediately respond to a phone message Friday, and the company declined to comment to The Land Report “other than to say that Cascade is very supportive of sustainable farming,” the outlet said.
The acquisition of so much land is ringing alarm bells for some. Actor, comedian and spiritual journeyman Russell Brand, in between quick-witted rants against Gates, featured a clip on his show that highlighted a farmer warning about what Gates accomplished — or tried to accomplish — in Africa.
In 2006, The Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller foundations launched the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) with the goal of bringing Africa its own green revolution in agricultural productivity. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy wrote a damning article, saying it’s failed on its own terms.
Americans fear the same. Concerns include a complete disregard for the history of the land and proven techniques known by locals. There is also fear of ruining complex local ecosystems so Gates can push his agenda of vegan foods. Despite not being a vegan himself, Gates has invested heavily in vegan businesses. Why could that be?
Maybe it's all coincidence. Farmland is historically a great hedge against inflation and recessions.
Gates stands to make great returns off of his decades-long farmland bet. It certainly seems as though he’s always a few steps ahead.
Vaccines: As early as 2011 Gates was a backer of vaccines. Not necessarily because of the good they could bring to those in need but because “vaccine investment offers best returns.” When addressing the World Health Organization at its annual assembly, Gates said, “If donors are generous, we will prevent 4 million deaths by 2015. By 2020, we can prevent 10 million deaths.”
Nearly a decade later in 2019, Gates was singing the same song. He told CNBC in two separate interviews, “Investing in global health organizations aimed at increasing access to vaccines creates a 20-to-1 return,” and “Putting $10 billion into the S&P 500 would have grown only to $17 billion over 18 years, factoring in reinvested dividends.”
So, where does that money go? When COVID-19 took over the world shortly after Gates’s now infamous comments, there was a rush to produce the first effective vaccine. Would it be Moderna Inc., Johnson & Johnson or Pfizer Inc.?
Gates donated over $17 million to Pfizer in 2016 and allegedly owns stock in the company. He’s helped Johnson & Johnson multiple times, including some unprecedented donations. Moderna, too, received heavy donations pre-COVID, getting $20 million in 2016 alone.
Gates tends to invest where he donates, and he clearly saw something in vaccines well before everyone else. Is it that hard to think he invested in the companies he donated to? Would it be outrageous to assume that he would push something that netted him a 20-to-1 return on investment at a time of unparalleled global panic?
Gates can fit just about any narrative pushed on him, but one thing you can’t call him is broke. Gates saw something in vaccines and may have been ahead of the curve with mRNA vaccines. If you’d like to mimic his investment strategy, consider a mRNa-focused exchange-traded fund (ETF).
Direxion mRNA ETF’s mRNA technology may have been the impetus for Moderna’s meteoric rise once upon a time. COVID proved the use of mRNA has incredible potential and that potential has been widely discussed. Investing early in this ETF could have a massive long-term upside. It should be noted, however, that the short term may be rough. The Direxion ETF, which is comprised of 21 stocks, has dropped about 40% since being listed in December 2021. However, it’s still early, and if Gates recommends vaccination as a long-term investment, you may want to consider it, too.
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