Global Investing

Africa’s property laws (or lack of)

Africa’s emerging commercial real estate markets may look tempting from the outside, but will remain the preserve of those with the highest appetite for risk. A vendor carries newspapers for sale along the streets of Uganda's capital Kampala September 12, 2009.  REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Even the CEO of Growthpoint, South Africa’s largest listed property firm, feels the continent (excluding South Africa) is not for the faint-hearted. Those interested in investing for the longer term, like himself, are likely to remain on the sidelines for now. “We’re less convinced about the dynamics in some of these African countries. It is higher returns for that risk, but we’re not convinced that it’s enough,” says Norbert Sasse, while in London for an investors’ conference organised by Australia’s Macquarie Bank.

“We’re sceptical with those African countries further north. Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda etc … you’re never sure if the law protects your property rights. The law around property title is certainly nowhere near as advanced as you would get in South Africa.”

But others are more optimistic. Knight Franks’ head of Africa Peter Welborn told a Reuters Summit in June that Africa opportunities were just as good if not better than other emerging markets such as Asia and Latin America, promising hefty returns.

Growthpoint is the landlord for some 440 commercial properties in South Africa, but owns just two buildings in the rest of the continent, in neighbouring Namibia.

Not quite 99 emerging market beers on the wall

Should emerging market investors set aside their spreadsheets and crack open a cold one?

Their markets have zoomed higher from the March lows, with MSCI’s emerging markets stock index up 81 percent. Are they heading for a fall? Will investors soon be crying in their beer? And if so what kind?

Broker Auerbach Grayson held a rooftop fete this week showcasing emerging market versus developed market beers, with nary a Yankee brew in sight.

from Alexander Smith:

Beijing’s Rio talks must avoid iron fist

Chinese anger at Rio Tinto for reneging on a deal with aluminium group Chinalco and opting instead for an iron ore joint venture with BHP Billiton last month was understandable. Indeed, China has good reason to question the Rio-BHP JV on competition grounds.

But the detention of four Rio Tinto employees -- on suspicion of espionage according to Australia's foreign minister -- bang in the middle of sensitive negotiations on iron ore exports to China is a
dangerous step in the wrong direction. Beijing must either justify the arrests publicly or release the Rio staff immediately.

Rio is locked in tough negotiations with China's massive steel sector following its refusal to agree to Chinese demands for a bigger cut in contract prices. As a result, Rio is for now at least charging its Chinese customers spot market prices, which are considerably higher.

Deflation to jump the shark?

The recent spate of shark attacks on Australian beaches could mark a turning point in global deflation and signal a change in fortunes for some beleaguered emerging economies, if Nomura strategist Sean Darby is to be believed.

Speaking at a Nomura investors forum, Darby said a chance sighting of a shark on Sydney’s famed Bondi Beach three weeks ago made him realise that prices of grain and other soft commodities — punished of late by global recession fears — could be due for a rebound.

“I actually saw a shark on Bondi Beach and that made me wonder about the impact of La Nina and how there’s a severe drought around the world at a time when many farmers are finding it hard to access credit,” said the Hong Kong-based analyst.