Does South Africa Offer Investors 1st World Companies At 3rd World Prices?

| About: iShares MSCI (EZA)

I haven't own any South African-based stocks since DeBeers a few years ago. It got taken over and I made a good return on my investment.

But the country is frequently a favorite of Templeton's Mark Mobius, who earlier this month was quoted as saying he likes the consumer sector there. Several years ago Mobius was raving about the country, saying you could buy "first world companies at third world prices."

Will this continue being the case? My hunch is yes. Yet it's just that -- a hunch.

I'm far from being an expert on South Africa. And you have to worry when reading Rian Malan's feature piece in the latest Spectator. Malan is a native of the country who wrote the highly-acclaimed book, "My Traitor's Heart", some years ago.

His Spectator article is "South Africa: Not Civil War But Sad Decay":

Now, almost overnight, we have come to the dismaying realisation that much around us is rotten. Nearly half our provinces and municipalities are said to be on the verge of collapse. A murderous succession dispute has broken out in the ruling African National Congress. Our Auditor–General reportedly has sleepless nights on account of the billions that cannot be properly accounted for. Whites have been moaning about such things for years, but you know you’re in serious trouble when President Thabo Mbeki admits the ‘naked truth’ that his government has been infiltrated by chancers seeking to ‘plunder the people’s resources.’

Let's hope the country doesn't become another Zimbabwe. But that's top-down stuff, at least from an investor's point of view.

For investors, the question is will South Africa still offer up investment opportunities over time? Like I said, my hunch is that it will. Yet what Mark Mobius does there in the future may offer a conclusive answer.

EZA 1-yr chart:


Editor's note: iShares MSCI South Africa Index (NYSEARCA:EZA) covers the South African market.

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