Global Investing

from Africa News blog:

Forgiveness in paradise?

If you lived on an archipelago that defined paradise with palm-fringed white sand beaches and emerald green waters, you would expect a relaxed, lazy pace of life.

Lazy would be a generous description of the Seychellois soldier’s wave at the entrance to State House as I arrived with my local colleague George Thande - who is admittedly a regular visitor here.

The Seychelles were ruled by the French before the British and State House in the capital Victoria is every bit the luxurious colonial mansion: a lush garden exploding with tropical colours; an oil painting of Britain's Queen Victoria hangs in the wood-panelled reception room close to a portrait of Castor, a runaway slave from the 19th century with a fearsome reputation; a Daimler and Rolls Royce are parked on the forecourt.

But President James Alix Michel, cannot afford to be relaxed. This is an exotic destination at the sharp end of the global financial crisis.

The Indian Ocean archipelago may lie thousands of miles from the financial hubs of the world, but the bankers on Wall Street and in the City of London, not to mention the celebrity visitors, help keep the Seychelles’ tourism-dependent economy afloat.

The final frontier market

The present may be pretty bleak for investors, but that has not stopped one firm from looking decidedly at the future – privatised space travel. Fortis Investments reckons space tourism will one day become all the rage with travellers willing to fork out thousands upon thousands of dollars for the adventure.

SpaceIn the latest issue of Fund Expert magazine, Fortis looks at the nascent industry and reckons that the price of a space trip – roughly $200,000 to begin with – should come down substantially as a result of competition. There is already some – including Virgin Galactic, which is aiming for launch by next year, and Rocketplane, which should go up the year after.  They will start modestly, just sticking their noses out of the atmosphere.

The new industry, however, eventually should mean a boom in new employment, requiring commercial astronauts, flight attendants, tour operators and so on. But the flight operators may also be licking their lips at the prospect of getting government military and scientific research contracts. Fortis – whose Brussels headquarters coincidently is located on Avenue de l’Astronomie — reckons that a NASA flight currently costs the U.S. government $1.3 billion a pop. So outsourcing would be attractive.