Talk about the world coming to an end on 12/21/12 raises a question that some say could be one reason for the globe's future demise: Is there a way to make a profit from the coming doomsday scenario?
Woe betide those who do, says Peter Bianchi, CEO of Innovative Beverage and a believer in the Apocalypse 2012 prediction.
He says he's believes in the coming end-times because "a lot of intelligent people do."
But he intends to survive, expecting the world will not completely disappear. "I've made my survival plans," says Bianchi, whose Houston, Texas-based firm distributes non-alcoholic drinks, including one called 'drank'. He just wants everyone to enjoy his product with "what time is left."
"Companies that try to take advantage of the situation are despicable," argues Bianchi. "It's playing into people's fears. How are you going to have profits if the world ends? It's not going to happen."
Former investment banker Terry Connelly has some advice: "I would short futures," he says in a deadpan tone. "I'm kidding of course. Betting on this phenomena is supercilious," says Connelly who is dean of the Ageno School of Business at Golden Gate University. "Who's going to be around to collect?"
So don't expect a firm like Goldman Sachs to be trading into the end of days, says Connelly. "Wall Street looks at this as an attention reliever," he explains. "It's more like an amusment than a market discipline."
But that's not stopping entrepreneurs and investors from thinking dollars and cents when the world may be gone in 18 months.
"I don't believe in the end of the world prophecy for 2012, but I know a lot of people do," says Kishan Agarwal, CEO of MelroseJewelers.com, an online luxury goods retailer. "That's why we're selling this special Rolex edition watch for $14,225."
Called "Time May Be Running Out" (pun intended) the watch is specifically geared toward those people who live every minute to the fullest, according to the 34-year-old Agarwal, a former equity analyst for Dalton Investments in Los Angeles, California.
"A friend of mine is a hedge fund manager and he's consumed by this prophecy, and the watch is an inspiration from his ideas," Agarwal says
So far, Agarwal says he's sold 25 watches, for revenues of $80,000. "We make about $850 a watch," he says.
As for future sales—there's still plenty of time.
"We think people will love it. The main idea is to offer people who truly believe in the prophecy the chance to celebrate every minute they have left," Agarwal explains. "We're not offering any other products for the Armageddon but this one. It's simply an idea we had and thought worth trying."
Other entrepreneurs will be jumping on the end of the world bandwagon says, Adam Hanft, CEO of Hanft Projects, a branding and culture advising firm.
"I don't think it will be the bigger firms — they are afraid of it," Hanft says. "But you'll see the do-it-yourself types making and selling coffee mugs, T-shirts, and hats that all say something like 'End of the World, Ma'.
Hanft expects internet sites to be all over the phenomenon as well.
"For web sites that have tongue in check humor, end of the world videos will do a good business," Hanft says. "That includes horoscope sites. There's obviously a segment of the population that's drawn to this and it becomes self-perpetuating. There will be products out there to buy."
And there are—running the gamut from doomsday survival bunkers,doomsday last wills and testaments, doomsday vegetable seeds for food shortages and for those needing something to hug, doomsday teddy bears.
Many of the doomsday offerings are seeing record sales. That's because there's no shortage of customers, says Bucknell University sociology professor Alexander Riley, who's done research on end of the world scenarios.
How do investors play Armageddon 2012?
"You've always had a lot of nuts on Wall Street using astrology charts to pick stocks anyway"
"A lot of businesses are presuming the world won't end but want people to buy their products so they will survive any kind of 'catastrophe'," Riley goes on to say. "The whole idea is not limited to the survivalist fringe. It's entered the middle classes too. A lot of people will act on that survival impulse and buy things to prepare."
That impulse brings a warning from Riley.
"A very large number of firms are more or less preying on a gullible, frightened people, who have been cynically misinformed by irresponsible media sources," Riley argues. "Many of the companies are clearly looking to make a major mark up on what they happen to be selling."
So how do investors play the 'end of the world 2012'?
"If enough people really believed in the prophecy, they would quit their jobs and sell everything they own," says Matthew Tuttle, a money manager at Tuttle Wealth Management. "I've heard of someone who did just that. Look, if the world ends it doesn't matter if I'm in the market or not."
But if someone wants to play the odds—betting against the world's survival to make money only to have it all potentially end—Tuttle says the 'smart money' is in commodities, energy and metals.
"You want those types of investments," says Tuttle. "Also, alcohol companies might do well, as people will probably be stressed out as time gets closer to the date. The problem is, you might not be around to enjoy the money you made."
As for the investment community itself, Armageddon 2012 might already be figured into the market, says Jeff Gitterman, CEO of Gitterman & Associates Wealth Management.
"You've always had a lot of nuts on Wall Street using astrology charts to pick stocks anyway," Gitterman says. "So there may not be that much of a difference in investment planning heading to 2012."
Gitterman adds there's been a long run on 'profit making' disaster proof investments.
"Gold is already going up because of the current world scenario, with Japan, the Middle East and food shortages," Gitterman explains. "As for short selling—betting the price of a stock or commodity will go down—I don't see that as good. You get too exposed if you are wrong."
On a more serious note, investors need to stay calm, says David Neubert, co-founder of Kapitall, an online investment platform.
"Ignore 2012 completely," Neubert says. "If gold rallies because people associate an earthquake or hurricane with the end of the world, take the other side. Do not try to anticipate panic; that never works."
As for Peter Bianchi, his firm continues to push 'drank', what the 43 year-old Bianchi calls a "natural relaxation drink to replace drugs and alcohol." It's been on store shelves for the past two years—with some 17 million units sold.
Bianchi claims he has no special marketing plans to tie 'drank' with Armageddon 2012, saying the doom believers already know about it.
"People are too stressed out now, and 'drank' is a perfect for the end of the world." Bianchi adds. "Drank's ingredients help relax people, and that's what I'm all about, making people feel relaxed in this mixed up world," "Besides, if the end does come, it's better to be cool and calm than crazy."
"Apocalypse 2012" will air on Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 9 p.m. and midnight ET on CNBC. The documentary will repeat on Friday, December 21, 2012 at 8 p.m.