From C to D in markets

In the second of our series on investment in the world's emerging economies

Colombia

Coffee, coal and flowers are important export earners and so, unfortunately, is cocaine. Narcotics-related crime makes the most violent society in the world. The government puts employment at 9 per cent; the true figure may be nearer 30 per cent. Little wonder that foreign investors are discouraged; the n stock exchange has been one of the world's worst performers this year - down 13 per cent in sterling terms.

Apart from investor uncertainty, there are, however, no fundamental economic problems. Interest rates are low and the country's oil industry is thriving. The government's privatisation programme seems set to continue with the approval of four more power plants and, although the risk of trade sanctions remains real, a recent lifting of the ban on extraditing drug traffickers should dramatically improve relations with the US, which accounts for more than a third of Columbia's foreign trade.

Of the 200 or so companies listed on the Bogot, Medellin and Cali stock exchanges, recent best performers include Argos, the cement manufacturer, and beer producer Bavaria. Financials such as Bank Canadero and Banco Industriale Columbino also rank among brokers' current favourites.

Czech Republic

Since its peaceful split from Slovakia in 1993, the Czech Republic has been transformed from one of the most centralised to one of the most market- oriented of former Communist countries. A voucher system, introduced in 1992, permitted all adult Czech citizens to bid for shares in the newly privatised industries, and created a fully-fledged equity market almost overnight.

The country has a well-developed industrial sector in which the car maker Skoda, now controlled by Volkswagen is rapidly outgrowing its dubious reputation.

Tourism is an invaluable source of hard currency - nearly 100 million tourists visited Prague in 1995. Concern remains, however, over inadequate corporate disclosure, a lack of transparency in prices and lack of stock- market liquidity.

GDP growth is estimated at more than 5 per cent in 1996, though unemployment is virtually zero in Prague, for example - and the scarcity of labour put a damper on competitiveness.

Inflation at 9 per cent has not helped the 1,800 companies listed on the Prague stock exchange, which were among the world's worst performers during the past year, showing overall returns of -12 per cent.

But Glen Wellman, the managing director of Credit Suisse's Central European Growth Fund, believes that, with the market trading on 10 times earnings (which is cheap by European standards), the future is not too gloomy.

Telecoms companies such as SBT are in favour and a predicted increase in capital spending may also prove a fillip to engineering companies such as Skoda Pilsner, and CKD, the railway and tram manufacturers. Because so many small companies were privatised so quickly, the market as a whole is still fragmented - the brewing sector, with household names such as Budwar and Pilsner, being no exception.

Bass, the UK brewing group, which owns a majority stake in Prague Breweries, is currently engaged in a battle for control of Radegast, the country's second biggest brewer. The move should presage further merger and acquisition activity and may attract the foreign investor interest which is so critical for the market.

Denmark

The economy appears, after a temporary halt, to be recovering earlier than most other economies in Western Europe and gross national debt is among the lowest in Europe.

Unemployment of 10 per cent or so remains a problem, as do the costs of sustaining the government's generous social welfare programme - at 50 per cent, the tax burden is the highest in Europe.

The 250 listed stocks on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange have returned 12 per cent during the past year, and Adrian Farthing at Hill Samuel believes the market should continue to perform on the back of stocks such as TeleDenmark. The banking sector benefited from the successful flotation of BG Bank; clothing retailers such as Carligry and In Wear are on the buy-list.

Scrutiny of the shipping sector is essential: A-P Moller's two companies, DS 1912 and DS Svenberg, account for an unhealthy 12 per cent of the entire market's capitalisationn

Performance statistics: Datastream. Many investment and unit trusts cover Latin America, including . Robert Fleming (Jersey) runs the Czech & Slovak Investment Corp.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Give me the money: but not all providers are ready for transfers to Junior Isas

Parents will be able to switch dormant child trust funds to more competitive Junior Isa

Millions of dormant junior savings accounts were yesterday given the go-ahead to swap to better deals as the Government agreed to allow switching. Samantha Downes reports
Hard labour: a woman bears the load in a factory. But equal treatment is causing pension problems

Women to lose benefits from contracted-out pension scheme

Workers were promised that the state would pay inflation increases on parts of their pensions. But now the DWP disagrees
The Budget, says one critic, should have done more to encourage construction of affordable homes

Help for buyers but where are the homes?

A vote-winning Budget promised less tax, greater savings flexibility, and government handouts for first-time housebuyers
'It will be no wonder if people lack the enthusiasm to save taxfree,' says one expert. But there are ways to beat low rates on cash Isas

How to make the most of Isas: You can save more money now, the returns are tax-free and the rules are flexible

Rob Griffin sees how you can surmount the one big obstacle

Growing number of women under the age of 35 are turning to online gambling

Online gaming is changing the profile of victims, who see it as an answer to difficult relationships but sink deeper into trouble

Ethical investments: Lack of awareness means investors are supporting industries they oppose

Many of us have good intentions now but either we don't switch accounts or we back 'nasty' activities without realising
Payday lenders fail to recognise customers in financial difficulty, the FCA said

Payday lenders accused of unfair practices by watchdog

The Financial Conduct Authority found non-compliance in all reviewed firms

Hooray, you're going to live longer! But what should you do to celebrate?

Pension expert John Lawson talks on why improved longevity is something to plan for carefully

Pension freedom: Steve Webb answers your questions on the big shake-up

The new freedoms arrive in April but many of you have told us that you see problems as well as opportunities. The pensions minister Steve Webb responds
Pension Minister Steve Webb

There are 'dark corners' of the investment and pensions industry, says Pensions Minister

The DWP and the FCA have joined forces to investigate transaction charges in occupational pension schemes

Scottish Power was found to have unacceptably long call waiting times

Scottish Power hit with sales ban by regulator

The company was found to have unacceptably long call waiting times

This phoenix rose from the stage at the London Olympics. The insurer grew out of zombie life insurance funds

Phoenix Life: Chance of a refund for overcharged policyholders has risen

A retired adviser got his money back from the insurer after claiming he had been overcharged. Thousands of others may have a strong case
Expect a new wave of fishing expeditions by fraudsters now we can invest our life savings

Cold callers and your pension: watch out for dangerous boiler room scams

Sean O'Grady received a cold call last week that was much more sinister than normal. Yes, someone wants to get their hands on his pension...

Fuel poverty could claim 100,000 lives over next 15 years, warns energy charity

The NHS is currently bearing a yearly burden of approximately £1.5bn treating cold-related illnesses every winter

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

    £50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

    Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

    £45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

    Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

    Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor