The Asian continent includes three of the planet's most populous nations: China, India and Indonesia; as these countries' consumer economies continue to develop, so do investment opportunities. Everything from the growth of luxury goods to new appliances to "Western" foods and beverages will have a growing presence in the region's economy. The Emerging Global Shares Dow Jones ETF (Nasdaq:ECON) is a great way to play this trend. However, one specific macroeconomic trend has the potential to generate $80 billion in revenue annually, in just five years. Is this where you should be putting your money now? Read on to find out why it looks so promising, then decide for yourself!
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As the two largest Asian economies, both China and India already possess nearly 500 million internet users, and that number is increasing exponentially. Analysts estimate that more than 700 million more users will be added in those two nations alone by 2015. Similarly across the continent, other emerging nations are seeing their internet usage rise. Malaysia will have close to 25 million internet users by 2015, or about 80% of its population. South Korea boasts one of the world's most advanced broadband networks and is serving as the United State's model for its recent high-speed initiative.
This internet penetration is having dramatic effects on how Asia's citizens work, shop and play. The number of Chinese internet users has climbed to 420 million, with one out of three people using the internet and one in 10 shopping online. Online retail sales in China increased 117% annually between 2007 and 2009. On average, India's citizens spend more than four hours a day consuming online content and are heavy consumers of downloaded videos, music and movies. Indonesia has embraced social networking, too, and more than 21 million of its citizens are now using Facebook - less than a year ago, there were barely a million.
Investing in Asia's New Dotcom Age
With such a large population base and the beginnings of an internet revolution, this theme warrants a closer look by investors. But just as the dotcom age in Asia can be played in a number of ways. Content producers, shopping sites and hardware manufacturers will all see a piece of the pie.
As the largest country in Asia, China holds the most potential. Instant messaging, social networks, gaming and streaming video are all gaining steam. The Global X China Technology ETF (NYSE:CHIB) and Claymore/AlphaShares China Technology (NYSE:CQQQ) offer broad exposure to China's tech sector. The iShares MSCI Taiwan Index (NYSE:EWT) offers a stealth play on China's mobile internet growth. Targeting the low end of the consumer market in China, Taiwanese chip maker Mediatek is developing with a new Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) Android chipset. This will cut costs of smart phones down to only one-tenth of previous amounts.
With the "American" internet habits the Chinese are acquiring, content and websites will continue to be money makers. Companies such as internet portal Baidu (Nasdaq:BIDU), online gaming company Shanda Interactive (Nasdaq:SNDA) and travel site Ctrip.com (Nasdaq:CTRP) are prime examples of these types of companies.
India, on the other hand, represents an explosive opportunity that is only in its earliest stages of development. Only 7% of this country's population has internet access, but because the country lacks a wired infrastructure most of its citizens use mobile devices to access the web. Alvarion (Nasdaq:ALVR) is still one of the leaders in WIMAX systems that make this wireless access possible. This company's low-cost and easy-to-install networks are perfect for emerging markets thanks to their negligible infrastructure. (Emerging markets like India are fast becoming engines for future growth. Find out how to get in on the ground floor. Check out The Indian Stock Market 101.)
Playing Asia's population remains one of the better long-term investment themes. One of the more interesting subsectors of this trend is Asia's internet growth. Analysts predict that the continent will have more than 1.1 billion active internet users by 2015. Investors with long enough time lines shouldn't ignore this growth trend. Luckily, there are many ways to capitalize on it.
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