A Hard Landing Down Under
Mining has been a boom-bust industry throughout its history. The reason is the long development process of a mining asset. When demand pushes up prices for minerals, supplies take time to respond. Hence, prices can go very high in the initial phase of a demand boom. The eye-popping profitability draws all kinds of people into speculating for new mines, massively increasing the supply capacity years down the road. When the demand boom cools and prices decline, supply capacity keeps rising rapidly, which throws the industry into a depression with severe repercussions for its financiers.
A decade ago, some Australian investors came to my office for advice on how to invest in China. I told them to go home and buy shares of Australian companies in the mining industry. Bellwether stocks like BHP have appreciated ten times since. The story began with China joining the WTO. This change would increase China's share of global trade. As China's expenditure is heavily weighed towards fixed-asset investment, this redistribution of income would increase the demand for mineral resources. Hence, I believed that the industry would have good times ahead.
As the prices of minerals like iron ore surged, the super profitability attracted all sorts of people into prospecting all over the world. Numerous investors went into African jungles and Mongolian grassland to strike it rich. Even though risks for investing there very high, like getting one's head chopped off by upset locals, the fantastic margins pumped up these people's courage. Unfortunately, if and when these assets become productive, the margins are gone. Most stories about chasing riches in faraway lands end like this. Some smart people have sold undeveloped assets to others through IPOs in Hong Kong. Those who haven't sold are stuck.
'There Are Such Opportunities'
- 60-Second News for July 22: Typhoon Rammasun
- Market Reforms, Fight against Corruption Go Hand in Hand, Expert Says
- What Li Keqiang Asks in Meetings with Economists
- Increased Oil Imports 'Spur Rise in Shipping Costs, Plans to Build More Ships'
- Graft Fight Will Take Years, U.S. Expert Says, but China Is Heading in Right Direction
- Helicopter Crash
- Yunnan Mudslide
- The Week in Photos: July 12- 18
- Meat Supplier Puts McDonald's, KFC in Food Safety Spotlight Again
- Graphics: Dangerous Airspace
- Sign up to receive our free daily newsletter
- CCTV Financial News Anchor Rui Chenggang Is Detained
- Gov't Selects Six SOEs for New Round of Pilot Reforms
- Qingdao Port Warehouse Receipts Forged with Phony Seals, Says Source
- Getting a Healthy Interest in Medical Tourism
- Alibaba Has Big Hopes for New Big Data Processing Service
- Why Congress Should Pass the EB-5 Regional Center Extension Act
- The Lost Soldier of Myitkyina
- Graphics: What Does US$ 100 Mean to Expatriates Around the World?
- Beijing Monorail Plan Earns Ire Among Residents
- WH Group Hits out Against 'Defamatory' Accusations