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Unsafe Havens: Five Flights to Danger in Uncertain Economic Times


We turn to the eighth annual Failed States Index for a few investment ideas that ought to keep you up at night.


As the US military pulls out of Afghanistan, what better time to get in? Here's the pitch to investors:

The Afghanistan Stock Exchange 'ASE' and her partner AESX Limited develop and operate the market. ASE, operating out of Kabul, acts as the client-facing entity and is the brand name communicated in the market. This includes client acquisition (companies and investors), order routing and deal flow generation. We will expand our presence through sales offices in Kunduz, Mazar-i-Sharif and other emerging business centers. ASE has initiated the process to acquire a license with the Da Afghanistan Bank ("DAB"), the financial markets regulator of Afghanistan.

If you do decide to check out the Kunduz sales office, try to spend as little time as possible outside -- militia fighters have killed Kunduz's police chief, a group of 15 civilians just last month, two children during an attempt to blow up German peacekeepers with a land mine, and disfigured three school-age sisters by throwing acid in their faces after one spurned a potential suitor's advances.

And Mazar-i-Sharif? Described by Foreign Policy as a place that "festers with the memory of savageries inflicted upon it again and again and again," after a group of UN relief workers were slaughtered inside their compound in 2011, it may not be much safer than Kunduz. But at least you'll know that your money will "be compliant with the ASE Rule Book," as the exchange lays out, in no uncertain terms, that all "investors need to sign a Participation Agreement" as "part of the accession procedure."


No, Pyongyang doesn't have a stock exchange. But the world's most isolated country does have minerals. Lots of them. Unfortunately, the North Koreans make it so difficult for anyone to operate according to global norms, even the Chinese are sick of trying to make a buck over there.

From China's state-run Global Times:

From 2007 to 2011, Xiyang Group spent more than four years to build a modern concentrating mill and produced a total of 30,000 tons of high purity iron ore. However, North Korea suddenly and unilaterally tore up the contract in February this year, saying the Chinese partners had violated the contract and forcefully deported the last 10 Xiyang Group employees this March.

On Xiyang's official Weibo, the company called the five-year investment in North Korea a "nightmare."

"Just overnight, all of Xiyang Group's assets in North Korea were forcibly taken over by North Korea," read a 6,000-word blog post, in which, the company unveiled fraud on the Korean side. Phone calls to Xiyang Group by the Global Times went unanswered. Xiyang's case is absent from the official website of the North Korea Investment Office.

"The negative effect of this case is like a tsunami, which has seriously damaged North Korea's reputation," Cao, a representative of a North Korean trade agency in Hunchun, told the Global Times. Being Chinese, Cao admits that it is hard for him to give advice to anyone who are interested in investing in North Korea. "This is a country full of uncertainties," Cao stated.

Ji Huiqin, chairman of Yunda Knitwear Clothing Co., has also had his head handed to him by Kim Jong Un & Co.

"I lost more than 2 million yuan in North Korea for no reason. After our equipment had arrived there, we were prevented from opening a factory, which had already been agreed in the contract we had signed earlier. They then refused to return the equipment to us. There is no rule to follow when dealing with people there, they could easily turn against a friend," he told the Global Times' Feng Shu.

But North Korea does have some of the finest Fur Seal Penis liquor available anywhere:

Good luck finding that in Canary Wharf.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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