Asian businesses in strong position to lead global recovery

Asian businesses in strong position to lead global recovery

This has been a tough year for business, but beyond the headlines there is also a compelling Asian story of robustness, adaptability and entrepreneurial flair that bodes well for making the most of the opportunities of a global recovery in 2013.

Asian businesses, steeped in the harsh lessons of the regional financial crisis 15 years ago, have shown they have the reserves and stamina to weather the current drought in demand; they have found ways to maximise their cost-efficiency, particularly in supply-chain management; and they have found new markets for their products.

From a banker's perspective, it is clear that most companies have sufficient resources to see themselves through the current dip. Unlike 1997, they are not overburdened with debt, and most have avoided significant layoffs, leaving them in a strong position to expand production as soon as demand returns.

But perhaps the most striking trend has been how businesses have streamlined their financial management to cut costs. Producers are taking an in-depth look at their supply chains - not just their tier 1 suppliers, but deep into the second, third and fourth tiers - in a drive to control costs and understand potential vulnerabilities.

Part of that process has been the search for a banking arrangement that minimises costly financial friction between the various links in the chain. European banks have been trimming their balance sheets in Asia, but despite a rush of new regional entrants keen to fill the vacuum, HSBC has noticed much keener demand for banking solutions that promote connectivity between companies, between countries and between regions.

The preference for connectivity has been amplified by cash-rich Asian businesses looking for competitively priced acquisitions in Europe and the United States.

We have seen subtle and interesting shifts in acquisition profiles. Asian businesses are still interested in buying Western companies to establish a toehold in developed markets and to use their technical advantage to move up the value chain, but they are now also looking for management skills that will assist them to take their business to the next level.

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