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RAGS to riches aptly describes the life trajectories of business partners and fast friends Chatri Sityodtong and Saurabh Mittal.
Their days as poor graduate students, working their way to pay fees at Harvard Business School in the late 1990s, are long behind them. But the friendship forged in those days has in hindsight become a foundation for a good part of their success as entrepreneurs.
Their largest joint project to date is ONE Championship, billed as Asia's largest sports-media property. ONE Championship showcases Asian mixed martial arts and has attracted institutional investors such as Temasek Holdings, Sequoia Capital India and Mission Holdings, Mr Mittal's investment holding company.
Says Mr Mittal: "We have a great friendship of more than 20 years, which leads to a degree of trust and confdence and knowledge of each other's strengths and weaknesses that are very hard to replicate in typical commercial arrangements. It's more a labour of love for him and for me to support him in it.''
Mr Sityodtong says: "We're true partners working on an unbelievable, huge opportunity that's dependent on our strengths combined... For most other people, when a strategic investor comes in they just give you money, a little advice, some introductions – that value-add is still signifcant, but it's less valueadd than what someone like Saurabh brings to the table.''
Today, ONE Championship's viewership and social-media metrics reflect its rise. Its events are broadcast in 128 countries in 2017 compared to 60 in 2014. Social-media impessions have grown 23 times from 352 million to 8.3 billion; social media video views have likewise ballooned from 312,000 to 1.5 billion.
The friends separately pursue their respective philanthropic causes. Even in that respect, there are common threads in their support for disadvantaged youth and children. We hope you enjoy our Spotlight feature.
In this edition, we gather a sampling of the 2018 outlook from experts in our Roundtable. Jasslyn Yeo, JP Morgan Asset Management's global market strategist, says the macro outlook remains promising, and the near-term outlook for US equities is positive. But she is less sanguine for the medium term. Corporate margins are at peak levels and are vulnerable to a squeeze as wages rise, she says. Combined with stretched valuations, US stocks' upside potential is likely to be capped. For UBS Wealth Management head of investment platforms and solutions Lim Leong Guan, equities are still supported by synchronised global growth, high employment rates and rising corporate earnings. He has, however, a neutral stance on emerging-markets equities, thanks to geopolitical tensions, potential trade friction and a rising US dollar.
On a contrarian note, Leonardo Drago of AL Wealth Partners argues that commodities are today virtually the only asset class still in a bear market and may warrant a closer look for the sake of diversifcation. The ratio of commodities against the S&P500 is now at the same level last seen in 1971 and 1999, he writes. Both were near commodity bear market bottoms and peaks in equity markets.
Meanwhile in real estate, Knight Frank's Tay Kah Poh casts the limelight on luxe properties at Sentosa Cove. On the face of it, it may seem as if the best years for the area have passed. Average Sentosa non-landed property prices exceeded S$2,300 psf in 2010. There has been, however, an uptick in volumes over the past year. Sales volume and prices will trend upwards, albeit at a measured pace, he writes.
Meanwhile Bank of Singapore's head of wealth planning Lee Woon Shiu shares insights on how wealthy families can remain tightly knit and still accommodate life changes such as divorce that are typical of any family. Conflicts will occur, he says. If left unaddressed, they threaten to rip family ties and cause wealth erosion. The key is to set ground rules on how conflicts are to be dealt with. It is best if these rules are mapped out while the head of family, who is also typically a business founder, is still alive.
On a lighter, more idyllic note, Tara Loader Wilkinson introduces us to luxury resort Nihiwatu, located in Sumba, an island one hour's flight from Bali. Comprising 32 villas in different styles, the estate is nestled against 560 acres of wild nature and surrounded by ocean. Fortunately, efforts are underway to protect it from overdevelopment. We wish you a rewarding investment journey.
Managing editor Wong Wei Kong Editor Genevieve Cua Creative editor Vivien Ang Art director Pradip Kumar Sikdar
Writers Genevieve Cua, Cristiana de Alessi, Leonardo Drago, Ryan Moore, Tay Kah Poh, Tara Loader Wilkinson, John Woods