UNIT LINKED UKRAINE
Score prediction: UKRAINE 3 – NORTH MACEDONIA 1
Ukraine, like many of the former Soviet bloc, has developed its incredible wealth of knowledgeable and skilled workers into a technology powerhouse due to its relatively cheap labour.
However, to access this opportunity from an investment perspective is not so straightforward.
There are very few, so far, indigenous technology firms existing which are listed on the main bourses. The main IT domestic outsourcers such as Diceus, Sombra and Intellias are all unlisted, although as they are supported by local Venture Capital funds, I think one interesting play would be to keep an eye out for them IPO-ing, most likely in the US, perhaps as a SPAC.
If one looks deeper at the main employers in Ukraine in this sector, one will find a host of internationally familiar names and this is perhaps the best way to play this sector.
For example, the largest employer in this sector is EPAM, itself a germ of the Belarus IT industry, but now headquartered in the United States and listed on NASDAQ. Solely in Ukraine, they employee almost 10,000 staff over five office sites and these are responsible for more than 20% of total company revenue.
Whatever way you wish to play it, it seems the IT powerhouse that is Ukraine is worth keeping a close eye on.
Score prediction: UKRAINE 0 – NORTH MACEDONIA 1
Don’t let the recent name-change fool you – North Macedonia is old. It was, after all, part of the ancient Kingdom of Macedon. The region around the capital city Skopje has been inhabited since at least 4000 BC and a city was founded on the site in the 3rd century BC.
It boasts Dardanian, Roman and Byzantine archaeology. Fast-forward a fair few centuries and the Ottomans also left their mark.
Despite all this, however, the country is home to just a single UNESCO World Heritage Site – albeit one recognised for both its cultural and natural significance.
Lake Ohrid sits on the border between North Macedonia and Albania – with the former home to two-thirds of the body of water. It is the deepest lake in the Balkans and has existed continuously for some two to three million years – give or take a couple of millennia.
Situated on the shore is the town of Ohrid, one of the oldest human settlements in Europe. It contains archaeological remains from the Bronze Age up to the Middle Ages. According to UNESCO, Slav culture spread from Ohrid to other parts of Europe.
I wrote about Macedonian tenacity in my last piece, which looked at the addition of ‘North’ to the country’s name in 2019 – and, in that spirit, I’m doubling down on my previous prediction and again positing a 1-0 win, this time against Ukraine.
Following their stunning 2-1 victory over Germany in March – the first time ‘Die Mannschaft’ had lost a World Cup qualifying game in 20 years – I still believe North Macedonia have one upset in them in this tournament. If they don’t manage it tonight, guess what score I’m predicting for the Netherlands game next week…