Blog

View posts by country or region

It is a truth almost universally recognised that internet penetration in the 10-member bloc known as Asean – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – is low, even though the region is humming economically.

Or is it?

UBS has come out with some interesting research that will give the e-commerce crowd something to cheer. The bank finds that Asean has a 32 per cent “internet penetration rate”, or almost 200m users, out of a total population of 620m.

This contrasts with market data apparently widely accepted – and cited by UBS – saying that penetration could be as low as 62m users. Continue reading »

If you are doing business in Asean – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – be prepared for an electric shock.

Analysts at ANZ have looked at what’s happening with electricity prices across the region and are warning that they are set to rise, making it considerably more expensive to run factories. It will also add half a basis point on average to inflation, which is already inching up. Continue reading »

This was supposed to be the year of the rise of sukuk markets. As the Malaysian economy recovered and the Arab spring passed, another record year of sharia-compliant debt issuance was predicted.

But that changed after a day in May. Ben Bernanke dropped hints that the Fed would taper its bond-buying programme, and sukuk sales shrivelled in the third quarter. The number of issues this year is expected to be just above that of 2011. Continue reading »

Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand are on the face of it a relatively homogeneous, integrated group of nations with similar trading partners. So why did the first two emerge from the 2008 financial crisis in a much better shape than the latter?

A working paper from the IMF concludes that it was because Indonesia and the Philippines were less open to trade and had greater fiscal stimuli. Continue reading »

Out of 60 countries, Indonesia and the Philippines are home to the most optimistic consumers. Thailand comes fourth on the consumer confidence index compiled by Nielsen, a research company.

Yet ask these consumers how they will spend their cash, and they tell Nielsen they’d prefer to save it, actually. Continue reading »

The UK’s decision to launch an Islamic bond has been a long time coming. For a decade the prospect has been raised at the many Islamic finance conferences that have been held in London; Ed Balls, when he was City of London minister, announced the first Shariah-compliant government bonds from the UK Treasury back in April 2007.

The rationale then, as now, was to bolster London’s standing as an international financial centre. The logic then, as now, was that London ought to offer everything it can to financial markets, and that if launching a sovereign sukuk bond helps to create a benchmark for others to issue against, then that’s what it should do so as not to miss out. Continue reading »

Malaysia is not a market littered with private equity deals. Nor is the wider region of southeast Asia. Dealmakers have struggled with relatively high asset prices in Indonesia, and governance and other concerns in Malaysia and Vietnam.

But on Wednesday KKR, the big US-based private equity firm, closed a deal to invest Rm642m ($200m) in Weststar Aviation Services, a company that operates helicopters for the offshore oil and gas business. Continue reading »

Asian fund passport plans, to borrow the old cliché, are like London buses: you wait ages for one and then three come at once.

Wednesday’s announcement between the regulatory bodies of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand to create a system for cross-border distribution of mutual funds was the third in the region this year. Continue reading »

When a Legoland theme park opened in southern peninsular Malaysia last year, it provided parents in neighbouring Singapore with a new distraction for their kids, and a nice add-on trip for tourists in the city-state. The facility is less than an hour’s drive away across the causeway that links the two countries.

But it was also a sign of the Danish toymaker Lego’s ambitions in Asia – home to what it says are almost 60 per cent of its “target consumers”, the rising middle class in the region. (Legoland is actually operated by Merlin Entertainments, a UK company, but the benefit to the Lego brand is obvious.) Continue reading »

Indonesia may have surprised analysts with a 50 basis point rate hike, but no such drama from the central bank of Malaysia, which has held steady at 3 per cent. It follows Thailand’s similar hold earlier this week. Continue reading »

Central banks, we are often told, missed the warning signs that led to the “Great Recession” in 2008: an excessive build-up of household and mortgage debt.

But Malaysia’s central bank, Bank Negara, is showing that you can get ahead of the curve and prevent trouble before it starts to build up to critical levels. That’s the hope, at least. Continue reading »

Najib Razak, PM of MalaysiaFresh from an election victory, Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak (pictured) was full of new-term enthusiasm when he visited the Financial Times this week, speaking of his plans to push his country into the ranks of the developed world by 2020.

He didn’t say it would be easy but it may be harder than he expects, given the slowdown in the world economy: trade figures published on Friday showed a 5.8 per cent drop exports in May, nearly double forecasts of around 3.0 per cent and April’s 3.3 per cent decline. Continue reading »

A China slowdown, plunging commodity prices and the looming end of QE. A perfect storm, you might think, for Malaysia – a commodity-producing country that exports to China and benefited handsomely from QE-fuelled cash that washed through emerging markets.

But that’s not the view of prime minister Najib Razak, who plays down the threats to growth coming from the world economy. As a leader fresh from an election victory, his confidence is understandable. But is it misplaced? Continue reading »

By Leif Lybecker Eskesen of HSBC Global Research

Japan’s economy has struggled for decades, weighed down by the debt hangover from the era of burst bubbles and other structural impediments. However, this may change if “Abenomics” delivers on its promises, which in turn has major trade and investment implications for the Asean-5 countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Continue reading »