Millennium Spinoff Fund Bets on Indonesia, Singapore Currencies
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A macro hedge fund spun out of Millennium Management LLC is building bullish positions in the Indonesian rupiah and Singapore dollar, betting that measures adopted by the two countries could boost their currencies.
The Indonesian currency may appreciate as much as 4% this year, bolstered by its drive to become a regional electric vehicle hub, said Jimmy Lim, chief investment officer of Modular Asset Management, which manages nearly $1 billion of assets. In other trades, the Singapore-based firm is counting on the Singapore dollar to strengthen on a faster vaccine rollout, while the Thai baht and Philippine peso will weaken.
Lim is expecting Indonesia to see a production boom in battery-grade nickel, the metal for lithium-ion batteries most likely to face supply constraints over the next five years. Indonesia is the world’s top nickel miner with nearly a quarter of the global reserves. BloombergNEF forecasts the Southeast Asian country will be able to more than triple its production capacity for high-grade nickel by 2025.
Between September 2018 and late January this year, Indonesia attracted $22 billion of foreign direct investments in electric vehicle and battery making, 86% of them yet to be finalized. To access the nickel, battery makers Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. and LG Chem Ltd. have pledged investments in the country, while Tesla Inc. is exploring plans to start an electric vehicle battery project there.
|Indonesia Gets Many Battery Plans, Few Firm Commitments|
|Indonesia Needs $17.4B Investment to Develop EV Battery Industry|
|Indonesia Battery-Grade Nickel to Triple by 2025: BNEF Chart|
Such investments will initially raise demand for the country’s currency and improve its current account, said Lim. That will represent a reversal from 2020 which saw the rupiah depreciate 1.3% against the greenback. The bullish bet on the rupiah may deliver a nearly 10% return, inclusive of currency appreciation and extra yields from borrowing money at lower interest rates in dollars to buy the Asian currency, he added.
The rupiah is already one of the strongest Asia currencies this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Once the plants start to hire people and produce revenue, it could increase tax income and reduce the Indonesian government’s fiscal burden, he said, adding that assuming demand remains stable, a smaller supply of new debt may in turn boost its sovereign bonds, which could rally by as much as 75 basis points.
His investment thesis for Singapore is based on projections that Singapore will be able to finish inoculating all adults by the second quarter, which may help it open up borders by June, ahead of Asian neighbors, Lim said, citing internal estimates. The government has pledged to vaccinate everyone by the third quarter, or at least by the end of the year.
Combined with Singapore’s drive to attract family office money, it could pave the way for more capital inflows from the U.S., Europe, Thailand and the Philippines. Its currency may appreciate as much as 8% to 1.22 to the dollar this year, Lim said.
Lim worked at BlueCrest Capital Management and JPMorgan Chase & Co. before joining Millennium. Modular was spun out of Millennium at the start of 2020. Focusing on Asian fixed-income and currency markets, it was one of the largest new hedge funds in the region in recent years. It returned around 1% before fees in January.
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