Friday, November 9, 2012


It would be surprising for many investors/readers/people in general. Harvard Management Company, the endowment fund of Harvard University is investing in farmland in New Zealand and other Real Estate projects globally. The total fund stands at $30 billion in which 10% portfolio has hit the Real Estate allocation in farmland. For some people Harvard University endowment works in secret environment and nobody knows the amount of investment it is making globally.  Indeed, the entire crew at Harvard Management Company is routinely described as “secretive” and “tight-lipped.” It uses its status as a non-profit to keep its dealings as hush-hush as possible.  Not even the students know how it operates or where it invests. But I got this information from my networking who is an alumni of Harvard Business School with strong inside connections. The school's student magazine, The Crimson, recently noted: “The managers operate behind a veil of secrecy under the pretext of losing competitive financial advantage.”
They certainly have an advantage. The fund has tens of billions more under management than the next closest fund over at Yale. It raises more money than any other non-profit in the United States. And it does so with zero fundraising expenses, so people are literally throwing money at it. Why not? It's returned an average 12.9% for the past two decades — far better than the average return of the Dow, S&P, or NASDAQ. However, Harvard Endowment lost the highest money among the major endowments during the financial market crisis running from 2007 to 2009.  In the modern era of information, nothing stays secret for long. And if you look closely enough, over the past few years, some of this fund's secrets have started to be revealed...
Endowment has become Land Barons: New financial investors
Harvard Management Company bought over 400,000 acres of the Kaingaroa forestry estate in New Zealand in 2003. Though the price wasn't disclosed, it's rumored to have sold for over $800 million. The question is why New Zealand. Since one of the alumnus who is a Kiwi and handles the funds has taken this position in the farmland in New Zealand. It helped that Andy Wiltshire was from New Zealand and had worked for the New Zealand Forest Service, which originally developed the Kaingaroa Plantation. He also went to school with the CEO of Kaingaroa Timberlands. After that investment, Harvard set its sights on Maniototo's Big Sky Dairy Farm, New Zealand's first “superfarm” with 6,000 cows on 4,000 acres. Financialization of commodities is happening now as big financial investors are taking position in this new asset class for wealth preservation and protection  
The bets have paid off nicely: Last year the portion of Harvard's portfolio that owns real estate posted an 18.8% return. Meanwhile, major market indices only posted a 5% return. Already this year, the fund has made a $4.0 million profit on the dairy farm alone. And the party is just getting started. Under Wiltshire's watch, forests, farms, and other real estate have grown to 10% of Harvard's portfolio, over $3 billion. Of course, making lucrative profits on billion-dollar investments isn't hard when you run in the same circles as Harvard alumni.
Many of the funds it manages come from wealthy graduates — a list that includes countless heads of state, congressmen, governors, Nobel and Pulitzer winners, and chief executives. Names like Obama, Romney, and Bernanke are all on the list.
The Harvard Management Company ['management' and 'company' certainly aren't nonprofit words] is definitely “in the club.” It shares an office with the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston — the same building from which Jane Mendillo, head of the fund, gave a rare interview this year that offered some insight into their strategy...According to her, what is she looking for in property deals that produce something that the world is going to want more of, and the increase in the supply is difficult. Makes sense to many potential investors.
Harvard endowment fund people rub elbows gives it a distinct advantage. A lot of other investors don't have the expertise, don't have the team to go out and look at individual [real estate opportunities]...”Armed with that expertise, Harvard is the first endowment fund to directly buy real estate outside of the United States.
After it became one of the largest foreign landholders in New Zealand, it bought the majority of a company that's one of the largest landholders in Romania, with over 86,000 acres. Most recently, it bought three huge farms in Brazil. And here's the most important thing in all of this: These are investments you and I typically can't be a part of. These investments are for Ivy League people only. There's an Ivy League/Insider velvet rope. They aren't delivering monster returns by investing in publicly-traded land ETFs or real estate funds. They know that stuff's for us underlings. No, they buy the assets directly and manage them themselves...And this is their key to success: They play the insider game.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Rogers in Singapore and London who shared an investment advice for the next 5-10 years. Become a FARMER. I have penned down in one of my articles published in Investors Guide Magazine:

According to Bloomberg in September-2012, “It was Harvard’s early and enthusiastic embrace of alternative assets such as private equity and hedge funds that turned it into one of the top performers among endowments.” For too long, surefire investments like these have been off the table for everyday folks, reserved instead for Ivy League graduates and their cocktail party buddies. In recent years, there have been thrown some scraps as similar funds, like The Carlyle Group (NASDAQ: CG), Blackstone (NYSE: BX), and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (NYSE: KKR), have taken a portion of their assets public.
But you don't get to profit directly from their deals. You still have to buy a stock and be at the whim of the market. While the heads of those firms and the people they make deals with have undoubtedly made billions this year, each of those stocks is only up between 5% and 15%.
The key to investing and profiting like these funds is not to own a piece of the fund — but to do the same kind of deals they do on your own. It's something I've spent a great deal of time researching lately. And I have found a way for people like us to do it without having been introduced to a senator or private equity billionaire...You see, there's an overlooked way you can make real estate investments just like these top-notch people do — without buying a single share of a public company. They are private deals with extraordinarily high returns and they are available to people now It may not get you in their club, but it will allow you to similarly profit without touching the actual stock market.
Disclaimer: This is just a research piece and not an investment advice. All financial transactions carry a RISK

1 comment:

  1. Really informative. You showed it in a very interesting manner. I had fun reading your post.
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