Courtesy of Mark Mobius’ blog, an examination of Jordan’s progress and market potential:

“…Jordan is a modern democratic constitutional monarchy with the King as head of state. It has a highly educated population of about 6.1 million with a growing middle class. The government’s focus has been on economic reform and growth. The role played by a good education system has been significant in the development of Jordan from a predominantly agrarian to an industrialized nation. Jordan’s education system ranks number one in the Arab world, and the country is among the region’s highest spenders on education, investing more than 20% of its GDP in education.

The importance of the health care industry and the high status of professional women in Jordanian society were underlined when we visited a major pharmaceutical company. A very capable female Executive Vice President gave us a comprehensive picture of the company. It has manufacturing plants in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Europe and the U.S., and plans to strengthen its leading position in the growing healthcare market in MENA and maintain its world-class manufacturing capabilities. Our host mentioned that regional political turbulence was not a deterrent to their growth plans. Instead, they were planning to register new products in the region. With a higher standard of living and healthier diets, the regional trend is a decline in acute infectious diseases but an increase in chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, which are often associated with developed countries. Because many MENA countries have imposed laws and regulations to strengthen local manufacturers, the firm’s local manufacturing facilities have a competitive advantage over foreign manufacturers.

Banking is another sector that interested us. We visited a bank that has been operating in Jordan since the early 20th century and has employees in 30 countries. We were graciously met by a descendant of the bank’s founder and other officers who talked about their risk management system. They say that their regional reputation is such that in times of trouble, clients have gravitated to them for their track record of safety. As a testament to its conservative nature, the bank has a credit rating higher than the rating given to the government of Jordan.

In line with rising global food needs, fertilizer demand worldwide is expanding. We met an executive in the phosphate industry who had a very optimistic view of the fertilizer business because of Chinese and Indian demand for food. Jordan has large sources of potash (phosphorus) and potassium elements used in fertilizers. To further investigate the Jordanian potash industry, we drove to the Dead Sea site of a potash plant. There, the salty brine from the Dead Sea was being evaporated in vast salt ponds stretching 150 square kilometers. The concentrated brine is treated to produce not only potash, but finished products such as bath salts and chemicals like bromine (the fire retardant) and potassium nitrate. Several companies produce bath salts and Dead Sea mud for cosmetic use. Back in Amman, I purchased a package of the Dead Sea mud and found it had a stimulating and healing effect and left my skin smooth…”

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Wildcats & Black Sheep is a personal interest blog dedicated to the identification and evaluation of maverick investment opportunities arising in frontier - and, what some may consider to be, “rogue” or “black sheep” - markets around the world.

Focusing primarily on The New Seven Sisters - the largely state owned petroleum companies from the emerging world that have become key players in the oil & gas industry as identified by Carola Hoyos, Chief Energy Correspondent for The Financial Times - but spanning other nascent opportunities around the globe that may hold potential in the years ahead, Wildcats & Black Sheep is a place for the adventurous to contemplate & evaluate the emerging markets of tomorrow.