Closed for Business

“All the rules would change then for him, he would need to comply with further onerous rules. Too much red tape, that can certainly be addressed, he said that his return on investment would be 10 years plus in the current economic environment, as such he was willing to forgo an investment in possibly one of the most unique places on earth. Sad, right? Too much bureaucratic nonsense.”

To market to market to buy a fat pig. Delayed! Sorry. I got back a full day later than I expected to, our flight out from Athens to Frankfurt was delayed by over two hours which meant that we missed our connecting flight from Frankfurt to Joburg. What was quite interesting was that when reorganising the flight back (at their expense), the woman who I was sitting next to was using multiple systems and coming up with dead ends, until she managed to get me via London on BA back to Joburg. From Frankfurt. So we saw multiple airports. And they were all of incredibly high standards, Frankfurt and London Heathrow are amazing, and real easy to get around.

As is the Airbus A380, it is not the first time that I have been on one, it is still amazing to think of something of that size and scale in the air. My eldest was trying to explain to my youngest how something that big stays in the air, even though it is so heavy. Her knowledge base was pretty limited, she had seen some YouTube clips before explaining it, she was not merely making it up. It was still funny to hear her explanation, I can’t say I remember the exact explanation. Flight still amazes me, it has made the world accessible from everywhere. If you want to get to remote areas like the Easter Islands, you can get there. I have friends (I have seen on Facebook) who have been there and the Galapagos Islands. It is 12500 kilometres from here to the Easter Islands. You could probably get there in two days, provided you wanted to go there of course.

A place like Bora Bora seems further away, 15200 kilometres from where I sit, yet I bet you could get there in less than 48 hours. You would have to go via Tahiti. And then via Japan, France, New Zealand or the US. OK, it may take a little longer than 48 hours. From here you need to get to Paris, then Los Angeles and then only to Papeete in French Polynesia. And then you can get to Bora Bora. It it possible, perhaps a little light in 48 hours, possible seemingly! You can get any place you want, if money is no object. And let me say that I saw a more diverse bunch of travellers on this trip to Greece than I have ever seen before. The hotel proprietors confirmed exactly that. There were travellers from all over the world speaking a multitude of different languages, all looking for the same thing, unique memories of their own, looking for unique experiences of their own. Regardless of whether they were from Dehli, Tokyo, Shanghai, Madrid, New York (even bumped into some folks from Seattle, that is a long way), further afield, some people from Melbourne. Loads of tourists. Aussie is of course far away too from everywhere, a 22 odd hour flight for those folks.

I often say with South Africa that you cannot replicate natural beauty, the same could be said for Greece. The Island of Santorini has possibly the most incredible view I have ever seen. You cannot get tired of it and the throngs of tourists (both staying and spewing off the ships) clearly think exactly the same. Photograph space is congested and selfie sticks are everywhere, as are wildlife zooms and pushy folks. All these tourists looked like they cared less about the problems of Greece, the food was awesome, the sunsets were spectacular (a collective cheer went up each and every night when the sun went down, weird right?) and the food was amazing. OK, I mentioned the food twice, it was that good.

Perhaps the big tourist destinations are different, as one restaurant (a cheeky and good looking young Greek man) proprietor told me, Santorini is rich, Athens is not. Athens looked battle hardened, it is a big city with lots of busy people and traffic. It is still pretty amazing with the backdrop of thousands of years of history. The city was never meant to accommodate so many people however, it reminds me a little of our own city in that it is spread out across many suburbs all around. I commented to the Taxi driver that everyone bought their roof tiles from the same place. CTM.

The truth is that if tourism is responsible for around 1 in 3 units of GDP. If this is the case, then by any means for more tourist activity you must make it easier to get there. I suppose that the Greeks have to conform to higher standards in that regard. The one restauranteur (another, with a unique location) said that he was not prepared to spend the money to take out the level below him, as it would not make economic sense to have a larger restaurant. All the rules would change then for him, he would need to comply with further onerous rules. Too much red tape, that can certainly be addressed, he said that his return on investment would be 10 years plus in the current economic environment, as such he was willing to forgo an investment in possibly one of the most unique places on earth. Sad, right? Too much bureaucratic nonsense.

And that is the problem really, offering your citizens too many benefits and not able to collect enough taxes. I have never heard of anyone who turned down better benefits. I have read of rich Americans saying that they had borrowed heavily in the go-go days, cheaper money. And now it has all come to a head. I suspect that for that same restauranteur in Santorini any outcome is fine. People have been visiting the place for Millennia and will still continue to do so. If it gets cheaper (how?) then I can imagine that more people will come. It is certainly a supply and demand thing, that is why I cannot see Greece getting cheaper for tourists any time soon. It may get harder and harder for those reliant on government with their downright far left tendencies, that is clear. Be more market friendly, make it easier for people to build businesses in order to pay more tax.

It is great that the Greek people want no more reforms, good for them, what about the rest of the citizens of the 18 countries that shelled out so much money as the Greeks were basically shut out of debt markets? I feel for pensioners and children in the country, it is costlier than third world countries. From a purchasing power parity point of view (we should make some crazy long acronym) Greece is not wildly costlier than any other place. Really costly places are advanced economies like Switzerland to Sweden, or economic basket cases like Venezuela. Greece is actually more like Portugal, and whilst the standard of living might have risen disproportionally than in other places in the advanced world, there is nobody who likes standards to fall from any level. There are roughly 12 percent of Americans who live in poverty by their levels, those levels are considered downright cushy here by South African standards. You would be living like a king in Macedonia or Moldova, relatively speaking.

As Michael and I discussed, there is an obsession and morbid fascination at the same time with any fall from grace, with living standards having coming crashing down. Older people are, and have been, struggling with their government pensions. I feel desperate for older and younger people, the voters however kept on voting OK for these benefits. That is the cynical side of looking at this. Anyhow, let us wait for Sunday. Greek voters said no to reforms, the rest of Europe (all 18 of them) have said no to the most important thing. The money. Without that, as we discussed earlier, it is hard to do anything. We wait and see how this “fluid” situation evolves. I certainly do not think that any Grexit would be disastrous for the rest of Europe. I do think that nobody wants that scenario though, and will work hard to keep everyone in.

The Shanghai and Shenzhen market is getting smoked. Again. And it is starting to spill over into Hong Kong and the Hang Seng. The Chinese authorities are scared that a draw down in capital markets might well lead to civil unrest. Which is not good when you have a population of that size and scale. If you think that this is never going to happen, think again, I remember seeing in Pakistan (with a population of around 191 million) people beating on the doors of the stock exchange with their sandals, as markets were falling precipitously. Of course it is human nature to ignore the huge run ups in markets, we simple focus on how much it is down from the top, markets are supposed to only go up, right?

The Chinese authorities are once again messing with the system, spreading what seems more confusion. They have basically locked people out of financial systems and being able to transact, by suspending over 1200 stocks. What? That is nuts, right? How can there be a system for transacting that you rely on day in and day out and then you lock people out. It does not make sense. The same measures should have been put in place to help people from themselves (if that is what they wanted to do) on the way up when the market went up 30 percent. We are all grown ups here? Rather install confidence in the financial systems. I think one has to remember that by global comparison the Chinese market is a relative newcomer. Add in few choices, vast numbers, a propensity to enjoy the thrill of quick money and you get a cocktail of volatility. Enjoyable when it is not bitter.

Naspers has been under the whip, the Chinese investment in TenCent (which is listed in Hong Kong) has had a huge impact on the price of the investment holding company. It does not mean that people will watch less of the Ashes, Wimbledon or the Tour de France, those three are all on TV today, as well as Alexis Tsipras addressing the European Parliament (to rapturous applause from his folks) amongst other things. The long and the short of it all is that you have no way of controlling Chinese markets, or what happens in Europe with regards to Greece. If however fear grips markets and people sell stocks off ten percent over a short period of time, you should do two things, one is always add to your account in order to buy more quality and two, if you can’t do that, then keep calm and stay invested. Keep calm and invest on. Those keep calm and (dot, dot, dot) T-shirts are old and tired and everywhere.

Linkfest, lap it up

Generational wealth can make it very easy for the next generation to live a comfortable lifestyle as well as having enough income over and above expenses to invest and grow the wealth for the next generation. Given all the talk recently about inequality, do you think this $32 billion will be better spent by the charity or by a government ? – Saudi Prince to give away $32B fortune.

Given the direction that labour markets are heading, where people need to be specialised and problem solvers. This micro computer will go a long way to helping children be better prepared for the job market – This is the tiny computer the BBC is giving to a million kids.

A changing of the guard, another trading floor is closing – As trading pits close, old timers recall the ‘roar’ from the floor in an age before computers. Computers are a faster and cheaper way to trade than having people shouting at each other. It is sad to see the end of an era.

I am sure that you have heard the story of how Nike started, if you haven’t heard it, here it is – The bizarre inspiration behind Nike’s first pair of running shoes. I hadn’t seen a picture of the first shoes before.

Home again, home again, jiggety-jog. Still feeling a little jaded from all the travelling and running around, worth it however to see sights and sounds (tastes too, did I mention that?) of different parts of the world. I crashed last evening and overslept by my early standards this morning, no shave, what a disaster. Lack of sleep equals grumpiness, sorry for that everyone. Our market has improved off the worst levels for the days, we are nearly flat after being down nearly a percent at the start.

Sent to you by the Vestacters, Sasha, Michael, Byron and Paul.

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