Will protests in Vietnam affect M'sian and foreign investments?

Will protests in Vietnam affect M'sian and foreign investments?
A policeman uses a megaphone asking people not to gather on a street near to the Chinese embassy in Hanoi.

The anti-China protests in Vietnam, which are impacting foreign investments there, is an indication of the geographic risk involved in overseas ventures.

But does that mean that we stop all investments overseas and just focus on our small and saturated domestic market?

The protests have gone to the ground.

"About 19,000 workers were demonstrating against China's violation of Vietnam's territorial waters,'' said Reuters, quoting Tran Van Nam, vice-chairman of Binh Duong Province People's Committee.

Analysts have expressed concern that the Vietnamese situation could be protracted and affect trade between the two countries.

"No one saw this coming, and this anti-Chinese sentiment is not going to go away anytime soon.

"It looks more like it's going to be a protracted series of geopolitical risk flares, which will result in more of what we've just seen (in Binh Duong where several industrial parks were affected and some factories set on fire)," said Barclays' Leong Wai Ho, as quoted by the Singapore Business Times (SBT).

"We've already seen this happen between Japan and China - they squabbled over islands, and two-way trade (took a hit) for a good year or so.

"Depending on how officials respond, the same thing could happen here this time," added CIMB economist Seong Seng Wun, as quoted by SBT.

There are geographic risks everywhere; it is a matter of weighing the different types of risks and see whether it is worth going ahead with the investment.

It is also worth noting that we should not put all our eggs in one basket but spread our investments over a few locations so as to balance the risks and rewards of investing.

Investor power surfaces again in a British bank, this time HSBC.

Bowing to investor pressure, the bank revoked an earlier offer to hand its chairman Douglas Flint a £2.25million (S$4.73million) award in shares, said the Guardian. If the original plan had gone ahead, Flint's pay would have doubled.

The bank reasoned that the latest round of banking regulation reform had significantly increased his workload.

However, the big investors in the bank maintained that he was receiving a big jump in salary while his job description had not changed.

The standoff could have led to an investor rebellion at HSBC's annual general meeting on 23 May, prompting the bank to offer an olive branch to big City shareholders, said the Guardian.

The action by HSBC shows its concern over possible shareholders' reaction at its upcoming AGM unlike the earlier situation in Barclays.

At the Barclays shareholders' meeting, one in three of its shareholders had failed to support the bank's remuneration report, which showed a 10 per cent hike in bonus despite a 32 per cent fall in profits.

HSBC is acting early to iron out a major issue that could become a bone of contention in public - at its AGM.

Despite the shedding of jobs in the banking industry of the West, a new job area has emerged in Asia.

Firms are going on a charm offensive with the region's regulators and governments; executives brought in to head banks' businesses are expected to devote more time and effort to build up relationships with financial watchdogs.

These banks have been stung by regulatory probes into allegations ranging from the hiring of the offspring of senior Chinese officials to rate manipulation in Singapore, and are grappling with reams of new rules brought in after the global financial crisis, said Reuters.

A survey found the amount of time compliance teams at financial firms in Asia spent preparing reports for their boards increased the most compared with other regions, said Reuters.

Banks are also building up their regulatory or government affairs offices, an area they have previously put less focus on in Asia.

The challenge in Asia, according to Reuters, is the sheer number of regulators the banks have to deal with.

It is interesting that banks are filling up positions in these areas where new skill sets in diplomacy are required.

One wonders if their salaries are as high as top risk officers, another group that has sprung into the limelight lately against the heightened awareness of risks engendered by the financial crisis.

Columnist Yap Leng Kuen is intrigued by the development of survival tactics in banks.

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