Energy and food will be hot commodities as emerging middle classes start buying cars and beef. That is why, in this interview with The Energy Report, Discovery Investing Founder Michael Berry explains the importance of quality of life investing. Oil and gas, uranium and fertilizer stocks are on sale now, but might not be in the years to come.
The Energy Report: When we last interviewed your son, Chris Berry, he advised to invest based on the reality of a growing, emerging market in China. That included both energy and agriculture sectors. Are you also bullish on quality of life-based (QOL) investing?
Michael Berry: I am bullish; I developed the QOL concept a few years ago. What I’m seeing is quite a few big institutions—life insurance companies, family offices and money management companies—opening quality of life funds, although often with different names. They are beginning to recognize that as people move from the country to the cities in the emerging markets, and a new middle class develops, they will want more animal-based protein—chicken, fish, pork, beef and eggs. By 2030, once the credit cycle is corrected, I’m very bullish that quality of life funds are going to push forward. I think both the energy and the agriculture sectors are going to be interesting investment areas.
Chris and I have been spending a fair amount of time lecturing and presenting our QOL thesis and talking to investors and companies that have big stakes in this area. When you have 2 billion (2B) new consumers who want to live longer, healthier and easier, and who want better food, education and transportation, energy and nutrition will be key sectors.
TER: Does that mean that you are not worried about reports of slowing economic growth in China?
MB: I’m not worried about the long term because growth in China must slow. As economies expand, growth, by definition, slows. I’m not saying we won’t have serious economic headwinds in the next few years. We have talked before about the impact of possible deflation in the metals sector. But ultimately, that will be overcome because members of the new and much larger middle class want to live better and they want to consume.
China and India are changing their models from export-driven economies to consumer-based economies. That might take a decade or more, but the Chinese government is transforming it now. China has its own credit problems that it must solve. Same goes for the United States. Regardless of the timeframe, energy and food are still keys to a higher quality of life. We are prepared to watch as this secular tsunami develops, and then take investment positions.
TER: A big part of that energy play is oil and gas. When we last interviewed Matt Badiali, he was very excited about shale plays because, “these are real companies producing real profits” compared to gold explorers. What’s your approach to the controversial shale oil sector?
MB: Shale oil is a great diversification play for all of your readers in either the metals sector or the energy sector. You want to spend some time and understand the Bakken and also the Eagle Ford Shale. I’m very bullish on the Eagle Ford. It is clear fracking technology works. The biggest oil producers are involved, including Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX:NYSE).
Specifically, I like the royalty play in the Eagle Ford Shale Trend. The U.S. is a great country because if you own the land, you own all of the mineral rights beneath the land. We are the only country in the world where private citizens can own the minerals. The first 25% of oil that comes out of the land comes to the property owner, with no working interest risks and no environmental risks. The royalty owner pays only his share of the taxes; other than the cost of purchasing the royalty, he has no capital costs associated with drilling and completing the wells, or monthly lease operating expenses.
It is a great dividend-like diversifier for people who are looking for yield and a hedge against inflation. Just in the Eagle Ford Shale alone, there have been approximately 9,000 wells drilled since its discovery in 2008, with a 97% success rate. The current average estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) per well is 351,000 barrels of oil equivalent (351 Mboe). This recovery rate appears to be increasing over time as the technology improves. There will likely be an additional 200,000 wells drilled in the Eagle Ford over the next 50 years.